Glen Grant, the Speyside single malt that is among the most popular of Scotch whiskies worldwide, now makes an expression old enough to buy itself a drink—at least in its homeland where the drinking age is 18. The distillery's 18-year-old bottling is the latest in an evolution toward older age-statement whiskies for the brand.
Until little over a decade ago, Glen Grant was largely available as young and/or non-age-statement malts or in such blends as Chivas Regal. (The exceptions were from independent bottlers or available for purchase only at the distillery.) Its current owner, Gruppo Campari, began the slow change with 10-year and 16-year releases. Its 18-year-old is joined by another new expression at 12 years old ($46.99). The 10-year-old remains part of the Glen Grant portfolio.
Made in Rothes (not far from Glenrothes), the whisky is the product of tall stills and unique, water-cooling purifiers on both distillations. The result is a mild, but elegant whisky. Glen Grant's light color and taste made it a favorite across Europe, especially in Italy, its leading export market beginning in the 1960s.
The distillery has been a legally recognized fixture in Speyside since 1840 when brothers John and James Grant took out a license. Prior to that they ran a moonshine operation, not uncommon in the hilly region where still men could ply their trade in the relative secrecy of its many glens. The next owner, also James Grant and known as "the Major," took to modernizing the facility, making it the first Scotch distillery with electric lights. The Grant maintained an interest well into the 20th century. In 1953, the distillery merged with Glenlivet and later with other whisky concerns. The company passed to Seagrams and then to Pernod Ricard, which sold Glen Grant separately to Gruppo Campari in 2005.
The master distiller, Dennis Malcolm, the son of a former Glen Grant still man with 55 years of service to his credit, was recently appointed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Glen Grant 18 Year Old (86 proof, or 43 percent alcohol by volume; 18 years old; $119.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Corn silk color. Medium-speed, fat legs.
NOSE: Fruity and slightly floral, with pears and some cinnamon.
PALATE: Makes an appealing mixture of bready, malty, vanilla notes with honey and meaty fruits (apple and pears). Throughout it is laced with mild cinnamon, pumpkin, cocoa and caramel.
FINISH: The ending is longer than one expects from a light dram. As it passes through most of the flavors of the palate the whisky picks up light cheese and some root beer.
CIGAR PAIRING: La Palina Family Series Miami Babe (U.S.A.; 5 1/4 inches by 50 ring gauge, $16.50; 90 points, October 2016 Cigar Aficionado) Initial wheaty, bready notes become bright with vanilla bean, honey and cinnamon. Notes of orange peel are prominent on the finish. A tasty and attractive cigar with a pristine wrapper.
We paired the whisky and cigar with a view toward introducing the like elements of vanilla, bread, cinnamon and honey. The marriage started out with perfect balance, and thereafter their characteristics merged nicely. The Glen Grant added fruit to the cigar and underlined that personality in itself (especially with the pear note). The La Palina piled bread dough and honey onto the whisky and received a boost in body. Together they took on a hearty, toffee note.