Whisky News, July 2011
by Gavin D Smith
Tamdhu back on track
Within the last few days it has been announced that independent distillers, blenders and bottlers Ian Macleod Distillers have purchased the mothballed Tamdhu distillery on Speyside from the Edrington Group.
An Ian Macleod spokesperson says that "Established in 1897, Tamdhu's distillation capacity of four million litres of alcohol per year will support the continued growth of Ian Macleod's existing brands, including Isle of Skye, Lang's and the King Robert II blends. The Tamdhu single malt brand is also included in the sale, and Ian Macleod Distillers plans to significantly develop its sales both within the UK and abroad."
Leonard Russell, Managing Director of Ian Macleod Distillers, adds that "Having purchased Glengoyne Distillery from Edrington in 2003, we are delighted to be acquiring a second distillery from them, safe in the knowledge that it has been maintained to a very high standard and comes with a reputation for producing exceptional quality single malt.
"I am also pleased that we will be securing and creating new local employment during these uncertain economic times. We are looking forward to developing the Tamdhu single malt following our successful growth of Glengoyne".
Ian Curle, Chief Executive of The Edrington Group, comments that "The Edrington Group is delighted to complete the sale of Tamdhu to Ian Macleod Distillers. Edrington and Ian Macleod have a good relationship stretching back many years, and we know the Tamdhu distillery and brand will be in good hands. From Edrington's perspective, the sale will further de-complex our business, allowing us to continue to focus on the growth of our five key brands, The Famous Grouse, The Macallan, Brugal, Cutty Sark and Highland Park."
More positive news for the whisky industry on Speyside comes in the form of a planning application submitted by Diageo to Moray Council for a £9.5m redevelopment of its Dailuaine distillery complex, located near Aberlour.
Diageo says that the upgrade would focus on the existing bio-plant at Dailuaine, which processes whisky by-products from a number of distilleries in the area. This would, in turn, open up the potential for future increases in production capacity across Speyside.
Diageo is developing proposals aimed at boosting output at other existing distilleries within the next two to three years, and the company's malt distilling director, Brian Higgs, says that "Scotch whisky has never been more popular around the world. Speyside is already at the heart of our malt distilling operations and I am delighted that, beginning with the Dailuaine proposal, we are looking at further enhancing our business in this area."
Speyside is home to 18 of Diageo's 29 malt whisky distilleries in Scotland, and late in 2009 the firm opened its new Roseisle distillery, near Elgin, at a cost of £40 million.
To mark The Queen's Diamond Jubilee next year, Johnnie Walker is to produce an ultra-limited edition expression. Just 60 crystal decanters of 'Diamond Jubilee Blended Scotch Whisky by John Walker & Sons,' will be produced, and they will be offered, by invitation only, for private sale at £100,000 each.
The bottling will take place on 6th February 2012, exactly 60 years to the day since The Queen acceded to the throne, and will comprise a blend of whiskies distilled in 1952, finished in a marrying cask of English oak from The Queen's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk.
All profits from the sale of this release, with a guarantee of at least £1million, will be donated to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. This will support the QEST Diamond Jubilee Appeal, through which the organisation aims to grow its scholarship base, build a mentoring programme and enable traditional craftsmanship to flourish in Britain.
According to a John Walker & Sons spokesperson, "'Diamond Jubilee Blended Scotch Whisky by John Walker & Sons' will be presented in a lead crystal decanter adorned with a Britannia silver collar that features a half carat diamond set by hand, and an individually numbered silver seal. This will be accompanied by a pair of hand-engraved lead crystal glasses and a leather bound, personalised, hand-embellished artefact book, all housed in a bespoke cabinet incorporating woods from The Queen's Sandringham and Balmoral estates."
Jim Beveridge, Master Blender for John Walker & Sons adds that "These are extraordinary grain and malt whiskies that have been maturing slowly since 1952. It's a huge privilege to work with them using all our resources and experience to craft a John Walker & Sons blend that's fitting for this special anniversary. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
As though the Johnnie Walker Diamond Jubilee blend was not exclusive enough, Chivas Brothers' Royal Salute is the medium for a an even more limited edition, which runs to just 21 bottles. Royal Salute 'Tribute to Honour' pays homage to the oldest crown jewels in Britain, namely The Honours of Scotland.
