The Girvan Vial Pack

I was kindly sent a Girvan "vial pack" as thanks for some photos I took of their stand at The Whisky Show last year.

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of grain whiskies, so I viewed this as an excellent kindness on their part. But it's also no secret that I'm something of a proselytiser for grain whisky, and I realised that it would be quite immoral to keep this bounty to myself! I arranged to share it with Ben Cops and The Whisky Cyclist, both of whom have kindly put up with my grainy predilections over the years. After talking about it for several months we finally set a time and location and got down to it.

The pack has four 50cl bottles at 42% abv:

  • Girvan Patent Still New Make
  • Girvan Patent Still No. 4 Apps
  • Girvan Patent Still 25 Year Old
  • Girvan Patent Still 30 Year Old

We topped this up with two independent bottlings:

  • The Whisky Agency Girvan 48 Year Old
  • SMWS G7.2 "Fascinating and inspiring"

About Girvan Distillery

Girvan is a grain distillery built in 1963 by William Grant & Sons, who also own the Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Ailsa Bay and Kininvie malt distilleries. It first distilled on Christmas day in 1963 and is the second largest distillery in Scotland producing around 103 million litres of spirit per year. (They could produce a little more, but stop distillation for two weeks of every year to clean everything.) It has three sets of stills, and uses a unique multi-pressure system that allows distillation under partial vacuum - thus lowering the boiling point, and allowing flavours to be carried by the boiling alcohols without being burnt. Clever! But this behemoth of a distillery isn't what everyone would call a pretty face. The traditional distillery image of a pagoda roof and whitewashed walls isn't the case here - Girvan is an industrial site, planned with purpose and run with precision.

Which, frankly, sounds like my kind of place - I'd probably spend hours tracing all the piping trying to reverse engineer their stills!

Now, let's get on to those tasting notes...


This is the wooden front of Edmund Martin Ltd's shop - tripe dressers, meat & offal salesmen, according to the sign that I conveniently left out of shot.


Taken back in 2008, this shop was demolished as part of the Crossrail works, which is a great shame.

SMWS April 2015 Outturn

Another month, another great outturn from the SMWS. How do they do it?

Some very nice whiskies here, covering pretty much all the bases (except grain).

Unusually, there were two first fill white whine hogsheads - the Ardmore and the Miltonduff. (My preference was for the Ardmore.)

My favourites from the list included the Dailuaine and the Bladnoch. As usual the Glen Grant was superb, and the Glenlossie also impressed me. If you're looking for peat, then the Ardmore impressed but the real pick was the Bowmore.

The only disappointment for me was the lack of the Kilchoman (129), as there had been a small misunderstanding. It originally came out on a mid-March top-up list, and the London Rooms sold all their bottles. When it appeared on the April list again it was a bit of a surprise, and they didn't even have a dram of it left. A pity, as I recall it being a good one when I tried it - I just wish I'd drawn up some tasting notes then!

SMWS 7.113 - "Takes you to another place"

24 years old, distilled 11th December 1989, 51.7% abv, second fill Port Barrique, 147 bottles

(Released in Denmark, but a case somehow made its way over to the UK and the SMWS London Rooms - thanks Sam!)

The nose has raisins, midget gems, and a hint of spice - cumin? There's also a suggestion of smoke - perhaps incense? The mouth-feel is lush and juicy, but not very coating. The body has ginger, cumin, and fried duck. The finish is light and has a return of the midget gems from the nose.

Water brings big, thick whorling that expands quickly and lingers for quite a while - very nice! The nose now has less of the midget gems and a little more of the incense. The body has light caramel notes, and the spices have moved towards the back of the palate. There's also some melon and a hint of florality. The finish is sweeter - melon, midget gems and ginger!

A very good, graceful dram that would suit a picnic basket.



In 2010 I was fortunate enough to get access to the newly renovated Thames Tunnel, and took a few photographs.

This is one of my favourites from that day:

There's no selective editing here - that's pretty much what I saw. The overwhelming greyness of the background makes the red signal look slightly fake, which is an interesting effect in itself.

SMWS March 2015 Outturn

A smaller outturn which has plenty of decent easy drinkers - just in time for spring!

One of the whiskies was a repeat (the Dailuaine), and some might lament the lack of big hitters - but I found plenty of very pleasant drams. At the rooms, everyone seemed to want bottles of the Laphroaig, but supplies were quite limited. My personal favourite was the Glenrothes - an aged whisky which exercises restraint in delivering its delights. The Glendullan was also superb.

There were also four peated drams - two heavily, two lightly. My favourite was the Coal Ila - a great micture of smoke and meat with sweetness and herbs.

A very pleasant list to write reviews for.

Shadows In The Fire

This was a test shot for a new lens.

Shadows In The Fire

It turns out that if you want to buy a new lens, you should do it in autumn. You get some really nice things to take photos of...

SMWS February 2015 Outturn

Has there ever been a bad outturn from the SMWS? Not that I recall...

This one brings us some less frequent visitors to the Society in the form of a Rosebank, a Caledonian, a Glen Ord, and an Inchmurrin.

There were also two Glen Morays - not unprecedented, but unusual - and a Highland Park.

My favourites were the Rosebank, Highland Park, and the Caledonian - the Rosebank predictably sold out quickly, as did the Highland Park, but the Caledonian lingered as grains seem to do.

The only oddity was the Port Charlotte, which was peatier on the day of release than it was on the following day... My taste buds, or a change in the whisky? More research is required!

Map Geekery - The Undated London Map

Being a geek is an odd thing. Geeks aren't just about computers, science and engineering. We often find interest in the oddest areas.

I quite like maps.

Maps are a wonderful invention. A handy way of representing the world around us, we take them for granted every day. Yet there can be interesting decisions in making the map - like what to include, how to represent it, and so forth.

Some time ago, I was visiting friends and they gave me a map of London as a gift. This was a kind, thoughtful gift, which was much appreciated as it combined history and maps - two of my favourite things!

And when I got back to my hotel room that evening, and spread it out on my bed to examine it, I couldn't find a date on it at all. Which is why a kind, thoughtful gift kept me awake until two in the morning...

SMWS January 2015 Outturn

A larger than expected outturn for January, made special with an old Macallan and a new grain distillery - Dumbarton.

Quite a few drams that I felt were a little too light for these cold days - better suited to summer's evenings - but that merely provokes conversation and brings back fond memories, so it's no bad thing. The Dailuaine in particular proved popular amongst everyone who tried it, but was surpassed by the Linkwood in my opinion.

And there was a decent selection of three peated drams, none of which will disappoint - but the best was definitely the Bowmore. I hate camping, but a bottle of that could make it tolerable!


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