the whisky blog

April 13, 2010

Glasgow’s Whisky Festival

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 9:43 am

Imagine it filled with whisky - and whisky people!

At last! Tickets for Glasgow’s Whisky Club have gone on sale from The Arches Box Office on 0141 565 1000 or online at A booking fee applies, but it’s still cracking value at £15 + booking. Mark Connelly ( and I have taken two arches for the event and the first is sold out. We’re steadily working our way through the second, and I can promise you an afternoon of some of the best drams ever assembled under one roof. The big names are there, of course, but what’s particularly pleasing to me is the number of smaller distilleries and independent bottlers who are taking tables. Their presence will highlight the quality and diversity that abounds in the whisky world today.


April 28, 2009

Whisky Bars of Glasgow launched

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 2:30 pm

Six famous ‘Whisky Bars of Glasgow’ have joined together in a new collaboration to attract visitors to Glasgow and promote their whisky experience to tourists. The scheme – created under the auspices of ScotlandWhisky, the national Whisky tourism initiative – follows the successful launch of a similar programme in Edinburgh last year.

The scheme is being supported by a free ‘Whisky Bars of Glasgow’ map and a more in-depth website ( Chris Conway, of ScotlandWhisky, said: “Glasgow has a long and proud association with the Scotch Whisky industry and is world famous for its hospitality. So it’s only right that through the ‘Whisky Bars of Glasgow’, six renowned bars have joined together to highlight that connection.”

“We know pubs and bars are an important part of many visitors’ experience of Scotland, as is the wish to try Scotch Whisky in its home country. ‘Whisky Bars of Glasgow’ will ensure that visitors know where they can be ensured a great bar and whisky experience.”

Conway went on to say: “With Homecoming Scotland’s Whisky Month beginning in May, this is the perfect time to launch the scheme and to build on the growing interest in whisky tourism.”

Scotlandwhisky is looking to develop similar programmes in other parts of Scotlandwhisky.

March 27, 2009

Glenmorangie Distillery sweetens its future with an age-old custom

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 10:57 am

Glenmorangie sweeten AR
Dougie Murray, who sweetened the stills, and is one of the “16 Men of Tain”.

AN age-old whisky custom of ‘sweetening the stills’ has taken place at the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain.
Four new copper pot stills – the tallest in Scotland – recently installed as part of a major expansion at the Distillery, have been ‘christened’ with a unique botanical recipe of herbs and heather to prepare them for the restart of whisky production at the Distillery in April.
The tradition is all the more poignant as the last man to sweeten the stills at the Distillery nearly 20-years ago (1990), John Murray – one of the famous “16 Men of Tain” – has passed the ‘honour’ on to his son, Dougie Murray.
Dougie Murray, also one of the “16 Men of Tain”, along with the Glenmorangie Distillery Manager, Andy Macdonald, gathered the fragrant ingredients from the nearby Morangie Hill for the private ceremony which took place earlier this week.
The herbs were immersed in boiling water and distilled through the stills to ‘take the edge’ off the new copper.
Andy Macdonald said: “This respected whisky ritual has been carried out at the Distillery for as long as the Men can remember. While the sweetening of the stills is regarded by some as a good luck charm, its heritage is very deep-rooted and it serves to prime the copper and add to the sweetness of the product that Glenmorangie is synonymous with.
“We have a commitment and responsibility to protect the integrity of the whisky as well as the celebrated art of distilling, and sweetening the stills is a traditional aspect of this. It is even more touching that Dougie has taken over from his father to carry on the tradition.”
Dougie Murray added: “I remember my father talking about the sweetening of the stills when it last happened in 1990. He was immensely honoured to be involved and loved the attention surrounding it.
“It means a great deal to me to be able to carry on this Glenmorangie tradition which is now also a family tradition and I know my father would have been very proud.”
Glenmorangie’s four new, towering, swan-necked stills are made from copper and follow exactly the same design of the original stills installed when the distillery opened in 1843.
The new stills will allow The Glenmorangie Company to significantly increase whisky production to meet the growing demand for premium single malt whiskies from existing and emerging markets in the USA, Far East and central Europe.
The unique ‘sweetening’ recipe of herbs includes heather from Morangie Hill and lichen which was collected at Tarlogie Springs – one of Glenmorangie’s greatest assets, a small natural spring, which supplies the Distillery with hard water filtered through lime and sandstone.
Significantly, the ‘sweetening of the stills’ reflects the Company’s continued commitment to the art of whisky creation and the integrity of marrying traditional methods with new technology.

