Single grain whiskies - more than just a background canvas for blends.
We love a good single grain whisky, but they're an unusual sight even on the shelves of passionate whisky retailers like ourselves. In Scotland the style can be produced from almost any type of grain, with the resulting whisky mostly used to stretch out blends. Not surprisingly, single grains are much maligned by malt snobs. Yet this underdog category is has its place. For whisky nerds or completionists, extra matured bottlings are well worth tasting. 30 or even 50 year old expressions can be surprisingly affordable. Older examples from Cameronbridge, Cambus and Girvan are all worth seeking out.
Making Single Grain Whisky.
Today there are seven grain distilleries operating in Scotland. They're large, functional, industrial style buildings with little of the colourful history and romance that attracts throngs of tourists to the charming Single Malt distilleries. The creation of single grain whiskies is broadly similar to that of malt whisky, only the raw materials and the equipment are different. The mash from which grain whisky is made uses unmalted cereals - usually wheat or maize, it doesn't matter which, so distilleries can buy at the best price - together with a small amount of 'green' malt (barley which has germinated but not been kilned). Usually about 16% of malt is added: it has to be there to convert the starches in the other cereals into sugar, so it can be turned into alcohol by the yeast. Tall column stills are used in place of copper pot stills, the former resulting in a light, clean and fruity spirit that works as a catalyst when blended, releasing the flavours of the malts.
Add first-fill Bourbon casks to the mix, and you have an elegant, semi-sweet whisky which can develop layers of flavour and sophistication as it ages. Nikka's Coffey grain is a great young example. At 30 or 40 years, these whiskies can deliver a unique experience bordering on hedonism: Complex and shifting bouquets matched by luxurious textures and sumptuous flavours falling somewhere between the finest gold Rums or Bourbons or the very, very best Irish. For almost any wood-aged spirit category (bar Armagnac) the price / age ratios are frequently astonishing.
Buy Single Grain Scotch Whisky Online.
While a wide selection is not readily available, Nicks Wine Merchants endeavour to stock at least a few examples of Single Grain Whisky which you can buy online and have delivered to most of Australia.