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Waiting for the Eclipse? No Problem for Whiskey Distillers at “Ground Zero” in Kentucky

August 19, 2017 – Whiskey can take years to mature, so one of the virtues a good distiller needs is patience. Paul and Merry Beth Tomaszewski have been preparing for Monday’s total solar eclipse for years – not because they’re astronomy buffs, but because they’re expecting friends at their MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, Kentucky this weekend…a lot of friends. The distillery is located not only in the middle of the path the solar eclipse will take across North America as the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun Monday, but it’s right at what astronomers call the “point of greatest eclipse,” where the moon will block the sun for the longest period of time…around 2 minutes and 40 seconds. In other words, they’re located at Ground Zero for the most ardent eclipse watchers.

The Tomaszewskis started thinking ahead to Eclipse Day almost as soon as they opened their distillery when a college professor from California stopped by for a visit.  “He asked me ‘do you know what going to happen here on August 21, 2017,’ and we’re talking…I’m not lying…six, seven years ago, maybe eight,” Paul Tomaszewski said. After he said he’d heard something about an eclipse, the professor said “I’m gonna be right here.” At that point, the Tomaszewskis knew they had to start planning ahead.

“It’s coming…this isn’t something that you plan for and it happens…it’s happening whether you plan for it or not.”

Their distillery is located a mile north of Interstate 24 near the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and is surrounded by corn fields and narrow two-lane roads likely to be jammed with tourists. The Tomaszewskis started serious planning five years ago in cooperation with Christian County officials in nearby Hopkinsville, which is expecting thousands of visitors as well. The distillery has been designated as one of the county’s several official viewing areas for the eclipse, with an eye aimed at spreading visitor traffic out as much as possible. The fields around the distillery will be filled with campers coming from California, New York, Canada, and other countries – filling weekend campsites that sold out weeks ago at $400 for a 20 foot by 30 foot tent campsite and $600 for larger campsites capable of holding a recreational vehicle.

MB Roland is hosting the two-day Kentucky Bourbon Mashoree festival with 15 other Kentucky distillers this weekend, followed by the eclipse viewing party on Monday with a crowd projected at between five and eight thousand people. Thousands of pairs of safety glasses will be handed out in advance of the eclipse, and Christian County sheriff’s deputies will be directing traffic and providing overnight security for the campground.

The Tomaszewskis have also taken one other factor into account: etiquette. There will be live music throughout the day on Monday, but the bands will shut down as eclipse time nears around 1:20pm local time. However, it’s not the music that has Paul Tomaszewski worried…it’s the cell phones.

“The biggest thing is going to be to get people to make sure their flashes aren’t on and their phones are turned off to some degree…I know that’s going to be a tall order, but we’re going to do our best, because the idea with the eclipse is you cannot take pictures or video that’s going to replicate what you can see with the naked eye,” he said. Guests will receive a pamphlet explaining eclipse etiquette when they arrive at the distillery, noting that any amount of light can ruin the experience for the people around them. Street lights have already been programmed to not come on during the eclipse, and the distillery’s lights will be turned off in advance.

“Enjoy the two and a half minutes…it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity…you’re never gonna see it again.”

There’s only one thing they can’t control…the weather. Monday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies in Christian County.

Links: MB Roland Distillery

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Chivas Brothers, Whisky Workers Toast New Kilmalid Contract

The Chivas Brothers Kilmalid blending and bottling facility in Dumbarton, Scotland. Image courtesy Chivas Brothers.

August 19, 2017 – Chivas Brothers and the union representing workers at its main Kilmalid blending and bottling plant in Dumbarton, Scotland, have agreed on a new four-year contract. The agreement follows a new round of talks Tuesday and Wednesday in which both sides agreed to compromise on the timetable for harmonizing pay scales between Kilmalid and the nearby Paisley facility. The deal also includes a 1.9% pay increase retroactive to January, and has already been ratified by Unite members.

The union represents engineers and other workers at the Kilmalid plant, and staged a 24-hour walkout on August 7 to protest the disparity in wages between workers doing the same work at both plants. After the walkout, Chivas Brothers CEO Laurent Lacassagne committed to equalizing pay rates beginning in January 2018.

