North British 25, 1991, Virgin Heavy Toast Mediam Char Oak Butt, 63.9% – SMWS (G1.15, Could Pacify a Mob)

That’s a new one, as far as cask descriptors go!

Image from

One of these samples that I found on my sample shelf, and a grain whisky to boot. Apart from ‘SMWS G1.15’ there was nothing on the label, so I had no idea about age or ABV going in, and that was an interesting experience, as most blind tastings are.

Grain whisky distilleries don’t tend to be the photogenic white walled places that a lot of single malt distilleries are. Generally, they look like they could be refining oil or making plastic at the same time. Not much charm, so to say.

North British Distillery is owned by Diageo and Edrington combined, and makes whisky mostly for blended whiskies like Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal, J&B and, apparently, Isle of Skye. It’s located in Edinburgh, but obviously, not in the city center.

There’s a 3d model of the distillery available here.

Image from Whiskybase

The nose is very dry for a grain whisky, but in hindsight that could also be the insanely high ABV. Based on the dryness I figured it was more like wheat than corn, but that seems wrong, based on the factoids on A bit of fruity sweetness, unripe mango and pear. It shows some strange armagnac like quality, unaged armagnac, that is.

The palate is razor sharp with chili heat and lots of pepper. Unripe magno and green banana peels, a sharp fruitiness. A bit of simply syrup and some grains.

Here, on top of some lingering heat, there’s the typical grain whisky sweetness. Lots of pastry notes and some baked fruit and wine gums.

I would never have guessed this to be 25 years old. Of course, if they casked this at some 90% ABV the alcohol should remain high for a very long time, but the weird cask might have had something to do with it as well. All in all, this is not necessarily a bad whisky, but it’s also not really comfortable to drink it either.



About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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