gavin smith

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Whisky News, December 2007

by Gavin D Smith

Grouse no Turkey

According to the folk at The Edrington Group's Perth headquarters, "Christmas wouldn't feel like Christmas if it wasn't for The Famous Grouse TV advertising. The iconic advertisements make a welcome return this December in a £1 million campaign, broadcasting three executions featuring The Famous Grouse." The 20-second adverts are entitled A-List, Beautifully Balanced and Perfectly Composed. Each features the Grouse icon in a different situation. A-List sees the Grouse strutting up a red carpet, Beautifully Balanced depicts him as the bonnet ornament on a 1930s classic car, while Perfectly Composed shows the Grouse balanced on a rock in the middle of a heavy, Scottish storm. The ads will be aired throughout the UK on terrestrial and satellite television channels, and advertising spots will be bought principally during sports and drama programming. Emma Heath, Maxxium UK marketing manager for The Famous Grouse, says, "Christmas is a pivotal time of year for The Famous Grouse…one million cases of blended Scotch were sold during December 2006 in retailers alone.
We enjoyed an excellent Christmas in 2006 boosted by high impact advertising. The Grouse is a much loved character, adding plenty of festive cheer".

Gobble, Gobble

   Staying with Scotland's national game bird, The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret distillery in Perthshire also offers a couple of interesting and unusual present ideas for Christmas. £100 gift vouchers are available for both The Famous Whisky School and The Famous Cookery Class. The Whisky School involves participants spending a day with Glenturret's production manager Neil Cameron, learning about whisky-making from selecting the best barley right through to nosing and tasting the finished product, and inevitably some drams are there to be sampled along the way. The Cookery Class is also a one-day event, hosted by The Famous Grouse Experience's executive chef, who will create a range of dishes which are ideal to complement various serves of whisky. Participants then prepare their own courses,
which form part of lunch, accompanied by appropriate whiskies. For more details visit

Lalique Magnifique!

If you fancy spending a bit more than £100 on a present, well, quite a lot more actually, then perhaps the latest collaboration between French crystal house Lalique and The Macallan whisky is to your taste, though with a launch date of January, the gift-giving may have to be postponed for a few weeks. The recipient is unlikely to mind the wait, however, since 'The Macallan in Lalique Natural Colour Decanter' comes in a limited edition of just 420, and contains 55-year-old Macallan. Those extra weeks will also allow the buyer to save his or her pennies/euros/dollars, since the cost of the item is likely to be around £6,000. Ken Grier, director of The Macallan notes that "The first Macallan in Lalique decanter [launched in 2005] paid homage to the carefully selected wood casks in which the spirit matures. This second collaboration between The Macallan and Lalique celebrates the natural colour which results from the interaction of spirit and wood to deliver the rich diversity of colour evident throughout our range of outstanding whiskies. We used this as the inspiration for
the design of this decanter which we have titled 'Natural Colour.'" The Macallan 55 years old single malt contained in the decanter is cask strength (40.1% abv), and has been matured in a Sherry oak cask, in best Macallan tradition. According to a company spokesman, the whisky is "A dark rosewood in colour, and the liquid has aromatic notes of exotic, sweet dried fruits with a hint of peat-smoke. The finish is wonderfully soft, smooth and spicy with lingering touches of citrus." Further information at

Dallas Dhu

   A more affordable, yet also rare, whisky gift comes in the shape of a pair of Dallas Dhu single malts, which have been released by Historic Scotland. Only 261 bottles of the 46.0% proof Dallas Dhu 23 Year Old have been produced, along with 590 of the 56.3% proof Dallas Dhu Cask Strength, which is 24 years old. The prices are £120 and £165 respectively. Dallas Dhu distillery , near Forres, was built in 1898, during the great Victorian whisky boom, and closed in the 1980s. It remains intact, and is now a major visitor attraction in the care of Historic Scotland. Aundrea Hollington, Historic Scotland head of retail, observes that "Any new bottling of Dallas Dhu is an eagerly anticipated event among whisky
connoisseurs and we expect these limited editions to be very popular. These whiskies are just some of the gifts we sell, lots of which are made in Scotland, and would make ideal Christmas presents. Many can be bought online, by mail order, or at our network of shops at Historic Scotland properties all round the country." For more information see


