The people of the Glen Grant distillery are so proud of the fact that their distillery was founded in
1840 that they put it on all their bottles - well, at least all their official releases. On the shelves of
your average liquorist it may not seem like such a 'big' brand as, say, Bowmore or Springbank.
Nevertheless, Glen Grant has actually been the third largest malt whisky producer in Scotland
for a long time, right after Glenfiddich and Macallan and (just) ahead of Glenlivet. Glen Grant
is still one of the top selling malt whiskies in parts of the world; the younger expressions are
particularly popular in Italy. Glen Grant made it into my top ten thanks to decent, very affordable young OB's and stunning older independent bottlings.
The distillery may have been founded in 1840, but it has seen its fair share of different owners.
In fact, the entrepreneurs that took out a license in 1840 (brothers John & James Grant that
had previously worked at the Aberlour distillery) later claimed that Glen Grant was actually
founded in 1823 and they had carried on for quite some time before acquiring a license. Due to
its excellent location (along the river Spey, amidst flowing fields of barley with sea ports nearby)
Glen Grant prospered after a license was obtained. During the 1860's the name of the company
was changed to J. & J. Grant and control was transferred to James 'The Major' Grant - son of
founding father James Grant 'the elder'.
A year later the new owners launched a brand
new packaging for Glen Grant that reflected the
typical 'slender' shape of the stills that is supposed
to give the Glen Grant single malt whisky its fairly
light, fresh profile.
Due to the generic name it's hard to keep track of
the different owners of Glen Grant over the years,
but in 1952 or 1953 they were 'amalgamated' with
the 'mother company' of Glenlivet into the entity
“Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd.”
In 1972 this new company merged with two others;
Longmorn-Glenlivet Ltd. and Hill Thompson & Co.
into The Glenlivet Distillers. And then, in 1978,
Seagrams bought Glen Grant and Glenlivet and
put them together into their Chivas group.
And then, in 2001 Seagrams was gobbled up...
Seagrams was bought by two larger companies;
Diageo and Pernod Ricard. The new owners had
to divide the spoils and the Chivas Group (which
included distilleries like Aberlour and Longmorn)
ended up under control of Pernod Ricard. The
ties with Glenlivet were finally broken when
Davide Campari bought Glen Grant in 2006.
The Glen Grant distillery is located in the small town of Rothes in the
main Speyside whisky region - not far from the Glenrothes distillery.
Other nearby distilleries are Caperdonich, Speyburn and Glen Spey.
Glen Grant sources its water from Caperdonich Well - unlike the
Caperdonich distillery which got its water from the Caperdonich Burn.
The water is used in exceptionally tall and slender stills - a unique
feauture that would make the distillery a nice target for a visit.
Unfortunately, Glen Grant didn’t provide distillery tours the last time I checked...
1) Glen Grant is the only remaining Scotch malt
whisky which bears its founders’ name (sort of).
2) In the 1970's Glen Grant had the last water-wheel
driven rummager in the whisky industry in Scotland.
6) The light style of the Glen Grant whisky (and perhaps the light colour it used to have) is said to come from the exceptionally tall stills and the purifiers at their tops. These purifiers were introduced over a century ago.
3) 'Major' James Grant also built the Caperdonich
malt whisky distillery, also known as Glen Grant #2.
4) Glen Grant used to describe its own malt whisky
as "a pale whisky with a colourful history". I assume
they dropped this tag line when they started adding
large amounts of caramel in 2007.
5) Glen Grant was one of the first malt whisky
distilleries in Scotland to install a drum maltings.
2006 - Glen Grant distillery is bought by Campari from
Pernod Ricard (who bought owner Seagrams in 2001).
At the same time Campari acquires a number of other
brands, including the Old Smuggler's blended whisky.
After 2007, the colour of Glen Grant's official bottlings has simply been changed to 'generic whisky colour'.
The new colouring policy makes the difference between young, recent official bottlings and the old independent
bottlings even more striking.
2013 - A new bottling hall is added to the Glen Grant distillery. With a capacity of 12,000 bottles an hour, the
investment of 5 million GBP was worth it - the distillery is able to bottle all of their own releases ‘on site’.
2017 - Official bottlings of Glen Grant have been available all over the world, but Canada has been a notable
exception for many years. This has now changed with the introduction of the 12yo and 18yo.
2007 - A brand new packaging for Glen Grant is
introduced by the new owners. Around the same time
they began adding considerable amounts of caramel
to their regular bottlings. In the 1990's the standard
Glen Grant without an age statement was one of the
palest malt whiskies around. And rightly so as far as
I'm concerned; the light colour matched the light, bland
profile of the whisky. The advertising people for the
Italian market that came up with the slogan "Colore
chiaro, gusto pulito" (Light color, clean taste) must
have felt the same...
Glen Grant NAS (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Grainy, malty and vaguely sweet. A tad oily? Quite fragrant for a bottom shelf malt whisky actually.
Taste: Harsh and alcoholic. Reminds me of a young grappa. A hint of coconut? Gritty, dry finish.
