I was fortunate enough to be invited up to the Givan distillery in May (2015), this is the second half of my write up from the trip: the full Girvan Patent Still Single Grain range review. Part one can be viewed here.
With a bold ambition “to establish a new pillar in Scotch”, Girvan Patent Still Single Grain set out to create a new appreciation of an existing style of whisky that no one was really talking about.
Owned by William Grant & Sons, Girvan has been distilling since Christmas Day 1963, having taken just nine months to build.
Now, this part of the write up will not talk too much to the distilery itself as that is the purpose of the distillery stories piece on Girvan that is already live on GreatDrams but will elude to relevant tales where appropriate.
- Girvan is the largest grain distillery in Scotland
- Girvan’s output is 110 million litres of pure spirit a year (context: Laphroaig, a brand you have all heard of, produced 1.3 million litres per year, this place is big)
- The ‘continuous distilling’ method was massively aided by a joint patent between William Grant and Sons and a Finnish company for vacuum distilling
- All Girvan Patent Still casks are American white oak
Now on with the tasting.
As well as the brilliantly passionate and interesting Olivier who was our host for the two days we were in Scotland and the font of knowledge that is Kevin Abrook the global brand ambassador for Girvan Patent Still Single Grain.
You know I’m a massive packaging geek, being that I work with brands to better tell their story through the on pack and off pack but just a line on Girvan as I have reviewed the packaging before.
On with the main event.
[divider]Dram 1 – Girvan Patent Still New Make – 42.6% ABV[/divider]
New make is usually a lot stronger but this had been previously reduced to bottling strength for the purposes of this tasting. For context, this would normally come of the still at 94% ABV (which I may have tried later… read on).
Nose: Zesty, creamy, lively
Palate: Light, clean, a bit anonymous for me although the second sip did add more fruit and butterscotch
Finish: My notes read ‘what finish?’ but I think Dave captured it perfectly by stating it to be a ‘fleeting finish’
[divider]Dram 2 – Girvan Patent Still 4APPS – 42.6% ABV – £45[/divider]The entry level Girvan release, likely to be used more in cocktails and as a side by side comparison to Haig Club as it is very light but has a lot more about it than you’d think.
Nose: Candied fruit, fresh
Palate: Lots more fruit for me, caramelised fruits especially – something that is typical of the full range so apologies if this gets repetitive! A hint of fizzy Haribo.
Finish: Short, swift, sweet
Comment: I would definitely keep a bottle of this in the house for cocktails, probably not for much more but those not as into the stronger whiskies would likely enjoy this as an aperitif. I have used it to make cocktails in the past such as the Wandering Scotsman and Martini (since returning from the trip) and it works, but not robust enough for an Old Fashioned, as we discussed on the night.
[divider]Dram 3 – Girvan Patent Still Proof Strength – 57.1% ABV – £75[/divider]
This is the same liquid as the 4APPS release but it has not been reduced to bottling strength and retails a little bit more expensive at £75, about two thirds more expensive but, dare I say it, this dram was almost malt like.
Nose: Spices, lots more candied / caramelised fruit but still fresh
Palate: Lemon, barley, Tom notes ‘vegetal’ and although I did not get that specific note, there is a lot more complexity here, much more depth – impressive.
Finish: Burn! But lovely.
[divider]Dram 4 – Girvan Patent Still 25 Year Old – 42.6% ABV – £250[/divider]
This is their signature pour, the one they used to launch the brand and make a statement in the category and Kevin described it, rather accurately as “liquid creme brûlée”. I bought one of these having tried a sample of it two years ago the day they launched it int he UK and my word it is great.
Nose: Vibrant, more caramelisation, toffee apple notes, could nose this for ages (and did)
Palate: Soft, sultry, sippable, creamy, balanced, rounded. Olivier makes a great point here that this is a ‘conversational’ dram vs. the ‘meditative’ dram in the 30 Year Old
[divider]Dram 5 – Girvan Patent Still 30 Year Old – 42.6% ABV – £350[/divider]
Colloquially referred to as the 1984 edition internally, this was the last year Girvan used maize to distill with so has corn as the base spirit. Why did they change? Basic economics in reality, no romance or brand story to be heard here.
Nose: Some got bananas, I got mango, butter and vanilla
Palate: Feels a tad oily, lots of woody spices although one of the group was getting buttered crumpets which I then got but mostly through suggestion
Finish: Medium, sultry, interesting but I definitely preferred the 25 Year Old
[divider]Dram 6 – Girvan Patent Still 4APPS – 94.0% ABV, yes 94% ABV, 188% proof[/divider]
Now, my instincts, my alcohol license course learnings and nearly everything else said this was a bad idea. Then my love for new and unique experiences, and for a strong dram, kicked in and I manned up.
94% is no laughing matter, this just does not get to be samplked by anyone outside of distilleries and even then it is mostly nosing for the appropriate notes to signify all is ok on the still so how could I legitimately say no?
Sadly for you though, that long introduction to this one was mostly due to looking in the notebook and seeing literally no notes for it and that was for one reason only; I loved it. And because I loved it I savoured and enjoyed it with the others (although one winced a LOT) without the need to document it.
That, and we were, by then, late for dinner so we had to get a shuffle on, pics of that are below.
Overall I think Girvan Patent Still has in this range delivered something really interesting and compelling for whisky consumers of all ‘levels’ and interest. From cocktail culture and lighter whiskies to contemplative and savouring drams they have it covered.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening that I thank Olivier, Kevin and the guys at Girvan in general for facilitating and making happen.