“Staff wanted July ’17, so we have agreed after a couple of negotiating meetings to meet in the middle, and the harmonization will take place on the first of September 2017,” said Unite regional coordinating officer Gordon Casey in a telephone interview for this week’s WhiskyCast. “I think both sides felt it was more reasonable to try and settle it and compromise than to continue with a dispute…we can now get back to a harmonious working relationship with the company,” he said.

The pay disparity dates back to 2004, when the two plants were united under Pernod Ricard’s ownership following a series of whisky industry mergers and acquisitions dating back to the breakups of Seagram’s and Allied Domecq. Each plant has its own separate contracts with Unite and GMB, which primarily represents production workers, and those contracts have different annual dates for pay raises. Unite claimed the disparity for its Kilmalid workers had grown to around £900 ($1,169 USD) this year, and with Paisley workers scheduled to move to Kilmalid when that facility closes in 2019, demanded that Chivas Brothers address the issue in the new contract.

In a statement, Lacassagne praised both sides for open and transparent negotiations. “We’re happy that by working together we have achieved a successful resolution and that we now have a joint agreement on pay that will take us through to 2020,” he said.

Links: Chivas Brothers | Unite

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Talks Resume Tuesday in Scotch Whisky Labor Dispute

The Chivas Brothers Kilmalid blending and bottling facility in Dumbarton, Scotland. Image courtesy Chivas Brothers.

Updated August 15, 2017 – Negotiators for Chivas Brothers and its largest labor union will resume contract talks today after workers at the company’s Kilmalid blending and bottling plant in Dumbarton, Scotland, called off a planned strike that was to begin yesterday. Unite regional coordinating officer Gordon Casey confirmed the move in a telephone conversation with WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie, and said the decision had been made late Friday morning.  The resumption of talks follows a 24-hour series of walkouts last Monday and the union’s refusal of all overtime work in recent weeks. Casey declined a recorded interview, saying that the union wanted to remain low-key pending the resumption of talks.

Chivas Brothers also confirmed the move in a statement released Monday via email.

“We can confirm that industrial action by union members at our Kilmalid site has been suspended. Having maintained an open dialogue throughout this process, we have a further meeting scheduled this week and hope to reach an agreement.

“GMB and UNITE members at Paisley, Southern Operations and Northern Operations have now all accepted our pay offer.”

Kilmalid’s workers are the only ones who have rejected two proposed contract offers from the company. The workers have been fighting for a harmonization in pay between sites since 2006, and blame the Pernod Ricard-owned company for what they describe as wage disparities of up to £900 ($1,169 USD) this year between workers at Kilmalid and those holding the same pay grade at the nearby Paisley bottling and blending plant.

Chivas Brothers announced plans earlier this year to close the Paisley site by 2019 and transfer its workers to expanded facilities at Kilmalid. After Monday’s walkouts, a company spokesperson acknowledged to the Daily Record that there are slight differences in basic pay rates between sites, but that part of the difference is based on staggered review dates that exaggerate the disparities. Chivas CEO Laurent Lacassagne reiterated that position in a statement issued after the walkouts, but confirmed the company’s intent to harmonize pay scales starting in January.

“It is not the case that we told employees in 2006 that we would harmonise pay across the Paisley and Kilmalid sites. We did commit to harmonising a number of benefits, and did so in 2007.

“With regards to the current pay harmonisation proposal, it was Chivas Brothers who actively proposed this between Kilmalid and Paisley for the first time late last year and we have committed to bringing forward the harmonisation of pay rates to January 2018.

“The figure quoted regarding the difference in pay between our Paisley and Kilmalid sites is entirely inaccurate. Our Kilmalid and Paisley sites have different salary review dates meaning there are periods in the year where pay differences are exaggerated. While there is a slight difference across sites in terms of basic pay, as previously stated, we have already agreed to bring forward the harmonisation of pay to January 2018.

“We want to reiterate that overall pay levels for these employees are highly competitive and, in addition, we expect the majority of basic salaries at Kilmalid to increase by 11.6% over the duration of the three and half years of the pay deal.”

Unite members at Paisley have already ratified a new contract with the company that will guarantee them positions at Kilmalid after their site closes in 2019.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a statement from Chivas Brothers.

