gavin smith

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Whisky News, February 2013

by Gavin D Smith

True value of Scotch

logo A report commissioned by the Scotch Whisky Association reveals some fascinating facts about the Scotch whisky industry and its importance of the British economy. 'Scotch Whisky & Scotland's Economy - A 100 Year Blend' was undertaken by 4-consulting and the document reveals that Scotch is worth more than £4 billion to the Scottish economy and the industry has reached record levels of productivity. The total impact of Scotch whisky on Scotland's economy is £4.2 billion - £2.9 billion from the industry itself and £1.3 billion through the industry's supply chain. It supports around 36,000 jobs in total. Productivity has accelerated to £275,000 for each industry employee, and Scotch whisky outperforms most other industries, with employees adding 57 per cent more value per head than workers in the City of London. By contrast, in 1912, when the Scotch Whisky Association was founded, the industry employed 5,000 people in Scotland and generated £3 million in Gross Value Added (GVA). Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, says that "This new research is further evidence of the key role Scotch whisky plays in the Scottish economy. The demand for Scotch whisky is coming increasingly from the world's fastest growing markets. In comparison with other Scottish industries, Scotch whisky already enjoys an enviable export position across a wide spread of emerging economies. "The report shows Scotch whisky is likely to play an increasingly important role in Scotland's export markets. The momentum of growth needs to be better nurtured by both the UK and Scottish Governments. Scotch whisky underpins their ambitions for export-led recovery."

Kingsbarns back on course

wolfburn Staying with optimism and momentum, following on from the recent commissioning of the new Wolfburn distillery in Caithness (right) comes news that the Kingbarns distillery project in Fife may be back on track after a number of funding issues. The £2.3 million venture was launched in 2009 by Doug Clement, utilising the 18th century East Newhall Farm steading on land leased from Sir Peter Erskine's Cambo Estate, half a dozen miles from St Andrews. To date, raising finances for Kingsbarns has been a problem, but now the Scottish Government has granted the project £670,000, while the Wemyss Family has stepped in to provide the remainder of the necessary capital. At present, Wemyss Malts offers blended malt and single malt bottlings from a variety of sources, but Kingsbarns will ultimately give the company, headed by William Wemyss, its own single malt whisky. Doug Clement says that "We will be starting work in the spring and it will be some time in the summer of 2014 when the distilling begins and the visitor centre opens," while William Wemyss adds that "The rare opportunity to distil our own single malt whisky and develop a new Scotch whisky brand to support our existing business as an independent bottler will secure the family interest in Scotch for the next generation. We are delighted to be working with the Scottish Government, Sir Peter Erskine and Doug Clement, to bring a new distillery and visitor centre to the East Fife area."

And Harris too

harris Meanwhile across on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, there are signs that the long-discussed new distillery project at Tarbert may also soon make the transition from drawing board to construction site. As with Kingsbarns, Scottish Government funding is playing a major roll, with a grant of £1.9 million being announced in recent weeks. This means that the £10 million project to create a distillery on the waterfront in the centre of the ferry port is a step closer to reality, though a significant amount of money still needs to be raised from private sources. If all goes well, building work could commence by the end of this year. Isle of Harris Distillers founder Anderson Bakewell says that "We are absolutely delighted by this recognition from the Scottish Government of the long-term benefits the distillery would bring to the people of Harris. The award adds to the momentum which this project has generated and increases significantly the likelihood that this once-in-a-generation opportunity will not be squandered. "Everyone in the islands can look forward with real excitement to the prospect of an initiative which promotes the assets of the islands throughout the world and serves as a catalyst for economic development locally."

