gavin smith

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Whisky News, May 2010

by Gavin D Smith

Whisky Records

Despite the economic difficulties faced by many markets last year, exports of Scotch whisky reached a new high during 2009. Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) figures show that the amount of whisky shipped overseas increased by four per cent worldwide. The value of these exports rose by three per cent to reach some 3.1bn. The SWA reported a slow start to 2009, with growing export figures as the year progressed. The USA remained Scotch whisky's largest export market by value, with an increase of 13 per cent last year, and Brazil saw a welcome growth in value of Scotch   
whisky imports of no less than 44 per cent. However in Spain, the third biggest market in the world for Scotch whisky, the value of exports fell by five per cent. Overall, an additional three per cent, or 71m, of blended Scotch was exported last year, compared to 2008, while malt Scotch whisky shipments rose by one per cent, or 4m. Paul Walsh, chairman of the SWA, said the figures showed the importance of Scotch whisky to the UK economy, noting that "Scotch whisky distillers have delivered record exports in the face of a global economic downturn. The industry is continuing to invest and sustain its efforts to secure fair access to export markets." Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the SWA, added that "As one of the UK's leading manufactured exports, all political parties should recognise and support the Scotch whisky industry, both at home and abroad, during the next Parliament."

Macallan Crystal Clear

   The Macallan and Lalique have enjoyed a number of successful collaborations in the past, and the pair has again come together on the 150th anniversary of Rene Lalique's birth, producing a one-off decanter, created by the ancient 'cire perdue' or 'lost wax' method. The decanter will contain the oldest and rarest Macallan ever bottled by the Speyside distillery, namely a 64-year-old, and will be auctioned by Sotheby's on November 15
2010 in New York. All proceeds will be donated to charity: water, a non-profit organisation which provides clean and safe drinking water for people in developing nations. Exhibiting in London this month, along with stops in Madrid, Moscow, Seoul, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Taipei, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo, the decanter is on an eight month fundraising journey, due to end in New York in November. David Cox, Director of Fine & Rare Whiskies for The Macallan, comments that "We have established a very close working relationship with Lalique over the past six years. We share a heritage based on a commitment to craftsmanship and creativity, underpinned by a genuine passion to strive for the best in all our endeavours. This extraordinary project has raised our partnership to new heights, combining the brilliance of Lalique's designers and craftsmen and the outstanding quality and character from the masters of spirit and wood at The Macallan to produce a single decanter which will never be replicated, filled with the oldest and rarest Macallan our distillery has ever released. "Having decided to donate the proceeds from the auction of this beautiful decanter and its rarest of whiskies to charity, we decided to partner with charity: water. Given the predictions of future water shortages and recent natural catastrophes, we felt we wanted to contribute something really positive to help. We are hoping for some extraordinary generosity at the final auction in New York in November." The 64 years old Macallan has been vatted together from three casks, all made from Sherry- seasoned Spanish oak. The first was filled in 1942, the second in 1945 and the third in January 1946, from which the age of this particular Macallan has been taken.

Grant's Quarter Century

William Grant & Sons has launched an ultra-premium expression of its blended Scotch whisky, namely Grant's 25 Year Old. According to a company spokesperson, "Grant's 25 Year Old celebrates over a century and five generations of the Grant's family, as well as their collective contribution to creating the finest Scotch whisky. It marks 100 years since Charles Gordon (son-in-law of William Grant) set off on a 12 month trip to take Grant's to the world - sowing the seeds for what has become the world's most loved family whisky brand." The new expression includes some of the first ever Girvan grain whisky laid down when the Ayrshire distillery was created in 1963, and company chairman Peter Gordon notes that "Distilled in Girvan - a site built by our current life president Charles Gordon - Grant's 25 Year Old contains 25 whiskies and the unique Girvan Grain that is at the heart of all our blends." Just over 2,000 bottles of Grant's 25 Year Old will be available in selected global airport outlets from next month until the end of 2011, after which a limited number will also be offered through specialist retailers at a price of 145 per bottle.   