Links: Chivas Brothers | Unite

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Anchor Distilling Splits From Brewery After Sapporo Deal

Anchor Distilling Company's logo. Image courtesy Anchor Distilling.August 3, 2017 – While craft beer lovers may be lamenting the sale of San Francisco’s Anchor Steam beer to Japan’s Sapporo Holdings, craft spirits lovers will be able to rejoice. Anchor’s principal owners, Tony Foglio and Keith Greggor, are splitting Anchor Brewing & Distilling in two with the deal and will retain Anchor’s distillery and its spirits brands under the standalone Anchor Distilling Company name. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The distilling side of the business has been growing rapidly, and along with the brewing side of the business that has been competing in a very, very crowded and challenging market,” Anchor CEO and President Dennis Carr said in a telephone interview for this week’s WhiskyCast. “The decision was that if we could invest more against distilling, that was the side of the business that we could really accelerate.”

The sale includes Anchor’s current facilities in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, and is expected to be completed at the end of August. Anchor’s current distilling operations are intertwined with the brewery, and according to Carr, Anchor Distilling will start searching for a site to build a new facility of its own.

“We’ll still stay in that same space and continue to distill in that same space as a tenant of Sapporo until we can build a new distillery someplace in San Francisco,” Carr said, noting that the move could take between one and three years. The distillery currently produces Old Potrero rye whiskey and Junipero Gin along with other spirits.

In addition to its own brands, Anchor Distilling is also the U.S. importer for Taiwan’s Kavalan whiskies and Japan’s Nikka whiskies, along with a wide range of other global spirits brands. Carr noted the distilling and distribution side of Anchor’s business has grown by 500% since 2010, with both Asian whisky brands playing a key role in that growth.

“Nikka is still growing exponentially for us…we’re doing fantastic with it,” Carr said. Supply shortages forced Nikka to withdraw many of its whiskies with age statements from the market in 2015 in favor of so-called “no age statement” expressions, but Carr credits the Asahi-owned distiller with handling the issue well. “We were able to develop Coffey Grain and then ultimately Coffey Malt, which are the two main non-age statement brands that do the majority of the volume for us, and they’re able to supply us, so we continue to grow the brand here in the U.S.,” he said. As for Kavalan, Carr credits the award-winning Taiwanese whisky with being one of the most exciting parts of the company’s portfolio. “It looks and feels an awful lot like Nikka did a few years ago, where people are now discovering Taiwanese whisky and they’re learning how fantastic it is.”

Anchor Distilling is also the exclusive U.S. importer for several of the brands owned by Berry Bros. & Rudd, including the highly-regarded Blue Hanger blended Scotch whisky. The London-based retailer and bottler has owned a minority stake in Anchor for several years, and according to Carr, will retain that interest after the separation of Anchor’s brewing and distilling businesses when the Sapporo deal closes. The company took a hit earlier this year when Berry Bros. & Rudd sold ownership of The Glenrothes single malt Scotch to Edrington, which then took the brand under its Edrington Americas division. The company is privately-held and does not release financial reports.

Anchor was also responsible for developing a nationwide presence for Seattle’s Westland Distillery and its single malt whiskies, but lost that brand after Westland was sold to Rémy Cointreau last December. Once again, it was a case where the buyer brought Westland into its own in-house distribution network rather than rely on an outside firm.

Carr expects the company’s owners to invest heavily in building its portfolio of spirits brands following the sale, and credited the overall growth of the U.S. spirits category as one of the key reasons for the decision to leave the beer business. The distilling division was originally an outgrowth of Anchor’s beer business, which was saved by Fritz Maytag in 1965 to keep it from going into bankruptcy. In 1993, Maytag decided to go against the conventional wisdom at that time and start making rye whiskey in what was at the time the only pot still distillery operating in the United States. Maytag retired in 2010 and sold the company to Foglio and Greggor.

Links: Anchor Distilling

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Douglas Laing To Build Glasgow Distillery

An architect's rendering of the planned Douglas Laing & Co. distillery to be built at Pacific Quay along the River Clyde in Glasgow. Image courtesy Douglas Laing & Co.

