Friday, April 29, 2011

New releases > St. George's Royal Wedding Special

st. george's royal wedding commemorative bottlingSt. George's is the first whisky distillery to be built and produce whisky in England for almost 200 years. The distillery is located in the heart of East Anglia, close to the town of Roudham in Norfolk (about 2 hours north east of London). The distillery is operated by The English Whisky Company, which was founded in 2005 by Andrew and James Nelstrop. The construction of the new facilities began shortly afterwards and the first spirit came off the stills in November 2006. Legendary whisky maker Iain Henderson was employed to oversee production and he has previously managed the famous Laphroaig distillery on the island of Islay, amongst others. The St. George's spirit is made from locally grown Norfolk barley and is matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks. The distillery has already won many plaudits for its innovation and quality.

This new release is to commemorate the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. The whisky is a marriage of the English Whisky Company's peated and unpeated expressions, which have both been aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks from the famous Jim Beam distillery. In addition, there is also some whisky that has been matured in ex-red wine casks in the marriage. The Royal Wedding whisky was bottled at 46% ABV in mid March and is now available from the English Whisky Company’s online shop and numerous specialist whisky retailers … just in time for the wedding!! To order a bottle (at a cost of £65 each plus postage), go to

Our tasting notes

The nose is interesting and very promising. Initially there are young subtle floral, grassy (think of hay) aromas developing in to robust gristy sweet barley cereals. A hint of smoke starts to come through, reminiscent of old bonfire smoke in clothing. There are also aromas of raisin and sultana plus something damp, mossy and slightly musty that develops with more time in the glass. A lovely fresh balance is given by a slightly tangy tropical fruit note (Karen thought of banana, Matt thought mango ...). On the palate, this starts very soft and creamy with lovely notes of honey and sultana, before 'boom'! Plenty of peppery chilli-like spice and fresh wet earth hit your taste buds, followed by notes of caramel, toasted almonds and burnt liquorice. It is more 'in your face' than the nose suggested, with extra smokiness noticeably detectable (whereas the nose only hints at this). There is an interesting flow from sweet to spicy and then dry, with some lovely woody cinnamon and nutmeg notes joining in. The finish is hot, spicy and long and this smolders away for ages (we were still getting flavours - mostly the smoky notes - coming through after seven or eight minutes). This makes it lovely, tangy and refreshing with prominent notes of sweet barley, peppery bonfire smoke and woody oak dryness (and very moreish indeed!). There is a slight uneven balance between these spicier, woodier notes and the subtle sweetness that comes through with time (honey and sultana especially) ... but it's a minor thing.

What's the verdict?
This whisky is another example of the innovation and blossoming quality of the English Whisky Company. The mix of differing styles of whisky and casking works well and it has created an interesting, complex and enjoyable dram. The complexity is particularly impressive when considering the youthful age of this whisky. It confirms what we have previously said about the St. George's whisky - it seems to be getting better with age and extra length of maturation. It will be very interesting to see how it develops further. We can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New releases > Kilbeggan 18 years old

kilbeggan 18 years oldKilbeggan is an Irish whiskey that is currently produced by the award winning company of Cooley. It is made at a distillery in the town of Kilbeggan, which lies in the centre of Ireland in County Westmeath. The name of Kilbeggan is derived from the Irish Gaelic Cill Bheagáin, which translates as 'the church of Bécán'. St. Bécán was an Irish monk who founded a monastery on the site of the current town in the 6th century.

This 18 years old is a new release that follows on from the highly successful and multi-award winning Kilbeggan 15 years old. This is a small batch release of just 4,000 bottles which come from premium casks that have been specially selected by Noel Sweeney, the Master Blender for Cooley. It is bottled at 40% ABV and will retail around the £80-85 mark.

The Old Kilbeggan distillery was founded in 1757 by the McManus family and the current distillery stands on the original site. The location was chosen for three reasons - the abundant water supply from the adjacent River Brosna and the proximity to both the prosperous local grain fields and peat bogs. The distillery suffered because the Irish whiskey market collapsed due to a combination of the Irish War of Independence (1916-1921) and Prohibition in the USA (1920-1933) - it was forced to close in 1957 in its 200th anniversary year. It was not to reopen for another 50 years ...

