Saturday, August 24, 2019

Scotch Review: Grant's "Sherry Cask Finish"

MeI'm stalking a wall of economy blended Scotch whiskies, and trying to decide which one to abduct and hustle to checkout.

CustomerA soccer mom in an expensive red and yellow Manchester United jersey approaches with two boys in tow.  I am guessing 8 and 12.  I think my friend Keith has the same Kankichi Ryotsu shirt as one of the boys.

"Can you tell me what aisle the Grand Cru Saint-Emilion is in?"

Me:  "Sorry, I don't work here."

Customer:  She stares clinically into my eyes like she might catch a glimpse of the depths of my soul.  Then, her nose flares, as if she has found my soul located on a tropical island littered with bikinis, white sand, waves and Johnnie Walker Black on ice that never melts in spite of the heat of the nearby hibachi and the endless summer afternoon.

"I have seen you here before.  I am sure of it."

 Me:  "I have been here before because I am a regular, but I don't work here," I somewhat sputter.

Customer:  "You are wearing black pants and a red golf shirt like the rest of them."

MeSo, does Tiger Woods on the Sunday afternoons.  

Customer:  "This is unbelievably bad customer service!"

MeBefore I can say anything, she storms off with her offspring, much to my bewilderment.  I turn back to my wall of shame, and try to choose a blend that is cheap.

CustomerShe points at me, followed by an employee, presumably the 'supervisor' who is also wearing a red polo shirt and black chinos.

"That's him," she hisses.

SupervisorHe looks me up and down and maybe also sees my soul's quest for rest at a Caribbean island beach under a palm tree that would be fitting for an Axe deodorant commercial.

"Ma'am, he doesn't work here."

Customer:  "Are you sure?"

MeI don't even wait for the supervisor to respond.  I randomly grab a bottle and hightail it to checkout, where I pay the ransom.

Grant's Cask Editions "Sherry Cask Finish"
I can't make this up.  I get out of the liquor store and am headed to my Ford with all the urgency of Steve McQueen in Bullitt, only my all wheel drive Escape doesn't squeal in spite of me tramping the pedal, as I exit the liquor store parking lot.  I knew I should have bought that Mustang in the showroom.

Once home, I look at my Friday night purchase with little enthusiasm.  Been drinking a lot of Teacher's Highland Cream lately and was thinking I need some variety, but the choices are pretty slim in the economy blended Scotch category.  A lot of blends are designed for mixing and I don't want a cocktail.  I want a cheap, but pleasant sipper that I can enjoy neat.

So, I grabbed the Grant's, off the shelf (bottom shelf that is), figuring it's been about six years since my last review.  Maybe it has changed a bit in flavour.  You'd be surprised how many blended Scotches can change for a number of reasons ranging from new corporate ownership (e.g. Teacher's) or new staff (e.g. master blenders).  Sometimes there is substitution of old faithful malts with new ones because head office bean counters (e.g. pinstripes at Black Bottle) decide to use other distilleries in their portfolio to contribute to the blend rather than others who are not owned by them.  That's what happened to Teacher's Highland Cream.  GlenDronach was a key malt for decades but a change in ownership triggered the decision to drop GlenDronach from the blend and use another sherried malt from a distillery already owned by the company.  The change was not good for Teacher's.  Fortunately, since then they have improved the quality of sherried malt in the blend once more.

Nose (undiluted)
Sweetness of vanilla, bread, dandelion and sliced oranges.

Palate (undiluted)
Apples, honey, fruit cocktail, orange rind, cheerios cereal, white cake bread, pleasant oak.

Finish (undiluted)
More orange rind, citrus, a wee peat, a puff of decent smoke, and then it's gone in a flash.  The finish is short, but hey this is a cheap blend.

General Impressions
This has improved since my last review.  The improvement is in the finish.  Six years ago, I sampled two bottles and the finish is where the wheels came off the wagon.  It would be bitter on the finish.  Not so now.  You are left with a simple but pleasing sherry note that manifests itself as Florda oranges and rind.  All pleasant.

The nose was good on this blend, and the palate was not offensive in the least.  With no change in corporate ownership at Grant's, I would attribute this improvement to the blending team's attention to detail.  Well done!

I am not a huge fan of the Grant's Family Reserve, but this Sherry Cask Finish is much better.

Worth a try, especially if you need a cheap daily sipper!


Jason Debly

P.S.  I am back from a bit of an entrepreneurial sabbatical and ready to post much more regular, so get ready for lots of my nonsense!