Whisky News, April 2014
by Gavin D Smith
Whisky comes to Harris
Construction work has begun on the first whisky distillery to be developed on the Isle of Harris. This is only the second distillery in the Outer Hebrides, following the establishment of
Abhainn Dearg on Lewis, which opened in 2008.
A new single malt - to be called The Hearach, Gaelic for an inhabitant of the island - will be distilled, matured and bottled at the distillery in Tarbert, where up to 20 jobs are likely to be created.
Isle of Harris Distillers has raised £10 million for the project, attracting finance from 17 private investors around the world, as well as from the public sector, including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise.
Director Simon Erlanger declares that "We are building a 'social distillery' for the island and people of Harris. The Hearach single malt will create sustainable employment and economic growth and optimism for the people of Harris - while the spirit of Harris itself will shape the unique character of this new whisky."
The new distillery is due to be completed by the first quarter of next year and will produce around 300,000 bottles of single malt whisky per year, as well as distilling gin.
The sound of silence
Meanwhile, as one door opens…Sad news from south-west Scotland is that the Northern Ireland-based parent company of Bladnoch Distillery and Visitor Centre - near Wigtown - has gone into liquidation, forcing the distillery to close.
County Down businessman Raymond Armstrong rescued the disused distillery after discovering it during a holiday in 1994, and proceeded to buy it and restore it to operational status, with the first spirit flowing in 2000.
Armstrong's Co-ordinated Development Services company was forced to call in the liquidators last month, but accountants Ernst and Young, who have been appointed to dispose of the assets, hope to sell Bladnoch as a going concern.
The loss of Bladnoch to the Lowland single malt whisky region comes as the revived Annandale distillery, some 70 miles east of Bladnoch, prepares to commence distillation this summer.
May has been officially designated Whisky Month, with 2014 being Scotland's second Year of Homecoming. In addition to the two long-standing whisky festivals, Speyside (www.spiritofspeyside.com, 1-5th May)and Islay (www.islayfestival.com, 23-31 May) there are some 17 other events planned, and it is anticipated that more than 70,00 people will participate.
Among the venues taking part will be The Arches nightclub in Glasgow, the Eden Brewery in St Andrews, the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, Gordon Castle in Moray, and the home of Loch Fyne Oysters in Argyll.
The month-long celebration will feature a touring production of Whisky Galore, Mull Theatre's adaptation of Compton Mackenzie's novel, a whisky showcase at the Bute Jazz Festival and the transformation of an old milk factory in Leith into a pop-up sampling venue.
Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead says that "Whisky is one of Scotland's most iconic products, one which is enjoyed here at home and across the world in more than 170 countries, and our second Year of Homecoming is the ideal time to encourage more visitors, both international and domestic to enjoy the very best Scotland has to offer.
"Whisky Month is the perfect opportunity to celebrate and shine a light on the quality, provenance, traditions and innovations that go into our national drink, and I look forward to raising a glass to Scotland's finest during May's festivities."
For more information on events during Whisky Month visit www.visitscotland.com
Following the release of The Girvan Patent Still 25 Year Old Single Grain whisky by William Grant & Sons Ltd (see this month's Recent Releases), the independent distiller is following up with two additional expressions of The Girvan Patent Still Single Grain, namely 'No. 4 Apps' and '30 Year Old.'
The Girvan Patent Still No. 4 Apps, which will retail for around £45, is the first, non-age statement whisky to be released by the brand. The name 'Apps' is a distillery term for 'Apparatus'; No.4 Apps has been producing unique 'vacuum distilled' spirit since 1992.
The Girvan Patent Still 30 Year Old, at £375, is described by a William Grant's spokesperson as "The oldest and most luxurious expression launched to date, having been laid to rest for 30 years in first fill American Oak barrels."
Kevin Abrook, Global Marketing Manager Innovation at William Grant & Sons Ltd, notes that "We have continued to demonstrate our commitment and leadership to the single grain category with the launch of the Girvan Patent Still No. 4 Apps. With a fresher and more vibrant flavour profile than its older siblings, its launch will help Girvan to open up the single grain whisky category to a wider audience."
As the Grant's spokesperson explains, "The original Girvan Patent Still, known affectionately as 'No 1 Apps,' a distillery term for apparatus, was built in 1963 under the stewardship of Charles Gordon,
a whisky production pioneer and the great-grandson of William Grant. It was the most advanced distillery in the world at the time. Further innovation led in 1992 to Charles pioneering 'vacuum distillation'
with the introduction of 'No.4 Apps.' This distillation at lower temperatures results in a very pure, clean-tasting grain spirit that balances perfectly with the vanilla notes from our American white oak
casks during maturation."
The Aberdeenshire single malt anCnoc is not usually associated with the aromas and flavours of peat, but a new collection of limited edition peated expressions from its home
Knockdhu distillery has recently been unveiled.
An anCnoc spokesperson says that "Aiming to unravel the mysteries of peated whisky for modern drinkers, this new collection from the Knockdhu Distillery will feature anCnoc's classic light, easy-drinking style but with a dark, distinctive and smoky twist.
"The expressions in anCnoc's new peated collection are named in honour of the traditional tools used to cut peat, with 'Rutter' and 'Flaughter' unveiled for the UK and global markets and 'Tushkar,' released exclusively for Sweden. Each new release will also display its own varying phenol content in parts per million (ppm) to indicate just how peated the whisky inside the bottle is, aiming to help drinkers find a peaty level to suit their palate."
Project Manager, Stephanie Bridge, adds that 'Our new limited edition peated single malts will form an exciting collection to sit alongside our core anCnoc expressions, offering drinkers a new, and
perhaps a first experience of peated whisky. These malts have all the exceptional qualities of anCnoc, but with a depth and smokiness that will be appealing both to peat aficionados and to drinkers of
lighter malts with an interest in finding a peated malt whisky that they understand and enjoy. We're on a mission to bring our very modern take on the world of peated whisky to our drinkers and to entice
customers to experience this new side of anCnoc."
Whisky - The Manual
The latest book by Dave Broom is rather formally titled Whisky - The Manual, but anyone who knows Mr Broom or has been present at any of the tastings he has hosted will know that formality is definitely not his forte. Rather, he seeks in a relaxed and deceptively casual way to cut through the established mythology that surrounds whisky, making it more accessible and attractive to a wider public in the process.
This book continues that admirable evangelical work, and if it is, at heart, a book about how to drink whisky, it is really a book about the freedom that can entail, and the joys of experimentation. It contains a section featuring more than 100 whisky brands from around the world, uniquely considering and rating which mixers best suit them - from coconut water to green tea!
It increasingly becomes difficult to see where there is room to write an original book on whisky, so much has the canon expanded in recent years, but Dave Broom has managed it, and managed it in his inimitably entertaining and informative style.
£14.99, Mitchell Beazley, www.octopusbooks.co.uk.
In Ireland, two craftsmen have created the world's largest set of 'barrel oak' headphones, using almost a dozen whiskey barrels. The 10-feet-high headphones will form the centrepiece of the Bushmills
Live music festival in June. All we need now is the biggest head in the whisk(e)y business to wear them. Answers on a postcard please…