I've described myself as a "grain whisky apologist" on more than one occasion. Grain whisky is a lighter style to malt whisky, but one that I don't think is necessarily inferior. At its best, grain whisky can be great tasting and usually offers great value. Usually.
For the uninitiated, grain whisky is typically combined with a variety of single malts to produce "blended scotch whisky." Cynics claim that the grain whisky—lighter and more neutral in character—serves only to marry a variety of more characterful malts together and round out the soft edges.
I disagree. I think grain whisky can be delightful, with typically huge notes of vanilla and butterscotch that makes the category worthwhile in its own right. For that reason, I was excited to see Girvan on the shelf, marketing itself as a grain whisky honestly and without apology. At the price point, I imagined it would stand alongside knockouts like Nikka Coffey Grain and Compass Box's Hedonism. I was wrong.
I suppose "suckered" might be the best word for what I'm feeling when I drink this. It's sweet and delicate in the beginning, with nice hints of sugared grapefruit from the nose in addition to cake frosting, vanilla pudding, and light jasmine on first sip. All good news there, but the honeymoon fades quickly. The Girvan No. 4 Apps quickly becomes hot on the palate and leads into a real let-down of a finish. It's soapy, slighly sour, and provides no lingering tastes beyond a higher-than-expected degree of alcohol burn.
The real killer comes in the lack of an age statement. To me, this tastes young, and I suspect it's because it is young. The great thing about grain whiskies, in general, is that you can score a 25-year old scotch for about $80, so assuming you're okay with a narrower flavor profile (as I am), you get a lot of value for spend. Here, I feel like I'm paying premium single-malt prices for the crappier half of a much-less expensive blended scotch.
Does the Girvan No. 4 Apps taste awful? Not at all. However, the value proposition is totally off on this one. Every time I poured myself a glass of the Girvan, I could almost hear the snickering of the William Grant Company. Here, the score doesn't reflect some kind of brutal savagery that you'd be inflicting upon yourself—rather, it's an assault on your wallet rather than your taste buds.