There’s an increasing number of young grain whisk(e)y’s being produced – no real surprise – the demand is there, and the production costs are relatively constrained compared to malt. But, it wasn’t all that long ago that many a whisky fan would be turning their nose up at a grain product – whether it be young or well-aged. How times change.
Expectations and tastes (along with RRPs and personal budgets) are part of the reason why grain whisky’s reputation and reach have improved – but another big part is undoubtedly innovation. Teeling Single Grain strikes me as a good example of all of these trends. It’s a sourced whiskey that was introduced into the market in 2013 and no doubt sourced from Cooley (previously owned by Teeling). Whilst it’s delivered with no age statement, it’s known to be around 5 years of age – even amongst grain fan circles, that type of low age will often set alarm bells ringing. However, the innovation from Telling comes in the form of the maturation regime utilised to produce their Single Grain expression, which takes this 95% corn whiskey and casks it entirely in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon wine casks. Interesting. The bottling is delivered at 46% ABV and clocks in at a shy over £40 from Whisky Exchange here in the UK.
Nose: Fresh, lively and quite sharp. Caramel, vanilla, desiccated coconut and toasted cereals are joined by sprightly green apples and tangy alluvial soils. In the background, grape juice, buttered popcorn and some overtly grainy notes of varnish and acetone. Water flavours the wood influence – dulling all the top notes and muddying the profile down to a rather genetic combination of wood chips, and park benches.
Taste: The arrival has some clingy viscosity – and delivers big notes of coconut. The combination of the two gives the impression of solidified copra oil – slippery and fatty in texture. The development follows the nose almost in parallel – vanilla custard, ripe and sweet orchard apples and a medley of cereals – rolled golden oats, Alpen and wheats. Cinema popcorn and buttered toast provide further creaminess, with roasted cashew nuts and cask pepper peeking through in the back palate. As with the nose, dilution is seriously inadvisable – resulting in a dismally vague selection of flavours and too much influence from oak.
Finish: Short with peppery spice and touches of wood paint.
Teeling Single Grain is simple, but quite effective. The grain doesn’t feel brutally young, and has been crafted to delivery some extremely pleasant coconut-forward flavours with an solid mouth-feel alongside. Water is a disaster – but, at 46% this doesn’t require modification nor experimentation anyhow. Don’t expect fireworks here - there’s a bit too much reliance on the wood (a factor of the level of maturity I’d suggest), but overall the result is generally rather agreeable – especially considering the age.