All Change

   Springbank distillery in Campbeltown has announced the appointment of its first locally-born manager in more than 60 years. With current incumbent Stuart Robertson moving on to new challenges, as outlined below, 36-year-old Gavin McLachlan (left) is to take over the day-to-day running of Springbank and 'sister' distillery Glengyle from the beginning of August. Neil Clapperton, Managing Director of parent company J&A Mitchell & Co Ltd, says that "Gavin is Campbeltown born and bred and his appointment gives us great pleasure and also reflects our company's long-term commitment to Campbeltown." McLachlan began his career in the whisky industry in May 2002 as a bottling hall operative at Springbank before moving into malting and
distilling within eight months. He has been assistant manager for the past four years. In his new post he will work alongside Director of Production Frank McHardy to oversee operations at Springbank and Glengyle. Meanwhile, the revived distillery of Glenglassaugh, near Portsoy, on the Moray Firth coast, has appointed Ronnie Routledge as its Accounts Manager. Routledge formerly worked with Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin and Single Malts Direct in Huntly. He says that "My role here will be predominantly dealing with whisky enthusiasts and consumers via our website and personal visits to the distillery and at various shows and tastings around the country, as well as looking after the UK wholesale business. I will also have a hand in some overseas markets through time. "Plans have been drawn up to create a small visitor facility at Glenglassaugh distillery and we hope to have that completed this year. We do currently offer tours at 10.00am Monday - Friday and we have a very special and exclusive 'Behind the Scenes' tour once each week, on a Friday, again at 10.00am. For all tours please contact us to book in advance on +44 (0) 1261 842367." The game of musical chairs continues, as Stuart Robertson is moving to Ronnie Routledge's former base of Huntly and to the role of Distillery Development Manager for Duncan Taylor & Co's ongoing Huntly distillery project. Duncan Taylor supremo Euan Shand notes that "This is a very exciting time for Duncan Taylor. We have had a great year despite the recession, and our new brand lines are introducing us to developing markets such as India and China. With our good progress there is no better time to build our own distillery. The process has started and I believe we have got the best man to do the job" Huntly distillery is being developed in a former diary, and will utilise the most up to date methods of energy re-cycling, biomass heating and sustainable construction materials. The distillery will produce both single malt and single grain whiskies and, uniquely, will also produce Scottish vodka and gin.

Cask Idol

Glengoyne distillery in Stirlingshire already offers an extensive range of visitor experiences, but it has added two new, exclusive options in the shape of 'Cask Idol' and 'A Century of Whisky.' Costing 70 per person, Cask Idol - The Search for the Perfect Dram - offers what the distillers describe as "a once in a lifetime opportunity to become part of the Glengoyne Selection Panel and help select the first ever Glengoyne Distillery Exclusive Single Cask Whisky, to be bottled in 2011. "Following an in-depth Glengoyne distillery tour and a visit to the legendary Warehouse No 8, visitors are guided through Glengoyne's last three single cask releases, learning to nose, taste and write tasting notes as they go. "Visitors then judge three mature samples drawn from the cask and are asked to write their own tasting notes for each. The most popular cask will be announced in April 2011 and released, with one lucky fan's name and tasting notes displayed on the label. Visitors on the Cask Idol tour will have exclusive first access to the chosen single   
cask bottling when released." A Century of Whisky is on offer at 150 per person, and is described as "...perfect for enthusiasts of old and rare whiskies. It includes a tutored tasting of Glengoyne distillery's oldest, most valuable, and finest Highland single malt: the Glengoyne 40 Years Old, worth 200 per dram, as well as the exceptionally rare Isle of Skye 50 Years Old blended Scotch whisky. These two unparalleled whiskies, along with the Glengoyne 10 Years Old, represent a century of maturation." For further information on this and the Glengoyne distillery tour menu, visit

And finally...

   Glasgow-based Whyte & Mackay has just launched its first pre-mixer, namely the 4.5% abv Glasgow Special Whyte & Mackay Blended Scotch Whisky & Cola, which sells for around 1.70 per can. "Having whisky in a ready-mixed format means that consumers who wish to only have one drink can do so without having to open a large bottle of cola, which may then go flat," says Whyte & Mackay off-trade sales director John Bradbury. Claims have been made that this is the first time Scotch whisky and cola have been combined in a can, but those of us
of a certain age remember United Distillers' short-lived dabbling with Bells & Irn Bru and Bells & cola pre-mixes during the 1980s, not to mention a version of Bells which was made with red chilli peppers, and went by the name of Red Devil. What next? A revival of the infamous 'black whisky' Loch Dhu? Surely things aren't that bad...

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