Color: Pale Gold
Nose: It's grain alright. Despite having some age--although a 25 yo is pretty much on the younger end for an acceptable single grain bottling--and being from refill bourbon, the first thing I notice is the vanilla. Moreover, even though it's fainter than poorer, younger versions, I get the buttery popcorn note that I so often find in grains (even bourbons). There is a little bit of mint hiding in there, which is refreshing. I don't get much beyond that.
Taste: Sweet vanilla and oak spice. Once more, nothing is surprising me thus far. It's definitely drinkable if you're in the mood for that profile. This is not some lightly flavored ethanol, despite the strength. Indeed, it has sort of rich mouthfeel that matches the buttery scent. Everything about this is pretty much sugary and fatty, so to speak. Water doesn't do much to the nose or taste.
Finish: Quick and harmless with lingering sweetness.
Comments: Solid grain, but very much grain, if you know what I mean. I imagine like many (at least in the Anglo-American corners of Whiskydom), I had a substantial part of my introduction to being a dedicated hobbyist come through exposure to Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. Perhaps this is a bit of a simplistic analogy, but Murray is sort of like the training wheels to the novice whisky enthusiast bicycle. There's value to them, but they're also (hopefully) outgrown. The point of this is simply that Murray is what I would call a full-throated grain enthusiast. He regularly gives very high marks to younger, cheap blends and he will give exceptionally high marks to long-aged and even middle-aged single grains. Combine that with an early, positive exposure to Compass Box Hedonism, and I once was very much aboard the grain train. Then, like many, I branched out and found that many other noted commentators are actually quite biased against grains. Hopefully not just jumping from one set of writer's prejudices to a broader group's, but I tend to agree with the group now: grain tends to range from mediocre to pretty-decent-but-not-great. Now, I haven't ever sampled any of the 40 yo+ single grains that can achieve high scores even with the anti-grain writers, so maybe I'll find some bottles that I really love. But for the middle-aged stuff that I have experience with, like this bottle, I can't see them ever going above mid-80s. Hence, here we are.