July 31, 2017 – Douglas Laing & Co. will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2018, and the family-owned Scotch Whisky blender and independent bottler hopes to be able to add the word “distiller” to its resume by the end of 2018. Fred Laing, the son of company founder Fred Douglas Laing, and his daughter Cara have unveiled plans for a new $14.1 million (USD) distillery and company headquarters on Pacific Quay along the River Clyde.

“It’s not been any secret for a long time we’ve had aspirations of becoming a distiller,” Cara Laing said in a telephone interview for this week’s WhiskyCast. “Left to our own devices, we would have quietly gone about our business behind the scenes making this all happen,” she said. However, the Scottish Government mooted that plan Friday when it announced that Douglas Laing had received a $1.13 million (USD) grant for the project through the Food Processing, Marketing, and Co-Operation Program.  “Given we had the support of the Scottish Government, we decided we should announce it at the time the grants were being announced,” Laing said. In addition to the distillery, the project will include a bottling hall, visitors center, bar, and bistro along with Douglas Laing’s offices.

“We’re outgrowing our very quaint Victorian townhouse that we’re in just now,” Laing said, noting that the project will bring the entire company into a single site. “I know from previous whisky experience it works well…when I was at Morrison Bowmore having head office and bottling within walking distance was a huge advantage.” While most of Douglas Laing’s extensive inventory of casks will continue to be stored off-site, Laing said the new facility will have a dedicated warehousing space for some of the company’s rarest casks of whisky from Port Ellen, Macallan, and other distilleries.

Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Cara Laing:

The new distillery will supply single malt whisky for Douglas Laing’s future needs, and will be bottled under a brand to be determined in the near future. Laing’s “Remarkable Regional Malts” range of blended malts includes Scallywag (Speyside), Big Peat (Islay), Timorous Beastie (Highland), and The Epicurean (Lowland). As Glasgow is located in Scotland’s Lowland whisky region, whisky from the new distillery could eventually be used in the blend for The Epicurean. However, Cara Laing emphasized that the distillery will only be part of the company’s future.

“We want to remain an independent bottler with a focus on the likes of the Old Particular brand as well as our regional malts,” she said. “We continue to aggressively fill (casks) with a number of the distillers across all Scotland’s regions in order to maintain and aggressively grow those brands over the years.”

An architect's rendering of the planned Douglas Laing & Co. distillery to be built at Pacific Quay along the River Clyde in Glasgow. Image courtesy Douglas Laing & Co.The new distillery is expected to be completed in late 2018, but likely not until after the other branch of the Laing family opens its own distillery. Brothers Fred and Stewart Laing split up their longtime partnership in 2013 and divided up Douglas Laing’s brands, casks, and other assets, with Fred keeping the company name. Stewart took the bottling hall and used his share of the assets to form Hunter Laing and Co. with his sons Scott and Andrew. Construction began earlier this year on Hunter Laing’s new Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay, with distilling expected to begin in mid-2018. Hunter Laing brought longtime Islay distiller and blender Jim McEwan on board as Ardnahoe’s production manager, and Cara Laing said her side of the family will take a similar approach.

“We’re aware we are not distillers, so we are seeking some external guidance on that front,” Laing said, though she and her father have already decided on the kind of whisky they want to make. “Yes, it will be a Lowland, but it will have more of a chunky, meaty Speyside character…we’ll focus on Sherry butt maturation, so not your archetypal light, elegant, grassy Lowlander in style – much more of a thick, oily mouthfeel with more of that Sherry character coming through.”

The government’s grant program also includes funding for another distillery project in Speyside on the site of the old Coleburn Distillery south of Elgin. Coleburn Investments Limited was awarded a grant of around $325,000 USD for construction and equipment to build a “boutique distillery.” Brothers Dale and Mark Winchester have been trying to develop the site since 2004, and have submitted a series of proposals to local officials over the years, including one last autumn that would see some of the distillery’s buildings converted into a luxury hotel. Coleburn opened in 1896, and was closed in 1985 by United Distillers (now Diageo) as one of the many distilleries shut down between 1983 and 1985 during the whisky recession of that period.

Links: Douglas Laing & Co. | Scottish Government | Hunter Laing & Co.


