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Whisky News, October 2009

GlenDronach Growth

GlenDronach distillery, near Huntly, is to benefit from a £7 million investment programme, with £5 million being earmarked for the acquisition of Sherry casks over the next four years and a further £2m for brand promotion and the employment of up to five extra staff members. The BenRiach Distillery Company purchased the plant from Chivas Brothers last year, and, according to MD Billy Walker, 40 years ago, GlenDronach was amongst the top five most popular malts in the world. "In recent years
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GlenDronach has fallen out of view," he says, "but it has maintained a kind of cult status. This new investment returns it to centre-stage. "It's testament to our ambitions as a small, niche distiller. We are making sure the whisky coming through is of the highest quality and the new Sherry casks will be at the heart of maturation, imbuing the whisky with its distinctively sweet, fragrant and fruity taste." When Walker and his associates bought GlenDronach last year, there were less than 20,000 bottles sold worldwide. This year, having added 15 and 18 year-old expressions to the line up, GlenDronach will sell around 150,000 bottles. By 2014, the aim is to turn over some 250,000 bottles. "We're pursuing our dream - to sell fine malt whisky all over the world and put GlenDronach back where it belongs," declares Billy Walker.

Bowmore Strikes Gold

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   The Islay distillery of Bowmore has recently released its oldest ever bottling, 44-year-old Gold Bowmore, which completes the trilogy of 1964 distillation releases which began with Black Bowmore in 2007. Just 827 bottles of that Oloroso cask-matured expression were produced, and it was followed last year by 732 bottles of White Bowmore, matured in ex-Bourbon casks. Now 701 bottles of Gold Bowmore are on the market, and this variant has been matured in three ex-Bourbon casks and one former Oloroso cask, giving it a rich, golden colour.
Ed McAffer, distillery manager at Bowmore, says "I am so proud to see this last and very special part of the trilogy released. At Bowmore we put everything we have into every single bottle, but this Gold Bowmore is something quite unique, embodying everything that is special about the whisky and from a year [1964] when things at the Bowmore distillery really went into a new era." A company spokesperson explains that "This milestone year for Bowmore marked a new era in the crafting of the famous single malt. The distillery had newly converted the original coal-fired pot sills to stills that run on steam, enabling far better control of the temperature. At the same time as the first batch of distillate dropped from these new stills, 17 Sherry butts from Williams and Humbert arrived at the distillery. Unlike the traditional Bourbon casks, which impart a golden hue on their contents, the oak Oloroso casks, retain the Sherry taste and colour, which results in a much darker, reddish amber whisky." Bottled at 42.2%ABV, Gold Bowmore is available from Harrods, The Whisky Exchange, Fortnum & Masons, Vintage House and Harvey Nicol's, with a recommended retail price of £3,000.

Paterson's Patter

Anyone who has witnesses Whyte & Mackay Master Blender Richard Paterson in full flow during one of his passionate presentations, will be aware that he is one of the best in the business. Sheer showmanship blends with an extraordinarily intimate knowledge of Scotch whisky and its heritage. Such is their pride in this star performer that Whyte & Mackay bosses have come up with a new, bespoke package involving Paterson, complete with a £20,000 price tag. According to the company, "The unique service will see customers spend three days with Whyte &
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Mackay's multi-award winning master blender, Richard 'The Nose' Paterson, where he will get to know their likes and dislikes before creating a unique dram based on their personality. "The idea was borne following Richard's recent appearance on 'Made in Scotland', a TV programme exploring the iconic symbols that make Scotland internationally famous, where Richard explained the whisky blending process to actor David Hayman - best known for roles alongside Pierce Brosnan, Bruce Willis and Kevin Spacey - and created a whisky based on David's personality and tastes." Paterson then took the idea a step further by creating a series of one-off whiskies reflecting the personalities of high-profile figures including Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor, Barack Obama and even Homer Simpson. As a result, Whyte & Mackay received hundreds of enquiries about creating such bespoke whiskies. Paterson himself says that "It is increasingly common now for people to have their luxury goods tailor made to suit their own specific desires. By offering this service we have created a great opportunity to own a one-off, bespoke whisky that may even increase in value over time. "I will spend time getting to know their likes, dislikes and personality to create a completely one-of-a-kind whisky - and of course a dram or two will be raised as we bond. Only one bottle of each individual bottle will ever be made… it will be a whisky to treasure forever." At the risk of sounding as though we are endorsing a high-class escort business, anyone interested in buying Paterson's services should contact

Whisky on Show

   Next month sees The Guildhall in London play host to the inaugural Whisky Show. According to its promoters, "Presenting great whisky in a comfortable, relaxed and fun environment, The Whisky Show (TWS) will be a refreshing and distinctively different event dedicated to the promotion and appreciation of the finest whiskies. "Focusing on premium bottlings above each brand's standard expression (longer-aged whisky and/or special bottlings), TWS will offer a
fantastic opportunity to both the knowledgeable connoisseur and the passionate whisky fan wanting to learn more. "TWS will also be about fun and enjoyment, with luxury whisky-themed food and a separate Whisky Lounge dedicated to live contemporary Scottish music, creating a superb atmosphere - a world away from the stressed, hectic nature of many other whisky festivals." Additionally, there will be a series of master-classes devoted to The Glenlivet Cellar Collection, Glenfarclas, Port Ellen and single malts from now silent distilleries. The event is staged on 6-7 November. For more details visit

Big Books

Two contrasting new whisky volumes have recently landed - heavily - on the bar 'whisky-pages' uses as its editorial desk. What they have in common is bulk, with Dorling Kindersley's World Whisky weighing in at 3lbs, while JA Nettleton's Manufacture of Whisky and Plain Spirit hits the scales at a whopping 4lbs. Size is not everything, of course, although our 'And Finally…' item may seem to give the lie to that sentiment, and both tomes offer fascinating insights into aspects of our beloved spirit. World Whisky is a collaborative venture, featuring chapters by Dave Broom, Tom Bruce-Gardyne, Ian Buxton, Charlie MacLean, Peter Mulryan, Hans Offringa and our own Gavin D Smith. With a very strong pictorial content, it offers information and sampling notes on more than 700 whiskies, from all the major producing countries, along with some less obvious whisky-making nations such as the Czech Republic and
Pakistan. Nettleton's book is not, strictly speaking, a 'new' publication, rather a beautifully crafted facsimile edition of a book first published in 1913, and now extremely rare. Collectors have been known to pay up to £1,000 when copies appear at auction. While World Whisky is intended to appeal to a wide readership, Nettleton's book is aimed squarely at specialists and collectors, and offers a plethora of historical and technical information on distillation. Just 300, numbered, copies have been produced. If your bookshelves can bear the weight, both are definitely deserving of a place on them. World Whisky - £16.99,, Manufacture of Whisky and Plain Spirit - £99.00,

And Finally…

Bad news guys, size really does matter. First we had Ardbeg Mor (4.5 litres) but now that has been made to seem pretty small beer, as it were, by Angus Dundee's 105.3 litres bottle of 14-year-old Tomintoul single malt. Two businessmen from the remote Speyside village commissioned the project, with the glass bottle having to be specially made in Germany, and the result is an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest bottle of Scotch whisky in the world. The bottle stands nearly five feet tall, weighs 164kg and contains 150 standard bottles. More details are available at


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