The Old Kilbeggan distillery and its whiskey recipes were purchased by Cooley's founder John Teeling in 1988. He started Cooley in 1987 and his remit was to revive the old traditional whiskies that had fallen by the wayside during the difficult times. Kilbeggan's distillery buildings had been maintained during its dormant period by local historians and Teeling decided to renovate it and restart production on the site. Meanwhile, whiskey using the Kilbeggan recipe (such as this 18 years old) was being produced at the Cooley distillery in County Louth, between Dublin and Belfast. Whiskey production restarted at Old Kilbeggan in 2007.

Our tasting notes
This has a rich golden colour with a hint of amber and the nose is rich, fragrant and expressive. The initial aromas include plenty of vanilla, honey and bittersweet cereal grains. The vanilla really packs a punch and quickly becomes the prominent feature. Other aromas are present - a powerful hit of fresh oak (think of wood shavings), coconut, toasted almonds and some late developing wood spice (imagine cinnamon). On the palate, this has an initial freshness (this has a citrus-like edge, which is reminiscent of orange oil) and this gives way to a lovely creamy richness, which is driven by notes of vanilla, coconut, toffee and honey. Then comes further oak (think of those fresh wood shavings again), distinct bittersweet cereals and toasted oat notes - these add plenty of body to the palate, which grips the taste buds. Finally, the complex palate is completed by some robust woody spices (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and cedar wood) and these add further grip. The finish is long and lingering with an abundance of bittersweet woodiness and spiciness that gives way to notes of bitter orange and honey. This leaves the mouth watering and wanting more!

What's the verdict?
The Kilbeggan 18 years old is another excellent release from Cooley. The balance of the sweet and spicy elements, combined with the bitter cereals, richness and complexity make this a delicious and interesting whisky. It is vaguely reminiscent of a sympathetically aged older bourbon, so if you like those then try this. The spice and bitterness may be a little much for some palates but it is worth persevering with. Or maybe add some water, which brings out increased creaminess and vanilla. This will surely follow on from its 15 years old sibling and rack up the awards.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New releases > Mackinlay's Shackleton Whisky

It is rare that something truly unique comes along in the whisky world these days - Shackleton's Whisky (or Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky to give its full name) is one such thing. Whyte & Mackay have recreated a whisky that has been buried under the ice of Antarctica for a century! The original whisky was produced by Edinburgh based blending company Charles Mackinlay & Co and was specially commissioned by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton for his ill fated expedition to the South Pole in 1907. Charles Mackinlay & Co had a long successful history of blending between its foundation in 1847 and being acquired by and eventually amalgamated in to Whyte & Mackay in the 1990s. This included building the Glen Mhor distillery (pronounced glen-vor) in the north Highlands in 1892.

The company's Master Blender, Richard Paterson, has taken eight weeks to blend and marry the new whisky in order to achieve an exact replica of the original whisky. The abandoned whisky, still in the original wooden crates, was not discovered until 2007 and only recently three of the bottles were flown back to Whyte & Mackay's headquarters in Scotland by private jet. Here, Paterson analysed it and set about recreating a whisky that was over 100 years old. This includes using some whisky from Charles Mackinlay & Co's Glen Mhor distillery, which is now extremely rare as it was closed in 1983 and demolished three years later. The original bottles are to be returned to The Antarctic Heritage Trust and replaced back under the ice by law.

The replica Mackinlay's Shackleton whisky has just been released and retails at £100, with 5% of the proceeds going to the New Zealand based charity who maintain part of Antarctica and who found the original crates of whisky. It has been bottled at the original's strength of 47.3% ABV and a 'limited' 50,000 bottles have been produced. The packaging for this new whisky has also been replicated to be as original as possible, including imperfections in the glass of the bottle and wooden box! The series of events, from the discovery through to the blending process and release, has been recorded and will be released as a documentary by The National Geographic Society later in the year.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this whisky is pale golden yellow. The nose is clean, attractive and elegant but needs time in the glass to fully reveal itself. There are a number of subtle aromas that are asking for your attention here and not one overpowers another - vanilla, butterscotch, plenty of green pear and apple, walnuts, baked oat biscuits, wood spice, burnt sugar, hints of tropical mango and pineapple and a whiff of dry, slightly musty peat smoke. It is intriguing and makes you want to take a sip. On the palate, this goes through three distinct phases. Firstly, there is tangy sweetness (think of citrus, especially orange zest, and honey), followed by a creamy feeling richness (imagine butterscotch or toffee) and finishing with a hit of peat smoke and warming wood spice (cinnamon and nutmeg especially). Other notes are present and add depth and complexity to an already enjoyable palate - burnt sugar, something mineral and flinty, a hint of ginger and the green fruit are again there but more stewed in flavour than the nose suggested. The smokiness is stronger on the palate than expected and this carries through to a long, lingering and very pleasant finish. The spice, especially the ginger, grips your taste buds as does the tannic oak and tangy sweetness. Delicious.