Lynchburg is famous throughout the world as the folksy home of Jack Daniels' distillery, thanks to a series of inspired black and white print adverts that have appeared over the years. Now, however, the southern Middle Tennessee town is at the centre of an intriguing mystery after the discovery of some 2,400 bottles of 'JD' in two storage buildings on Highway 55. The bottles, claimed to be worth up to $1 million, were discovered as part of an investigation into possible illegal sales of whiskey. "There are bottles here that are not even sold in this county," declares Mike Cawthorn, senior agent in charge of the Nashville office of the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission. "There are bottles of Jack Daniel's here that are to be sold only in Italy and Spain." Danielle Elks, executive director of the ABC says that one bottle dates back to 1914, and estimates it to have a value of around $10,000. "This is a major enterprise," according to Cawthorn. "Every time we turn
around, there's something new." In addition to the two storage buildings on Highway 55, a quantity of the illegal whiskey also was found in a motel in Nashville, some 54 miles from Lynchburg. Moore County Sheriff Mark Logan said there was enough whiskey recovered in Lynchburg to fill a trailer and truck, in which it was then transported to Nashville for storage. Authorities say they were working with officials from the Jack Daniel's distillery to determine how the whiskey was obtained, and point out that anyone arrested could face charges of possession of untaxed whiskey. Once the case is closed, some of the whiskey could be auctioned off, but the sad news is that most of it is likely to be destroyed.

Whisky Channel

   Whisky aficionados with time on their hands over the Festive Period may wish, after exhausting the delights
of whisky-pages, of course, to visit a new site, described by founder Ian Buxton as "The latest addition to the social networking phenomenon. aims to unite whisky lovers round the globe and enable them to blog, post their own video and photos, rate whisky, email, and generally hang out with old and new whisky loving people. Because this is a community, I want to encourage whisky brands to use the site to share knowledge, not talk down to consumers. Distillers who partner with the site won't 'advertise' in the conventional sense, but provide mentoring and share their knowledge in a two-way dialogue, by providing high quality content."

Whisky Reads

For those of us who still like the old-fashioned pleasures to be found within the pages of books, whisky-pages has received review copies of three recent whisky-related publications which could reasonably be filed under 'reference' but are actually far more than reference books. All three are essential for the library of any whisky-lover, and are actually new editions of existing titles. Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2008 (Carlton Books, £9.99) is described by in its cover blurb as "…the most comprehensive and thoroughly researched guide to the world's whiskies ever produced. Honest, forthright and proudly independent. Jim Murray has tasted and rated over 3,000 whiskies…In terms of whisky, this is the gospel." Even assuming that Jim has written this himself, along with the wonderfully fulsome biography on the rear dust jacket flap, it is impossible to argue that this is an extremely useful and authoritative volume, and one no drinker should be without. The Whisky Bible has become an indispensable annual publication for people who take their whisky and its analysis seriously, and another 'annual' is the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2008 (MagDig Media, £12.95), which has a much greater scope than Murray's fine book. The Yearbook contains an up to date A-Z of the world's malt
whisky distilleries, a section of invaluable statistics concerning Scotch whisky production and export, and even an entry on the world's 20 best-selling blended whiskies. This bedrock of information is backed up by a series of lengthy articles on a variety of whisky topics, contributed by figures such as Charles MacLean, Ian Wisniewski, Gavin D Smith and Ian Buxton. Once again, publisher and editor Ingvar Ronde is to be congratulated on bringing together so much fascinating and vital material in an attractive, well presented and inexpensive format. The final title in our trio of new books is not an annual publication, last appearing in 2001, but is a highly welcome revised and updated fourth edition of John Lamond and Robin Tucek's The Malt Whisky File (Canongate Books, £12.99). Boasting that it contains "more tasting notes and information than any comparable manual," The Malt Whisky File features distilleries "From Islay to Orkney, from Scotland to Ireland, and from Japan to New Zealand," incorporating a unique rating system for each individual malt's sweetness, peatiness and availability. Between them, these three excellent books will ensure that there are no excuses for whisky ignorance of any sort in the New Year, and the total cost is no more than that of a reasonable bottle of 15-year-old single malt.

