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Whisky News, October 2007

Glenfarclas keeps it in the Family

Family-owned Glenfarclas distillery at Ballindalloch on Speyside has recently claimed a record for the greatest number of simultaneous releases of one whisky. Under the 'Family Cask' banner, Glenfarclas has bottled a single cask for every year from 1952 to 1994, and brand ambassador George Grant says “To launch 43 single casks at once must be a first. It has been a big project for us, and almost everybody in the company has been involved with this release.” Each bottle is offered at natural colour and at cask strength, with prices ranging from £80 for the 1994 to £1,145 for the 1952 at the distillery's visitor centre. Two bars have been quick to order a complete set of all 43 bottles, namely Bar Nemo in Tokyo, and the Mash Tun in Aberlour, just a few miles from Glenfarclas
  
distillery. Whisky-pages was given an exclusive sampling of the Family Cask line up at the distillery during the recent Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival, and later this month a selection of the whiskies from across the range will be put under the spotlight in a feature about Glenfarclas and its latest innovative venture.

Family stands Firm


   Staying on Speyside, Ian Urquhart has announced his retirement from his role as managing director of Elgin-based independent bottlers and retailers Gordon & MacPhail. Now aged 60, Ian has spent 40 years working with Gordon & MacPhail, and will continue in the role of non-executive director on a part time basis, with responsibility for a range of on-going special projects. Like Glenfarclas, Gordon & MacPhail remains a family-owned business, and Ian's brothers Michael and David Urquhart have become joint managing directors. In order to support the pair, the company's four associate directors, Stephen Rankin, Neil Urquhart, Ewen Mackintosh and
Derek Hancock have assumed additional responsibilities within the firm. "We began our preparations for this change in structure more than eighteen months ago with the appointment of four associate directors and investment in a comprehensive management training programme," note Michael and David. "We look forward to the challenges ahead and remain committed to providing consumers around the world with the highest quality products and excellent customer service."

Benromach all at Sea

Meanwhile, the Gordon & MacPhail-owned Benromach distillery at Forres has released a new expression to mark the race partnership of Benromach Speyside single malt with the 'Glasgow: Scotland with Style' clipper, in the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race. The new bottling was launched in Liverpool at the start of the race, when skipper Hannah Jenner and the crew of the clipper were presented with a bottle of Benromach Latitude 53o Single Cask by David Urquhart. The bottle, which will travel over 35,000 miles during the event, will be auctioned for charity at the end of its journey. Selected from a single sherry cask, the whisky has been bottled at 53% ABV, which represents the latitude of Liverpool. Both Hannah Jenner
  
and Keith Cruickshank, Benromach distillery manager, have signed the label of the charity auction bottle. Visitors to benromach.com have the chance to win one of the commemorative bottles by entering an online competition that invites participants to guess how long it will take the 'Glasgow: Scotland with Style' clipper to complete each individual race of the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race. Limited quantities (approximately 300 bottles) of the commemorative expression will be available to purchase world wide with a recommended selling price of £45.00 - £49.99. £5 from every bottle sold will be donated to the RNLI. See November's 'Recent Releases' for our sampling notes of Latitude 53o Single Cask, and news of a new Benromach 'finish.'

Cognac Crown


   Proof that the craft of 'finishing' is not the exclusive preserve of the Scotch whisky industry comes from Canada, where a new expression of the Crown Royal blend has been finished in Cognac casks. Crown Royal was created to commemorate the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Canada in 1939, and the brand is now the best-selling Canadian whisky in North America. Since the break up of the Seagram organisation in 2000, it has belonged to Diageo. 'Crown Royal Cask No. 16' begins with a blend of more than 50 different and individually aged whiskies, which are filled into French oak Cognac casks from the Limousin Forest for an additional period of maturation. Available this month in North America, Crown Royal Cask No. 16 sells for around $100. According to whisky-pages' Canadian correspondent, the Cognac casks give Crown Royal a greater complexity on both nose and palate, with some smokiness not usually found in the blend, and a lingering spicy, fruity finish.

