Grain whiskey is a style that often flies under the radar. Part of this is due to the relative dearth of available options, further confounded by a likely confusion about what separates grain whiskey from other categories. Yet the simplicity of it is right in the name: grain whiskey can technically be distilled from any grain (or combination of grains). And if a whiskey is single grain, it simply borrows from single malt by being produced at one distillery. Case in point: Teeling Single Grain.
My first go with Teeling was with their Single Pot Still, which left me lukewarm above all else. Not that it was bad, just uninspiring. Their Single Grain, however, sounds more intriguing from a compositional standpoint. Irish whiskey, like scotch, is often associated with barley, which makes the premise of a grain whiskey from either region that much more intriguing. In the case of Teeling, they distilled from at least 95% corn and aged the whiskey (their site says “matured” while the cannister says “finish”) in Napa Valley red wine barrels. It’s then bottled at 46% ABV and forgoes the chill filtration process. Local cost for a bottle hovers around $50 or so.
Nose: Honey wheat toast, cornbread, and a hint of dehydrated berries. Lemon cake with slightly dry raisin and molasses. Goes from reminding me of red wine to rum. Air of mushroom sauce too.
Palate: Respectable mouthfeel upfront that quickly becomes drying with slightly rough edges. Honey-forward with raisin cake and a citric edge. Caramel and buttery sweet potato.
Finish: Caramel, corn, and citrus residuals with a hint of pecan or walnut. Rather short and weak. Drying sensation akin to scarfing down raisins and being left with the aftertaste.
Good news first: This is way more interesting than the Single Pot Still. I don’t feel like I’m hunting aromas and flavors nearly as much, and if I am it’s a question of what I’m smelling, as opposed to whether I’m smelling anything to begin with. The red wine influence is tangible without feeling heavy-handed, lending the pour a somewhat distinct profile in combination with the base whiskey. If you want a curveball or discussion piece for a whiskey tasting, this should do the trick.
That being said, Teeling Single Grain isn’t really what I’m looking for. Much of what makes this whiskey so interesting is also what makes it difficult to reach for with any regularity. Although it certainly packs flavor, the overall profile still feels underdeveloped and somewhat incoherent. There’s plenty to appreciate and mull over while tasting this peculiar whiskey, I just struggle to think of who I’d recommend it to beyond the most curious and open-minded drinkers.