Grant’s Family Reserve whisky has been available in South Africa for several decades now, so it is only fitting that William Grant and Sons chose our country to be among the first to see the Grant’s 12 Year Old premium blended Scotch whisky on our shelves.
The Grant family have been producing whisky for five generations, so you can be pretty sure that they know how to turn out good whisky. And being family-owned, there are less restrictions on how they go about producing their whiskies as their are not countless shareholders to answer to. This in turn leads to innovation in their whisky making. Case in point is the Grant’s 12 Year Old which is a blend of between 20 and 25 individual grain and malt whiskies. After they have spent a minimum of 12 years maturing quietly in casks, these whiskies are married together and then spend a further three to six months in first-fill American Oak casks. This process is known as “finishing” and in this case adds a beautiful vanilla maltiness to the blend.
The South African launch took place in Rivonia, led by whisky ambassador Jason Duganzich with Grant’s Marketing Manager for South Africa, Grant Sayers, on hand to answer questions too.
Jason, with his vast knowledge of spirits, kicked off the intimate launch with some background on William Grant and Sons, followed by an overview of whisky production with a focus on the importance of wood in developing a whisky’s flavour. He even delved into the toasting of American oak casks to release lignins which in turn deliver the coconut-vanilla flavours that are synonymous with bourbons. All of this leading up to the focus of the launch – the Grant’s 12 Year Old.
Not many people take the time to appreciate the length of time a whisky spends maturing in casks, so Jason put it in perspective by asking one of the reporters how long they has spent in school. “12 years” was the answer. Jason elaborated with “12 long years filled with lots of homework and school holidays. And when you finished your schooling, you weren’t the same as when you started were you? You had grown, matured and gained a degree of complexity. Bear this in mind when you taste this whisky.”
The official tasting notes read as follows:
For me the nose carried a healthy dose of vanilla goodness, honey and, as Jason correctly pointed out, peach skin. On the palate the creamy vanilla continues, accompanied by traces of nuts, ginger and spices. On the finish a subtle, but very present, warm peatiness comes through. This isn’t the peat-punch of an Islay giant, but then it isn’t meant to be – Grant’s are striving for balance, and the warm smoke assists in delivering that balance. A very well-rounded dram I must say!
After the tasting I was fortunate to get in touch with Ludo Ducrocq, gloal brand ambassador for William Grant and Sons – here we have a man who’s feet hardly hit the ground on his whirlwind touring around the globe promoting Grant’s – and put a few questions to him:
WTF: Can you explain the decision to launch the Grant’s 12 internationally, as opposed to one of the other expressions? For example, the Ale or Sherry Cask finishes?
LD: Ale or Sherry Cask Editions are already available in a number of overseas markets such as Ecuador, Israel, Russia, France, Taiwan or Australia. We took the decision to launch Grant’s 12 Years Old in South Africa before other expressions because there is increasing demand in the country for older blends. As whisky enthusiasts become more and more educated, they understand the reason why older whiskies are generally more expensive and this means they are often prepared to pay a little extra to enjoy a different taste experience. Grant’s 12 is rich, sweet, honeyed with a slight hint of peat. Local feedback has shown this taste profile is particularly appreciated and we are delighted to bring this new whisky in the country.
WTF: Which countries has the 12yo been launched in to date, and which countries are still on the list?
LD: From west to east, we have launched Grant’s 12 Years Old in Ecuador, Venezuela, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Russia, Lebanon, Malaysia and Australia. Of course, it is also available at airports all around the world. In addition, we are considering launching in the UK, France, Bulgaria, Taiwan and Vietnam in the next few months.
WTF: Will South Africa be seeing any other expressions from the Grant’s range?
LD: We believe in doing a few things well and our short-term plan is to focus on the Family Reserve and 12 Years Old. Having said that and as the 12-year-old launch shows, we do keep our eyes open for opportunities and if the time is right, we know we have an award-winning range of whiskies at our disposal, including Grant’s 25 Years Old, Jim Murray’s best blended whisky over 19 years.
WTF: Will we be seeing you at Whisky Live in November in SA – you as an individual, and Grant’s as a brand?
LD: November is unfortunately a very busy time of year for me and unless a fantastic opportunity comes up, I am not planning on visiting South Africa this year. I did attend Whisky Live in South Africa twice and always enjoyed every minute of it. In fact I believe it is one of the best shows in the world. The reality though is that the earth is a big place and I can’t be in two places at the same time. As a company we also need to work with a budget which often means taking tough decisions and I am sorry to confirm Grant’s will not feature at Whisky Live South Africa this year. Do watch this space for other exciting Grant’s events though!
WTF: How strong is Grant’s in SA, in terms of both brand awareness and sales?
LD: Grant’s is Scotland’s oldest and most popular family-owned blended whisky and as such it enjoys unrivalled reputation around the world and of course in South Africa where it has benefited from double-digit growth in the last five years. A new chapter is now beginning with the launch of our 12-year-old blend.
I’d like to thank Jason and Grant for extending the invitation to me to attend the launch of Grant’s 12 and a big thank you to Ludo for finding time in his busy schedule to answer my questions.
The Grant’s 12 Year Old is scheduled for release to the South African market in April 2012 and has a recommended retail price of R240. Considering all that went into the bottle, this whisky is well positioned to take on the established premium whisky blends we currently find on our shelves.
So the next time you find yourself in a bottle store, be bold and choose to buck the trend and pick up a bottle of Grant’s 12. You will be pleasantly surprised at the complexity and balance on offer. The 3-6 months finishing period in first-fill American Oak casks adds an extra dimension of flavour to this fine whisky and sets it apart from other premium blends.
My bottle is currently sitting on the shelf staring at me, demanding to be poured and enjoyed, and I am happy to oblige.