Score: 59 points - the palate pulls it below the Glenfiddich NAS from the early 90's; an old 'Benchmark' of mine.
There's really such a MASSIVE difference between this drivel and Gordon & MacPhail's stocks of the old stuff.
Glen Grant 40yo 1969/2009 (44.3%, Signatory C/S Collection, Sherry Hogshead, C#2016, 188 Bts.)
Nose: Deep sweet, fruity and sherried. A whiff of smoke. Tea. Some subtle spices and a hunt of gunpowder.
Taste: Smooth start. Incredibly chewy. Sweet and fruity. Raisins and cassis. Briljant balance & mouth feel.
Score: 92 points - a wonderful and classic profile, beautifully composed and continually showing new aspects.
Glen Grant 23yo 1985/2009 (55.9%, Adelphi, 191 Bts.)
Nose: Quite polished. Mild fruits (melon, passion fruits) and mint. Shoe polish or clown's schmink.
Lovely accessibility and complexity. A light profile with (apparently) SOME sherry influence but not too much.
Taste: Soft start, growing maltier and then spicier. Perfumy. More bitterness and a hint of smoke in the finish.
Score: 87 points - but this whisky could have reached 89 or even 90 points with a palate to match the nose.
Glen Grant 34yo 1974/2009 (52.2%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, Cask#16578, 175 Bts.)
Nose: Soft and sweet (honey) start. Cake. Evolving spices. Very pleasant but not terribly complex at first.
Taste: Smooth and soft start with fruits quickly opening up. Fairly rough and bitter in the centre and finish.
Organics? This keeps it from the 90's in my book. With some fruits and tannins it would have done better.
Score: 88 points - but I can imagine that the traces of peat and tar on the palate put some people off.
Glen Grant 36yo 1972/2009 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor for The Whisky Fair, Sherry, 209 Bts.)
Nose: Heavy sherry. Rich, fruity and sweet with a hint of smoke in the background. Whiff of something spicy.
Taste: A lovely sweet fruit basket; passion fruit and grapes. Starts off smooth, but it grows harsher in the centre.
There are loads of tannins in the woody finish, along with a touch of smoke. Very dry. Still lovely, mind you...
Score: 87 points - a sherry monster that we don't see a lot of these days. Others could go for a score in the 90's.
In fact, I expect I could have easily given it 88 or even 89 points outside the Malt Maniacs Awards competition.
Glen Grant 18yo 1990/2008 (59%, Signatory Vintage CS Collection, Cask #7122, 582 Bts.)
Nose: Loads of heavy fruits. Slightly oily. More spices emerge over time. Really opens up nicely over time.
More and more emerging fruits. Aniseed after circa twenty minutes. Cinnamon. Very rich with lots of details.
At first, the nose is pleasant enough, but this one earns most points on the palate.
After fifteen minutes the roles change, as the nose shows amazing complexity.
Taste: Sweet and smooth on the surface, but something darker is brooding in the background.
Wood with a hint of liquorice. Sweet menthol & aniseed. Enjoyable mouth feel. Menthol freshness in the finish.
Score: 87 points - lots of interesting traits that lift it into the upper 80's; a highly recommendable Glen Grant...
Glen Grant 1965/2008 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Licenced Bottling)
Nose: Starts off polished and a little restrained. Not much personality, development or complexity I'm afraid.
Taste: More powerful than the nose suggests, but just as nondescript. Dry. Almost tastes like a grain whisky.
Score: 81 points - which means that it's a good enough whisky - but not what you'd expect from G&M.
Glen Grant 1955/2008 (50%, G&M for La Maison du Whisky, First Fill Sherry Hogs, C#844, 88 Bts.)
Nose: A wood monster. Touch of chloride. Opens up to a wonderful spicyness after some breathing.
Over time loads of subtle fruits are slowly moving forward in the bouquet of this Glen Grant malt whisky.
Taste: Woody start with a sweetness that moves in and out of focus. Extremely woody in the finish as well.
Some organics pop up as well, as well as some salt liquorice. Some smoke too.
Score: 89 points - the wood is just a touch too dominant for my tastes to reach the 90's.
Glen Grant 1972/2007 (54.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland)
Nose: Fruity and woody. Polished. Classic sherry profile with some unique traits. Coffee beans.
Something nutty in the background? That finally evolved into organics, pushing it to 90 points.
Taste: Smooth with a solid, sweet, woody undercurrent. Great balance, but perhaps a tad woody for some.
Menthol freshness. Yeah, I'd say this deserves a gold medal.
Score: 90 points - one of the top scoring candidates of the MM Awards 2007.
Glen Grant 1972/2006 (46%, Berry Brothers, C#1982)
Nose: Light & polished with the faintest hint of something meaty. Very dignified but not especially expressive.
Hint of dust? Developing organics in the nose. Needs time to approach the realm of the 90's.
Taste: Something leathery on the palate - and a lot of tannins. I really like the profile...
Not quite enough body to box in the heavyweight category - it's a tad too thin on the palate.
