Spectacular Single Grains that Harken Back to a Bygone Time
A large proportion of Scotch over the last 50 years was produced at two distilleries located in Fife near the Firth of Forth. The Cameronbridge and Carsebridge are two of the largest whisky distilleries in history. Both adopted the new grain distillation technology developed by the Irish inventor Aeneas Coffey in the mid 19th century. This new technology allowed for the production of vast amounts of whisky at a fraction of the cost, and the early adoption of the new technology is part of what made Scotch whisky so popular around the world for so long.
The light, low flavor whisky was used to cut and soften the more powerful single malts, which had previously not been readily exported in bottle. But the new-found style had appeal and value that single malt scotch did not. The merits of blending are what pushed Scotch whisky to the forefront of the industry. While the common trope in the old guard of Scotch drinkers is that single malt is the way to go, we’re slowly starting to open up the world of single grain. As it has become clear to a growing number of curious drinkers, single grain is so special—different, but special. It might take 30 years for the stuff to start tasting good, but when it does it can truly change one’s mind about the category.
These two Bridge distilleries, one long closed and the other now the largest grain distillery in Europe, represent the very best of what single grain has to offer: wonderful nuance, subtle but distinct character, and stupendous value. We’re moving into a new period of appreciation for this entire category, and there’s no better place to get great grain whisky than KL.
This is a sister cask to our huge hit with the 25 year old Cameronrbridge earlier in the year. The only difference now is that it comes in a year older. Cameronbridge is one of Diageo’s workhorse grain whisky distilleries, creating the backbone for its world famous brands like Johnnie Walker and White Horse, while simultaneously serving as the home for grain neutral products like Tanqueray and Pimm’s. The dual purpose site is one of the biggest producers of spirit in the UK and because of that volume we can secure incredible pricing on very old whisky. If you have followed our single grain bottlings over the years, you will know what is to be had here. If you are new to old grain stocks, this is the perfect introduction. It’s luscious, incredibly smooth, and shows a beautiful array of fruit, wood, and spice. All at an extraordinary price for the age.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 13, 2018
This tiny cask of Cameronbridge is one of the oddest and most interesting grains we’ve ever bottled. Full of green, almost oceany, flavors it’s nothing like most of the middle aged grains we buy. Powerful aromas of salty moss, old oak and forest floor continue on the palate, but are bolstered by sweet oak and funky spice. The twinge of mushroom character and fresh forest floor notes have the strangest similarity to one my favorite distillers—Springbank. Not that we’re in the same territory, but more like an allusion—the literary device of grain whisky. A fun one to be sure and considering the odd nature and low output, this one likely won’t last too much longer.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 01, 2018
Creamy vanilla, soft brioche, caramelized sugar. This is a little sugar and spice and everything nice for your winter holiday cheer. A lively citrus note keeps things particularly festive. A bit of maple syrup and caramel round out the brighter sweet tones with a heavier bass note. Just a faint herbal thread in the background keeps things from getting cloyingly sweet and provides enough backbone to still call this sweeter-than-usual grain whisky balanced. It’s an easy choice on this one, as I’m fairly confident no one would be disappointed to have this in their glass.
Closed in 1983, the once prolific stocks of Carsebridge are running low. At one time the large grain distillery in the town of Alloa was one of Scotland’s biggest. When the whiskey industry fell on hard times due to massive oversupply, Carsebridge was an early victim and eventually was completely demolished in 1992. Diageo, the outgrowth of DCL, did retain the cooperage for some years, but even that was closed in 2011. It’s not every day that we get to the see the whiskies of yore and have access to them at such reasonable prices. Distilled in 1965, this beauty has spent 52 long years in a refill hogshead and it has naturally proofed itself down to a very drinkable 43.4% alcohol. Never bottled as an official distillery bottling, the only Carsebridge to ever reach the open market is in the form of independent bottlings of well aged stocks. Unfortunately, those days too are likely coming to a close as it is becoming harder and harder to find these ancient whiskies.
