gavin smith

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Whisky News, February 2007

by Gavin D Smith

Highland Festival

Scotch whisky devotees are accustomed to Speyside's two annual whisky festivals and the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, but this year sees a newcomer to the calendar in the shape of the inaugural Highland Whisky Festival, to be staged on 2 and 3 June. 2007 is the year of Highland Culture,
and the new festival is one of many events being staged as part of the celebrations. Balblair, Dalmore, Glenmorangie and Glen Ord distilleries are all participating, with single malt master classes, specialist tours and a whisky dinner on the weekend programme. For further details see

Museum Musings

   A few weeks ago the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal newspaper carried a story about retired distillery worker John Mackintosh, of Elgin. Mr Mackintosh is an avid collector of whisky and whisky memorabilia, and he was bemoaning the fact that Scotland did not possess a dedicated, independent whisky museum, only visitor centres and exhibition areas run by individual distilling companies. "I would love people to see my collection and I know there are other collectors who would like to be able to show off the items they have collected," said John. "As things stand we have no way of letting the
public see these collections, which a lot of people would find fascinating." A fair point, perhaps, spoilt only by the fact that just 17 miles from Mr Mackintosh's abode is the Whisky Museum of Dufftown. Established in 2002, the museum is run by a group of hard working volunteers and contains a fascinating array of whisky memorabilia. It also plays host to weekly whisky nosing and tasting events during the tourist season and is the venue for most of the talks and tasting sessions held in Dufftown during Speyside's two annual whisky festivals. In 2005 it gained a 'Highly Commended' award in the Northern Lights Tourism awards. A slightly perplexed museum administrator René Ramon duly wrote to the 'P&J,' pointing out the existence of the Whisky Museum and offering a home to part of John Mackintosh's collection. Can someone who has spent 28 years working in the whisky industry really be unaware of the existence of a Whisky Museum so close to his home, or is this another manifestation of the long standing rivalries that exist between the various Speyside distilling communities? As Private Eye might put it, I think we should be told.

Shane granted Glenfarclas role

Staying on Speyside, J. & G. Grant has announced the appointment of Shane Fraser as the new Production Manager at the family-owned Glenfarclas distillery, near Ballindalloch. Originally from Royal Deeside, Fraser has sixteen years experience in distilling, having previously worked at Lochnagar, and most recently at Oban distillery. “Glenfarclas was one of the first distilleries I visited, shortly after I left school,” he says, “and I was impressed then by the distillery, so it is an honour to now work at Glenfarclas.” According to John Grant, Chairman of J & G Grant, “I am pleased to welcome Shane to Glenfarclas, for what I am sure will be another exciting and fulfilling chapter in the history of the distillery.” Shane Fraser succeeds John Miller, who after 28 years employment at the distillery has quit the distilling
industry to indulge his passion for two wheeled transport as a motorcycle instructor. News also reaches us that popular Jura manager Mickey Heads is crossing the Sound of Islay back to his native island to take up the equivalent position at Ardbeg, vacated by Stuart Thomson. Jura's owners, Whyte & Mackay, have yet to announce a replacement, but Heads will be a hard act to follow, having mastered so well the difficult art of managing a workforce in a remote Hebridean location.

Whisky Website

   The Scotch Whisky Association is the 'watchdog' of the industry, representing 53 member companies on a global basis. The 'SWA' recently unveiled its new, comprehensively updated website, which features an interactive distillery tour, video and map, introducing visitors to where and how Scotch whisky is produced. It is also possible to explore the industry's 500 year recorded history and discover whisky-based recipes and cocktail ideas. The SWA's Chief Executive Gavin Hewitt says "Scotch whisky comes alive through our new state of the art website. From the importance of Scotch whisky to our economy, to advice on making responsible drinking choices, we hope that our website will act as an informative and enjoyable gateway to the wider Scotch whisky industry." See

Chocolate Malt

Following a pilot programme in Portugal last October, Chivas Regal 18 is now partnering gourmet chocolate producer Valrhona in a series of 'tasting experiences' across key international markets including Mexico, Venezuela, the US, Canada, Brazil, China and France. The programme has been developed with chocolate aficionado and author of the Chocolate Connoisseur, Chloé Doutre-Roussel, who is a renowned expert in her field and who co-presents the Chivas events with company master blender Colin Scott. The growing international trend for fine chocolate and the similarities in history, production and character make Valrhona a natural fit for Chivas Regal 18. Just as John and James Chivas were notable for blending single malts and grains to create smooth whiskies with a wealth of character, Valrhona has also become renowned for blending the finest single origin cocoa beans to create harmonious and rich chocolates. Sophie Gallois, Super Premium Brands Director at Chivas Brothers, says "Our new indulgent tasting really
highlights the sophisticated blending that goes into making Chivas Regal 18 and luxury Valrhona chocolates. This is our latest initiative to offer super premium marketing to VIPs around the world. It also builds on the remarkable success of Chivas Regal 18, and asserts the luxury credentials of the Chivas Regal brand."

And Finally...

   Red faces recently for the folk at William Grant & Sons Ltd, as a number of their promotional Burns' Night hip flasks proved a source of embarrassment. The hip flasks were intended as a gift for customers who ordered four drams of the Dufftown single malt, and were engraved with a line from the bard's poem Scotch Drink. So far so good, but not so good when the loyal Glenfiddich drinkers received their souvenirs. On a number of flasks, the line of poetry was correctly engraved, but unfortunately it was attributed to one Rdbert Bums!


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