What's the verdict?
Shackleton's Whisky is a lovely dram that offers not just a unique back story, but also something unique in its flavour profile. The combination of tangy citrus-like notes and soft peat smoke is rare and the marriage works very well here. The flavours present also indicate that the rumours of Highland whiskies previously being made in a smoky style could be true. Naturally, we will have to take everyone's word that it is a perfect replication of the original, but all we say is this - it is a really good dram in its own right and should be treated as such, almost ignoring all the story and histrionics.

Distillery visit > Glenburgie

glenburgie distilleryGlenburgie (pronounced glen-burg-ee) is a distillery located in the Speyside whisky region of Scotland. It sits just off the main Aberdeen-Inverness road, outside of the town of Forres. The current owners are Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard group, and they took control of Glenburgie in 2005. The whisky produced at the distillery is one of the major single malts used in their famous Ballantine’s blended whisky range. Ballantine’s is the second best selling whisky brand in the world, behind the Johnnie Walker range, and sells a staggering 70 million bottles a year! Glenburgie has been the ‘signature’ single malt used in Ballantine’s since 1935, when the brands owners purchased the distillery so as to secure a regular and consistent supply.

Glenburgie was founded in 1810 by William Paul and was originally named Kilnflat. However, the production of whisky did not officially start until 1829 when Kilnflat was granted a license. The distillery was renamed Glenburgie-Glenlivet in 1878 by Charles Hay, who had reopened it following a period of closure. Glenburgie has changed ownership a number of times since then, including Hiram Walker and Allied Lyons which were later taken over by the Pernod Ricard group. A major refurbishment of the distillery took place in 2004, with the only original parts remaining being the Old Customs House (which is now a tasting facility) and some of the warehouses.

the burgie burn at glenburgieOur visit to Glenburgie was hosted by Alex Robertson, the International Brand Ambassador for Chivas Brothers. We began on a massive expanse of lush lawn in front of the distillery, where Alex gave us a brief introduction to the distillery including a few facts and figures detailed above. This is followed by a walk over to one of the water sources nearby. In this tranquil spot, Alex explained that the water used at Glenburgie is taken from five sources - it either rises from local springs and flows in a number of small streams to reach the distillery (as pictured, left) or comes via a borehole close by.

alex robertson explaining the ballantine's rangeAlex then moved us inside the distillery in to a small welcoming hall, which shows the six bottles in the current Ballantine’s range – the Finest and Limited, plus the four age statements of 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old. We have recently written a post detailing the Ballantine's range - click here to read this. He then takes us upstairs, via the Porteus mill which remains from the original distillery, to a large room with impressive views of the surrounding countryside. Here, it is explained to us about the different strains of barley that are used and what they look for to give the required characteristics to their whisky.

neil corbett - glenburgie distillery managerOn moving back downstairs, we were greeted by Neil Corbett - the Distillery Manager of Glenburgie. Neil is an Englishman from the West Midlands, who learned his trade in the brewing industry. He went on to walk us around the interior of the distillery, which is housed on one level in one massive space, beginning with the mash tun. This is where warm water is added to the milled barley (known as grist) and the soluble sugars are extracted. The final sugary liquid is called wort. At Glenburgie, the copper domed mash tun can hold 7.5 tonnes of barley and after a five hour cycle, this will yield approximately 35,000 litres of sugary wort. This liquid then moves on to the fermentation stage, as do we.

glenburgie washbacksNeil took us through to see the washback tanks - these are the large vessels in which the fermentation process takes place. Glenburgie has 12 such tanks and were all new at the time of the renovation. They are made of stainless steel and each tank is at a different stage of Glenburgie's 52 hour fermentation cycle. Liquid yeast is added to the sugary wort and it then gets to work on turning all of the soluble sugars in to alcohol. This process generates plenty of heat and carbon dioxide, giving this area a slightly unpleasant feel. Once the cycle is complete, the result is a strong beer-like liquid with an alcoholic strength of approximately 8% ABV - this is called 'wash' and it is this which progresses to the distillation stage.

stills at glenburgieFour of the stills in Glenburgie's impressive still room have been kept from the old distillery, with the addition of two further stills. These six stills produce 2.6 million litres of spirit per year, all of which is destined for blending. The distillation is completed in two parts. The first part is where the wash is heated and distilled in a wash still and produces a final liquid with an alcoholic strength of 28-30% ABV. The second sees this liquid distilled again and the desirable part or 'cut' (at most distilleries this is around the 65-70% ABV mark) is then collected. It is this final 'cut' which is put in to wooden casks and matured to become whisky.

