Girvan Tasting Notes

Girvan 25yr

I’ve been rather lucky recently. A friend of mine travelled up to Manchester armed with three bottles of exclusive whisky, and the intent of showcasing for only the second time in history. Rather honoured for the invite, and to be hosted within the Manchester branch of The Whisky Shop, Mark Thomson of The Spirits Bureau had with him a brand named Girvan Patent Still Single Grain. But what made this one just that little bit more special?

Well it’s all to do with heritage. Lets dive in with a dram of something new.

The name Girvan relates to a well-known name, William Grant. Mr Grant became the figurehead behind the establishment of Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Grant’s in the late 1800’s, but it would be his great-grandson Charles Gordon who would create and build the Girvan Distillery, the biggest and most advance distillery in the world at that time, in 1963. Its purpose was to supply a guaranteed supply of grain whisky for the company’s flagship blended whisky Grant’s, culminating with the first spirit flowing off the stills on Christmas Day. It wasn’t just supplying grain whisky for itself though, but also to other blending houses all over Scotland. Changing with the times, Girvan Distillery introduced a new type of patent still that enabled a unique process named vacuum distillation (creating a sweeter, fruitier, cleaner and purer spirit).

Now though, Girvan Distillery have decided to release their own bottling’s, realising the demand for something new and the result is a single grain collection. But how do they get to these expressions? *

Mark Thomson with Girvan 25yr
Mark Thomson with Girvan 25yr

The Girvan Patent Single Grain is distilled from 10-20% malted barley and other un-malted cereals such as maize or wheat. The starch in the non-malted cereals is released by pre-cooking and converted into fermentable sugars by the malted barley. These sugars are extracted during mashing, and then culture yeast is added to the cooled wort to initiate fermentation and begin the conversion of sugars to alcohol, esters and the many other flavoursome elements.
The fully fermented wash is then ready for distillation. The Girvan stills are two Continuous Patent or Coffey Stills, a rectifier and an analyser. Cold wash is delivered in at the top of the rectifier where it meets steam. The steam heats the liquor and helps to ‘distil’ the alcohol from the wash. The double columns act as a simple heat exchanger; and as the alcohol cools and condenses in the analyser it is transformed into grain spirit at around 94% alcohol by volume. This fledgling grain spirit is lighter than most malt whiskies and other grains.

Straight from the still, the neutral grain spirit enters hand-picked American White oak barrels and mature in coastal warehouses.

So how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each –

Girvan Single Grain – No Age Statement – 42%

Soft vanilla on the nose with notes of butter and lemon blending to a slight fudge and fruit finish. Very light on the palate, with pepper and spice flavours coming through to create a very long, creamy and warming finish.

Girvan Single Grain 25yr – 42%

Very dry on the nose with plenty of clove, cinnamon and dry orange aromas. Very smooth on the palate however, with creamy texture developing a warm, very long and slightly dry finish.

Girvan Single Grain 30yr – 42%

Vanilla and fudge notes on the nose, with a slight dryness coming through, followed by a buttery aroma. Very smooth on the palate, light and creamy with a short, sharp finish that grows quickly.

Some rather interesting expressions, with the 25yr probably my favourite out of them all. A brave move to release something that Scotland hasn’t fully explored in a while, but I think it could be a growing category in the next couple of years. Try for yourself, and get involved in the next generation. Be aware though, there are other varieties that use the Girvan grain, and are exclusive bottling’s under different names, the above though come straight from the distillery itself!

* Production method taken from Mark Thomson notes.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Balvenie Academy Tasting Review

Kicking off my week of festivities was a trip on the Underground to Liverpool Street and the quietly hidden away Liberty Lounge and Mark Thomson of Dramatic Whisky. Mark heads up the tasting with expertise in Scotch as well as being part of 5* establishments in both Scotland and London. A former contributor to CLASS magazine (as well as last years London Cocktail Week), his enthusiasm for the subject is immense! With the time of day being an unfortunate factor, the event turned into a more one-on-one masterclass. A quick talk about the Balvenie 24 and their interactive venture involving videos of the distillery, as well as nosing techniques, we then made our way to Boisdale whisky bar.  

Here we met the global ambassador to Balvenie, Sam Simmons and the Balvenie range of Signature, DoubleWood, Single Barrel and PortWood. Both Sam and Mark explained the history of Balvenie and how it started with William Grant back in 1893. From their, we started to try the Balvenie range, first up being the Signature 12yr.

Below are my tasting notes on the 4 bottles available –

The range of Balvenie whisky to taste



Balvenie Signature 12yr – 40%

Matured first in bourbon, then refill bourbon and finally in sherry casks. On the nose, a very soft aroma of corn with honey and vanilla essences coming through later. The palate enjoys dried fruit balanced out with a soft spice that drives into a warm honey after-taste.

Balvenie DoubleWood 12yr – 40%

Starting its maturation in a traditional whisky cask, it is then transferred to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Sweet, rich aromas of fruit and honey mix together in your nose, but mellowing out into a smooth blend of raisin, nut and a slight cinnamon hint.

Balvenie Single Barrel 15yr – 47.8%

Created using only a single oak whisky cask of a single distillation. Each bottling forms a limited edition of no more than 350 hand-numbered bottles, meaning each bottle is unique and unrepeatable! The nose of soft corn and citrus with heather blended well in the nose and made its way onto the palate in the same manner, but a kick of oak and spiced apple hits you at the end. Sam recommended adding a drop of water to the dram, which gave it a spicier longer after-taste.

Balvenie PortWood 21yr – 40%

A blend of rare Balvenie is moved to port casks to create a strong yet fresh floral aroma with sweet notes and a hint of smoke on the nose. An extremely smooth and creamy flavour of fruit and honey on the palate.

My personal favourite was the Balvenie DoubleWood 12yr due to its sweetness and blend of raisin and cinnamon on the palate.

This was a great insight into the Balvenie range, especially as I’ll be visiting the distillery in January next year, and it has introduced me to yet another great personal favourite which I’ll be sourcing to put onto my shelf in the coming weeks!
Visit the Dramatic Website here –

Check out the rest of the Balvenie range here –


© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.