Give grain a go

An interview with Robin Tucek was recently part of a feature by Jonny McCormick in the Whisky Advocate, America’s leading whisky magazine. Entitled The Best Whiskies You're Not Drinking, the feature looked at the more unusual styles of whisky from Japanese rice whisky to Blackadder’s single grain whiskies.

Here’s the interview with Robin.

"Grain whisky, typically made from wheat or corn, is primarily used to create blended whiskies in Scotland, Ireland, and Japan, but it also has remarkable flavor potential on its own," says Jonny. Having reviewed more than 1,000 whiskies for the Buying Guide, grain whiskies constantly surprise me. They’re produced in large-scale industrial distilleries that lack the romance of their more rural single malt counterparts. While the big companies have launched grain expressions like Haig Club, Chita, and Girvan Patent Still, independent bottlers have also played a vital role in making grain whiskies visible. Robin Tucek, managing director of Blackadder International, a family-run independent bottler, has recently released two 32 year old single grain whiskies from Cambus and Invergordon."

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a malt or grain cask,” Tucek argues. “If it’s really good and jumps out at you, it’s good to bottle.”

To heighten the sense of adventure, the Blackadder Raw Cask releases have cask sediment at the bottom of each bottle—they’re the snow globes of whisky. “When opening a bottle, tip it upside down and tap it a couple of times and then let it settle for a minute before pouring,” Tucek recommends. Bars in Japan will even ask customers if they want a tea strainer for the sediment when they get to the end of the bottle. Tucek devised Raw Cask to present whisky in its purest form, and he argues that his methods go beyond those of most producers, who include the non-chill filtered designation on the label. “The whole point is to retain the maximum possible flavor from the cask,” he says. “The more you filter a whisky, the more you remove the oils and the fats, and thereby the flavors, from the spirit.”

If you’ve never sampled grain whisky, you might be unsure about what to expect. “There’s a certain type of sweetness in grain whisky that’s worth discovering,” explains Tucek. “Our recent Invergordon has earthy, sweet charred oak and malty caramel on the nose, but the taste is soft and rich. The char, natural caramel, and fruit are delicate but full, before a finish of soft tannins, delicate woodiness, and fruit.”

Thanks to Jonny McCormick for the great review!