Whisky News, October 2013
Shetland at Last?
Mention 'Shetland' and 'whisky' in the same breath and there is likely to be a combination of indignation and audible sighing. For the much-heralded Shetland distillery project led by Caroline
Whitfield promised much but ultimately delivered nothing, finally being abandoned in 2008.
Undeterred by this, however, former Glenglassaugh supremo Stuart Nickerson (right, photo courtesy Shetland News) has announced plans to develop a micro-distillery at the former RAF base at Saxa Vord, on the island of
Unst, one of the venues considered by Whitfield's team.
Nickerson and the site owners, the Strang family, have joined forces and created the Shetland Distillery Company, and an application for planning permission has been filed. Nickerson hopes to start
distilling by the end of next year, making an initial 30,000 litres of spirit annually, and creating a maturation warehouse, bottling line and visitor facilities.
And Islay too?
Many whisky aficionados have been puzzled by the fact that although new Scottish distilleries seem to be springing up like mushrooms, none has appeared on Islay since Kilchoman in 2005. Now that is
likely to change with rumours that Bruichladdich's new owners Remy Cointreau may revive the previous plans to start distilling on the old Port Charlotte distillery site (right) once again, while there are
altogether more concrete plans for a micro-distillery at Gartbreck Farm.
The latter venture is being headed by Jean Donnay, who established Glann Ar Mor distillery in Brittany, France, and the Gartbreck location is not far from Bowmore. Construction work on what
will be Islay's smallest distillery is expected to start soon, with production projected for spring next year. More information to follow as and when we discover it…
Diageo Special Releases
Islay's figure prominently as usual in Diageo's annual Special Releases series for 2013, with four of the 10 bottlings comprising two Lagavulins, one Caol Ila and a Port Ellen.
One of the Lagavulins was distilled in 1976, and at 37 years old is easily the most venerable release from the distillery. By contrast, and in common with previous Special Releases, there is a lively 12-year-old Lagavulin to accompany it.
Another recent trend in the programme has been to offer an unpeated Caol Ila, and this year's is named Unpeated Stitchell Reserve, in honour of long-serving distillery manager Billy Stitchell. Maturation has taken place in refill American Oak, rejuvenated American Oak and ex-bodega European Oak casks. Port Ellen has become a firm favourite in this series, and the 2013 representative is the 13th and oldest to date, having been aged for 34 years.
Staying in the islands, Talisker is represented by a 27-year-old expression, distilled in 1986, and the West Coast claims a place in the line-up courtesy of a 21-year-old Oban, matured in rejuvenated American Oak and a second fill ex-Bodega cask.
On the mainland, the ever-popular closed Highland distillery of Brora is featured courtesy of a 35-year-old expression, while three well aged Speysides round out the release. These are a 21-year-old
Cardhu, a 28-year-old Singleton of Dufftown and a 36-year-old Convalmore. More details and some tasting notes to follow.
Trial by Train
At one time, most of the whisky distilled at the likes of Cardhu, Dufftown and Convalmore would have been transported out of Speyside by rail, and a trial has recently been instigated to once
again deliver spirit by train from Speyside to central Scotland in a bid to cut road journeys and emissions.
Named 'Lifting the Spirit' the project sees 'whisky trains' running twice a week over the 200 mile route from Elgin station via Aberdeen to Grangemouth. Several Scotch whisky producers are collaborating on the trial, including Diageo, Chivas Brothers, John Dewar & Sons, Whyte & Mackay and Glen Turner.
The trial will run until around mid-November and an independent academic partner is being appointed to analyse the results of the trial and investigate its feasibility in the longer-term.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, director of operational and technical affairs at the Scotch Whisky Association, says that "The Scotch whisky industry continues to grow. On-going investment by producers is allowing the industry to expand to meet global demand for Scotch. 'Lifting the Spirit' is an innovative and collaborative trial allowing us to move some of the spirit from our distilleries in Speyside to central Scotland by rail for a trial period. It will complement the service being offered by road haulage companies and will help us assess the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions."
(Photo: Tony Jarvis of HIE, Moray councillor Fiona Murdoch and Hitrans partnership manager Frank Roach. Photo by Peter Jolly/HIE)
Glenmorangie has taken the innovative step of asking enthusiasts to choose the name of its new single malt whisky, bearing in mind the distillery's strong affiliations with the Gaelic language when it comes to whisky titles. The winner was recently announced as Taghta (Tuh-ta), Gaelic for Chosen. Coileanta (Coh-lahn-tah), Gaelic for Mastery, came second while Salainn (Sahl-ing), Gaelic for Salt came third.
This is the second stage of a Crowdsourcing venture being undertaken by Glenmorangie as part of its Cask Masters programme, which gives enthusiasts the chance to help shape a new whisky. Earlier this year, consumers were asked to choose their preferred dram from three specially selected casks released by Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie's Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation.
Tens of thousands of people across the world duly cast their votes and their favourite variant turned out to be Cask C, which has spent a number of years extra-maturing in exclusive Manzanilla casks.
The final stage of the Cask Masters programme is now under way, and members of the public can upload pictures and ideas to an online gallery to inspire the packaging of the new Limited Edition single malt whisky, due for release late next year.
Working with packaging expert Jon Davies from London design agency Butterfly Cannon, Glenmorangie will then create three designs which again will be put to a public vote. To take part visit
Look out next month for our feature about Irish Distillers' impressive new stillhouse at Midleton in County Cork and the company's increased commitment to pot still whiskeys, along with some new
product tasting notes. At the recent 'Housewarming' event to celebrate the official opening of the stillhouse a band was playing Irish/rock to the assembled crowds during the afternoon. As he left the
microphone, the lead singer shouted "If this is your first time in Ireland please spend your money here before you go home - 'cos we've got none…"