Whisky News, March 2014
by Gavin D Smith
Those new distillery projects just keep coming along! Two of the latest are being promoted by Edinburgh-based Mossburn Distillers Limited, which wants to turn the former Jedforest Hotel (right), three miles south of Jedburgh, into a distillery and bottling plant. Rugby legend Finlay Calder, who won 34 caps representing Scotland between 1986 and 1991, has been named project director for the venture.
Mossburn's Chief executive Neil Mathieson explains that the location had been chosen because it offers an opportunity to establish a new whisky in an area not usually associated with Scotch whisky production. "We want to be original," he declares. "I have nothing against Islay or Speyside, but does Scotland really need another distillery up there?"
He adds that "We have had full meetings with the council and we have discussed where we want to do the project. In the meetings we have shown them how many bottles we would like to produce and how
many people we would employ, but it is still at an early stage and we will make a fuller announcement once things have been decided."
Mossburn Distillers Limited is also behind plans to invest £5 million in creating a new distillery on the Isle of Skye. The chosen site is a listed early 19th century farm steading at Torabhaig on Skye's south-east coast, which the late Sir Iain Noble considered developing as a distillery several years ago. His widow, Lucilla Noble, has been invited to join the Board of Torabhaig Distillery Limited.
Construction work may begin this summer, with whisky being produced by the end of 2015. Neil Mathieson notes that "Skye is renowned all over the world for its natural beauty and cultural heritage and we
believe that Torabhaig will be a valuable contribution both to whisky distilling on Skye and to the island's continuing attraction to international visitors. It's a perfect location for a small,
traditional distillery and we look forward to working with the local community to bring our plans to life."
New Cardhu and other Diageo doings
Diageo has expanded its Cardhu range with a no-age-statement variant named Cardhu Amber Rock, which has been 'double matured' in toasted American oak casks.
The company's Master Blender Dr Matthew Crow notes that "The Bourbon nuances that develop from the second maturation in toasted casks seasoned with Bourbon whiskey add an even greater silkiness and roundness to the already balanced and delicious Cardhu, bringing vanilla and spice notes along with hints of oak. We are very pleased with how this has turned out."
A Diageo spokesperson adds that "The name 'Cardhu' means 'black rock' in the Gaelic language; 'Cardhu Amber Rock' has been chosen as the name for the new Cardhu as a variant on the distillery's name and to reflect the golden jewel-like colour of the new expression."
It will be available in France and the Belgium from this spring, and more widely in Western Europe -UK, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Greece and The Netherlands - from late summer onwards. It will carry a UK RRP of £41.
Already in stores is a brace of new Singleton of Dufftown expressions, namely Tailfire - matured in a combination of European and American oak casks - and Sunray - aged entirely in American oak casks. UK prices are around £35 and £40 respectively.
Meanwhile, the new Mortlach range, as previously mentioned, has officially been launched. It includes Special Strength (travel retail exclusive and costing £75), Mortlach Rare Old (£55), 18 Year Old (£180) and 25 Year Old (£600).
As quantities are limited, the line-up will be offered in 50cl bottles, except in the USA, with a programme of graduated release from June onwards. The much-loved 16-year-old 'Flora & Fauna'
bottling of Mortlach will be dropped, so stock up now if you are a fan.
The latest Scotch whisky distiller to announce capacity expansion plans is International Beverage Holdings, whose Speyburn distillery just outside Rothes is operated by the parent company's Inver House Distillers subsidiary.
A £4 million project to increase capacity from the present 1.8 million litres per annum (mla) level to over four mla is due to be completed by the end of this year. As well as enlarging the distillery, the project is expected to deliver energy savings of more than 20 per cent once completed.
Inver House Distillers' Managing Director Graham Stevenson notes that "As we continue to be very optimistic about the long term potential for Scotch whisky, particularly in the emerging BRIC, African and South East Asian economies, investment in our production capabilities is crucial. Having the infrastructure in place to produce our high quality whiskies in greater quantities will be key to the future success of our brands, so we are delighted to see the first phase of this major programme of work get underway at Speyburn distillery.'
Speyburn dates from the late Victorian 'whisky boom' period, being established in 1897, and is one of Scotland's most photogenic distilleries. Its single malt is one of the top ten sellers in the US market.
William Grant & Sons Ltd has created a series of 11 'micro-batches' of a 21-year-old blended Scotch, which goes by the name of The Strathspey. As a company spokesperson explains, "The Strathspey 21 Year Old will only be available in World Duty Free Group's (WDFG) specialist World of Whiskies airport stores. As befitting whisky of such exclusivity, it will be available exclusively for a limited time only, in World of Whiskies stores at London Heathrow T1, T3, T4, T5, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Madrid, Barcelona and Cancun airports."
Master Blender Brian Kinsman adds that "With remarkable foresight, the William Grant family have built an unrivalled collection of Scotch whisky. Some of the single malt that we've used to create the Rare Cask Reserves is extremely rare; this is an incredibly exciting release from our archives. Our Rare Cask Reserves really are a taste of history."
The Strathspey 21 Year Old has an RRP of £99 for a 70cl bottle. See this month's Recent Releases for our thoughts on the Heathrow expression of The Strathspey.
The Science and Commerce of Whisky
With so many of the whisky books being published treading very familiar ground, it is good to see something genuinely different in the shape of The Science and Commerce of Whisky. This title has been co-written by Paul Hughes, professor of brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and whisky journalist Ian Buxton, author of the popular 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, and a former Marketing Director for Glenmorangie.
The book opens with a historical overview of whisky around the world, followed by 'Crop-to-Cask - Production of New Make Spirit,' and 'Wood Chemistry and the Maturation of Whisky.' This is the real deal in terms of a scientist's take on how whisky is made and matured, with enough graphs and flow charts to satisfy the most ardent whisky geek.
A section on blending follows, after which the focus switches to 'Marketing and Brand Development,' and 'Today's Global Whisky Market.' All through the book, Hughes and Buxton ensure that the wider world of whisky, far beyond just Scotch, receives due consideration.
Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry, this paperback retails for the relatively steep price of £27.99, but if you are serious about your whisky, you must have a copy on your bookshelves.
Buy from Amazon UK
It's not just Scotland where new whisky-making ventures are proliferating. The latest English distillery is to open in London's East End next month, located in a former glue factory on
Bow Wharf. The East End was once a major centre for spirit manufacture, with the Lea Valley Distillery, where the Olympic Park now stands, making whisky until the early 20th century. The East
London Liquor Company is to distil gin and vodka, and will import its own rum from Demerara Distillers Limited, in Guyana. Whisky will be matured on-site for at least three years, having been
produced in 450 to 650-litre batches in the distillery's pair of copper stills.