Whisky News, September 2014
Ardbeg in Space
Ardbeg have a habit of doing things differently, but maturation in space takes matters to a whole new level, if you will forgive the pun. A vial of 'new-make' from Ardbeg was transported to the
International Space Station in October 2011, along with particles of charred oak, and it has now returned to Earth for evaluation.
A second vial of the same liquid was retained at Ardbeg distillery as a 'control,' and scientists will now compare chemical interactions and flavour development between the sample which has spent time at close to zero-gravity and the one which has been resting on the Southern shores of Islay.
Ardbeg manager Micky Heads describes the maturation experiment as "A voyage of discovery," noting that the samples are now in a laboratory at Houston, Texas. "We're looking at the flavour compounds that are in the spirit, these are called terpenes," he explains.
"These are present in many foods and drinks and we'll be analysing those to see the difference between the spirit in the controlled experiment down on Earth and that which happened in the space station. It's really a long-term investigation into flavour, and hopefully we can reveal new ways and new compounds of creating extra special flavours."
The Irish town of Tullamore in County Offaly is celebrating the return of distilling after 60 years of silence. The official opening of William Grant & Sons' €35 distillery there took place earlier this month, with the project being necessary in order to secure future supplies of Tullamore D.E.W, now the second-best-selling brand of Irish whiskey.
The new distillery is located on a 58 acre site in Clonminch, on the outskirts of Tullamore, and is capable of producing the equivalent of 1.5 million cases of Tullamore D.E.W. annually. It is the first Irish distillery to be constructed on a green-field site in Ireland for more than 100 years and is one of the most significant investments to date in the resurgent Irish whiskey sector. It is also one of the largest projects undertaken by William Grant & Sons. The distillery features four copper stills, designed to resemble the original stills from the old Tullamore distillery, six fermenters, each with a 34,000 litre capacity, and warehousing for 100,000 casks.
Commenting at the official opening ceremony, Stella David, Chief Executive of William Grant & Sons Ltd, declared that "We are delighted to celebrate the opening of Tullamore Distillery. This new facility will secure our future production demands for the rest of the century as Irish whiskey embarks on its most exciting chapter yet. Tullamore D.E.W. is 185 years old, but this is a significant day in its history as the opportunities now open to the brand are unprecedented. We are committed to Tullamore D.E.W. and are focused on building the brand and investing for the long-term."
William Grant & Sons Ltd has also been busy in its native Scotland, acquiring the historic Drambuie brand, reputedly invented by Bonnie Prince Charlie, for an undisclosed sum.
Legend has it that Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) passed on the secret recipe - a blend of whisky, honey and spices -to John MacKinnon, one of the clan chiefs who helped him flee Scotland via the Isle of Skye for a life of exile in France, following the failed Jacobite rising of 1745/46.
Drambuie was launched commercially by the MacKinnon family in 1909, and after the First World War achieved success in the USA, being a key ingredient in the 'Rusty Nail' cocktail, a favourite during the 1950s with Frank Sinatra and his 'rat pack.' Drambuie currently sells some 250,000 cases per year, but there are clearly opportunities in the Asian markets to grow sales substantially.
Michael Kennedy, Chief Executive of Drambuie, says that "As part of the William Grant & Sons' stable of brands, we believe that Drambuie can truly achieve its potential as it will benefit from being part of a larger and more diverse organisation."
Grant's Chief Executive, Stella David, adds that "Drambuie is a natural fit for our portfolio. It has a very rich history and a great story to tell, and we are delighted to be in a position to start to re-engage with existing drinkers and to connect the brand with an entirely new generation of consumers."
Johnnie Walker House
On the topic of Asia, Johnnie Walker has announced the creation of two new 'Johnnie Walker House,' this time at airports in Mumbai, India, and Taiwan.
According to a Diageo spokesperson, "The Johnnie Walker Houses are luxury, multi-sensory embassies for luxury blended Scotch whisky, designed to educate and inspire travellers by providing them with a luxurious and engaging shopping experience that encapsulates the history, provenance and pioneering spirit of the brand."
The Mumbai 'house' is located in the departures concourse of Terminal 2 of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and to celebrate its development, a limited edition bottling of Blue Label has been created, named the Johnnie Walker House Art Collection - Mumbai Edition, and exclusively available at the Mumbai outlet.
On sale from December for US$390, the new bottling is described by Diageo as showing "…a unique interpretation of the original Johnnie Walker journey from Scotland to India in 1883 and reflects the brand's long heritage as one of the world's first international brands. The bottle illustration displays a giant tiger welcoming the Johnnie Walker Striding Man icon to Mumbai's gateway, against the backdrop of an array of Indian cultural iconography."
With the question of Scottish independence now settled, it can be revealed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was a keen supporter of 'freedom' for those of us north of the border. Apparently his
embrace of Alex Salmond and the 'Yes' campaign was based on his fondness for a dram of Johnnie Walker, Russian separatists in Ukraine also, apparently, lent their moral support to the losing side
in the poll...