808 Whisky

Oof, it’s hard out there. I get the problem: You’re a DJ or whatever and you want to start a whisky brand. It worked for David Beckham, right? But what can you do that’s new? You get an idea: A YOUNG whisky, for YOUNG people. You’ll sell it with dance music and a story about how using young grain whisky makes the drink refreshing, not heavy like those old-fashioned malts. You pepper the marketing materials with euphemisms like “subtle”, “light”, “smooth” and suggest emphatically that drinkers serve it over ice, or even better, with fruit juice. Oh yeah, this’ll sell.

There’s just one problem with all that: Vodka already exists, and young grain whisky just doesn’t taste good whether a single-grain or blended. Also, once you drown a liquor in ice and fruit juice or Red Bull, it’s essentially irrelevant whether it started life as whisky, rum, or vodka. In fact, the less “flavor” that survives the distillation process – something vodka has on lockdown – the less likely it will introduce “off” flavors in your cocktail. Ever used bourbon white dog (unaged spirit) in a mixed drink? It’s not nice. If you want the flavor of a spirit to come through in the cocktail (say, a Manhattan or a Mai Tai) then you really want that spirit’s flavor to be good. Three year-old grain whisky? Not good.

Now before you all jump on me, I’d like to point out that grain whisky is not inherently bad. Hedonism by Compass Box is one of my favorite scotches of all time, and it’s excellent. The key difference is that Hedonism uses well-matured grain whiskies. The single grain whisky in 808 is at most 4 years old, but more likely is the legal minimum (3 years).

For what it’s worth, the grain whisky comes from North British distillery, and it is bottled without chill filtration at 40% ABV. Did I mention the pretty bottle? It’s in a pretty bottle.

OK, let’s get it over with:

Nose: Lemon-lime, kiwi, drywall paste, and nail polish remover. Stronger nose tickle than is warranted at 40% ABV. Aaaaand… nope that’s it. After a rest in the glass it becomes grassy, with notes of cooked cabbage and mown grass.

Palate: Watery body. A moderate tongue burn and then grassiness, but with marshmallow, coconut, and vanilla cake frosting. So, sweet grass.

Finish: On the short side. Most of the palate notes continue, and it fades without evolving but also without any bitterness. Unfortunately the nail polish remover (now more like vodka) also persists.

With Water: A few drops of water reveal a note of sulphur (cooked cabbage again) and mute the faint fruit notes. The palate also picks up the sulphur note, but the finish is sweeter. No need for water here.

Overall: Ouch. I can’t honestly think why someone would want to drink this. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s functionally worse than every single malt on the market and slightly worse than most blended scotch. It’s clearly too young, and is not balanced by anything unique or outstanding in the way of flavor or aroma. It’s just slightly more flavorful vodka… assuming you like vodka flavored with cabbage and lawn clippings. I don’t actively hate it, but I can’t think of a single reason to purchase a bottle.

For the correct way to bottle grain whisky, see Hedonism. For a party beverage that’s good over ice or in mixed drinks, see literally any bourbon or any vodka that costs more than $25 a bottle.

808 Whisky
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $25 - $35 (estimated)
Acquired: (30ml sample bottle purchased at Master of Malt)

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