The still room at Glenburgie is very impressive, as indeed is all of the facility, and it has another interesting feature - thermal compressors are attached to the condensers on the lyne arms. This makes Glenburgie one of the most highly energy efficient distilleries in the Scottish industry as much of the heat from the condensation stage of distillation is recycled and put back in to the system.

The majority of the spirit produced at Glenburgie is filled to ex-bourbon casks for maturation so as to create that 'signature' malt whisky for the Ballantine's blended range. The site is home to four dunnage warehouses (the traditional type with stone walls and earth floors), plus four other racked/palletised ones. The remainder of the stock is matured at other sites which are owned by Pernod Ricard and are dotted around the Speyside region. After a quick walk around one of the dunnage warehouses with Alex, we are taken to the Old Customs House for a whisky tasting and further information about the Ballantine's brand with Sandy Hyslop - the Master Blender of Ballantine's for Chivas Brothers. Click here to read our recent post covering this session.

We thought that we would share some of the sights and sounds of Glenburgie with you, plus insight and facts from Alex and Neil, in the film below. We hope that you enjoy watching and seeing inside a little known but very important distillery, which is not open to the public. We thank Alex, Neil and Sandy for their hospitality, time, information and for making our visit to Glenburgie so enjoyable and memorable.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Inbox > April 22, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. There is not much this week, as marketing departments shut down for the double Easter/Royal Wedding public holidays. Here is this week's news ...
Diageo > Visitor numbers increase
Whisky tourists are visiting Scottish distilleries in increasing numbers according to global drinks company Diageo. The company which owns 28 distilleries in Scotland, of which 12 have visitor centres have reported a 19% increase over the last two years. Just over 210,000 people visited the 12 distilleries in 2010 with Talisker on the Isle of Skye being the most popular. Over 50,000 visitors went there, despite its relatively remote location. Diageo say that the increase mirrors the rising interest in the subject of whisky, especially in the numbers of visitors from emerging whisky markets such as China, India and Russia. Steve Blake, General Manager of Diageo’s Visitor Centres said, "the growing popularity of Scotch whisky combined with the high quality of visitor experience offered at the distilleries are key factors in the increase. It is clear that people love the magic, the mystery and the history of our whisky industry."

Red Stag > Launches in the UK
red stag by jim beamIconic American producer Jim Beam, the world's best selling bourbon, have launched a new product on to the UK market - Red Stag. This is a version of the famous Jim Beam White Label bourbon which has been slowly infused with natural black cherries. Bottled at 40% ABV, Red Stag will retail at £21.75 a bottle and is currently available from the Tesco and Asda supermarket chains. It is recommended to be consumed straight, chilled or as part of a cocktail. We were delighted to be invited to the UK launch party and will be reporting about it shortly, including tasting notes and further information. All we will say for now is that Red Stag is delicious stuff!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Ballantine's range

the ballantine's whisky range
Ballantine's is a famous whisky brand that boasts a multi award winning range of blended whiskies. The range consists of the best selling Finest, plus 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old versions. The range is amongst the best selling whiskies in the world and is currently in second place for total volume sales, behind only Johnnie Walker, selling 70 million bottles a year. Ballantine's whisky was first produced in 1869 by a Edinburgh grocer named George Ballantine. He had expanded his grocery business in to the area of wines and spirits, before deciding to start blending his own whiskies. The whisky business was booming at the time and many people began producing their own blends during this period, including the now famous names of William Teacher and Arthur Bell.

Ballantine's whisky became very popular very quickly and he recruited his two sons, Archibald and George Jnr, and set up George Ballantine & Sons Ltd. It remained in the family until his sons sold the company in 1919. The Canadian drinks firm Hiram Walker took control in the 1930s and immediately purchased two Speyside single malt distilleries - Glenburgie and Miltonduff - and built the Dumbarton grain distillery to help with consistency of production. At the time, Dumbarton was the largest whisky distillery in Europe. Between the mid 1960s and mid 1980s, Ballantine's grew in popularity throughout Europe and around the world. In 2005, the Ballantine's brand became part of the large multi-national drinks company Pernod Ricard, who remain the current owners.