March 17, 2009

Two rare bottles of Springbank 1919 sold

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 6:04 pm


J & A Mitchell, the owners of Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown have just sold two bottles of whisky distilled in 1919.
Originally bottled in 1970, only 24 of these bottles of 50 year old single malt were ever produced.
Once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive bottle of whisky in the world, and with a retail price of £14,000, two of the remaining three bottles have been purchased by The World Whisky Index ( Based in The Netherlands, The World Whisky Index advises consumers on purchasing whisky, and particularly single malt Scotch whiskies,as an investment.
The one remaining bottle of Springbank 1919 is available at £50,000.
Springbank Distillery is the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still, the Springbank Distillery is now in the hands of his great great grand son, Hedley G. Wright.
Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to carry out the full production process on the one site. 100% of the traditional floor malting, maturation and bottling is done at the distillery in Campbeltown.
It produces the most hand made whisky in Scotland, with traditional production methods being used throughout the process, and human involvement at each and every stage.
It is the only distillery in Scotland to have never chill-filtered, nor do it add any artificial colourings to any of its single malts.

Michel Kappen, from the World Whisky Index can be see collecting
one of the bottles of Springbank 1919 from Peter Currie, Sales
Manager of Springbank Distillers Ltd

March 16, 2009

No Grouse – it’s a Burns Record

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 1:53 pm

burns-grouseThe 250th anniversary of Robert Burns wasn’t simply a chance for thousands of revellers to enjoy a wee dram. The Famous Grouse, Scotland’s Number 1 whisky, helped many charities to enjoy a more prosperous 2009.

As a result, more than £70,000 was raised by Burns Suppers around the world from auctioning The Famous Grouse limited edition blended whisky.

The Famous Grouse created 250 limited edition bottles of 37 year old blended malt to mark both Burns’ 250th birthday and the 37 years of his short but fruitful life. Renowned Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne was commissioned to create an original drawing of Robert Burns to adorn this limited edition whisky, making it a unique collector’s item as part of The World Famous Burns Supper celebration. In keeping with the humanitarian spirit of Burns, these bottles were only available for Charity Auction. Each one was valued at a minimum of £400 but some were sold for more than £1200 and on one occasion £2887 was raised.

Many Scottish charities incorporated the bottles into their fundraising efforts, with St. Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh raising £5,000 alone. Appropriately, the Ayrshire Hospice, based in Burns’ birthplace, also benefited as did the Highland Hospice, Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation, MS Revive, Bowel Cancer UK, Alzheimer’s Research Trust and the Motor Neurone Disease Association to name but a few.

The goodwill was spread worldwide with many bottles being sent to Burns Suppers as far as Azerbaijan, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Latvia and the Ukraine where some of the highest amounts of money have been raised for the bottles.

The British Chamber of Commerce in Latvia was the location of a large Burns Supper where they raised £2878 by holding a raffle for the limited edition of The Famous Grouse – the highest amount so far. Ex-pats in Balikpapan, Indonesia, imported a Macsween haggis from Bali for 200 invited guests while they spread the word about Burns and Scotland raising £1200 from auctioning the bottle.

It may be a long way from the highlands of Scotland but that didn’t stop more than 300 guests toasting Robert Burns at the British Chamber of Commerce’s annual Burns supper in Shanghai. They raised £1750 following a raffle for the limited edition.

Marie Christie, Project Director of Homecoming Scotland 2009, said: “It is fantastic that so many companies and individuals from so many different countries took part in the Homecoming Scotland 2009 opening weekend celebrations by registering their own Burns Suppers as part of The World Famous Burns Supper celebration. With more than 3600 Burns Suppers registered on the site we believe we have created a world record for the largest number of Burns suppers joined together in this way, and we hope that many of those that took part across the world will also join the celebrations in Scotland this year. There are more than 300 events and festivals planned as part of the Homecoming Scotland programme.”

Gerry O’Donnell, director of The Famous Grouse, said: “This is a fantastic achievement. Given the Humanitarian spirit of Robert Burns it is great to see that The Famous Grouse has been so instrumental in helping people raise funds benefiting charities all over the world.”