Back to School at Springbank

Whisky lovers who are not just satisfied to sit back and drink their dram, or perhaps take a guided tour of a distillery or two, can now sign up for an altogether more rigorous experience at Springbank in Campbeltown. Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to carry out its entire production process from malting to bottling on site, and this month sees the start of Springbank Whisky School's 2007 'Academic Year.' Taking its cues from the world of academia, Springbank's vastly experienced director of production Frank McHardy has now acquired the rather grand title of Rector, and will mentor students during what is termed their 'academic career' at Springbank. Leading tutorials on malting and production processes is distillery manager Stuart Robertson, while tasting room manager Ranald Watson will guide students through a tutored tasting of Springbank products. The Whisky School offers practical experience in all aspects of whisky-making, from malting to bottling,
  
together with a thorough theoretical grounding, through tutorials on malting, production and tasting. Classes run from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday morning students will sit a written exam before being presented with their Diploma, after which there will be a graduation lunch. There are six 'terms' in 2007, the first running from 8th to 12th October, with a maximum of six student places being available each term. The cost per person is £875. For further details or to register, phone + 44 (0) 1586 552009 or e-mail: whiskyschool@springbankwhisky.com.

Islay Legacy


   Bruichladdich distillery has announced the final release in its 'Legacy' series. The Legacy bottlings come from some of the oldest and rarest casks from Bruichladdich's warehouses, which came to light when the distillery was purchased by the current owners in 2001. This is the sixth and final annual release, each one of which has been limited to between 900 and 1,700 bottles, selected from casks dating back to the late 1960s and early '70s. Packaging for the series features evocative oil paintings of Hebridean seascapes by local artist Frances Macdonald, and the sixth bottling features the painting 'Evening Surf'. Legally a 34 year old whisky, this bottling is actually a mix of six casks from the 1965, 1970, and 1972 vintages. Production director Jim McEwan declares “It's a cracking dram - as can often be the case when 'the whole' is even better than the individual component casks. It makes for a sensationally compelling whisky. I could
say its quality is down to its venerable age, the master distiller's skills, the art of marrying casks...but frankly it was a no-brainer. There just wasn't enough in some casks to warrant bottling alone. "The Legacy series bows out in style: it's a suitably special dram, very creamy, all vanilla, crème caramel and butterscotch, with hints of banana, apricot, marzipan, maple syrup, cinnamon, and even pear and mint. "Sure, we have more great old casks, but we have new ideas for these. It will be a real shame if folk merely 'collect' this legacy of Legacy, I truly hope it will be savoured too - that's what it's really for." The sixth and final Legacy expression has been bottled at a cask strength of 41.0%. Exclusively matured in ex-Bourbon casks, the release is limited to 1,704 numbered bottles, each retailing at £200.

And Finally...

Still with Bruichladdich, MD Mark Reynier recently took the bold step of issuing a press release headed 'Blind Ambition,' noting that “Two totally blind men have been let loose in a Hebridean distillery for a week to make whisky.” Martin Roberts from Ipswich, who describes himself as a “Bolshy, abrasive, blind bastard,” and his friend David Williams from Worcester, donned overalls to distil at Bruichladdich's Whisky Academy. The two men, whose interest in single malt started at university, had long dreamed of taking on work experience roles in the whisky industry, but had continually been denied by their perceived disability. “I don't have much time for the patronising and the politically correct”, declares Martin. “The catch-all term 'disabled' means society actually prevents you from taking part in it. We're all bracketed together, regardless. I'm blind, it's as good an Anglo-Saxon word as any, and I work in computing, but can do pretty much
  
anything if only given a chance." Mark Reynier notes that "When Martin said he wanted to do our Whisky Academy despite being blind as a bat I thought it was some PC discrimination test. I had long thought it would be an amazing sensory experience to follow the distilling process blindfolded, relying on the smells and sounds of our Victorian machinery. I was more than happy for Martin and David to give it a go. They're no shrinking violets, these guys, expecting special cotton wool treatment. They just get on with it." The two blind men took part in the whole of the distilling process, from barley to bottle, finally filling their own cask of the Bruichladdich which they had helped make. According to Reynier, "Their heightened sense of smell was an advantage in blind tasting, and their extra sensitive hearing won them the record for being the fastest at bottling!"
  

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