Unlike malt whisky, which is made from malted barley, grain whisky is made from unmalted cereal grains such as wheat, rye, maize or corn. Traditionally, grain whisky has been used in the production of blended whisky and is rarely released on its own. But when aged for long periods, such as 20 to 30 years, in high quality casks, it can become a superb spirit in its own right.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, winner of the Grain Whisky of The Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013, is flying the flag for this often over-looked whisky with its Grain Whisky Week (17-25 May). Grain Whisky Week, part of the Society’s 30th-anniversary celebrations, kicks off today with the release of 10 grain whiskies, all bottled from single casks in the tradition of all SMWS bottlings, and continues with a grain whisky sampling at the London Whisky Fest on Saturday.
The Society, a members-only organisation, will also celebrate Saturday’s World Whisky Day by opening its doors to the public and inviting them to sample grain whisky at its three private venues – 28 Queen Street and The Vaults in Edinburgh, and 19 Greville Street in London. A complementary 10cl bottle of grain whisky will be offered to anyone buying membership in the venues on the day.
The Grain Whisky Week celebrations continue with grain whisky tastings at the following locations:
· 28 Queen Street (Tuesday 21)
· 19 Greville Street (Wednesday 22)
· The Angel Hotel in Guildford (Friday 24)
· The Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock (Friday 24)
· The Whisky Stramash Festival in Edinburgh (Saturday 25)
A limited number of tickets for non members are available for all the above tastings (call 0131 555 2929 to book) apart from the Whisky Stramash Festival.
Helen Stewart, the UK Brand Manager of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, said: “The Society was first established 30 years ago to celebrate the delights of single cask, single malt whisky but we have always explored the full spectrum of the whisky world to unearth the finest casks. Grain whisky is a hugely under-rated spirit and deserves to be discovered by many more people. We have been bottling grain whisky for several years now and are delighted to see it gradually gaining the recognition it deserves.”
About grain whisky
· Single grain Scotch whisky is made from unmalted cereal grains such as wheat, rye or corn, plus a small amount of malted barley – it is distilled continuously in a continuous column still. In contrast, single malt Scotch whisky is made from malted barley – it is distilled batch-by-batch using a pot still.
· Grain whisky has typically been used in the production of blended whisky. It has suffered from a slightly negative reputation in the past due to a notion it was very light and cheap to produce, and therefore lacked the quality and character of single malt whisky.
· The Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s single grain bottlings are breaking this stereotype of grain whisky. If you put grain whisky in a good quality cask, you get a unique spirit at the end. This underlines the importance of the Society’s key ethos, which is to only ever bottle from the highest-quality single casks.
· Like all malt whiskies, all grain whiskies will taste different. But, generally speaking, grain whisky can have a lighter, smooth and creamy taste. It can taste more like bourbon than malt whisky – as a result, grain whisky is a fantastic way to get new audiences involved in whisky.
About The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
· The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is an international membership organisation and bottler, which bottles the world’s widest selection of exceptional single cask, single malt whisky for its members
· The Society bottles the finest single malt whisky from around 300 single casks every year from a range of more than 129 distilleries. The very nature of the single cask means that each bottling offered by the Society is limited.
· The Society was established in Edinburgh in 1983 and now has more than 26,000 members around the world with branches in 19 countries.
· For more information about the Society, visit www.smws.com