gavin smith

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Whisky News, November 2014

by Gavin D Smith

Bladnoch revived

After a period of closure and an uncertain future, Bladnoch distillery in south-west Scotland has been acquired by Australian businessman David Prior, who plans substantial investment prior to recommencing distillation. Prior says that "I am delighted to have been able to purchase a Scotch whisky distillery of such renown as Bladnoch. Scotch whisky is the world's foremost spirit drink and I am proud to be part of the Scotch whisky industry." Bladnoch was established in 1817, and after decommissioning by owners United Distillers Group in 1994 it lay dormant until being re-equipped by new proprietors Northern Ireland-based Co-ordinated Development Services Limited, headed by Raymond Armstrong, who fired up the stills again in 2000. Co-ordinated Development Services Limited ceased distilling in 2009, and in March 2014 the company was placed in Compulsory Liquidation. David Prior has recruited Burn Stewart Distillers' Head of Distilleries and Master Blender Ian MacMillan to head up the Bladnoch operation, and he is due to take up his appointment in October. MacMillan has 40 years of experience in the Scotch whisky industry, and has been in his current role with Burn Stewart since 1991.

Dundalk talk

Across in Ireland, whiskey has started to flow from the first of two distilleries to have been developed within the former Harp Brewery site at Dundalk, County Louth. The Great Northern Distillery (GND) is owned by members of the Teeling family and two former directors of Cooley distillery, Jim Finn and David Hynes. The two new distilleries have adapted and extended, at a cost of €10 million, the high quality brewing facilities which existed on the site, where brewing had been taking place for 120 years until 2014. Following the investment by GND a 30 million bottle a year capacity three-column still grain whiskey distillery is now operational, only the third grain distillery in Ireland. A sister distillery is due to be commissioned in the very near future, and it is equipped with three copper pots capable of distilling 12 million bottles of single malt and pot still whiskey per year. GND will supply a range of whiskies to the plethora of new Irish distilleries coming on stream and to the retail own label and private label segments worldwide. Most of the new distilleries under construction or in the planning are pot still operations, meaning that the owners will need a supply of grain whiskey to blend with their malts and pot still whiskeys, and GND expects to be a major supplier to this market.

Three Stills in Hawick

Back in Scotland the Borders knitwear capital of Hawick could become home to a new £10 million distillery, with premises in the town's Commercial Road earmarked for the project, which is the brainchild of the Three Stills Company, headed by John Fordyce. Fundraising is apparently at an advanced stage. Three Stills could become the first whisky distillery in the Borders since the Kelso distillery, which operated between 1825 and 1837. Other projected Borders whisky-making ventures include one near Jedburgh, where Mossburn Distillers Ltd have ambitious plans for malt and grain spirit production, blending, maturation and bottling facilities, while Alasdair Day - proprietor of The Tweeddale Blend - has his sights set on creating a malt distillery at Walkerburn, near Peebles.

Bowmore Mizunara

Recently, Bowmore took over the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London for the lavish launch of a new product - billed in advance as 'East meets west,' hence the observatory location with its O degrees longitude status. The product in question was a limited edition (2,000 bottles) Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish, bottled at 53.9%abv. Rare Mizunara Japanese oak casks were shipped 6,000 miles to Bowmore on Islay, and according to Bowmore Distillery Manager David Turner, "We filled them with whisky of varying ages from both ex-Bourbon and some ex-Sherry casks that had been maturing in our famous Warehouse No. I and put them in there for a further three years prior to bottling."

Ardbeg Haar

Staying with Islay malts, Ardbeg has produced something worthy of a place in our regular 'And Finally…' spot, though this month's place was already taken. Ardbeg Haar is made by pouring the whisky into a special vibrating crystal carafe which causes ultrasonic pressure waves that turn the whisky into micro-droplets. These are then inhaled through a bespoke straw, producing all the effects associated with more traditional consumption. Ardbeg says that the Haar carafe will be "…used by renowned mixologists across the UK" to turn the whisky into 'cloud' form. To date, four UK bars - Hakkasan Mayfair, London; Dabbous, London; Hawksmoor, Manchester and Tigerlily in Edinburgh - have acquired the 'Ardberg Haar' carafe. Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation for Glenmorangie and Ardbeg single malts, says that "The haar which rolls in from the sea is as familiar to island life as the soft water and precious peat which influence our whiskies. We believe that in this sampling ritual we have captured the essence of its elusive qualities. The swirling mist of Ardbeg Haar will intrigue, immersing people in the aromas, tastes and textures of The Ultimate Islay Malt Whisky, in a way never previously imagined."

And finally...

West Cork Distillers has launched an Irish whiskey developed in association with the London-Irish band, The Pogues. The whiskey is a blend of 50 per cent grain and 50 per cent single malt Irish whiskey. "We wanted to create an Irish whiskey with global appeal, which isn't without its challenges," says John O'Connell, co-founder of West Cork Distillers. "The Pogues offer a perfect partnership as they share many of the same values as our company, such as an independent spirit, a slightly unorthodox approach and a commitment to quality, as well as success on the international stage." A spokesperson for The Pogues band declares that "It's been brilliant working with such experts to come up with a whiskey that we all think reflects our spirit and that we all like the taste of. It's wonderful to add to the ranks of great Irish whiskeys and we hope it stands the test of time." Whisky-pages is not entirely certain, however, that ex-Pogue Shane McGowan is a glowing advert for responsible drinking...

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