Single Grain Whisky is not noted for its complexity, but makes up for it with its smooth, sweet and neutral character that makes it the perfect base for blends. However, single cask grain whiskies are becoming evermore desirable due to their purity, with close to 100% of their flavour being drawn from the oak casks they have matured in.
Grain whisky is key component of blended Scotch whisky. It is relatively inexpensive to produce due to the use of unmalted grains in the mashing process, and is distilled in a continuous column still that results in both a high level of production and high alcohol - North British spirit is distilled to 94.5%!
North British Distillery was opened in 1885 during the whisky boom of late 19th century as a high-quality supplier of grain whisky. The distillery was built in south-west Edinburgh, and today is next door to the Tynecastle Stadium. A consortium of whisky blenders established the North British Distillery Company Ltd, choosing the location for its water source that originated in the Pentland Hills, the direct access to the rail network and its short distance from the port of Leith through which barley and maize could be easily imported. In its first year of distillation, North British produced 3.6 million litres of spirit, and by 1914 this had almost tripled, rising to 9 million. However, in 1917 the distillery was closed for three years due to the serious food shortages caused by World War 1, and the stills were almost converted to make acetone for munitions. During the Great Depression, spirit production dropped to 1 million litres, During the Second World War North British was closed again, being used as a grain store and supplies depot.
The end of the war in Europe and the growing popularity of scotch allowed the distillery to restore itself to its former glory. In the late 1950’s North British was expanded, and in the 1970’s it was churning out 36 million litres of grain spirit a year! Today, the distillery is jointly owned by Diageo and Edrington.