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Whisky News, May 2007

Scotch sales soar

According to figures released last month by the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch whisky exports reached a record level in 2006, with a total value of almost £2.5 billion. This figure was up four per cent on 2005, and beat the previous record of £2.4 billion. Volumes were also at an all-time high, with shipments reaching 1,051 bottles, up six per cent on the previous year. The USA remains the top export market by value for Scotch whisky, with exports being worth £400 million for the first time in 2006. France was the second highest at £274.9 million. The most dramatic increase in the 'top ten' markets was Venezuela, which
rose by 45 per cent, followed by Singapore (up 33 per cent), South Africa (up 31 per cent) and China, which reported growth of 27 per cent. Richard Burrows, the SWA Chairman, noted that "Building on a record year in 2006, the prospects for Scotch whisky are brighter than they have been for many years. I'm greatly encouraged that distillers, large and small, are investing in facilities in Scotland and taking advantage of opportunities worldwide, with markets in Asia, North and South America offering strong potential for growth."

Kilbeggan Rekindled

   Almost 20 years after purchasing the silent Kilbeggan distillery, in order to use its warehouses for maturing spirit, the Dundalk-based Cooley Distillery plc has reopened the 250 year old County Meath facility. Kilbeggan claims to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world, and the refurbished single pot still was fired up 53 years to the day since distilling ceased in 1954. The firing of the pot still was witnessed by direct descendants of three families - the Mc Manus, the Codds and the Lockes, who between them operated the distillery for over 200 years. The pot still at Kilbeggan dates back to the 19th century and is the oldest one working in Ireland. It will produce around 250,000 bottles of whiskey a year. John Teeling, Chairman of Cooley Distillery plc, says “Cooley bought the Kilbeggan Distillery in 1988 intending to restart distillation. Now, 19 years later and 53 years to the day since distilling stopped we have achieved our objective. As part of the experience for people visiting the Old Kilbeggan Distillery and Lockes Museum, visitors will now be able to see a real still in operation. But this is only the first step. We intend over time to bring back into operation the three giant pot stills which loom over the distillery. “This is an important step in the rejuvenation of Irish whiskey, which is witnessing a renaissance with double digit growth worldwide. Irish whiskey is dominated by the two largest multi-national drinks companies in the world. Cooley, a small Irish owned company, is the only
alternative. Over the past 20 years we have had to be innovative to survive and prosper. The start up of only the fourth whiskey distillery in Ireland is vital for the further development of the Irish whiskey industry." A new, 15-year-old limited edition, super premium expression of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, distilled at Cooley distillery, has been released to mark the occasion, and will be available in Ireland and export markets during the coming months.

Whisky Coast

A new company called The Whisky Coast has been formed to promote 16 Scottish distilleries and the area in which they are situated. The £100,000 project aims to raise the profile of the west coast of Scotland as a tourist destination for those with an interest in whisky. The 'Whisky Coast' stretches from Campbeltown in the south up to Fort William, taking in Islay, Jura, Arran, Mull and Skye. A number of high profile local businesses such as the Turnberry Resort, Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and the Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye are participating in the venture, along with the area's distilleries, and a 30-page promotional brochure has been produced. Bruichladdich
supremo Mark Reynier is chairman of The Whisky Coast, and he says "It's about much more than trying to encourage people to visit one or more distilleries. We're encouraging them to explore further and see more of this dramatic, wild, indented coast, to stay longer and spend more." See

Glendullan Glows

   Following the launch last year of The Singleton of Glen Ord and The Singleton of Dufftown, Diageo has recently announced that a Singleton of Glendullan expression is to be piloted in New Jersey, Illinois and selected US Duty Free outlets.

A Diageo spokesman says that “The Singleton of Glendullan is a rich, smooth-tasting and well balanced 12-year-old whisky, with a depth of flavour that will satisfy both newcomers to single malt Scotch whisky and consumers who know their malts. Glendullan was one of the last 19th century distilleries to be built in Speyside, in 1897. The majority of the malt has been matured in American oak casks, then married with malt whisky aged in European oak to deliver a richer and smoother taste experience.” The Singleton of Glendullan is expected to sell in the USA at a retail price of $35.99.

Award Winners

Congratulations are due to one of Scotland's oldest and one of Scotland's youngest distilleries. Highland Park was founded way back in 1798, and the Orkney distillery has clinched the prestigious title of 'Distiller of the Year' at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards 2007. The brand was also awarded 'double gold' medals for its 12, 18 and 25-year-old single malts, along with gold awards for its 15 and 30-year-old expressions. Parent company The Edrington Group won a total of 20 awards for Highland Park and The Macallan at America's largest global spirits competition, which attracted more than 700 entries from 51 countries. Meanwhile, Isle of Arran Distillers has been voted 'Distiller of the Year 2007' in the Icons of Whisky Awards run by Whisky Magazine. Isle of Arran's managing director, Douglas Davidson, declared “This is fantastic news. We've won awards before, but to have the top-ranking people in the industry vote us Distiller of the Year is something very, very special. We're only a small team at Arran, but we're a hard-working one, and this award is testament to all of the dedicated work that goes on at Lochranza and at our Stirling headquarters.” Isle of Arran was established as recently as 1995, and, according to Davidson, "We have shed the tag of 'Scotland's youngest distillery'. We
are no longer a baby. We have become a full-grown adult and we are determined to continue our focus on becoming a major player in the world of single malt whisky. And I'll drink to that!"

And Finally...

   All roads (well, a ferry or plane actually) lead to Islay at the end of this month, with the Islay Festival of Malt and Music (Feis Ile) running from 26 May to 3 June. As usual, each distillery will host its own Open Day, and there is a great range of other attractions and activities to accompany the whisky talk and whisky drinking. In particular, look out for the new 4.5 litres bottling of Ardbeg - as if you could miss it. Called Ardbeg Mor (Gaelic for big or great), this is a cask strength ten-year-old expression, and just 50 bottles will be on sale during the Festival, priced at £350 each. See for further details.


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