We recently visited the Glenburgie distillery in Speyside, which is regarded as providing the 'signature' single malt for the whole Ballantine's range. Within this visit, we were honoured to have a tutored tasting hosted by Sandy Hyslop - the Master Blender for the Ballantine's range. Details of this tasting are below, as is the following short video in which Alex Robertson, the International Ambassador for Chivas Brothers, explained about the history and facts behind the Ballantine's whisky range.

whiskies at a ballantine's tastingOur tasting with Sandy followed a different and very interesting format - we were presented with six glasses (as shown, left) and within these were some of the constituent whiskies that make up the Ballantine's range. Sandy had set these up in the way that he does his professional analysis, which has them all diluted to the same alcoholic strength. This was 20% ABV, which Sandy explained allows him and his colleagues to extract the maximum aroma and flavour characteristics from each whisky.

The collection of samples were as follows. From left to right, as pictured above >
Strathclyde grain new spirit (this is normally put in to casks at a whopping 94% ABV according to Sandy!) and at 20% this showed a soft, creamy character with plenty of green pear and apple, plus sugary cream soda.
Strathclyde grain 12 years old
, which is only ever aged 3rd or 4th fill ex-bourbon casks to give a subtlety of flavour that will compliment to stronger single malts in the blend. This whisky is the grain base used for Ballantine's 12 years old.
Glenburgie new make spirit, which normally comes off the still at 63% ABV. This will become the signature malt whisky for the Ballantine's range and exhibits plenty of fruitiness, especially tangy citrus (lemon and lime) and interesting blackcurrant.
Glenburgie 12 years old. This is matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks to give structure and complexity to the Ballantine's 12 years old. There is not much Glenburgie single malt about, so the chance to try is rare. It was full of honey, vanilla, green apples and lightly spiced fruit cake.
Aberlour 12 years old, which is matured in first fill ex-sherry casks. This gives rich dried fruit (sultanas, raisins and candied orange peel), toffee and spice notes that gives the final blend a higher level of concentration, complexity and flavour.
Ballantine's 30 years old - the premium whisky of the range. Sandy told us that it takes a high level of cask management to get the whisky to the required quality and gave us the interesting statistic that for every bottle of 30 year old that is bottled, then the equivalent of two further bottles have been lost to evaporation during the thirty year maturation period. The whisky had a delicious mix of sweet and rounded notes - vanilla, golden syrup, peaches and tropical fruit.

Following the tasting, Sandy challenged us to try and reproduce a copy of Ballantine's 12 years old using various bottles on the table in front of us. This is much harder than you can ever imagine and we have written about the blending process recently, as we have created our own whisky for the Master of Malt - click here to read about that. Throughout the whole tasting Sandy gave us a fascinating insight in to the world of blending whisky, what happens on a day-to-day basis in his work and how he maintains the highest standards of his final product. We have put some of his comment together in another video. We hope that you enjoy listening and find it as interesting as we did. We would like to thank Sandy for his time and hospitality towards us both.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Distillery visit > The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet is one of the most famous whisky names and brands in the world. The distillery is located in the Speyside region, close to the town of Ballindalloch in the scenic Livet Glen. It is one of Scotland's largest with an annual production of 10 million litres - this is thanks to a new extension to the distillery which was opened in June 2010 by Prince Charles and increased the old capacity by 75%. The Glenlivet is currently owned by drinks giant Pernod Ricard, who took control in 2001, and their influence has seen Glenlivet become one of the best selling single malts in the world.

The Glenlivet was founded in 1824 by George Smith, whose signature still appears on the labels and packaging. It was the first distillery in the Speyside region to be granted a distilling licence under the Parliamentary Excise Act, which was established in 1823. This Act was allegedly pushed through by the Duke of Gordon, who was George Smith's landlord and he part financed Smith to build a legal distillery on part of his land. This made Smith and the new Glenlivet distillery very unpopular at the time with the other local illicit whisky distillers, as it regularly attracted visits from Customs & Excise officers!