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Heaven Hill Unveils 2017 Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon

Parker's Heritage Collection 2017 Edition. Image courtesy Heaven Hill Distillery.July 19, 2017 – Wth Parker Beam’s passing in January of complications from ALS, this year’s release of Heaven Hill’s annual Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskey takes on a new meaning. The eleventh release in the series will be out in September, and will be an 11-year-old single barrel Bourbon produced with barrels from some of Parker Beam’s favorite warehouses in Deatsville, Kentucky.

“We have six different warehouse locations,” said Heaven Hill Master Distiller Denny Potter in a telephone interview. “It was certainly Parker’s favorite location…he picked a lot of good barrels out of that, so we thought that would be the best thing for us to do is to do the same thing, try to pick some really good barrels out of the Deatsville warehouse site, which is not a hard thing to do…but it was certainly in honor of him as well.” The Deatsville warehouses are located on the site of the old T.W. Samuels Distillery along Deatsville Road about halfway between Clermont and Bardstown in Nelson County.

One of Heaven Hill's warehouses in Deatsville, Kentucky. File photo ©2017, Mark Gillespie/CaskStrength Media.

One of Heaven Hill’s warehouses in Deatsville, Kentucky.

As with all of the Parker’s Heritage Collection releases since 2013, Heaven Hill will make a donation for each bottle sold to the ALS Association in Parker Beam’s honor. When the company’s longtime master distiller was diagnosed with ALS in 2o13, Heaven Hill established the “Parker Beam’s Promise of Hope Fund” to raise funds for ALS research and patient care. Since then, the annual release of Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskies has raised more than $500,000 for the ALS Association.

The 2017 edition is bottled at 61% ABV (122 proof) with no chill-filtering, and will carry a recommended retail price of $129.99 when it reaches retailers in September. Previous editions have included the “Promise of Hope” Bourbon, along with a wheat whiskey, a straight malt whiskey, and last year’s dual bottlings of a pair of 24-year-old Bourbons.

Links: Heaven Hill



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Stock Spirits Takes Stake in Quintessential’s Irish Whiskey Business

July 17, 2017 – Quintessential Brands has sold a 25 percent stake in its Irish Whiskey subsidiary to Stock Spirits, the London-based drinks company with an extensive presence in Eastern Europe. The €18.3 million ($21 million USD) investment in Quintessential Brands Ireland Whiskey Limited (QBIW) will allow Stock Spirits to take advantage of increasing global demand for Irish Whiskey, one of the fastest-growing segments of the whisky industry.

In a news release, the two companies said the investment will be used to finance completion of work on the Dublin Liberties Distillery, which is currently being built in Dublin and scheduled for completion in the spring of 2018. Funds from the investment will also be used for advertising and promotion of QBIW’s The Dubliner and The Dublin Liberties Irish whiskies, which are currently blended by Quintessential using whiskey stocks sourced from other distilleries.

Hammer Head Czech Single Malt. Image courtesy Stock Spirits. This is not the first venture into whisky for Stock Spirits, which distributes whiskies produced by Diageo, Beam Suntory, and Distill in select markets. In 2010, the company released its own Hammer Head Czech single malt distilled in the former Czechoslovakia at the state-owned Pradlo Distillery. That whisky was distilled in 1989 shortly before the end of Communism, and was discovered nearly 20 years later when Oaktree Capital Management acquired the distillery’s owner, Stock Plzeň, and merged it into today’s Stock Spirits. Hammer Head’s 21, 23, and 25-year-old bottlings can still be found to this day, primarily in the travel retail market. 

Quintessential was founded in 2011 by former Campari CEO Enzo Vision and former investment banker Warren Scott. The company’s Irish unit also produces several brands of Irish cream liqueurs, while its G&J Distillers unit in Great Britain produces a range of gins and its L&L unit in France makes liqueurs and brandies.

Links: Stock SpiritsQuintessential Brands

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Möet Hennessy Enters American Whiskey with Woodinville Acquisition

The Woodinville Whiskey Company distillery in Woodinville, Washington. Image courtesy Woodinville Whiskey Company.

