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Whisky News, June 2013

by Gavin D Smith

Kingsbarns on course

logo The long-promised Kingsbarns distillery in Fife has now secured final planning permission and work is due to begin very soon on restoring and converting the historic East Newhall farm steading on the Cambo Estate, in which the distillery is to be situated. A distillery spokesperson says that "Building work at the distillery will begin with preservation of the historic Dutch pan tile roof and 18th century stonework, followed by initial land preparation. Detailed planning of the layout of the distillery and visitor centre, shop and cafe areas continues. It's expected to take around a year to complete the building with a view to welcoming the first visitors as distilling commences in summer 2014." Earlier this year it was announced that the Wemyss family, well known to whisky aficionados for its blended malts and single cask independent bottling, was taking a financial lead in the project. William Wemyss declares that "It's been a busy few months working with Historic Scotland, Fife Council planners and a team of architects, designers and engineers to get to this point where we can start to turn the plans into reality. Building a distillery is a once in a generation opportunity and we're looking forward to playing our part in the reinvigoration of the Fife distilling tradition."

Return of Glen Keith

label The sort of optimism that is driving new distillery projects like Kingsbarns is also stimulating the resurrection of Scotland's few remaining 'silent' distilleries. A case in point is Chivas Brothers' Glen Keith distillery, the 'sister' site to Strathisla. Earlier this month, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead MSP officially re-opened the distillery, which had been silent since 1999, but prior to its re-commissioning, some £7 was spent upgrading it and expanding capacity by 2.5 mla to 6 million mla. This was accomplished by adding six stainless steel washbacks to complement the existing six wooden ones, which were replaced with new Oregon pine vessels, and speeding up the mashing process. A 17-year-old 54.9%abv Glen Keith 'Cask Strength Edition' bottling has been launched and is exclusively available from Strathisla visitor centre, and there are no plans to release other expressions of the single malt, as it plays a vital role in the apparently ever more thirsty global markets for Chivas' blends. Christian Porta, Chivas Brothers Chairman and CEO, declared during the opening ceremony that "It is wonderful to see this distillery re-opened and producing spirit once again. The fact that we are re-opening a silent distillery and are soon to build a brand-new distillery in the region, shows just how strong the demand for our luxury Scotch whiskies is. "With our extensive inventory of more than six million casks, and this new increased distilling capacity, we are well placed to continue to meet this demand, safeguarding the future of our award-winning brands for decades to come. The sweet, fruity spirit produced at Glen Keith, will be aged in oak casks and used in the Chivas Regal and Royal Salute blends, as it was in the past."

Double Benromach

boat As Glen Keith makes a welcome return to the Speyside distilling fold, some 30 miles away at Forres, Gordon & MacPhail's Benromach distillery is to double output, with the recruitment of a third member of staff to work alongside manager Keith Cruickshank and stillman Mike Ross. Two new warehouses are also to be built. According to Gordon & Macphail's Managing Director Michael Urquhart, "We are very proud of Benromach whisky. It's handcrafted and the only traditional Speyside whisky currently being produced. It's been a huge success and we know we will need to increase production if we are to meet demand in the future. Whisky production is a business that needs vision and long term planning and this is a sign of the confidence we have in the Benromach brand. "This investment comes on the back of 40 per cent growth in worldwide sales in 2012 and continued strong growth in 2013, coupled with our on-going projections. Keith and Mike are very much looking forward to welcoming a third member of the team in the coming months."

Dennis at 50

Dennis Popular and respected Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant is celebrating 50 years in the Scotch whisky industry. Born in a house in the distillery grounds during 1946, Malcolm started work at the distillery as an apprentice cooper at the age of 15. He subsequently moved on to other Speyside distilleries to further his career, but was appointed Master Distiller at Glen Grant in 2006, when Gruppo Campari purchased the distillery from Chivas Brothers Ltd. "We would like to congratulate Dennis on this incredible milestone and fantastic achievement," says Christophe Schaillee, Regional Director Europe for Gruppo Campa. "His on-going passion and leadership has been integral to the brand, ensuring that Glen Grant remains true to its roots whilst working with us to develop the product line into a global success. "Glen Grant's long history is one of tradition and innovation and Dennis' life very much mirrors this. We couldn't ask for a better ambassador and look forward to exciting new expressions for years to come, thanks to his endless creativity and strong 'nose' for detail."

Grain to Glass

grain Anyone in Scotland who missed seeing the Scotch Whisky Association's 'Scotch Whisky: From Grain to Glass' centenary exhibition in Edinburgh, has a second chance at Glasgow's Mitchell Library until the end of next month. The exhibition brings together an array of images and artefacts from several Scotch whisky producers and enthusiasts. Many items on display have been stored in archives and personal collections until their inclusion in this exhibition. The display also tracks landmark events in the last 100 years which have shaped the Association and the industry. Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, says that "We are delighted to bring the exhibition of images and artefacts from across the Scotch whisky industry to Glasgow. The spectacular main hall of the Mitchell Library, a building which has been part of life for Glaswegians for over a century, is a perfect setting for this display. With more than 60 per cent of Scotch whisky bottled in the greater Glasgow area, you could call the city one of the spiritual homes of Scotch whisky. "For more than 100 years we have been committed to promoting and protecting Scotch whisky. We hope as many people as possible will visit the Scotch whisky: From Grain to Glass exhibition to find out more about the heritage of Scotland's national drink."

And finally…

everest base camp The recent 60th anniversary celebration of the first ascent of Everest led Glenmorangie to scour its archives for images taken during Rebecca Stephens' 1993 ascent - the first by a British female climber. The photographs show expedition team members at Everest's Camp Two at 21,300ft in the Western Cwm, holding a bottle of Glenmorangie. This is believed to be the greatest altitude a bottle of single malt has ever reached on Earth. It seems we should have reserved last month's seaplane 'joke' about Cutty Sark getting you high for Glenmorangie…

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