Taste Review 20 – Haig Club Clubman
In this review, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, and we commit one of the cardinal sins of the dedicated single malt fan (can you guess what it is yet?) and yet, everything turns out ok.
We find ourselves not in the territory of single malts, but single grain whisky. This is a first for me, as I’ve never been one to try grain whisky, apart from the various ryes and mashes from the States. There are 7 grain distilleries in Scotland – Invergordon, Cameronbridge, Girvan, Loch Lomond, Starlaw, North British and Strathclyde. All are in the Lowlands apart from Invergordon and Loch Lomond, which are classified as Highland whiskies.
Scottish Grain whisky is distilled in a column still, which allows continuous distillation rather than the batch method of pot stills. It also achieves a purer new make, which has removed most of the impurities. This makes it smoother, and was responsible for the rise in popularity of whisky in the mid to late 1800’s. It wasn’t until 1860 that it was allowed to blend malt and grain whiskies together, although vatting malts and grains separately had gone on for years. Allowing blending smoothed out the experience of some of the rougher malts of the time.
And so we move onto Haig Club Clubman. A permanent addition to the range being promoted in a collaboration between David Beckham and Diageo, the owners of the Cameronbridge distillery and media guru Simon Fuller. This is a whisky I didn’t really want to review but the circumstances were that it was on offer and it was too good a deal to ignore.
John Haig opened the Cameronbridge distillery in 1824, just after the 1823 Excise act made distilling of whisky cheaper. It is the largest Single Grain Distillery in Europe.
And onto the taste test.
No Age Statement
Coconut, wood spice, vanilla, butterscotch
Custard, coconut, Scottish tablet, creamy grain,
Short – vanilla, butterscotch, cereal notes.
This is quite a sweet whisky, and having been matured in ex Bourbon casks, there is quite a vanilla and caramel/ toffee influence with a cereal note to it. There is a cask influence, but if this was a single malt, I’d say the spirit drives this one. It’s quite light and unassuming. The aftertaste is quite sweet but short, and after a while I felt as though I’d drunk a Jack Daniels and coke.
And, having felt I’d already crossed the Rubicon in taste testing a single grain, I thought it would be a great idea to add coke to see what the fuss was about and break one of the unspoken (and unjustified) taboos about not adding coke to whisky.
You see, when researching Haig Club, I found a lot of negative comments about it, about how it was rough, cheap, a rip off, only fit for cleaning drains or mixing with coke. And here is my point – it was a whisky designed to be mixed, especially with coke. It will never replace a good single malt, or even a really fine grain, but in all fairness it wasn’t too bad. As much as I wanted to hate it, I couldn’t.
The overall policy for Scotty’s Drams is that you should drink the whisky you like and the way you like it. Nothing else matters. While I can advise on how to drink it, and why it is best not to add ice etc, especially to a fine single malt, if you choose to ignore this, then that’s fine! The choice is yours.
And back to Haig Club. Yes, it isn’t the best whisky in the world. Yes, it is a bit too light to be a good whisky (for me, in my opinion), but is it bad? Definitely not. And it was quite refreshing with coke added.
So. Ignore the whisky snobs, haters and the misguided. This is a whisky you can have in your cabinet or on your shelf and know you are getting value for money. I bought mine when it was on offer in Tesco and was £22 for 1 litre, but the 70cl was £25. Odd pricing, which I am pretty sure goes against Scottish licensing guidelines, but that’s a subject for another article. Also you might be able to get this cheaper elsewhere, as Scottish drink laws mean there is a £0.50 minimum cost per unit of alcohol, so over the border it may be sub £20.
You may see this in your specialist whisky stores, but don’t hold your breath. Look out for the rarely bottled Cameronbridge Single Grain instead.
Finally, my last comment is that despite drinking the David Beckham whisky, at no point did my football skills improve or was I surrounded by women. Oh well, I never really liked Posh Spice anyway.
Photography taken from Haig Club website and used under fair use policy.
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