gavin smith

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Leader Of The Flock

by Gavin D Smith

Pig's Nose and Sheep Dip may sound like the sort of jokey whiskies available in miniature format as gifts for Father's Day and Christmas, but in fact they are serious brands currently receiving a new lease of life in the hands of Alex Nicol's Spencerfield Spirit Company.

Nicol has an impressive pedigree in the whisky industry, having worked with the Long John and Laphroaig brands when they were in the ownership of Whitbread, and also undertaken global marketing roles with Scottish & Newcastle Breweries and Glenmorangie, as well as holding an executive post with Cadbury Schweppes. While marketing director for Glenmorangie, Nicol was responsible for the instigation, development and launch of the firm's hugely successful range of wood 'finishes.'

Latterly, he was chief operating officer for Whyte & Mackay until two years ago, when he split with the Glasgow-based distiller and blender, taking the Sheep Dip and Pig's Nose whiskies with him as part of his severance package.

Nicol's Spencerfield Spirit Company is based not in some characterless city office block but around Spencerfield Farmhouse, which dates back to the early 16th century and is located a few miles north of Edinburgh, near the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, and close to Inverkeithing. Here he and his wife Jane combine running a thoroughbred horse livery business with selling their two core brands of whisky.

So what of those whiskies?

Sheep Dip is a blended malt, introduced in 1974 by Gloucestershire gentleman farmer MJ Dowdeswell, who also owned a pub in Oldbury-on-Severn. Legend has it that whisky was regularly referred to as 'sheep dip' in the area, but the theory has also been put forward that farmers could outwit the tax authorities by claiming that invoices for 'Sheep Dip' referred to essential agricultural supplies!

   Pig's Nose was introduced to the market in 1977 as a companion for Sheep Dip. The name derives from the notion that the whisky in the bottle was as smooth as a pig's nose. Both brands were ultimately acquired by the Invergordon Distillers Group, and passed to Whyte & Mackay when that company took over in 1993.

Since taking on the two brands, Nicol has revitalised the packaging, but the liquid in the bottles has also changed for the better too, thanks to the attentions of Whyte & Mackay's master blender Richard Paterson.

Sixteen different malts aged between eight and 12 go into Sheep Dip, while Pig's Nose has a comparatively high malt content of 40 per cent.

Both whiskies have benefited from the inclusion of a greater proportion of older Speysides and Dalmore single malt, principally from first fill casks.

Spencerfield Spirits
Pig's Nose Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)


The Pig's Nose has a rich and malty on the nose, with sultanas and spices. Seductive and smooth. Big, bold and spicy in the mouth, with Sherry and developing notes of wine. Sweeter when water is added. The finish is steadily drying, with prunes, oak, dry Sherry and a whiff of peat smoke. 40.0% ABV, 70cl
19.50, specialist whisky merchants.
Spencerfield Spirits
Sheep Dip Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Scotland)


Sheep Dip has a sweet and floral aroma, with honey, malt and fresh fruits. Rich and full bodied on the palate, fruity, spicy and nutty, with developing smoke. The finish is long and spicy, with a final hint of Islay. 40.0% ABV, 70cl
23.50, specialist whisky merchants.


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