gavin smith

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Whisky News, May 2008

by Gavin D Smith

Dad's Dram

With Father's Day approaching in the next few weeks (15th June) many distillers will be hoping to see sales of their whisky brands increase, but Glengoyne has gone one better and produced an event-specific, limited edition gift pack. This includes a bottle of Glengoyne 10 Years Old, together with a stainless steel Glengoyne branded cigar flask and a collapsible drinking cup. The gift pack retails for £39.99. Alternatively, you could treat the Old Man to a bonding session at the Stirlingshire distillery itself, and take part in the Master Blender Tour. This offers a chance to expand your whisky knowledge and create your own unique blend to take home at the end of the day. Participation costs from £35.00 per person. Telephone 01360 550 254 or visit

Whisky Quartered

   If you fancy spending a bit more money on your father, or for that matter, on yourself, Huntly-based Duncan Taylor & Co has created, which offers a wide range of whiskies for sale in quarter casks. These cost from a few hundred pounds upwards, and make investment in cask purchasing an altogether more affordable proposition. The company will store your cask for up to three years before bottling it for you, and Duncan Taylor is renowned for the breadth of its inventory of single malts. The oldest quarter cask whisky on offer is a 1965 Tomatin, and in total whisky from more than 50 malt distilleries is available, along with half a dozen single grains. The concept of cask purchasing gained a bad reputation a few years ago, thanks to a number of unscrupulous 'rogue traders, but can be approached with confidence.

Thoroughbred Bourbon

Along with Father's Day, the 2008 Derby Festival (6/7th June) is also upcoming, and the Epsom horseracing spectacular has its first ever official drinks brand partner in the shape of Woodford Reserve. The Versailles-distilled whiskey is already the official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, and Woodford Reserve also runs a Thoroughbred Society, which currently owns two racehorses, namely Angel's Share and MyHeartsReserve. The horses are trained at the home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, and Society members are able to share in the ownership experience via an interactive website, where they can blog their comments on the horses and the racing industry in general. Additionally, members receive a certificate of ownership, a photo of Angels' Share and a Woodford Reserve Stables badge. See This year sees the 229th running of the Epsom Derby, and racegoers will get the chance to sample the Woodford Reserve Mint Julep (the official drink of the Kentucky Derby) and a range of Woodford Reserve cocktails, created by award- winning bar impresario Nidal Ramini. According to Woodford Reserve Brand Manager Mark Jordan, "Woodford Reserve is extremely proud to be part of this ground-breaking 'industry first', which sees Epsom take on its first drinks partner since the event began over 200 years ago. The partnership with Epsom also supports our long term relationship with the world- famous Kentucky Derby, whilst providing an opportunity for more UK consumers to learn about and sample our extraordinary Bourbon."

Ardbeg Booking

   Before either Father's Day or the Epsom Derby, however, whisky-lovers have the Islay Festival of Malt & Music (Feis Ile) to look forward to. Staged from 24th May to 1st June, the Festival offers participants the opportunity to see behind the scenes at all of the island's eight working distilleries, not to mention neighbouring Jura. This year Gavin D Smith will be launching his new book 'Ardbeg: A Peaty Provenance' during Ardbeg's open day on Saturday 31st May. A must for Islay aficionados, this £30 volume traces the history of the distillery from its illicit origins in the late 18th century. t features chapters devoted to the present Ardbeg whisky-making team, assessments of the various Ardbeg expressions available, plus a section devoted to 'collectible' Ardbegs.

Orkney 40

Highland Park has recently released a new 48.3%ABV 40-year-old expression, which will be a permanent part of its range. Jason Craig, Global Controller of Highland Park says “Highland Park matures remarkably well over an extended period. We wanted to share this with whisky enthusiasts; the fact that we are blessed with aged stocks meant that we were in an enviable position of being able to launch a permanent addition to the range, rather than an inaccessible limited edition. We were keen to encourage appreciation of the exquisite whisky, rather than emphasising collectability and rarity.” With a retail price of £899, this new Highland Park will inevitably remain a rarity for most drinkers, but whisky-pages has received a precious sample - see this month's Recent Releases for our evaluation.

Highland Hijack

   Old expressions of Highland Park have long been regarded as highly desirable, but their delights have recently attracted some decidedly unwelcome attention. 186 bottles of 32-year-old Highland Park, worth approximately $240,000, have disappeared between Glasgow Airport and Los Angeles. The consignment was on its way to California-based importers Saybrex International Inc, and Vice President Operations, Ari Bussel, says "HM Revenue & Customs are aware of the situation and are satisfied that the goods have left the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the shipment after it left Glasgow Airport is unknown. We are shocked and outraged that 31 cases of alcohol weighing some 800 pounds can just disappear while in the care of Delta Airlines and various governmental agencies."

Graham at Glenglassaugh

We recently announced the purchase of Glenglassaugh distillery, situated near Portsoy in Aberdeenshire, by Dutch investment house Scaent, and the Glenglassaugh Distillery Company has just achieved something of a coup by recruiting Graham Eunson to manage the distillery. Eunson is best known as manager of Glenmorangie, which he has run since 1998, having previously worked for Scapa distillery on his native Orkney and at Glendronach in Aberdeenshire. He says that “During my career I have had to oversee the closures of both Scapa and Glendronach distilleries. So the opportunity to breathe life back into a mothballed distillery of such iconic status was one I couldn't resist. Until now, I feel that I have very much been the custodian of existing brands. With Glenglassaugh, I have the unique opportunity to make my mark on the whisky industry with a new, exciting product.” Welcoming the appointment, Stuart Nickerson, Glenglassaugh's managing director, noted that “Graham's experience will prove invaluable as we refurbish the distillery and start producing in a traditional way. It's a real coup for Glenglassaugh to attract someone of Graham's stature to join our team at such an early stage, and it demonstrates our commitment to produce a high quality premium product for an ever expanding market.” Glenglassaugh was established in 1875 and much of the present structure dates from the late 1950s, when a comprehensive rebuilding programme took place. It was mothballed in 1986, and sold to Scaent by its owners The Edrington Group for £5 million. It is anticipated that production should begin by the end of this year, and a number of releases from existing stocks are also planned.

Whisky Need to Know?

   One of the latest whisky books to hit the shelves comes from the Collins' 'Need to Know?' series, and is the work of former Whisky Magazine editor Dominic Roscrow. Need to Know? Whiskies is designed both to inform the whisky novice and also make the connoisseur feel he is likely to learn something, and Roscrow makes a decent job of walking this particular literary tightrope. Chapters are devoted to the origins and history of whisky, the way in which whiskies are made today, and how to drink and appreciate whiskies, while a well-designed A-Z of Scottish distilleries provides a handy reference point for rookie and tyro alike. Sections are also devoted to Irish, American and other 'world whiskies.' Not a groundbreaking volume in terms of originality, but clearly that was not Roscrow's brief. This attractively-presented book does what it sets out to do well, and Roscrow is not afraid to put a personal spin on the subject - listing what he considers the 50 best Scotch whiskies currently available. Like all such subjective listings, this provides a good basis for ongoing argument and debate. Where, for example, is the 'proper' Macallan, aged in ex-Sherry casks? Collins, £9.99. Buy at Amazon UK for £6.49

And Finally…

The Scottish press recently reported the death of Marjorie Macgown, Scotland's oldest woman, at the remarkable age of 110. Mrs Macgown was born in Gloucester but had lived on Islay for many years, continuing to drive a car until she was 102. She attributed her longevity in part to a daily dram of locally-distilled Ardbeg, so perhaps there is hope for us all yet…

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