Day Three of the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar gives us a style of whisky we don’t see as much of in our Calendars: Single Grain Scotch. This one is a respectable 27 years of age from a once busy distillery named Cambus. It is brought to us by indie bottler That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
Cambus Distillery, or what remains of it – resides in Stirling, Scotland. Cambus was like many grain distilleries in that it was as more a large scale whisky making factory than a quaint distillery. At its peak the property employed more than 200 people on site. Also like other Grain Distilleries in Scotland, it was located in the Lowlands, though Cambus stood very near what is considered the border between the Highland and Lowland region and also halfway between Glasgow and Edinburough.
Though there was single malt whisky produced on the same site previous, Cambus Distillery was officially founded on 1836 when two Column Stills were installed for grain whisky production. A large Coffey Still was installed in 1856, making it one of the of the largest whisky production facilities in Scotland for the time. The distillery remained in production until a massive fire destroyed most operations in 1914. It wasn’t rebuilt and put back into working shape until 23 years later.
Unfortunately, it was forced to close soon after for the duration of World War II. It did reopen at the end of the war, and remained in spirit production (including Gin production) until 1993, when it was closed as part of company-wide reorganization undertaken by United Distillers which today is known as Diageo. 1993 was the end of the line for whisky production at Cambus Distillery, but the site continues to be used as a massive cask storage location with over 60 warehouses filled, as well as filling and bottling line for many of Diageo’s whisky and spirits brands.
So – all that history is well and good, but what makes a Single Grain Scotch different from a Single Malt Scotch? Well, on the more technical side of things, it comes down to this:
- Single Malt – has to be 100% malted barley (by Scottish standards) distilled using pot stills. A bottle of Single Malt Scotch also can only use malt whisky from one distillery only, and not blend whisky in from other distilleries.
- Single Grain – can be made from one or multiple grains. The grains used typically are chosen based on the price of the grain per ton and availability. These grains are distilled in column or continuous stills.
Those are the basic differences when it comes to production. There are also differences in what percentage of alcohol comes off the still and minutia beyond that. It all boils down to this though: Grain whisky is typically a bulk/commodity play that is used for blending. That is not to say that you cannot find quality Single Grain Scotch out there, though…
The big thing you will likely notice on the nose and palate is that Grain Whisky tends to have different aroma and texture when compared to a Single Malt Whisky. To me, the nose on your typical Single Grain Scotch is more neutral and wood-influenced and the palate is lighter and more silky on the tongue and usually sweeter up front with a shorter finish. Your mileage may vary, though.
The 27 year old Cambus that we are trying today is the 10th batch bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. This batch is bottled at 50.7% ABV and based on the age stated, the casks used in the batch were likely filled with whisky from the last few years of Cambus Distillery’s production. Let’s give it a taste!
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Vanilla and polished furniture, burlap sacks, apple and pear slices, strawberry and rhubarb pie, cherry danish and shortbread cookies.
Palate: Smooth and sweet with tingle of spice. Fizzy cherry cola, candied ginger, Maynards Fuzzy Peach candies, and candied almonds.
Finish: Soft and smooth with lingering peach and cherry sweetness wrapped in a pillow of smooth, drying oak spices.
Comment: This Cambus is a very approachable single grain that exhibits plenty of candy and confectionary notes. The 50.7% lends a bit of spice but doesn’t make it too hot in the slightest, as the sweet notes power on through.
At 27 years, this bottle is the oldest that we have featured in the KWM Calendar for a few years. Day four is likely to be younger, but what will be? More Single Grain? Another Rye? Perhaps a Peated Malt? Stay tuned to find out!
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