July 12, 2017 – Another major spirits company has entered the American artisan distilling market, as Möet Hennessy has acquired the Woodinville Whiskey Company in Washington. Founders Orlin Sorenson and Brett Carlile agreed to sell their distillery in Woodinville, a winery-filled suburb northeast of Seattle, for an undisclosed amount. Both will continue to oversee daily operations at the distillery.

“The company that we’re joining is second to none, and couldn’t be a better fit for us going forward,” Sorenson said in a telephone interview from New York City, where the deal was announced at Möet Hennessy USA’s annual conference. “We’ve been approached as the category’s grown and become interesting to the larger players in the industry…with Möet Hennessy, the way that they were so aligned with our vision, how we aligned with leadership and where they wanted to take things, and looking at their portfolio kind of spoke to us…lip service is easy, but when you look at the brands that they hold, these are brands that have been around for hundreds of years. They’ve never done anything in the U.S., let alone American whiskey, so it was just one of those opportunities that we felt was right,” he said.

Sorenson and Carlile founded Woodinville Whiskey in 2010 under the tutelage of veteran master distiller and consultant Dave Pickerell, and their first 5-year-old straight Bourbon took top honors in the 2016 American Distilling Institute competition. Until now, their whiskies have only been sold in Washington, but Sorenson said the acquisition will allow them to begin spreading distribution into other markets.

“We have more whiskey coming to market…five, six years ago when we were starting to lay this stuff up, we were slowly increasing production, and so every quarter we have more and more whiskey coming to market,” Sorenson said, admitting that they have an eye on some specific markets they want to expand into without naming names. In a news release, Möet Hennessy CEO Christophe Navarre cited Woodinville’s potential for expanded distribution through the company’s domestic and international networks as a key reason for the acquisition.

Möet Hennessy owns Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distilleries and their single malt Scotch Whisky brands, Belvedere Vodka, and some of France’s legendary wine and spirits brands, including Hennessy Cognac, Dom Pérignon, Möet & Chandon, and Chateau d’Yquem. It is the wine and spirits unit of LVMH Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, the Paris-based luxury goods conglomerate led by the Arnault family. LVMH owns 66 percent of the drinks unit, while the remaining 34 percent is owned by Diageo.

This is the second major deal involving a Washington craft distillery and a French partner in the past year. In December, Rémy Cointreau acquired Seattle’s Westland Distillery and its portfolio of American single malt whiskies.

“It’s a special day for us, but it really is kind of a special day for Washington whiskey,” Sorenson said with a laugh. “People are starting to think this is for real.”

Links: Woodinville Whiskey Company | Möet Hennessy 

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Billy Walker Back in Whisky Business with Glenallachie Deal

Billy Walker, former BenRiach Distillery Company managing director and the leader of The Glenallachie Consortium. Photo courtesy BenRiach.July 12, 2017 – It didn’t take long for Scotch Whisky veteran Billy Walker to get back to work after turning over blending responsibilities at Brown-Forman’s distilleries in Scotland to Rachel Barrie this spring. Walker has formed The Glenallachie Consortium with longtime colleagues Trisha Savage and Graham Stevenson, and they have reached a deal with Chivas Brothers Pernod Ricard to acquire the Glenallachie Distillery in Speyside for an undisclosed amount.

Savage was a key member of the team Billy Walker assembled at the BenRiach Distillery Company after he and a pair of South African investors first acquired BenRiach Distillery from Chivas Brothers in 2004. They later went on to buy GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries before agreeing to sell the company to Brown-Forman last year for £285 million GBP (around $416 million USD). Stevenson has been the managing director for the Inver House Distillers unit of International Beverage since 2000, and confirmed in an email that he will be leaving Inver House at the end of September to join the new venture on a full-time basis. 

“It will be a wrench but the time is right and this is an opportunity which I simply couldn’t turn down. It will be great fun being a part of a newly created boutique Scotch whisky company, owned and controlled by Scots passionate about the category and starting with an almost blank canvass,” Stevenson said. 

The sale also includes the McNair’s and White Heather blended Scotch Whisky brands and an undisclosed inventory of Glenallachie’s casks, according to a news release, which defined the inventory as relevant to “support future development of those brands.” The deal is subject to regulatory approval, and is expected to close by the end of the year.

