Each week, we bring you the latest whisky news on WhiskyCast, but a lot can happen during the week. Now, you can keep up with whisky news as it happens here on WhiskyCast.com!
April 8, 2014 – Kilchoman is releasing a new edition of Loch Gorm, its Islay single malt named for the distillery’s water source. The five-year-old malt is matured in Oloroso sherry butts, and will be bottled at 46% ABV.
This is the second edition of Loch Gorm, following last year’s debut for the expression. Loch Gorm is Kilchoman’s only malt matured exclusively in ex-Sherry casks. 17,100 bottles of the 2014 Loch Gorm will be available worldwide, with a recommended retail price of £59 GBP ($99 USD).
April 8, 2014 – Single grain Scotch whiskies have often been the red-headed stepchildren of the Scotch whisky industry: rare, unusual, and often maligned by connoisseurs. However, it’s one of the few sectors with room for growth, and Diageo is planning a major push into single grains with the launch of Haig Club. The whisky was announced today as a partnership with soccer’s David Beckham and entertainment entrepreneur Simon Fuller after more than two years of development.
While Haig Club is new, the House of Haig legacy goes back almost 400 years. Its modern legacy dates back to 1824, when John Haig founded the Cameronbridge grain distillery near Edinburgh and started producing whisky using continuous stills. Haig’s name lives on with the Haig blended Scotch, and his legacy also includes the Dimple Scotch Whisky brand. Cameronbridge also produces the Cameron Brig single grain Scotch, sold primarily within Scotland.
“We take grain whisky very seriously,” said Diageo Director of Whisky Outreach Dr. Nick Morgan in an interview at the World Whiskies Conference in New York City. “It’s sometimes wrongly considered to be quite a passive ingredient in blended Scotch whisky — we think it’s a very active ingredient, we pay a lot of care and attention to how we make it.”
“We have a lot of skin in the grain whisky game, and we’ve always wanted to find an opportunity to bring different styles of grain whisky in front of consumers, and I think that’s what we’ve done with Haig Club.”
Listen to Mark Gillespie’s entire interview with Dr. Nick Morgan
The launch of Haig Club follows last year’s entry into premium single grain Scotch by William Grant & Sons, which released a 25-year-old single grain from its Girvan distillery and plans additional expressions this year. Unlike the initial Girvan expression, Haig Club will carry no age statement. According to Morgan, it is blended from Cameronbridge whiskies distilled from wheat and malted barley, followed by maturation in a mix of refill American Oak, first-fill ex-Bourbon casks, and rejuvenated casks.
Beckham and Fuller, the creator of “American Idol” and other media properties, are partners with Diageo in Haig Club, and were involved in developing the final blend for the whisky. The two will play key roles in developing the Haig Club brand and image as the whisky is launched later this year, while Beckham will also appear in a responsible drinking campaign for the brand. Haig Club is intended to be a non-traditional choice for consumers who want to try something different, with a focus on the cocktail market.
“The liquid has certainly been developed to be quite versatile,” Morgan said. “We’re looking at drinkers who possibly aren’t engaged with the Scotch whisky category at the moment…they may be spirits drinkers, they certainly aspire to drink things like Scotch, but may have found the existing offerings on the market too much for them, a bit too difficult for one reason or another, a bit too stuffy and conventional perhaps. We’re trying to bring a new age to Scotch with this product.”
Pricing for Haig Club has not been announced, but will be released closer to the whisky’s launch. According to Morgan, the whisky is likely to appear in global travel retail outlets first, with domestic rollouts in key markets near the end of the year.
Editor’s note: This story was updated following an interview with Dr. Nick Morgan of Diageo in New York City.
April 7, 2014 – Jack Daniel’s is following up on the 2012 release of an unaged rye whiskey with a second limited-edition release, now that whiskey laid down in 2012 has been in casks for nearly two years. “Rested Tennessee Rye” will be available in limited amounts at retailers later this month, even though Master Distiller Jeff Arnett cautioned in a news release that it’s not reached full maturity yet.
“Given the success of Unaged Rye, we felt like we should offer our friends another limited-quantity rye expression with a brief exposure to the barrel that’s still handcrafted with the same passion and quality they expect from all of our products. And we hope they’ll remember that, as good as this new offering is – it’s still just a taste of what’s to come.”
Rested Tennessee Rye uses the same mashbill as Unaged Rye: 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley. As with the other Jack Daniel’s whiskies, it also uses the same spring water, yeast strain, and the traditional charcoal mellowing process. Arnett did not specify how much longer he thinks the rye whiskey will need to reach full maturity.
Rested Tennessee Rye will be available in 750ml bottles for a recommended price of $49.99 USD.
Links: Jack Daniel’s
April 7, 2014 – The five blended Scotches that make up the Dewar’s range of whiskies are getting new packaging designed to focus on the brand’s heritage. The move comes as Dewar’s parent Bacardi implements a new marketing campaign under the banner “True Scotch Since 1846.” The UK, Spain, and Greece will see the new bottles first, with a gradual rollout worldwide across all markets.