A small percentage of whisky produced at The Glenlivet is used in Pernod Ricard's range of blended whiskies but most is reserved for release as single malt. This range is extensive and multi-award winning, including the regular 12, 15, 18, 21 and 25 years old plus older releases, different cask finishes and exclusive bottlings for the duty free/travel retail sector. The single malt range is second for overall world sales (behind Glenfiddich) with six million bottles sold each year. It is third in the UK (behind Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie) and the best selling single malt in the USA, where it has been number one since the 1970s.

alan winchesterOur tour was conducted by Alan Winchester (pictured, left), the Chivas Master Distiller who oversees production at a number of the Chivas Brothers distilleries including The Glenlivet. It began rather unexpectedly with a hike up the hillside at the back of the distillery - this was to see a stone which marks the spot where the original distillery built by George Smith had stood. This blew away some of the early morning (and hangover induced!) cobwebs! Once we had negotiated a muddy track and jumped over a hillside stream (not as easy as it sounds for us city folk ...), Alan took us through some history which was peppered with interesting facts and stories - this was so enjoyable that we have decided to cover this in a separate post, which will appear shortly.

After a quick coffee stop back at the distillery in the spacious visitor centre which includes an impressive helix-shaped sculpture of Glenlivet bottles, we embark on our tour. We begin in a small room which house a Porteus mill that has previously been used to grind the malted barley at the distillery. This has part of the front section cut away so that the internal workings can be seen. This was interesting, as we have not seen this before. This room has also been fitted with an impressive old stained glass window, which a previous owner purchased from the chapel in the local village and had laid around in disrepair until it was decided to restore it as part of the recent renovations.

the stillroom at glenlivetWe move on in to the first part of the new extension - this is a wide, cavernous room with a high ceiling that houses a massive stainless steel mash tun on a raised mezzanine level and six copper pot stills below. The noise in here is loud and monotonous. The mash tun - the vessel where the sugars in the malted and milled barley are dissolved in warm water - takes half of the time to produce the required wort (the name of the sugary warm liquid) that the old mash tun did, which had operated at Glenlivet from the 1970s until 2009. The stills are also impressive, but we will come back to them shortly.

Alan took us through to an adjacent narrower room which ran the full length of the still/mash room. This was home to eight wooden washbacks. These are huge tanks which hold 25,000 litres of wort at a time. It is in these that the yeast is added and fermentation takes place, turning all of the soluble sugar in to alcohol over a two day period. Each of these are bubbling away at a different stage of the process and this rotation means that the stills have a constant supply of wash (the name of the final fermented liquid, which has an alcoholic strength of about 7-8% ABV). The heat in this room is stifling and it is only when you look down through the meshed suspended floor, that you see the full scale of these tanks.

stills and mash tun at glenlivetWe moved back in to the still room and stood observing the stills from the floor-to-ceiling window that can be seen in the photo that is a couple of paragraphs above. Again, it is only when you are standing next to these stills that you realise the size of them, especially the larger wash stills (pictured, left). These new stills are replicas of the stills in the original, older part of the distillery and this was done so as to recreate the same style of Glenlivet spirit. The stills work in pairs with the larger wash stills receiving the wash and putting it through the first distillation. The resulting alcohol is then passed to the smaller spirit stills, where it undergoes a second distillation - it is part of this which is selected to be taken for maturation in oak casks and that will ultimately become whisky.

glenlivet tun roomNext, we were in for a treat - Alan took us through to the old part of the distillery, which is no longer open to the public. This was equally as impressive as what we had already seen but this part of Glenlivet was in stark contrast to the shiny, slightly clinical feeling of the new extension. Everything was cramped and had a more 'lived in' and 'down to earth' feel in comparison. Paint was peeling, wood was stained by years of work and signage was functional rather than tourist-friendly. The mash tun filled the small room in which it is housed, as did the further eight wooden washbacks which were located in two different areas. The three pairs of stills are jammed in to the still room, with very little space between them and the atmosphere was hot and humid due to the confined space.

glenlivet dunnage warehouseThe final stage of our tour took us to one of the warehouses. The Glenlivet site has numerous warehouses, which are home to approximately 60,000 casks of maturing whisky, with the rest being matured at other Chivas Brothers sites around Speyside. The one we saw was the Cellar Collection warehouse, which is where some of The Glenlivet's premium casks are being matured and many of these are destined for single cask or limited batch releases. This is a dunnage warehouse, which is the traditional type and has earthen floors, stone walls and low ceilings.

cask 12686 at the glenlivetWhile in the Cellar Collections warehouse, we are treated to a tasting of a special whisky with Alan - this was from cask number 12686 (pictured, left) and was distilled in 1979. This was a lovely, rich whisky that exhibited deep vanilla, honey and wood spice (think of cinnamon and nutmeg) notes, as well as an extraordinary tropical fruit character (especially pineapple, mango and over ripe banana). It was a true privilege to sample this while standing in amongst so much other great whisky and we thank Alan for this opportunity, for his time and information while showing us around and his great hospitality.

