The Lowland Showdown: Malt vs. Grain Whisky

At The Dram Team we love a good old fashioned whisky “battle royale”. In past tasting boxes we have pitted sibling whiskies from the same distillery against each other, and put single malts from different countries up against some of Scotland’s finest to see who comes out on top.This month in our whisky tasting box, we head to the famous Scottish Lowlands to find out whether single grain or single malt whisky is the real champion of the region.

Marked from the southern border with England to just north of its two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Lowland whisky has been most associated with a light, floral style of whisky. This was mostly due to the use of triple distillation common at big single malt distilleries (Auchentoshan, for example). However, it also has the highest number of grain distilleries. Historically this makes sense, as whisky wouldn’t have far to travel to be sold to Glasgow and Edinburgh’s whisky blenders. There have also been a number of new distilleries being greenlit and built recently, so watch out for up-and-coming releases to try.

Whether you’re a malt maniac or grain guru, grab yourself this month’s box, some tasting glasses, and get stuck into some great drams. 

The Malts:

Glasgow 1770 “The Original” Single Malt Whisky

Glasgow 1770 The Original is a fresh and fruity dram from the Glaswegian new-kids-on-the-block, this single malt scotch is handcrafted in copper pots named Tara and Mhairi. The Glasgow Distillery Company - founded in 2014 - takes its name from a now-closed distillery that opened in 1770, hence the name of their flagship whisky. 

Tasting notes:

Dried dark fruits with tropical undertones on the nose, followed by hints of biscuit, oak and freshly cut grass. Hints of freshly sliced pear, dried figs, dates and raisin with sweet almond, honey and creamy shortbread notes. Long and resinous finish, with dark red fruits and a hint of treacle. 

Bladnoch 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Lowlands whiskies are often nicknamed “the Lowland ladies” thanks to their delicate, floral characters. While we don’t think that whisky should be gendered (whisky is for everyone, after all), some have called this whisky the “Queen of the Lowlands” and it is certainly a regal dram. Bladnoch are experiencing a bit of a revival, now boasting ex-Macallan Master Distiller Nick Savage at the helm. 

Tasting notes:

Delicate and floral with notes of honey and refreshing citrus on the nose. On the palate, parma violets with fresh green apples and hints of wood spice, finishing sweet but refreshing.

Douglas Laing The Epicurean - Edinburgh Edition Cask Strength Blended Lowlands Malt Whisky

A limited edition of just 600 bottles, this just-released cask strength Edinburgh edition of Douglas Laing’spopular Lowland malt blend is the result of a collaboration with Edinburgh’s most noted bartenders and spirits experts. In a one-off event, they competed head to head to create their own unique blends from a selection of Lowland malt whisky samples provided by Douglas Laing. Lindsay Blair ultimately took the blending crown after a blind tasting by Fred Laing himself. What a cool release!

Tasting notes:

Bursting with lively green fruits, sweet barley and a tangy citrus with just a touch of spice.

The Grains:

Douglas Laing Old Particular Port Dundas 13 Year Old Single Grain Whisky

If you like tasting one-of-a-kind whiskies that will never exist again, you’re in luck. Port Dundas was Scotland’s largest whisky producer, until its owners, Diageo, decided to expand production at nearby Cameronbridge (more on that later). In 2010 Port Dundas unfortunately closed down after nearly 200 years of service. However, thanks to the work of tireless independent bottlers like Douglas Laing, you can still find some of that liquid history around to taste. 

Tasting notes:

Sugary boiled sweets with creamy custard and milk chocolate covered ice cream. Beautifully balanced with gentle spice, light cocoa and runny Scottish honey. Medium-long finish with nutmeg, strawberry, peppermint and crème brûlée.

Whisky Broker North British 12 Year Old Single Grain Whisky

This is a bit of Lowlands squared, as it’s a grain whisky from a Lowlands distillery (North British) bottled by a Lowlands independent bottler (Whisky Broker). North British Distillery is Edinburgh’s last remaining grain distillery, and is co-owned by Diageo and Edrington Group. The bulk of its young grain whisky therefore forms the base of world-famous blends like Johnny Walker and Famous Grouse. Whisky Broker have earned themselves a bit of a reputation for releasing insanely good cask strength indie bottlings at very affordable prices. This is one such example, being an unusual combination of relatively young single grain combined with a 7 month sherry barrel finish.

Whisky Broker Cameronbridge 36 Year Old Single Grain Whisky

If you know grain whisky, you’ll know that it starts getting really interesting once it hits the decades-old mark. Even more so than single malts, single grains like quite a lot of time in the barrel before they start to develop even more complex flavours. We’re really excited to be including this 36 year old cask strength grain whisky as our “Sixth Dram”, thanks again to the wonderful people at Whisky Broker. Cameronbridge is the largest grain distillery in Europe, but most of the whisky lands into Diageo’s big blends. It’s not often that you’ll see a release with this amount of age on it. 

Tasting notes for Whisky Broker “North British” and “Cameronbridge”: 

Whisky Broker don’t publish producer tasting notes, and Covid-affected logistics mean that for once we weren’t able to get our hands on a sample of these two whiskies to write our own. So, we’ll be nosing and tasting these for the first time at the same time that you will, intrepid Dram-Teamer! Let us know what you detect.

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