Updated March 14, 2016
By Richard Thomas
Among whiskey-lovers in the British Isles, the words “grain whisky” often have a dirty connotation. This is because many view grain whiskey as the unwanted cheap stuff used to dilute more desirable malt whiskey. While some grain whiskey is indeed cheap, inferior stuff, so is some malt whiskey, and technically speaking all of the rye, wheat, and bourbon whiskey made in the United States and Canada is also grain whiskey. Despite the facts, trying to persuade a diehard Scotch or Irish whiskey drinker that grain whiskey isn’t necessarily a bad thing, let alone something that should be consumed in its own right, is no easy proposition.
Even so, premium grain whiskey has seen a slow-but-steady revival. In Scotland, there are a handful of single grains, and Compass Box has its popular vatted grain Hedonism. Over in Ireland, in 2006 Cooley released the Greenore small batch single grain.
Having played a hand in launching Greenore, it should come as no surprise that Jack Teeling took his interest in grain whiskey with him when he started the Teeling Whiskey Company, and this month saw the launch of Teeling’s own single grain whiskey.
The Teeling Single Grain is a no-aging statement (NAS) whiskey, sourced from Cooley, aged in wine barrels for around five years, and non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46% abv. The bottle, cork stopper, and labeling are similar to the original Teeling whiskey, except Teeling Single Grain comes in a clear glass bottle instead of black.
In the glass, Teeling Single Grain has a rich, gold color. The corn comes across in the nose, but in a very light and mature way, not at all like it does in corn whiskey or some bourbons. Instead of being sweet, it’s starchy, and that corn starch mingles with the scent of wet grass, reminding me a little of a late summer stroll at Antietam after an afternoon thunderstorm. Underneath is just a slight hint of vanilla, and a touch of dried fruits sweetness. My guess is the latter comes from the wine barrel finish.
The flavor is a complex and tricky thing, starting with the silky sweetness of dried fruits and cinnamon, which is slowly but steadily overborne by spice and pepper. A tinge of precocious woodiness runs steadily throughout the transition, running right into the finish, which is brief and moderately warm, and winds down to a spicy tingle.
I’m not familiar with Greenore, but I found this stuff intriguing. Subtlety is its strong suit, and that makes it the sort of sipper that rewards close attention.
Addendum By Debbie Shocair
The scent carried vanilla, cereal, sweet milk. After breaking it with ½ tsp water, it became redolent of sweet vanilla milk, like the milk left in your cereal bowl once the cereal is gone. The mouthfeel was all along the roof of the mouth and under the tongue. Sweet and smooth on the finish, still tingly and slightly spicy cinnamon and pepper. The sweet sense of cereal milk lingers delightfully.
The suggested retail price for the Teeling Single Grain will be about €45 to 50.