A Chivas spokesperson declares that "The most exquisite, precious and scarce whiskies used to create Tribute to Honour have been carefully selected from the Royal Salute Vault at Strathisla. Expertly blended by Colin Scott, just 21 bottles of Tribute to Honour have been created and also mark the pinnacle of Colin's 21 years of expertise in blending. "
Scott says that "Chivas Brothers has a phenomenal archive of high-aged whiskies, some of which, after decades of careful maturation, have acquired a rich intensity and deep concentration of sumptuous characters. It is these very few whiskies which I have personally selected to compose Tribute to Honour - this opulent and rarest of blends."
All component whiskies are 45 years of age or older, and Tribute to Honour is presented in what is described as "…a spectacular, bejewelled bottle, dressed by Garrard in flawless diamonds and shimmering gold."
The new expression of Royal Salute will be available from September, with bottles being individually numbered and priced at US$200,000.
Home to Lagavulin
Last month one of the world's rarest bottles of single malt Scotch whisky returned to the place of its creation. The dram in question was an unopened bottle of 130-year-old 'Lagavulin Liqueur,' distilled at the Islay distillery on 2nd June 1881.
After an extraordinary 30 years in cask, the single malt was bottled in 1911 by Mackie & Co of Glasgow, then owners of Lagavulin distillery and a firm with a long tradition of supplying Islay malts.
The bottle was acquired at auction by Diageo and forms part of the comprehensive Diageo spirits industry Archive. It was recently exhibited at the Visitors' Centre at Royal Lochnagar distillery on Deeside, before being taken 'home' by Donald Renwick, the distillery manager at Royal Lochnagar and former distillery manager at Lagavulin.
The bottle was handed over to current Lagavulin manager Georgie Crawford on the 100th anniversary of its bottling, and is now on display in the Visitors' Centre at the distillery.
Kilchoman,Islay's newest distillery, has been working towards the release of a '100 per cent Islay' single malt, and has recently achieved that ambition.
The whisky is called 'Kilchoman 100% Islay' and is three years old. It has been distilled from Islay-grown barley, and malting, distillation, maturation and bottling all took place at the distillery. '100% Islay' has been matured in first fill Bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, and is lightly peated (10 to 20ppm of phenols) and bottled at 50%abv.
Anthony Wills, Managing Director of Kilchoman, says that "Being able to release a single malt produced from raw materials sourced locally was what the Kilchoman project was all about and I'm delighted to be able to share this exceptional young aged single malt with whisky enthusiasts around the world".
Kilchoman '100% Islay' is available from 26 specialist whisky retailers in the UK at a price of £69.00 per bottle and in 29 markets worldwide. In total, 11,300 bottles have been released.
Additionally, a special edition is available only at the distillery, and it comprises 1,060 bottles offered at cask strength of 61.3%abv. Presented in a hand crafted American white oak presentation box, this edition costs £149.00. For more information visit www.kilchomandistillery.com See August's 'Recent Releases' for our tasting notes on Kilchoman 100% Islay.
And finally… Shaken, not stirred
Good news for whisky lovers in the Southern Hemisphere is that earthquake-stricken Whisky Galore, New Zealand's leading whisky retailer and wholesaler, is opening a new store in Christchurch this month. The original premises, from which Whisky Galore had operated for eight years, were marked for demolition after the earthquake of 22nd February.
"It's literally been a case of picking up the pieces," says owner Michael Fraser Milne. "We pulled out five wheelie bins of broken glass, and we lost around 70 per cent of our stock which fell to the floor
during the earthquake, including some really irreplaceable drams. But we were really lucky. Most importantly, no one was hurt. Our warehouse is also situated in a different area of town, and so we had enough
stock to get back in business pretty quickly.
"We've got far more space in our new venue, and we've taken in two shipments since the earthquake, with two more on the way. We're going to be able to have a far larger range for our customers, in a more
Whisky Galore opened in 2003, and Milne is something of a whisky institution in New Zealand, importing whisky to the country for nearly 20 years. The company stocks over 650 whiskies,
including old and rare bottlings and collectors' editions. For more information visit www.whiskygalore.co.nz