ABV: 50.4% Distillery: North British Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Region: Lowlands
Any of you noticing that grain whiskies are getting more expensive? No one should be overly surprised by this – whisky as category seems pretty Teflon currently – folks are buying, no matter the cost. There’s still a world of difference between single malt and single grain in terms of pricing (especially at high age), but, I’ve been observing a few bottlers starting to experiment with big pricing on some of their grains – and if I’m honest, I find it worrisome. Take this 44 year old Invergordon from Douglas Laing for instance – sure, it’s an oldie, but £295 sounds like big bucks when you compare it to Boutique-y’s similarly aged expression at £143 (around £200 for an equivalent 70cl).
This is far from an isolated case – you don’t have to look all that far to find grain whiskies being released as supposedly special, or coming from a magical reserve stock that contains only very best whiskies (for no other reason as we told you that they were). The envelope is being increasingly pushed, and what’s more, it seems that folks are starting to nibble. Grain has long been thought of by some as poor man’s malt (far from true), but has moved into the spotlight over the last few years as more enthusiasts have sought it out – probably due in part to its relatively affordability compared to single malt. If we’re now moving to a world where long-aged grain costs half the UK weekly salary (before-tax!!!), it won’t be all that long before the category starts to move out of the reach of many consumers. Sad times.
Anyhow, back to business - we’re a quarter of the way though the 2018 Boutique-y Whisky calendar already and opening door 6 reveals the 5th batch of Boutique-y North British. Initial batches were released during the company’s first few years, and as such were delivered NAS – but the decision to move to age statements in early 2016 (which oddly feels much longer ago than it actually is – there’s clearly been a lot of Boutique-y Whisky released over the last two years) means that the last three batches have all proudly shown off their ages. Batch 5 is the latest release and clocks in at 26 years of age. It’ll cost you £83.95 and there’s only 144 bottles of it to go round.
Nose: Classic grain aromas here - a whole loaf of freshly toasted bread, vanilla pods, coconut oil and apple peels. There’s a dusting of icing sugar – it’s so fine it comes across slightly mineral like aspirin or liver salts. The addition of water brings out white chocolate and breakfast oats.
Taste: Everything you’d expect – vanilla, coconut shavings, toasted cereals and oodles of butter (enough that it adds an oily textural element). There’s plenty of wood varnish and acetone – pronounced and estery, but turning increasingly glue-like through the development. The mid-back palate delivers a building pepperiness and dryness alongside moist soils. Reduction initially delivers shortbread and a boat load of raw oak juice, however, after a period of additional resting, this seemed to calm to manageable levels – juicy apples, lots of desiccated coconut and shortbread.
Finish: Medium with vanilla, a slight mineral chalkiness and charred wood.
Boutique-y’s latest North British is archetypal grain through and through. It’s uncomplicated stuff with a pleasant natural oaty sweetness running throughout and plenty of buttery oiliness that lends a good texture to the mouthfeel. There’s a little too much blatant wood influence in here for my personal liking – reduction initially made this quite oak-juice like. However, your mileage may of course vary, and I too found that resting was rather beneficial.
In terms of pricing, at a glance, this looks about what you'd pay for a quarter century North British - that said, don't forget the 50cl glassware. Tasty middle-aged grain, but no fireworks for me.
Review calendar provided by Boutique-y Whisky
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