With the sale, Chivas Brothers will own 13 malt whisky distilleries in Scotland, remaining second only to Diageo’s 28 malt distilleries.  Glenallachie is located near the Speyside town of Aberlour, and its whisky is used primarily for blending purposes with a key role in the Clan Campbell blended Scotch brand. It has been available in limited amounts as a single malt through independent bottlers, and occasionally turned up as a part of the Chivas Brothers Cask Strength series of bottlings available at the company’s distillery visitors centers in Scotland.

Chivas Brothers did not make anyone available for interviews, but provided this statement from a company spokesperson by email:

“As part of our commitment to operational excellence we undertake continual reviews of our production and manufacturing capabilities. Wherever it makes business sense to do so, we will rationalise our estate and in this instance we have taken the decision to sell our Glenallachie distillery. We will continue to focus our investment across our estate, and currently have significant expansion projects in progress at The Glenlivet Distillery and our Kilmalid manufacturing site in Dumbarton. Throughout this process our employees have been our first priority, and we can confirm that all existing permanent employees will remain contracted to Chivas Brothers if they wish to do so.”

This story will be updated with more details as necessary.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with comments from Graham Stevenson of The Glenallachie Consortium. 

Links: Chivas Brothers

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Nant Distillery Receivers Agree on Terms with Australian Whisky Holdings

The Nant Distillery in Australia. Photo courtesy Nant Distillery.July 11, 2017 – The future of Nant Distillery appears to be clearer now that a tentative agreement has been reached between the distillery’s receivers and Australian Whisky Holdings for the remainder of the distillery’s assets. In a news release issued through the Australian Stock Exchange, Australian Whisky Holdings (AWY) announced that it plans to acquire Nant’s distilling equipment and intellectual property for $1.7 million AUD ($1.3 million USD) from Eclipx, the industrial finance firm which forced Nant into receivership in March. Eclipx had provided financing to Nant founders Keith and Margaret Batt for the equipment when the distillery was originally built, and was one of many creditors left holding outstanding debts from Nant.

The terms of the agreement require other secured creditors to agree on the sale of the distillery’s assets, with Australian Whisky Holdings required to make its initial payment of $880,000 AUD on July 31 and the balance due over the next two years.  Australian Whisky Holdings acquired the Nant Estate in Tasmania from the Batts’ Nant Group/NAWParties in February, but the two sides walked away from a separate deal for the distilling equipment and assets, leaving AWY in the position of owning the distillery’s real estate without any ownership of the equipment on the site. According to the news release, the terms of the deal between Australian Whisky Holdings and Eclipx’s receivers was very similar to the original agreement for those assets that fell apart in February. In an email to WhiskyCast, FTI Consulting receiver Quentin Olde said that “this is a commercial settlement to a complex matter.” “We’re pleased to have reached agreement, and look forward to the transaction completing at the end of July.”

The agreement will allow Australian Whisky Holdings to resume whisky production at the distillery, including the use of barrels filled with whisky purchased by investors as part of Nant’s barrel investment program. As previously reported, Nant offered investors the opportunity to buy barrels filled with new make spirit and sell them back to Nant at maturity with a guaranteed 9.5% compounded annual interest rate.

However, Australian Whisky Holdings CEO Chris Malcolm disclosed that an audit of the barrel inventory found at least 700 barrels that had been sold to investors but never filled with whisky, an accusation that Keith and Margaret Batt denied at the time. Since then, AWY has been negotiating with individual barrel investors to acquire the rights to that maturing whisky. The task has been complicated by the fact that those investors own the spirit in the barrels, but the physical barrels are actually owned by an outside company and leased to yet another Nant Group corporate entity (NAW Barrel Holdings Pty Ltd) under separate receivership.

The agreement for the distillery’s assets also appears to clear up one outstanding question about Nant’s future. In the news release, Australian Whisky Holdings indicated that it intends to keep selling the whisky distilled at the Nant Estate under the Nant brand. Earlier this year, Malcolm had suggested that future bottlings might be sold under a different brand because of the controversy surrounding the Nant brand name.

WhiskyCast has reached out to Australian Whisky Holdings and the Batts for interviews. This story will be updated as necessary.

Links: Australian Whisky Holdings


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