What do a Frenchman, Vancouver bartenders, and Dufftown, Scotland, have in common? Grant’s Blended Scotch Whisky.
The explosion in popularity of single malt Scotch over the last ten years has had a widespread affect on our local drinking culture. One particular downside (from my perspective behind the bar) has been the demise of blended Scotch whisky’s prestige. Bartenders and patrons, alike, have swooned to the singular particularities and promises of extensive oak maturity in proprietary malts, while humble bottles of blends sit unloved and unused. As bourbon has surged in cocktail popularity, the drinker’s eye has stopped searching for magic in merged malts. Well, shame on all of us!
Fortunately, Ludo Ducrocq was recently in Vancouver to remind many of us of the beauty of blends – those from William Grant & Sons Ltd., in particular. Ducrocq is Grant’s first Global Brand Ambassador, a position he’s matured into since beginning his whisky career as a tour guide with the independent, family-owned distillery in 2000. Nothing, its seems, is done hastily at William Grant & Sons. Brian Kinsman, their current Master Blender, succeeded David Stewart after a decade-long apprenticeship. Stewart, currently the industry’s longest-serving master blender with one distiller, joined the company in 1963.
Ducrocq’s tasting began with the Grant’s Ale Cask Reserve, the only ale cask finish in the world. The purpose of ale cask finishing is not to make the Scotch taste like beer, but to achieve unique characteristics from the process. It is mellow and delicate with pure grain personality, finishing dry with a subtle spice. We were informed that blended whiskies were “finished” long before single malts ever were. By chance, the ale used to condition the cask was tasted one day and became, what we now know as, Innis & Gunn.
Next was the iconic Family Reserve – a Grant’s original since 1898. It has a wonderfully balanced taste, blended from 25 individual whiskies, including Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. This lovely drink has a greater length, with fire burning beautiful and deep. Vanilla, caramel, and light spice reward the nose and palate, while citrus oil personality gives a distinct precision to the whole package. There’s a good reason why it’s amongst the most popular blended whiskies in the world and ranked number one in Canada.
The Grant’s Sherry Cask has the most satisfying nose of the bunch, with ripe, round and seductive persuasion. The palate is satisfyingly sweet from the start, offering expected tones of red fruit and raisins on the finish, imparted from the sherry soul of the finishing barrels. All of these whiskies inspire cocktail dreaming (see below), but the Sherry Cask is the perhaps the barman’s choice. Looking around the room, heads nodded in contemplation of the cocktail possibilities.
I don’t suggest that single malt or blended whiskies should be compared; they are different creatures for different purposes. I’m grateful to have them both in my bartending arsenal. Next time you have a hankering for a Manhattan, perhaps you should take a spin with its humble and extraordinary Scottish cousins, The Rob Roy or Bobby Burns. Your classic cocktail world will get just a little more wonderful.
- 2oz strawberry-infused Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve
- 1/4 oz Fernet Branca
- 1 oz honey syrup
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir all ingredients together until very cold. Garnish with 1/2 a strawberry on rim and mint sprig. Serve neat.
- 2 oz Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve
- 1/2 oz Oloroso Sherry
- 1/4 oz rosehip & hibiscus cordial
- 1 dash lavender bitters
Stir ingredients on ice and strain into cocktail glass over large ice cube. Finish with wide lemon zest with oils released over the drink.
by Brad Stanton, Uva Wine Bar
- 1 1/2 oz Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve
- 1 oz Dubonnet Rouge
- 1 dash Fernet-Branca
- 1 dash Angostura orange bitters
Stir ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Press oils from lemon peel over the surface of the drink and discard the peel.
- 2 oz Grant’s Ale Cask Reserve
- 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1/4 oz Benedictine (or Drambuie)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients gently with ice until cool. Strain into a cocktail glass, zest with lemon or orange peel, and thank me.
~ Jay Jones with Rick Green