Behind Lagavulin's doors

lagavulin Iain McArthur, warehouseman at Lagavulin distillery on Islay, is opening his doors for the first time to one competition winner who will spend two days in June with Iain discovering the secrets and traditions behind making the Islay single malt. According to Diageo plc, owners of Lagavulin, "To be in with a chance of winning an apprenticeship with Iain, applicants must apply via Friends of the Classic Malts ( explaining why they would love to work with Iain for two days. The applications with the most votes will be in with a chance of winning, and 50 runners up will each receive a signed bottle of Lagavulin 16 Year Old from Iain." Iain McArthur adds that "I've spent 42 years working at the Lagavulin distilleries and now it's time for someone to join me. Thanks to Friends of the Classic Malts, one lucky whisky-lover will join me and learn the secrets of Lagavulin as my very first apprentice. Duties will include peat-cutting, malt-advocating, cask-testing, whisky-tasting and tea-making - I like my tea with just a drop of milk. Only joking! There's plenty of work to be done but it's worth it when you taste the whisky." Applications must be received by 31st March 2013.

Benromach blossoms

benromach Such is the success being experienced by Benromach single malt that owner Gordon & MacPhail has decided to invest £540,000 in a new bottling line at its Elgin headquarters to help deal with demand. Benromach's overall sales were up by 40 per cent during 2012 and exports increased by 55 per cent. The single malt distilled in Forres enjoyed particularly strong growth in China, Sweden, the USA and France, while UK increased by 13 per cent. Michael Urquhart, Managing Director of Gordon & MacPhail, notes that "As the smallest distillery in Speyside, Benromach is punching above its weight in terms of sales growth. Benromach's single malts are becoming increasingly popular with people who want a whisky with a distinctive traditional Speyside style. "Internationally, our importers in the USA have been letting more people in on the secret of Benromach, while in Sweden and France, new listings of Benromach with large drinks distributors have made an impact. China is our biggest success story of 2012. The Benromach 10 Years Old has really taken off over there."

Glen Garioch Single Casks

glen garioch The Aberdeenshire single malt of Glen Garioch has taken the practice of offering duty-free exclusives to a new level, with no fewer than 11 single cask expressions recently being bottled, with one available at each of 11 outlets. Aimed at passengers flying from regional airports across the UK, the 11 exclusive Glen Garioch single casks were specially selected by staff from World Duty Free store teams at key UK airports, including Gatwick North, Gatwick South, Heathrow Terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5, Stansted and the three Scottish airports in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as the Biza store teams in Manchester. Paul Hunnisett, Head of Sales Europe for Glen Garioch says that "We are delighted to get off to a great start in 2013 by partnering with the World Duty Free Group, who are the industry's leading travel retailer. Some of the airport teams from around the country sampled many casks during their time at the distillery and embraced the charm of the Highlands and the hand-crafted process peculiar to Glen Garioch." The bottlings are mostly taken from 1990s' distillations, but the oldest, available at Glasgow Airport, was made back in 1978. Look out for our sampling opinions on a couple of offerings from the 11 in this month's Recent Releases.

Caught On camera

Glenglassaugh A second Aberdeenshire distillery in the shape of Glenglassaugh at Portsoy is also making news, having launched its own YouTube channel. According to a distillery spokesperson, "Customer accounts manager Ronnie Routledge presents one of the most popular clips - a tasting note for Revival, which is the first single malt Scotch whisky released since the distillery was refurbished after a 22-year silent period. "There are also video tasting notes for the distillery's Chosen Few range - a unique series of bottlings where each member of staff is given the opportunity to choose their favourite cask for release. Production manager Mhairi McDonald is the latest to choose her best-loved whisky from the distillery and in the video describes its style and distinctive flavours." Managing director Stuart Nickerson says, "The YouTube channel is a great opportunity for the team to share their passion for the whiskies which we produce at Glenglassaugh. Some of our customers are lucky enough that they live nearby and so can often visit the distillery, but with this YouTube channel we can bring our products to those customers who live on the other side of the world. Now, all of the distillery's fans can log on and find out first-hand about the products and learn the secrets about what goes on behind the scenes in producing and bottling our collection of single malts." The Glenglassaugh YouTube channel can be found at

And finally…

What price, as it were, the 'Million Pound Whisky?' Watch this space…

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