I discovered Bain’s shortly after they launched, before I was particularly interested in whisky. It was at a white-collar boxing event, and Bain’s was a sponsor – which meant it was flowing like water, all night, for free. My liver still recoils at the memory.
Once the worst of the agony had subsided, I investigated and discovered that not only was Bain’s South African, but it was dominating grain whisky awards all over the world. A first-fill bourbon-matured single grain whisky made using nothing but the finest South African mielies (corn). And distilled just down the road, making it incredibly cheap to boot. I’ve had plenty of Bain’s since then, and it’s high time I made it official:
Butter, corn, caramel, vanilla and oak. Pure and simple with a very gentle alcohol tingle. No smoke, no peat, no fruit, no wine – this is as raw a grain whisky as you get. Basically bourbon, but without the ‘Murica.
Just like its distillery brother the Three Ships 5, this tastes older than you might expect. Bain’s is in reality also matured for 5 years (although strangely unstated), and given our climate makes it roughly a 10-year whisky by Scotch standards in terms of character and cask-flavour-soaking potential. This is mature, creamy, rich stuff. A big punch of caramel sweetness, syrupy on the tongue, a great pile of vanilla and corny as hell. Something ever-so-slightly citrusy threatens to reveal itself every now and again.
It’s a slightly bitter, caramel, enjoyable ride out with a syrupy mouthfeel all the way.
I like my Bain’s with a little bit of water or ice, much like most bourbons. Taking the edge off the alcohol opens it to the super easy-drinking, toffee-and-caramel experience it was designed to be. Any more than a splash and it’s prone to drown, however.
Bain’s is excellent stuff and cheap as can be – there isn’t a bourbon drinker out there who won’t rejoice at this little slice of South Africa’s best. Not as complex, spicy or smoky as I’d like (I prefer Three Ships!), but this is nevertheless very easy to appreciate – perfect to get people into whisky, or for those who prefer it sweet and simple.