The highlight of the new bottles includes a Celtic trefoil knot embossed above the label on the front of each bottle in the range. In a news release, the company noted that the interlocking “D’s” represent the three men at the heart of the Dewar’s legacy: John Dewar and his sons, John Alexander Dewar and Tommy Dewar. Dewar’s executive Stephen Marshall told WhiskyCast the re-design is a return to that legacy. “The essence of the brand is really about people being true to themselves,” he said during an interview at the World Whiskies Conference in New York City. “It was important to reference that and show that in the packaging.”
“We took a step back…we went into the archives and took a great agency (Stranger & Stranger) with us, looked at the pack through the years, and we thought, right, we need to get back to that authenticity that we used to have. Although it was a great design (the current packaging), we felt it wasn’t as effective as it had been in the past.”
In addition, the packaging for Dewar’s Signature will also include a certificate of authenticity signed by Master Blender Stephanie Macleod, the seventh person to serve as Master Blender for the Dewar’s range since 1846. The changes also include a major upgrade at the Dewar’s World of Whisky visitors center located at Aberfeldy Distillery near Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands. The center will reopen later this month after being closed for renovations. Marshall noted that the World of Whisky had not been updated since its opening in 2003, and among the new features will be a blending lab where visitors can create their own personal blend.
Aberfeldy’s single malt range is also receiving a new packaging design, which Marshall said will be unveiled later this month.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 10 following an interview with Stephen Marshall of Dewar’s.
April 5, 2014 – Queen Elizabeth brought along a gift basket for Pope Francis when she and Prince Philip visited the Vatican on Thursday. It was the first meeting between the Pope and the Queen, who also serves as the titular head of the Church of England.
The gift basket was filled with food and products from the Royal estates, including a bottle of Balmoral single malt whisky from the Queen’s Balmoral Castle in Scotland. However, there is no distillery located on the estate, which raises the question of where the whisky actually comes from.
Fear not…while the estate does not have its own distillery, it has the next best thing. The Balmoral single malt is actually produced less than a mile away at Diageo’s Royal Lochnagar Distillery in Ballater, which received a royal warrant from Queen Victoria in 1848. According to the distillery’s web site, manager John Begg invited the queen for a visit after she named Balmoral as her official holiday residence. She turned up three days later with her husband, Prince Albert, and three of their children. Lochnagar’s whisky was less than three years old at the time, since the distillery had been opened in 1845 after Begg decided to build on the south bank of the River Dee. However, it was impressive enough that Queen Victoria immediately presented Begg with a royal warrant to supply her with whisky. Begg changed the name of the distillery to Royal Lochnagar, and continued to supply whisky to the British royal family until his death in 1880. His name lives on in the John Begg line of blended Scotch whiskies.
The Balmoral single malt presented to Pope Francis is a 15-year-old whisky exclusive to Balmoral Castle and available through its online shop. In fact, Royal Lochnagar does not have a 15-year-old expression in its official range.
Links: Royal Lochnagar
April 4, 2014 – Morrison Bowmore is launching a new series of Bowmore single malts exclusively for the travel retail market. The “Black Rock” and “Gold Reef” malts will carry no age statement, while “White Sands” is a 17-year-old malt matured in the legendary Vaults No. 1 at the Islay distillery. Gold Reef and White Sands will be bottled at 43% ABV, while Black Rock will be bottled at 40% ABV. All three will be available in travel retail shops worldwide.
Black Rock is matured in first-fill Spanish oak ex-Sherry casks, while Gold Reef uses first-fill ex-Bourbon casks. The whiskies will be priced at £44.99 GBP ($75 USD) for Black Rock, £59.99 GBP ($99.50 USD) for Gold Reef, and £79.99 GBP ($133 USD) for White Sands.
Bowmore brand ambassador Gordon Dundas advises that the new series will replace the distillery’s existing travel retail lineup, which includes the Bowmore 100° Proof single malt.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional information provided by the distillery.
April 4, 2014 – Gordon & MacPhail’s Benromach single malt has been posting strong sales increases over the last several years, with an increase of 29% last year on the expansion to 42 export markets worldwide. Now, the Speyside distillery’s 10-year-old expression is getting a facelift with new packaging and labeling that combines the distillery’s heritage with contemporary design elements.
Gordon & MacPhail managing director Michael Urquhart said in a news release that the new packaging will be rolled out to retailers starting this month. The new bottle is inspired by the shape of Benromach’s stills, while the foil on the labels is based on an image of the surface of the copper stills.
“We wanted our new packaging to reflect the way we make our whisky. Our 10yo has a classic pre-1960s character which arises from the sum of all its parts used to create it. Every cask is hand-filled, hand weighed and hand-stamped before maturing in our traditional dunnage warehouses. The new packaging reflects that approach with its hand-cut lettering and its classic heritage colours. Yet at the same time the packaging provides a contemporary, sophisticated, luxury feel that looks to the future of a malt whisky that is very much a growing brand.”
As reported previously on WhiskyCast, the distillery is also getting a new look with the addition of additional maturation warehouses and a third distiller, expanding the on-site distilling team to three. The Benromach web site is also being updated and expanded as well.
