Bringing together whisky and good friends

Is South Africa Ready for Ale Cask Whisky?

I hang out on Twitter quite a bit. There are tons of knowledgeable whisky folk that share their tasting notes, thoughts and impressions of their favourite drams. There is also a lot of interaction with many of the whisky distilleries, brands and online retailers.

It was while reading through all these tweets that I started hearing about Grant’s Ale Cask whisky. I then tried to find out where to get it here in South Africa only to find out that I couldn’t. Currently we only get the Grant’s Family Reserve – why I’m not entirely sure. I’ve helped myself to many a Family Reserve dram whilst visiting the in-laws and must say it definitely helped the time pass more pleasurably. I moaned a bit on Twitter about not being able to try the Ale Cask, and you know what? Grant’s was listening!

My package from Grant's

I was contacted by Rebecca at Grant’s and she said that they would happily send me a sample. I love how these big brands care about their consumers and go that extra mile to help out. A couple of weeks later my little blue bottle arrived and I unpacked my parcel. (I always love unwrapping something that’s arrived in the mail – don’t you?)

Along with the sample and a handwritten note from Rebecca was a little brochure extolling the virtues of the brand and their whiskies: “Grant’s is the world’s most awarded blended Scotch whisky”. Indeed! I was also enlightened to the rest of the Grant’s range: Grant’s Sherry Cask, Grant’s 12 Year Old and Grant’s 25 Year Old – all of which are unavailable here as far as I know. Way to rub it in people! πŸ˜‰

I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to hog this sample all to myself, so I shared it with Ryan and Colin – both erstwhile Modderfontein Whisky Club members. So how did it taste you ask? Sweet, honeyed taste with a definite creaminess, almost malty, which is not surprising considering the Edinburgh Ale casks the whisky sits in for a few months. Ryan and Colin tasted a hint of beer in the background.

Grant's Ale Cask Whisky

I’ve never been that fond of beer and that bias comes across to the Ale Cask for me too. It’s an ok dram, but not one I would rush out to buy. Ryan and Colin really enjoyed the taste and would buy themselves a bottle if it was available here.

So based on this (admittedly small) focus group, 2 out of 3 South Africans would buy Grant’s Ale Cask if it was available here. My suggestion to Grant’s South Africa is that they should bring some bottles in, set up some tasting sessions in the townships and more affluent areas and get some feedback. We know South Africans love their beer, football and rugby, so who knows, this could be a great market for the only whisky in the world matured in ale casks?

On a final note, I just want to thank Rebecca and the Grant’s team for paying attention to what their followers on Twitter are saying and for sending me the sample.



  1. September 18, 2011    

    Hey Mark, looks like when you’re not winning competitions you’re getting free stuff. Impressive :).

    This sounds really interesting. I’m fascinated by experimentation with exotic casks. I recently did some work for Inish Turk Beg. They’re an independent bottler maturing whiskey in Poitin (potcheen) casks. The guys at Michel Couvreur use Jura Vin Jaune casks. Glenglassaugh use Massandra wine casks from the Ukraine. And I’ve heard that some bourbon brands are now finishing in virgin maple wood. The proliferation of different styles is astounding.

    Which is all great news because we’re unlikely to run out of cool new whiskies to taste anytime soon. Now if only – I have the same feelings on this matter (probably along with every other whisky lover) – we could get some of these in SA.

  2. Mark Mark
    September 19, 2011    

    Hi Patrick, I’d love to hear some more about the work you did for Inish Turk Beg. I popped over and had a look at their site – it seems like a charming little island and an interesting whisky. I’m a sucker for the stories about the heritage behind whiskies.

    And you’re totally right – such an abundance of cask variety. I’m somewhat surprised that we haven’t had our local boys experimenting with the abundance of wine casks that must be lying around in the Cape. Or perhaps they are and I just don’t know about it! πŸ™‚

  3. September 20, 2011    

    Hi Mark – Thanks for such a great write up of the Ale Cask, although I’m shocked and astonished you managed to share one of those wee bottles between 3 of you! When I send the Sherry Cask, I’ll make sure there’s one for each of you so you can enjoy a proper dram. Slainte!

    Regards Rebecca

    p.s. I’ve just posted the article on our FB page, hope you don’t mind πŸ™‚

  4. Mark Mark
    September 20, 2011    

    Thanks for dropping by Rebecca! I didn’t think it fair to hog a whisky we can’t get here all to myself, so we all had a little sip to taste. As implied by my blog’s name, the “fellowship” part is as important as the “whisky tasting” part. πŸ™‚

    I’m glad you felt the post was worth sharing with your Facebook fans. The more people I can reach, the better.

    Looking forward to the Sherry Cask – thank you!

  5. Johan Johan
    October 7, 2011    

    Hi guys,
    I recently had the opportunity to visit Glenfiddich in Scotland. I saw this botle and brought it home. This is now my favourite affordable wisky.
    The result is that I am trying to source it locally, but no luck yet.

    Would like to say that I love the ale cask and I hope to see it locally soon.


  6. Mark Mark
    October 7, 2011    

    Hi Johan,
    As far as I know Grant’s don’t have any immediate plans to bring the Ale Cask in, but you never know. The more interest there is around the Ale Cask locally, then the more likely it is that we’ll finally get it in the country. We can only hope!

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