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Girvan 1979 – 35 Year Old Single Grain (Wilson and Morgan)

Review: Girvan 1979 – 35 Year Old Single Grain Whisky   (95.5/100)
Wilson and Morgan – Bottle #250 of 316 From Cask #900009  (SKU W&M214 )
Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published May 09, 2016

Wilson and Morgan is an independent bottler of Scotch Whisky based in Italy. The company was founded in 1992 by Fabio Rossi who also founded Rum Nation. Wilson and Morgan specialize in high quality single grain and single malt whiskies which have been purchased by the barrel from selected Scottish distillers. The whisky barrels  purchased range in age from 10 years to 30 years and are left to age (usually at the distillery where they were purchased) until they are ready to be bottled sometimes after they have been re-casked for finishing in port, rum or Marsala casks.

The Girvan Distillery is located in the Lowland region of Scotland in South Ayrshire. The distillery (currently owned by William Grant & Sons) was founded in 1963 and features six column stills which produce grain whisky from a mix of 90 % wheat and 10 % barley.

Girvan 35The Girvan 1979 – 35 Year Old Single Grain Whisky was distilled in 1979 and bottled in 2015. This offering is bottled at cask strength (51.6% alcohol by volume), and is part of Wilson and Morgan’s Collector’s Edition which comprises of special bottlings all of which are currently aged 30 years or more.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The only place in my review where I factor in the cost of the spirit is when I judge the presentation. My feeling is that very expensive offerings should ‘look the part’ so to speak as often these expensive spirits are purchased as special gifts or to honour some special occasion. This means that sometimes a bottle presentation which would garner a perfect score for a lower priced offering fails to live up to my expectations when I review an ultra-premium offering.

In this case the 35 Year Old Girvan Single Grain Whisky arrives in a standard tall bottle with an easy to read front and back label. There is however, very little ‘pop’ to either the front or the back of the bottle to capture my attention. And unfortunately, the side labels feature a very small font on a beige background which is difficult to read. The display box which houses the whisky is nice, but again not spectacular. A lower priced whisky would have garnered a perfect score, but a ‘Collector’s Edition’ 35 Year Old Whisky perhaps deserves a little better.

In the Glass 9.5/10

When poured into my glencairn the whisky has a nice amber gold colour and throws a bevy of dusty grain and wood spice into the air. When I gave the glass a slow tilt and a twirl, I see a thickened sheen of whisky on the inside of the glass the crest of which gives up only a few reluctant droplets which slide back into the whisky.

I allowed the glass to breathe for about 15 minutes before I began to nose the whisky. The time I spent waiting was rewarded as I found that a combination of butterscotch and maple scents had melded themselves into the grain and wood spice bringing about a wonderful richness which almost made my mouth water. Canned fruit (apricots and peaches) aromas were quite obvious in the breezes and cherry-like scents akin to red licorice were hinted at as well. Baking spices (vanilla and bits of cinnamon) and almond turning to marzipan rounded out the nose which was extremely inviting. I especially liked how everything in the air above the glass seemed to play together in the breezes indicating to me a whisky which was not only well aged, but well-balanced too.

W&M Girvan 35 SAM_2514In the Mouth 57/60

This is a cask strength whisky, and as such, I approach it tentatively when I took my first sip. Wood spice and maple form the backbone of the flavour profile and the push of high-proof alcohol provides additional heat upon the palate (and a solid whack to the tonsils). A lightly bitter woodiness runs though the spirit, but alongside this bitterness is also the firm sweetness of maple which provides a nice counterbalance to the light bitterness. Vanilla, marzipan, bits of cinnamon and a mild cooling menthol add depth to the spirit’s flavour as building grain and wood spices continued to add more character.

I added a cube of ice to my next dram and gave the whisky a good swirl to chill the spirit, and then I took another cautious sip. The chilled spirit is now remarkably smooth, and I can sip the dram with no undo heat or discomfort. Lovely nuanced flavours of spicy grain and butterscotch have melded completely together with the light flavours of canned fruit, baking spice and marzipan.

The 35 Year Old Girvan Straight Grain Whisky is predominantly a wheat based spirit, and like other wheat based whiskies I have tasted it has a wonderful suave flavour which is very approachable. This is a remarkable cask strength spirit.

In the Throat 14.5/15

The well aged whisky has a lovely oily texture which coats the palate giving the dram a long finish. Pools of maple and pockets of wood spice and cinnamon linger making the exit both sweet and spicy. At the end is a light bitterness of oak sap which puckers the plate slightly making it receptive to another sip. A touch of menthol provides just the right amount of cooling. A full ten minutes after finishing my sample glass, the flavours have not fully subsided.

The Afterburn 10/10

This is the second well aged straight grain whisky from the Wilson and Morgan Collector’s Series which I have sampled, and it is the second one to have its scores reaching into the stratosphere. Although sipping the dram neat posed some problems due to the cask strength nature of the whisky, once a bit of ice was added the whisky became a smooth suave nectar showcasing maple and butterscotch flavours melding beautifully with grain and wood spice. The Girvan 35 Year Old Whisky is yet another example of how good well aged grain whiskies can be when they are treated with respect and aged to full maturity.

I say, well done!

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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