Score: 89 points - a very worthy contender in the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006.
Glen Grant 36yo 1970/2006 (53,2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry C#7216, 173 Bts.)
Nose: Like the very dark colour suggests: woody and smoky. Sweet & fruity as well - raisins and blueberries.
Lovely complex fruits - a virtual fruit basket in your glass.
Taste: Delightful fruits here as well. Very solid centre with a touch of liquorice and smoke.
Cough syrup? Brilliant mouth feel! Theis Glen Grant has a very smoky finish.
Score: 93 points - this ended up in my personal top 3 for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2007.
Glen Grant 1958/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail licensed bottling)
Nose: AAAH! Wood, organics, reduced fruits, spices… antiquity. A brilliant nose.
Wonderful development towards the organic side of the spectrum.
Taste: Wow!!! Subtle woody and sherried tones with a touch of smoke. Ultra dry peat.
Very classy, even though it's a tad rough in the finish. In fact, a tad too rough and burning.
Score: 92 points - another Glen Grant ending in the very top echelon of the MM Awards 2007.
Glen Grant 1956/2005 (46%, G&M Licenced bottling for La Maison du Whisky, Refill sherry butt, 459 Bts.)
Nose: Paint thinner. Interesting but hard on the nose - you have to dig deep.
Opens up all by itself within a minute, though. This one needs time - but it's more than worth the wait.
Cigar box. Celery. These sort of smells indicate that this is a very old malt indeed.
Taste: Beautiful old fruits on the palate. Orange zest? A beautiful malt with PERFECT balance.
Score: 91 points - although I was tempted on occasion to increase the score to 92.
Glen Grant 1969/2004 (46%, Berry Brothers, Cask #1773)
Nose: Holy cow! Extreme wood, sherry and organics. Fruit cake sweetness.
Gummi bears? Sucade? Some organics as well. This really is my kind of profile.
It changes over time as well; not radically, but different aspects pop up now and then.
One of the most amazing noses I've encountered so far. let's hope it tastes as good...
Taste: Again, loads of sherry and good wood. Unfortunately, it turns very bitter.
It grows very woody and smoky after a while - maybe too much so for some.
Based on the nose I was inclined to go for the upper 90's, but it lets me down.
Preliminary impression: Lower 90's. The palate is just a tad one-dimensional.
Second sampling: Oh, boy! After some breathing the nose seems even bigger.
Sherry and mahogany. Fruit, Spices and organics. This is just magnificent. A winner!
A wonderful sweet fruitiness dominates the palate, but there's a woody counterpoint.
Score: 92 points - it might have gone even higher if the finish hadn't been as smoky.
My enthusiastic response: Confirmation that older sherried Glen Grants can be stunning.
Glen Grant 31yo 1970/2001 (45%, Samaroli, Sherry cask #1025)
Nose: Rich, polished and sherried. Then some organics emerge; a classic profile. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Taste: Smoky and quite extreme in the start, sweetening out in the fruity centre. Very chewy; nice tannins.
Score: 89 points - here is a malt that earns most points on the palate - a sherry monster, not for everybody.
Revision: Again, polished and beautifully balanced in the nose. Hint of perfume. Gooseberry. Not overly complex.
On the palate it was fruity with hints of dust and smoke. Yeah, I'll stick with my initial 89 points for this one.
Glen Grant 1959-1960/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Andrew and Fergie)
Nose: Coffee. Loads of old bottle effect. A 'polished' profile; all elements are very well integrated.
Parsley. Sellery. Grows very sweet with honey and caramel. Not much fruits. This whisky keeps evolving.
This malt whisky settles down after a few minutes but remains very pleasant. It's accessible, but serious.
Taste: Pleasantly potent; plenty of smoke, but it doesn't overpower the malty notes and the wood.
Toffee and liquorice; an unusual combination. Hints of caramel (a Caramac candy bar). Quite potent.
Score: 91 points - a lovely example of a classic Speyside malt whisky.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glen Grant malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Grant I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glen Grant.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
While new owners arrived on the stage and left it
again a few years later for yet another new owner,
there had been some changes on the 'technical' side
as well over the years. In 1973 the number of stills
was expanded from 4 to to 6. The four old stills were
all coal fired, but the new stills were gas heated. And
they liked it that way, because in 1977 4 gas fired
stills were added, bringing the total to ten pot stills.
Glen Grant has appeared on my personal Top 10 a
few times over the years, even though the 5yo and
10yo official bottlings are hardly spectacular. Regular
OB's offered reasonable value for money while older
bottlings by independent bottlers like Berry Brothers
and Gordon and MacPhail were just 'spectacular'.
So, the ‘range’ of Glen Grant is unusually wide.
The new owners haven't made any significant changes since the remodeling of the bottles.
However, Glen Grant has always been an innovative distillery - they were the first distillery in Scotland with electric
lighting for example. However, the only recent 'innovation' I've observed myself was the introduction of heavy
caramel colouring. If they start innovating again at Glen Grant, I'll report on it in this distillery profile...