David Othenin-Girard | KL Staff Member | Review Date: December 13, 2018
It’s still incredible to me that we’re still able to sell whisky distilled before the moon landing. This whisky, likely forgotten somewhere deep in a dank Scottish warehouse, survived the blenders for more than a half century to end up here in our store. What’s even more incredible is how overtly delicious this one is. The concentration after 50+ years creates an aromatic character almost like cognac, but without the syrupy sweetness. You’d expect the thing to be bitter with extracted oak by this age, but you’d be wrong. It’s sweet, nutty and packed full of rancio fruit. This is a singular experience that just can’t be had anywhere else in the whisky drinking world. A steal and a deal considering the only other 50+ year old grain whisky being sold in the States costs $900 and a sister cask of this same whisky costs $550 in London.
William Beare | KL Staff Member | Review Date: January 08, 2019
Drinking whiskey this old is like watching your grandpa dance. After too many years some whiskeys just lose a bit of luster. The hop goes out of their two-step. But when you find one who still can move, it’s captivating and beautiful. It’s pure grace with the added value of wisdom lending efficiency to every step and movement. The Carsebridge 52 makes me think of Christopher Walken at 60 years old nailing perfect plié after perfect plié in the lobby of the LA Grand Hotel for a music video. It’s so elegant, right from the nose, giving waves of dulce de leche, soft brown leather, and cardamom spice. And– true to my simile– simply dances across your tongue, smooth as can be. As some of my colleagues noted, the fruit takes a few sips to emerge, but dried apricot comes out on the finish, along with a bit of salted caramel pudding, and soft layers of cedar cigar box. Magnificent!
Jackson Lee | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 28, 2018
Nothing like Scotch for breakfast; what better way to start your day than with a 52-year-old dram? Before I even had my coffee I was pouring a sample into my glass when I found it on my desk this morning. If this didn’t wake me up, my coffee had no chance, but any residual grogginess evaporated and was instead replaced by heavenly wafts of rich brown sugar, candied figs, strawberries and cream with a little tangerine peel timidly showing through. If you’ve never had a 52-year-old Scotch for breakfast, you’re missing out. The texture alone was ethereal: light yet silky, super smooth with notes of marzipan and canned mandarin oranges. The finish was long, reminding me of a fruit salad cup, strawberry gummies, and butterscotch with a nice warmth to remind me that while it is not a major food group, it’s still exciting to mix up your morning routine.
Cameron Price | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2018
A beautiful single grain whisky that presents a luscious caramel and toffee nose with a side of shortbread. It’s as smooth as smooth comes, like a rich golden river of love streaming into your stomach.
Neal Fischer | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2018
Myyyyyyy goodness! Honey and baking spices jump out of the glass followed by scents of toasty caramels, juicy summer peaches, and fresh cherries. The palate is incredibly smooth and not over-oaked at all despite its considerable age, ending with flavors of toffee-covered nuts.
Andrew Whiteley | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2018
“If I could save time in a bottle/The first thing that I’d like to do/Is to save every day/’Til eternity passes away/Just to spend them with you” Sovereign has done the hard work of capturing time in a bottle. At first blush, this whisky is quite dry, but after a sip or two a shocking amount of fruit presents itself. It’s lush with stone fruits and pears. For those who prize “smooth” above all else in their whisky, it is impossible to surpass the rich, velvety quality of this dram. Darker notes of milk chocolate and dusty cocoa weave in and out of the glass. The angel’s share of this cask is enormous. It’s one of 157 bottles and proofed naturally to 43.4% alcohol. For comparison, most hogshead barrels yield about 250 bottles. Those are some thirsty angels, and with one taste, it’s obvious why.
Alex Schroeder | KL Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2018
This grain whisky is very vivacious on the nose: hints of stone fruit, honey, spice, saw dust, and unsweetened dark chocolate. On the palate, it is naturally proofed down to 43% abv, so it is incredibly smooth to drink. It leaves warm, toasty flavors of caramel, cream, vanilla, dark cocoa, and honeyed cereals lingering for over a minute. The complexity and integration are stunning after 52 years sitting in the barrel. What a special treat to taste such an old, lively whisky!