Scottish artist John Byrne was specially commissioned to create a painting of Robert Burns to adorn the bottle. On the rear label is The Famous Toast written by consumer Mary MacIntyre who won a competition to compose a toast that captured the spirit of Homecoming, Robert Burns and The Famous Grouse.
By Mary MacIntyre

Tae Rabbie Burns Scotland’s Son

Wha’s words a million hearts hae won

We fill oor glass o’ golden grain

The Famous Grouse we proudly drain

So here’s a toast in celebration

Tae Rabbie, tae whisky, tae Scotland Our Nation

Whisky Tourism Quenches Thirst for Knowledge

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 10:00 am

Figures announced today by Scotlandwhisky – the national Whisky tourism organisation – report a trend-bucking picture for distillery visitor centres. The data shows that 1,236,329 visitors toured a distillery in 2008, a 0.21% increase in numbers over the previous year. More significantly, spend increased by 12.2% – boosting the Scottish economy by £25 Million.

Commenting on the figures, Chris Conway of ScotlandWhisky said: “Visiting a distillery remains one of the ‘must-do’ activities for tourists in Scotland. The number of visitors has held-out strongly in what are difficult conditions – VisitScotland research reports a -4.1% decrease in numbers in 2008 – and the impressive spend figure reflects the investment that distillers have made in their visitor centres over the last few years”

Conway continued: “There is a real thirst for knowledge, with enthusiasts and novices alike wanting to learn as much as possible about the making of Scotch Whisky. Distillers continue to innovate to meet this demand and have introduced a whole selection of tours to satisfy consumers’ growing interest in all aspects of Scotch.
“In addition to general tours, many have introduce in-depth masterclasses, often hosted by the distillery manager, which offer the public an opportunity to explore overlooked parts of distilleries and sample rare bottlings.”

With Scotch Whisky positioned as a central pillar of this year’s Homecoming celebrations, it is hoped that these positive results will continue throughout 2009. May, having been named ‘Whisky Month’, will witness the largest ever Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and a new Spirit of the West festival will be taking place at Inveraray Castle. In addition, Feis Ile, the legendary Islay malt and music festival, and a number of individual distillery events will be taking place. There will be plenty to attract the whisky enthusiast back to Scotland.

To assist the promotion of Whisky Month, Scotlandwhisky’s Embassies have put together Whisky packages and events for May. For more details see:

March 9, 2009

The Duchess and the drams

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 9:58 am

To Loch Fyne Oyster Bar for delicious seafood, wonderful company and damn fine drams. It was the official launch of the Whisky Coast, a loose gathering of the 16 distilleries that stretch from Campbeltown to Skye, and the hotels, restaurants and other bits and bobs associated with it. A wee mini bus (sorry, luxury coach) took the party up the bonnie banks an on to Loch Fyne, where we had a Talisker 10 to start the proceedings. It was then we met the strolling players of The Walking Theatre Company and enjoyed their short play about Burns the Exciseman. Glasgow’s Whisky Club’s official Chanty Wrassler caught the eye of the buxom innkeeper, but decided – wisely – a dram was better than a drama.
Heaped plated of oysters, langoustines, salmon and scallops provided the backdrop to an excellent afternoon’s entertainment with Charles Maclean leading us through a handful of drams, accompanied by Scotland’s Whisky Bard, Robin Laing.
The drams were surprising – the much improved 12 year old Arran, a really nice whisky with the extra two years under its belt and a 14 year of Oban. To go with the food we had the Ben Nevis 14, Tobermory 15 and Lagavulin 16. The Nevis was an eye opener, smooth sweet and a chocolatey mouthfeel. But the Tobermory was the big shock. Maturing quietly off the island, it was brought back for a final year and re-racked into a Pedro Ximinez Cask – and what a transformation!
And so to the Duchess, Her Grace the Duchess of Argyll to give her full title. A delightful lady, she came from publishing and PR and, maybe it was approaching deafness or something, but I asked her how I should address her, so for the rest of the afternoon I called her ‘Grace’.
I hope to be forgiven at the Spirit of the West festival at her hoose in May!
The journey home was wonderful, as you would expect, thanks to the traditional journalists’ practice of helping the organisers “clear up” after an event, thus ‘liberating’ enough largesse to make the return pass by as in a dream. Which, for some, it did.

