Grangestone is a brand of scotch that seems to focus primarily on different and unique ways to finish whisky. We’ve tried their bourbon cask finished spirit before and enjoyed it — so I’m hoping that their rum finished scotch will be just as tasty and satisfying. And there’s only one way to find out… with our tried-and-true taste tests.
There’s not much to go on for the history of Grangestone. The first internet record we have of the website is from late 2014, and from the beginning it has been described as a “scotch whiskey collection” — not a distiller or a bottler. Their business seems to be taking an existing stock of Scotch whiskey, doing something different with it during the aging process, and putting out the result as a unique spirit.
Thanks to some sleuths on Reddit, we can make a fairly competent guess that the folks behind it are William Grant and Sons (the same company that manufactures Monkey Shoulder, Glenfiddich, and Balvenie). Through a process of elimination, the intrepid internet detectives were fairly confident that the source distillery for this line is the Kininvie location in Dufftown, Scotland.
William Grant and Sons is a well known Scotch whiskey producer, founded in 1887 and based in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. The third largest producer of Scotch whiskey behind Diageo and Pernod Ricard, it remains a privately held company.
The Kininvie distillation plant opened in 1990, producing solely for William Grant and Sons.
The base spirit for this bottle is a Highland-produced Scotch whiskey (again, probably from the Kininvie distillery). According to the bottle, the spirit is first aged in traditional American oak casks — which most likely this means that the spirit ages for three years and becomes a “proper” Scotch whiskey before being picked up for the next stage of the process.
What’s the grain bill for that base spirit? Where did it come from? No one seems to know — least of all the packaging itself.
Once that base spirit is completed, it is then shoved into casks that previously contained “premium rum.” Which isn’t really a codified distinction, and doesn’t give us any idea of where that rum was produced or which distillery created it.
There’s no note on the bottle about a specific age for the whiskey, so all we can assume is that it sat in a combination of the two different barrels for a minimum of three years, but how long in each and the total age of the spirit are mysteries known only to the bottlers themselves.
Most Scotch whiskies come in a cardboard sleeve capped with metal fittings to protect the bottle during transport and storage, and that’s a presentation we’ve seen in other versions of Grangestone. For some reason, though, this version didn’t come with a sleeve — although I can’t rule out that possibility that this was because I ordered this for delivery and the local liquor store may have discarded it to save space.
The bottle shape itself is pretty much a dead ringer for the Monkey Shoulder design, only without the wax seal on the cap or the bottle. Which makes sense, if we’re correct in suspecting that the same parent company also makes Monkey Shoulder. There’s a short, wide, round body with straight walls, a rounded shoulder, and a short neck all working together to make it look like a short, portly man sitting on our shelf.
There’s a pretty large label on the front of the bottle with the usual manufacturing details, and a clear description of the aging and finishing process for this specific version. In my opinion, the label is a bit large and takes up a lot of the real estate that otherwise would let the whiskey shine through and be visible, but you still get a bit of a glimpse around the edges.
The first aromas coming off the glass are those of a traditional scotch whisky — specifically, the lighter honey and floral notes with a bit of lemon. But while these are the typical lighter tones, there’s also a deep richness and a sugary sweetness to this spirit that I don’t typically see with a scotch. Flavors like caramel and vanilla, hallmarks of a rum which I think have rubbed off on the liquid.
Taking a sip, those lighter notes make the jump from the aroma into the flavor. There’s a smooth malty flavor that comes across first and sets the tone for everything else to come; it’s almost like taking a bite out of a piece of sourdough bread. From there, a bit of honey and vanilla joins the party adding some sweet and floral notes. The experience finishes smoothly and cleanly, with a little lingering lemon flavor.
There is a bit more depth and sweetness to the flavor than normal, but the impact of the rum cask finishing isn’t quite as pronounced as I’d hoped. There’s certainly a different flavor, but the impact is more subtle than you might expect.
The lighter and sweeter notes are significantly reduced with the addition of some ice, which can be a hit or a miss depending on the richer flavors that now take center stage. In this case, the lighter flavors are certainly dropping out — and it’s somehow a hit and a miss.
With the lighter notes from the malt whisky much reduced, that sourdough bread flavor is almost completely gone. The honey is also reduced, but still holding on just a little bit. What you’re left with are the richer rum components: the caramel and sugary sweetness is now large and in charge. While still tasty, it’s a pale imitation of an American bourbon at this point, as it lacks both charred wood aspects.
I’m a big fan of cask finishing as a process. It’s like a good musical mashup — combining two different worlds to get a delicious result. I think this is one of the better examples of the process that Grangestone puts out, and at this price it’s a deal worth trying.
|Grangestone Rum Cask Finished|
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $29.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
A nice blend of old world spirits with new world flavors.