Friday, 10 July 2015

Garnheath - 1974 (Carn Mor) - 41 years old

Distillery: Garnheath
Age: 41
Distilled: 1974
Bottled: 2015
Strength: 50.8%.

Now this is something special to me, and something I have been trying to get a bottle of for a few years now. This is a single grain whisky from the Garnheath distillery, which rather than being a distinct distillery was actually a set of coffey stills set within the Moffat distillery complex (Inverhouse) in Airdrie. The "distillery" was set up in 1964 alongside the Glen Flagler stills on the site of an old paper mill, and closed and finally demolished in 1986 when I was just five years old. My mum worked in the distillery as did many other locals as she grew up just a few miles from the site and subsequently I spent some years living literally at the top of the hill at the distillery. Even today I can still recall vividly the smells of the place.

Garnheath was a powerhouse grain production developed in order to compliment their malt whisky most of both which went into cheap blends destined for America and beyond (Green Plaid etc) by the Publicker Industries company based in Philadelphia. Sadly all the distilling equipment was demolished at a time of serious decline within the industry which killed of main a fine distillery.

Nose: I would be lying if I didn't say that the first blast I get right out the bottle is typical grain. Initial volatile compounds are pretty harsh on the nose, namely acetone. This however does reward letting it sit in the air for a while and relax a little. Light and buttery, and more butter fat as you would get in a Jersey milk or cream. Lightly roasted spices of coriander, cinnamon and a touch of ground root ginger. Old fashioned American Cream Soda like I used to get at my Granda's house gives a wee blast of vanilla that really shows up the slow ex-bourbon cask maturation. There are some slight seared smoky meat elements going on. It is fairly impossible but I am detecting just a very slight phenolic edge so either I am drinking way too much heavily peated whisky these days or I am just losing my marbles a bit. Over time in the glass a real sweetness has emerged and softness with no sign at all of those nose prickling compounds from the start.

Palate: In the mouth it is gentle with oodles of vanilla and camphor. Very light and easy going. A real sweet shop dram but also with a hint of ralgex / tiger balm. Do you remember fireball jawbreaker sweets? (hot cinnamon flavour) well it reminds me of those.

Finish: That ralgex and hot cinnamon coming through again with some lemon sherbet and some more ginger.

Like many grains this is not a massively complex dram, but for what it lacks in complexity it makes up in sheer easy going drinking. The romantic past of this distillery also boost up the bias here for me as well though.