March 5, 2009

Record Breaking Whisky at Auld Reekie

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 4:07 pm
The world’s largest collection of whisky today (5 March 2009) arrived at its new Edinburgh home, five-star visitor attraction the Scotch Whisky Experience. The record-breaking collection is now being unpacked, cleaned and catalogued before going on display to the public for the first time this spring as part of a £3 million refurbished tour.
Purchased from its original owner by Diageo, thecollection was shipped from Brazil to Scotland last year and has since been kept in secure storage. The collection will be on long-term loan to the Scotch Whisky Experience, where it will be housed in a stunning bespoke whisky vault. Visitors will be able to view the collection in the atmospheric venue, which forms a highlight of the interactive new whisky tour.
Alastair McIntosh, Deputy Chairman of the Scotch Whisky Experience, commented: “The whole team is incredibly excited to receive this collection and it’s all hands on deck to unpack, catalogue and clean every one of the 3,384 bottles. We will then install them in the new vault, which will create a superb new space for visitors, events and private dining. This collection will be the jewel in the crown of our new tour and we look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world to see it in its new home.”
Christine McCafferty, Diageo’s Heritage Archive Manager, was a member of the team unpacking the collection at Scotch Whisky Experience . She said:  “We are delighted to have brought this wonderful collection safely back to Scotland and to have found a home for it at the Scotch Whisky Experience where its legacy and historic significance will be preserved,” said Ms McCafferty.
“It is particularly appropriate that the collection will be unveiled during Scotland’s Year of Homecoming and we hope many thousands of visitors will be able to enjoy viewing the collection in its atmospheric vault,” she added.
The Collection, certified as the world’s largest by Guinness World Records, features 3,384 bottles of whisky built up over a period of 35 years by Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz. The collection will form part of a new experience designed to blow away the myths and stereotypes of whisky, which will also feature a new and exciting barrel ride, plus demonstration, cocktail and exhibition areas and personalised whisky tastings. 

Rebirth of Rosebank?

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 8:45 am
rosebankFrom The Scotsman, March 5, 2009
WITH its distinctly fruity nose, it was regarded as the finest of all Lowland malts. But connoisseurs might have thought that Rosebank, 16 years after the demise of its Falkirk distillery, had joined the list of revered Scotch whiskies that had been consigned to history. 

However, a £5 million plan to revive production of the triple-distilled single malt is on the verge of approval, in a scheme that would bolster the number of distilleries in the Lowlands. Spearheaded by a group of local developers, the Falkirk Distillery Company (FDC) hopes to produce 60,000 litres of spirit every year, using the 19th-century copper stills and mash tun rescued from Rosebank. Though the Rosebank name remains under the ownership of the drinks giant Diageo, Alan Stewart, of FDC, told The Scotsman he was confident the new distillery would produce a malt that was its equal in every way. He said: “We have a good water supply which has the right mix. This is a development that would bring whisky back to Falkirk and create scores of jobs at a time of recession.” Comprising a restaurant, visitor centre and gallery highlighting Falkirk’s proud history of whisky production, the distillery would create 87 full-time jobs and scores of construction posts in the process. Its future, however, rests with Falkirk Council. Its planning committee has voted to continue the application to allow a site visit, after concerns were expressed as to how it would sit with local planning policies. If approved, the distillery would still require the go-ahead from the Scottish Government. Welcoming the plans to revive the Falkirk business, a spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “This is part of a wider trend in the industry, with investment in new distilleries and the expansion of old distilleries, driven by the growth of international demand.” Rosebank was closed in 1993 by United Distillers. Only four Lowland distilleries – Ailsa Bay, Bladnoch, Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan – are still in production.


