It’s a bold statement for sure, and just to be clear no one is paying me to say this, but what on Earth am I talking about?
Well, over the last couple of years I’ve tasted some pretty grim whiskies, cheap blends from the big boys are getting worse and the rise of Non Aged Statement (NAS) whiskies offering a poor dram seems to multiply by the week yet William Grant and Sons (WGS) seems to have found a recipe for producing decent whisky at, and here’s the kicker, a fair price.
I’m not here to talk about the fancy, premium whiskies here. WGS own The Balvenie and Glenfiddich and the core range from both distilleries are fantastic, Glenfiddich in particular have a 12, 15 and 18 Year Old expression which rivals anything on the market and I’d wager many of us started our whisky journey, certainly with regards to Single Malt Whisky, with a glass of 12 Year Old Glenfiddich and still to this day, over twenty years into my whisky journey I have the full core range in my cabinet. The Balvenie is a bit pricey and not as easy to find but the 12 and 17 are perfect, sorry, I digress.
I’m not going to sit here and badmouth other companies, well not much, but the state of modern blends is frightening. I’ll pick on one particularly bad example of something that used to be great but now is shocking and that’s Famous Grouse. The reason I complain a lot about Grouse is that they do make a good whisky in their Naked Grouse, their Bourbon Finish isn’t terrible either but their core bottle is woeful and only ten years ago it was a perfectly reasonable whisky, shame but it’s what happens when a company decides to sacrifice one product for others.
Oh and Ballantye’s and Bell’s and Whyte and Mackay, all pretty poor these days too, but enough bad mouthing.
Grant’s wasn’t all that special either, it just about held its head above the rest but it’s recent relaunch has really surprised me.
Their new core range is excellent liquid, yes it’s 40%, yes it’s coloured and chill filtered but this is bottom shelf blended whisky we’re talking about here, it’s midweek simple sipping stuff, stuff for mixing and it’s really rather good.
I picked up two of these, the Smoky and the Ale Cask over Christmas, one as a gift from a mate, yes I have friends, and one I bought myself. The Ale Cask isn’t far off the Glenfiddich IPA, you can take that anyway you want but I found it worked wonders with ginger ale or Irn Bru, the Smoky is a very decent stand alone whisky too.
I am now on the hunt for the rum cask, which is only available in Sainsbury’s and I don’t have one anywhere near me, and I’ll try and get a bottle of the Family Cask asap but the two I’ve tried are way above what I was expecting.
So, how come? Decent casks I guess, one thing William Grant and Sons have is plenty of casks of whisky and I think they might have taken a look at the market and decided to raise their game and improve the blend, and now we have still young but quality whisky.
Oh and there is a new 8 Year Old I think but I can’t find it in the shops but if I do then I’ll pick it up and let you know.
There’s something else too, the Aerstone Single Malts.
These appear to be Tesco only releases, I’d love an answer as to why, and since they’ve been released they’ve been on offer for twenty quid more often than they’ve not.
Twenty quid, for a Single Malt with a 10 Year age statement, again these are 40% and they do come with a bit of an oddly placed origin story but these are good solid whiskies aimed at who? New comers? People who can’t afford spending load on something as frivolous as whisky? Dunno, but I bought both bottles, they do a Land Cask and Sea Cask, and I don’t think I’ve spent a better forty notes on two bottles all year.
William Grant and Sons have completely changed the lowers shelf whisky market, if I were to offer advice to someone on a tight budget but who wanted a couple of bottles with different nuances I couldn’t think of anything better than these two ranges.
2019 will see whisky prices rise and rise, more limited editions, more fancy boxes, more smoke and mirrors and it’s just so refreshing to see a company buck the trend somewhat and produce such decent stuff and not using too much marketing jiggery pokery to do so.
I think this is worth sharing with you all because there is now a lot of chaff to cut through and here we have a range of whisky you can pop to a supermarket to buy, and I think that’s grand.