Dalmore the Merrier

   Whyte & Mackay has just announced a major revamp of its Dalmore single malt range, choosing the Boat Show at London's Earl's Court to launch its new whiskies. The formula for the existing 12-year-old has been altered significantly, with the proportion of whisky matured in ex -Oloroso Sherry wood being increased from 30 to 50 per cent. With this change, plus an extremely attractive packaging makeover, comes a major price rise, taking the cost from around the £25 mark to £35. According to Master Blender Richard Paterson, "The Black Isle expression, which is 50/50 Oloroso Sherry wood and ex-Bourbon American white oak, was selling very well in travel retail and duty free outlets, so effectively the new 12-year-old is the
same as Black Isle." The Dalmore Cigar Malt has also been repackaged, and re-branded as Gran Reserva, with Paterson noting that "We felt that using the name Cigar Malt might be restricting potential sales. After all, this is a whisky you can most certainly enjoy without a cigar." A new 15-year-old expression has been introduced to the Dalmore line up, and it has been matured exclusively in-ex Sherry wood. As Paterson says, "Sherry is synonymous with Dalmore, and has proved very successful in various expressions. The introduction of the 15-year-old reflects that." Another new variant is the 1263 King Alexander III Dalmore, which carries no age statement, but contains some whiskies dating back to 1990. Paterson's creative streak has been given full range here, and '1263' has been matured in vintage Oloroso and Madeira butts, vintage Bourbon barrels and Cabernet Sauvignon barriques. Next month whisky-pages will be putting the new Dalmore quartet through their paces in Recent Releases.

Warehouse Whisky

Following the success of Glengoyne's 'Mashmen' range of malts last year, the distillery's manager and two of its warehousemen have now been given the chance to prove that they are equally skilled when it comes to choosing whisky. With combined expertise of more than 84 years, the manager and his warehousemen have used their knowledge to pick their favourite single casks, and manager Robbie has chosen the distillery's only Ruby Port oak cask for his choice. "The result is pure pleasure," he declares. "This is a topaz-coloured whisky that tastes of chocolate cherries with rich oak and
peppery dried fruits. Don't share it; you may never get another opportunity to taste such a dram." A Glengoyne spokesman notes that "Warehouseman Billy Edmiston's [18-year-old] dram is packed with Sherry, crème brulee and chocolate, while 'Deek' Morrison, another warehouseman who has worked at Glengoyne for over 30 years, has opted for a cask that is rarely released, a young [eight-year-old] challenger. Light, fruity and fragrant, this is like walking through a field of ripe barley. Deek has selected a whisky that truly reflects the Glengoyne character." Stuart Hendry (Brand Heritage and Commercial Manager) says "Combining years of knowledge and know-how, these latest malts chosen by our distillery manager and warehousemen look set to challenge our previous Mashmen and Stillmen ranges. Every whisky connoisseur would be well placed to have one or two of these bottles in their collection." Recommended UK retail prices are Robbie's Choice £240, Billy's Choice £130 and Deek's Choice £67 per bottle. For further information contact Glengoyne Distillery on 01360 550 254 or

And Finally…

   TV weather girl Sian Lloyd has joined in the marketing campaign for Penderyn single malt Welsh whisky, having approached Edinburgh's Newhaven Agency offering to take part in one of their television adverts. Apparently, Lloyd phoned the agency, saying that she loved the series of commercials created by Newhaven to promote the whisky, distilled in the Brecon Beacons National Park and first launched on to the market in 2004. As a result of this, a fourth advert has now been filmed, with Lloyd in her familiar role as weather forecaster declaring that
Wales is currently experiencing its 235th consecutive day of brilliant sunshine, while the rest of the UK shivers in freezing conditions. As with the three previous and very well received Penderyn adverts, this one ends with the strap line "Not what you'd expect from Wales!" Merry Christmas, or Nadolig LLawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda as they say in Mid-Glamorgan…


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