If you have never been to visit a distillery or are interested in the sights and sounds of The Glenlivet, then please click below and watch the video clip of our tour with Alan. This includes footage from the new part of the distillery, the old section which is no longer open to the public and tasting that exquisite whisky straight from a 1979 cask in the Cellar Collection warehouse. We hope that you enjoy watching ...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Inbox > April 15, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here is this week's news - grab a dram and enjoy!
Bowmore > A Taste of Islay is launched
bowmore logoThe iconic Islay distillery of Bowmore, which is the oldest distillery on the famous whisky producing island, has announced A Taste of Islay. This is aimed at people interested in outdoor pursuits and will take the form of tasting experiences at a number of consumer events throughout the year including the Outdoor Pursuits show in Edinburgh, the Royal Bath & West Show and the Kendal Mountain Festival. Bowmore will also sponsor the Ben Nevis Challenge on 20 August, which sees teams scale the peak of Ben Nevis in aid of Capability Scotland - a charity that works with disabled people and their family and carers throughout Scotland (for further details of this - click here). Kirsteen Beeston, the Head of Brand Marketing for Bowmore said: "Bowmore has always been a champion of nature and the great outdoors, so we’re delighted to be broadening our campaign this year to bring a Taste of Islay to more of our target audience in a relevant and memorable way.

The Drambuie Pursuit
drambuie pursuit logoIn another piece of outdoor news, four members of the Royal Air Force have won a £2,500 donation for the RAF’s Benevolent Fund after securing a place for The Drambuie Pursuit – a high octane Scottish endurance race. Team ultRAFast (including Squadron Leader Alan Rutledge, Flight Lieutenants Tom Kinsley and Simon Ramsden plus Flying Officer Chris Carrington-Smith) will take part in the event which runs between 13 and 15 May. The Drambuie Pursuit covers 100 miles of the Scottish Highland’s rugged terrain and includes activities such as rock climbing, white water rafting, mountain biking, kayaking and buggy racing. Team ultRAFast will compete against nine other international teams. Drambuie - one of the best selling whisky based liqueurs in the world – is again sponsoring the tough Scottish pursuit event. For more information on The Drambuie Pursuit please visit

The Macallan > Royal Wedding bottling announced
macallan royal wedding bottlingThe famous Speyside distillery of Macallan has announced the release of a limited edition single malt to commemorate the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29. There will be only 1,000 bottles of this special whisky, which has been constructed using just two hand premium casks - both were put in to their casks on April 29, one in 1996 and one in 1999. This mirrors a similar Macallan bottling that was produced for the wedding of William's parents in 1981. A specially designed label and packaging has been produced by David Holmes, who was also the creative force behind the 1981 packaging. Each bottle will cost £150 and are available from the visitor's centre shop at the distillery or via

The distiller's tasting notes are as follows > Colour – Golden Amber. Nose – Cinnamon, ginger, clove, toffee apples, vanilla, chocolate orange, summer fruits, lightly floral and barley notes. Palate – Abundant wood spices deliver an initial hit to the palate, slightly oily texture. Fruits develop, balanced with soft oak tones. Orange zest, floral notes and barley make an appearance later. Finish – Soft, full, long lasting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Have just tried > The Chivas Regal range

the chivas regal rangeChivas Regal is one of the most famous and best selling whisky brands in the world. The premium whiskies that appear under the Chivas Regal name are blends and the core range consists of a 12, 18 and 25 years old. The age statement refers to the age of the youngest whisky that is included in the blend - this is true of any blended whisky that carries an age statement. The range is multi award winning and has approximately 5% of the total world market share for blended whisky, which comfortable puts it in the top five* - this equates to the fact that for every 20 bottles of blended whisky purchased in the world, then one is Chivas Regal. That's a lot of whisky! Most is exported from the UK, with the main markets being Europe, south east Asia and the USA.

