gavin smith

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Whisky News, July 2012

by Gavin D Smith

Capital Drams

logo London is set to get its own malt whisky for the first time in more than a century, thanks to the efforts of The London Distillery Company, established last year by Darren Rook, who has worked in whisky retailing and for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Rook has a site in Battersea, South London, earmarked for the new distillery, and having raised sufficient funds to make the venture viable, a pair of stills has been fabricated in Germany. He has also hit upon the idea of instigating a premium Cask Club to enable customers to create their own single malt whisky from start to finish. A London dry gin will also be made, providing a revenue stream before the whisky is ready for market. It is anticipated that malt spirit will flow from the new stills later this year, and whisky industry veteran John MacDougall, formerly manager at Balvenie, Laphroaig and Springbank distilleries and subsequently consultant to several new distillery projects, has been engaged to provide technical expertise. "Whisky is making a huge comeback globally as people rediscover a marvellous spirit manufactured in Britain for centuries," says Darren Rook. "Add in demand from new markets in the world's growing economies and we have a terrific opportunity. The key driver is quality and we know we can produce a fabulous dram." Find out more at

Mysterious Macallan

macallan logo The Macallan is set to introduce an entirely new range, The 1824 Series, in the UK this autumn. According to a brand spokesperson, "This addition to The Macallan family will initially be launched exclusively in the UK and will be classic, signature Macallan in style and character. The 1824 Series is 100 per cent matured in oak sherry casks from Spain, focusing on the brand's natural colour, delivering the full-bodied aromas and flavours for which The Macallan is recognised and famed. Ken Grier, Director of Malts, The Edrington Group, adds that "The 1824 Series will introduce a new approach to The Macallan in the UK market for single malt drinkers to enjoy and underlines our on-going commitment to leading innovation. The move represents a major step in the evolution of The Macallan and we are extremely excited to be introducing this into the UK market first." Created by The Macallan Whisky Maker Bob Dalgarno and his team, the first expression in The 1824 Series will be available from September, followed by further additions in 2013, though just how '1824' will differ from the plethora of The Macallan Sherry Oak expressions already available is being kept tightly under wraps for now. Something to do with no age statements, perhaps?

Dewar's TED

TED Dewar's has announced a three-year partnership with TED, which has been launched at this year's TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh. TED is a non-profit organisation apparently devoted to 'Ideas Worth Spreading.' It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design, but has since significantly broadened its scope. According to a TED spokesperson, "Through this collaboration, Dewar's will demonstrate their commitment to innovation and ideas, ensuring they continue to push the boundaries of creativity." Among all this nebulousness, the principal interest for whisky devotees is the creation of a new limited edition Dewar's blend, named Dewar House Experimental Batch 39. It has been developed using a cask of Dewar's 12-year-old that has been finished in a sherry butt for five years, and was apparently inspired by the innovative nature of Tommy Dewar, son of the company founder John Dewar. Just 30 50cl bottles of this 58.9 per cent expression have been produced, and the people at TED says that "The initial production of 30 bottles will be used at exclusive TED screening events taking place around the globe, with potential for a further release." Dewar's also plans to offer visitors to its distillery in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, the opportunity to personalise their own wax-sealed bottle of 18-year-old Aberfeldy single cask single malt. Three new cocktails based on Charles H. Baker JR's 1939 recipe book, 'Jigger, Beaker & Glass: Drinking Around The World,' have been created specifically for Dewar's, too, and each apparently has "…a distinctly vintage feel." More information to follow in due course.

Tomatin Revamped

tomatin Just as Dewar's World of Whisky at Aberfeldy plans to allow visitors to purchase, fill and seal their own bottles of single malt, so the refurbished Tomatin distillery visitor centre, south of Inverness, has introduced a similar innovation. £150,000 has been spent upgrading facilities for visitors at Tomatin, and two distillery-exclusive casks will be available at any one time for aficionados to fill and label on the premises. While the distillery tour previously offered limited access, visitors will now - for the same price - see more of the production areas and one of the traditional dunnage warehouses. Marie Macleod, Visitor Centre Manager, says that "Following the refurbishment, the visitor centre now looks much brighter and more inviting. We've had great customer feedback since we started the new tour. "Our Distillery Manager, Graham Eunson, also had the great idea of opening up the side of one of our disused mash tuns to let visitors see the inside, an added extra that is unique to Tomatin distillery and has also been a wonderful success so far." See for more details.

Malt Mill

lagavulin The world's only known bottle of Malt Mill new-make spirit was unveiled at Islay's Lagavulin distillery last month. Thought to have disappeared forever, Malt Mill is the basis of the plot for the award-winning Ken Loach film The Angels' Share. Whisky writer Charles Maclean, who also played a role in the film, says that "This bottle is priceless. Malt Mill is legendary, and is viewed by many as the Holy Grail." Dr Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach, Diageo, adds that "In my 20 years as a historian and archivist, I've always wanted to see this unique bottle of Malt Mill go on display. We are thrilled to share this precious artefact with the many whisky enthusiasts who visit Lagavulin every year." The bottle of Malt Mill came to light after Lagavulin distillery manager, Georgie Crawford, heard about the film which involves the auction of a fictional last cask of Malt Mill, and brought out the bottle from its secret location. It had been passed on to her by her predecessor in the manager's role, who had in turn been given it by his predecessor. Malt Mill single malt was produced in a small distillery on the Lagavulin site between 1908 and 1962, and this bottle is from the last filling, which took place in June 1962.

Sam's Whiskey

beer label Across the Atlantic, the high profile Boston Beer Company, best known for its Samuel Adams range of beers, has joined forces with Berkshire Mountain Distillers Inc to distil whiskey from two of the brewery's beers. The craft distiller, founded in 2007 and based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, already produces a corn whiskey, along with gin, vodka and rum, and is now in the process of acquiring thousands of gallons of Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Cinder Bock to be distilled and matured before going on sale in 2015. An initial release of just 1,000 cases is expected, and the new product will feature the Samuel Adams brand name on the label.

More to drink before you die

book jacket Ian Buxton has followed up his highly successful 2010 book 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die with 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die (£12.99; £9.09 Amazon). Inevitably there is a sense that some of the entries included here may simply have failed to make the cut first time around, though Buxton would no doubt argue energetically that this is not the case, and with the world of whisky moving at such a pace these days, the author would certainly have had no difficulty in coming up with a second century of expressions with complete integrity. As with 101 Whiskies, the writing is of a high standard, occasionally controversial opinions are expressed (don't get Buxton started on the concept of whisky as an investment vehicle!) and the overall effect is both informative and entertaining. An attractive little book in every sense, and a recommended addition to the whisky-lover's library.

And finally…

beard Distillers' Cut? The world of whisky marketing becomes increasingly bizarre, and on 13th of this month Auchentoshan single malt was offering free wet shaves, beard trims and hot towel facials in a 'pop up barber shop' at Glasgow's Corinthian Club. This was followed by a gratis Auchentoshan sample or cocktail. Not sure about the symbiosis between single malt and barbering, though 'Auchy' promotes itself as 'Glasgow's Malt Whisky,' and the great city does have a long - if less than illustrious - relationship with razors and assorted bladed instruments…

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