April 4, 2014 – Billy Walker has devoted a lot of time and attention to finding rare single casks in the BenRiach and GlenDronach warehouses, and now that his investor group has acquired Glenglassaugh Distillery, he’s repeating the successful strategy there. The first batch of Glenglassaugh single cask bottlings has been unveiled, with eight casks ranging from 28 to 45 years old.
The oldest in the batch, a 1968 single cask, was bottled at 44.3% ABV after 45 years of maturation, with finishing in a Sherry hogshead cask. Other casks in the initial batch include Manzanilla, Oloroso, Moscatel and Port finishes. In a news release, sales director Alistair Walker noted the historic nature of all eight casks.
“We took over Glenglassaugh last year and were thrilled to discover a treasure trove of old and rare spirits slumbering in the warehouses. Revived from the dark, selected by Billy Walker for their excellence and personality and bottled last month, this is an extraordinary collection of rare casks which will be warmly welcomed by connoisseurs worldwide. Taken together, they are stunning examples of Glenglassaugh at its finest.”
The initial batch includes:
1968 Cask #1601 | 45 years | Sherry Hogshead finish | 44.3% ABV
1972 Cask #2114 | 41 years | Sherry Butt finish | 50.6% ABV
1973 Cask #6801 | 40 years | Manzanilla Sherry Puncheon finish | 52.1% ABV
1975 Cask #7301 | 38 years | Oloroso Sherry Hogshead finish | 40.7% ABV
1975 Cask #7801 | 38 years | Moscatel Hogshead finish | 42.4% ABV
1978 Cask #1803 | 35 years | Sherry Hogshead finish | 41.6% ABV
1978 Cask #1810 | 35 years | Port Hogshead finish | 42.9% ABV
1986 Cask #2101 | 28 years | Hogshead finish | 43.7% ABV
Pricing and market availability has not been announced.
April 3, 2014 – Plans for Islay’s ninth distillery are closer to a groundbreaking, now expected later this year at Gartbreck Farm on the eastern shore of Loch Indaal. Jean Donnay has released a three-dimensional architect’s rendering of the distillery, which is scheduled to begin producing spirit in late 2015. When the project was unveiled in January, the original plan was to start construction in May. However, Donnay is still securing the £2.5 million ($4.15 million USD) in funding for the project, and has pushed back the start of construction until later this year.
In a news release, Donnay said the distillery will draw its water from nearby Grunnd Loch through a 900-metre gravity-fed pipeline. The stills will be heated with live flames instead of steam, the washbacks will be made of Oregon Pine instead of stainless steel, and old-school worm tub condensers are also part of the design. Donnay didn’t make the choices to preserve tradition, but because he believes they will help produce the kind of spirit he wants to make. His choices are based on experience at his Glann ar Mor Distillery in France, which was rewarded last month with a regional Icons of Whisky Award from Whisky Magazine as “Distillery Manager of the Year” for distilleries outside of Scotland and the US.
In addition to his previously disclosed plans to sell independent bottlings under the Gartbreck Whisky Company label while his initial production runs of whisky mature, Donnay now plans to produce gin at Gartbreck for sale exclusively at the distillery’s gift shop.
Links: Gartbreck Distillery
April 3, 2014 – As expected, the court-appointed administrator for Bladnoch Distillery plans to sell the Wigtown distillery as an ongoing business, and has started seeking expressions of interest from potential bidders. Luke Charleton of Ernst & Young was named as the administrator for Bladnoch last month after Colin Armstrong, one of the four investors in Bladnoch and the brother of managing director Raymond Armstrong, sought a court order to wind up the business. The Armstrong brothers were two of the four investors who acquired the closed distillery in 1994 and reopened it in 2000, but were at the center of a long-running family dispute on the distillery’s future. According to Raymond Armstrong, two of the investors wanted to sell, but no buyers could be found for a 50% stake in the company.
A legal notice on Charleton’s behalf describes the Bladnoch assets as “a whisky distillery with annual production capacity of 1.25 million litres, a long established brand (founded in 1817), aged Bladnoch whisky stock, full-laden bonded warehouses with 5.5 million litres of cash generative capacity, visitor centre, tea room, shop, and premises.” Most of the distillery’s current income is generated by renting space in its maturation warehouses to other distillers, and limited amounts of Bladnoch’s Lowlands single malt have been available for sale since 2008. The notice asks for interested bidders to step forward by April 9.
However, the notice does not specify whether the new owners will be able to run Bladnoch at full capacity. When the Raymond Armstrong-led investors bought Bladnoch in 1994 after it had been closed by UDV (now part of Diageo) the previous year, the contract specifically forbade the new owners from resuming whisky production. That restriction was later relaxed to allow around 100,000 liters of spirit production each year, and the distillery has been producing single malt stocks since 2000. However, production was stopped when the court ordered Bladnoch into administration, and all of the Bladnoch workers have been laid off until the distillery is sold.
An Ernst & Young spokesman declined to comment Friday on whether the production cap would apply to a new owner, since the issue is still being reviewed by legal counsel. This story will be updated when more details are available.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include information provided by Ernst & Young.