Robin Laing writes about the rare chance to bloom again for triple-distilled ‘romantic’ malt as floral as a buttercup meadow ROSEBANK’s malt whisky was considered the best in the Lowlands. When the whisky historian Alfred Barnard visited the distillery in 1886, it was delivering 123,000 gallons of triple-distilled pure malt a year, and had an excise officer called William Bastard. It survived industry closures in the early 1980s, but its fate was sealed when United Distillers created the regional Classic Malts. Only one Lowland, Glenkinchie, was allowed – a sad decision for many. Michael Jackson, author of the Malt Whisky Companion, called Rosebank “the finest example of a Lowland malt” and “a grievous loss”. Jim Murray, who wrote the Whisky Bible, said it was one of the top ten distilleries in the world. “If there is a God,” he said, “it will surely one day reopen.” Rosebank whisky, pre-1993, is still available in Diageo’s Flora and Fauna and Rare Malts ranges and from independent bottlers, though it is becoming rare. It has been described as being as flowery as its name, a whisky for lovers. I have written notes for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society casks with titles such as: “A field of summer flowers”, “Lemonade in a buttercup meadow” and “Grassy, flowery and romantic”. The plans for the new distillery should be good news for lovers, bringing sunshine and flowers back to the Forth and Clyde canal. • Robin Laing is chair of the tasting panel of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and author of The Whisky River: Distilleries of Speyside, the first in a series of books about Scottish distilleries.

March 2, 2009

Innovator of the Year – for the second time

Filed under: 1 — bill mackintosh @ 2:42 pm

glenmorangie-astar-03-03-2009-11-01-091The  Glenmorangie team is no doubt celebrating with a dram of something special after being named the whisky industry’s “Innovator of the Year” for the second year running. The accolade – presented at the Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky event held in London – was awarded to Glenmorangie for three bold new product innovations: Glenmorangie Signet, Glenmorangie Astar and Ardbeg Blasda and won against stiff competition from whisky producers across the globe.

Paul Neep, The Glenmorangie Company’s Chief Executive, said: “We are absolutely delighted to win this prestigious award for the second time. This top accolade from Whisky Magazine is a strong endorsement of our whisky creation and of the innovative approach we pride ourselves on.” Dr Bill Lumsden, head of whisky creation and distilling at Glenmorangie, said: “It is fantastic to receive this accolade again, especially as the awards are classed as the ‘Oscars’ of the whisky world. The title is a true endorsement of not just the superior quality and innovation of our products, but the sheer passion and commitment the company has put into developing whisky products that truly inspire.”

Whisky Magazine’s ‘Whisky Icons Awards’ are global awards which take place each year with regional heats in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Scotland and India. Glenmorangie won the Scottish heats in October 2008. The company is currently implementing a major investment programme worth £45 million, which will see it focus on building its premium single malt Scotch whisky brands – Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. The development programme includes increasing capacity at the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain and at the Ardbeg Distillery on Islay to meet the anticipated future demand for its brands; the construction of a new bottling facility and the relocation of its Head Office to central Edinburgh.

Glenmorangie Signet was crafted under the guidance of the company’s head of distilling and whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden and Rachel Barrie, master blender and whisky creator. It’s a marriage of Glenmorangie’s oldest and rarest whiskies. It also includes whiskies created using rare and innovative ingredients such as high roasted ‘chocolate’ malted barley and whisky matured in casks which have been crafted and designed to meet the exacting needs of the Glenmorangie team.It is produced and matured at the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain and is on sale in leading whisky specialist outlets across the world.

Glenmorangie Astar is a rich, silky and creamy single malt bottled at 100° proof, 57.1% ABV which represents the whisky in its most natural form. It is matured in the oak casks from the mountains of Missouri. Dr Bill Lumsden comments: “It is difficult to sum up years of passion and commitment. But I would describe Glenmorangie Astar as everything a single malt should be. It is the result of an incredible journey, the pursuit of perfection to find the very best casks in which to mature our single malt whisky.”

Ardbeg is famed for packing a peaty punch, but ‘The Ultimate Islay Malt’ has undertaken an experiment; to tame its usual mighty peating level and allow Ardbeg’s lighter qualities to shine through. The result is Blasda, which in Gaelic means ‘sweet and delicious’. Ardbeg Blasda unmasks the sweetness of sherbet vanilla, chocolate limes and the floral fragrance that is inherent in all expressions of Ardbeg. The packaging of Ardbeg Blasda is distinctly different – a clear glass bottle instead of the usual Ardbeg green – to emphasise the difference to the rest of the range. Blasda is chill-filtered and presented at 40% alcohol by volume ABV, where Ardbeg is usually non chill-filtered at a minimum of 46% ABV. –

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