The Chivas Brothers company was set up in the early 1800s by James and John Chivas. They owned a luxury grocery store in Aberdeen that imported highly desirable products such as brandy, rum, port, spices, tea and coffee, which they sold to wealthy customers. They began blending their own whiskies, as was the trend at the time. Chivas Brothers' whiskies became so popular in late Victorian times that Queen Victoria issued them with a Royal Warrant and they supplied the royal household for a period of time, hence the name of Chivas Regal was born. Chivas Brothers and the Chivas Regal brand is currently owned by drinks company Pernod Ricard, who purchased it in 2001, and they have helped to grow the stature and sales of the whisky around the world.

chivas regal tastingThe single malt at the heart of the Chivas Regal blends is produced at Strathisla in the Speyside region of Scotland. As part of our recent visit to Strathisla, we were treated to a tutored tasting of the range by Alex Robertson - the International Ambassador for Chivas Brothers. Interestingly, the tasting included not only the three Chivas Regal blends, but also some of the constituent parts of these blends to begin with. This included a sample of the new make spirit from Strathisla, the Strathisla 12 years old single malt and an aged grain whisky from Chivas' Strathclyde grain distillery in Glasgow (these are the first three glasses respectively from left to right, pictured above).

strathisla 12 years oldThe Strathisla new make spirit was presented to us at 63.5% ABV and was rich and oily in the mouth, with some distinct cereal grains and fresh green fruit (think of pears and apples). There were also hints of vanilla and white pepper. The Strathisla 12 years old (pictured, left) is the only single malt regularly released from the distillery. This has a lovely mix of notes - toffee, wood spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), cereal grains, dried fruits (raisins, currants and candied orange peel) and dark chocolate. It is rich and full bodied with a slight oily feeling on the palate. To read our previous full review and tasting notes of Strathisla 12 years old - click here. The Strathclyde grain whisky was robust and creamy with plenty of vanilla, gristy oat-like cereals, nuts (especially almonds and coconut) and bittersweet wood spice.

chivas regal 12 years oldChivas Regal 12 years old
This is the cornerstone of the Chivas Regal range and is one of the best selling whiskies of any kind in the world. It was first launched in the early 1900s. The nose exhibits many of the characteristics of the Strathisla 12 years old - especially toffee, cereals, candied peel, raisins and dark chocolate - and it is evident that the two whiskies are related. There is also a distinct peachy, possibly apricot, note which adds further depth. The palate is sweet to begin with, although this fades to reveal other characteristics. The whisky feels oily, with the notes mentioned for the nose present. These mix with vanilla, nuts (think of a creamy style of nut like almond or hazelnut) and a pinch of wood spice (like cinnamon). The finish is sweet with the toffee note prominent and is very pleasant, but maybe slightly short.

chivas regal 18 years oldChivas Regal 18 years old
This whisky was launched in 1997 and contains a complex mix of over 20 different old single malts and grain whiskies. The nose is fragrant and welcoming with aromas of vanilla, oat cakes, dried fruit (sultanas, apricots, prunes and candied orange peel) and woody spices (cinnamon and nutmeg). On the palate, this is soft, velvety and very smooth. The vanilla and grain notes are present from the nose, as are the sultanas and candied orange. However, the fruitiness is now more reminiscent of stewed/cooked fruits (especially pears and apples) and this combines well with the wood spices notes. There is also an element of toffee adding to the richness. The finish is long, warming and rich with stewed fruit,woody oak and vanilla notes.

chivas regal 25 years oldChivas Regal 25 years old
This is the rarest and newest edition to the range, having been introduced in 2007. It has a deep amber colour and the nose is expressive - there are aromas of toasted almond, bittersweet cereal grains, dark dried fruits (raisins, prunes, figs), rich caramel and candied orange peel. On the palate, this is creamy and rich with a lovely combo of vanilla, toffee and caramel to begin with. These notes are joined by the bittersweet grains, dried fruit and peel from the nose plus a pinch of baking spices (think of all spice, cinnamon and nutmeg). It is soft and sweet with a slightly bitter/spicy edge that carries through to the long, pleasant finish. The dried fruit is particularly prominent here. A delicious dram that reveals more and more depth and subtly with time.

All of the Chivas Regal range are bottled at 40% ABV with the 12 years old retailing for around £25 a bottle, the 18 years old for £45 and the 25 years old for approximately £165.

* Source - Euromonitor International report 2009

Monday, April 11, 2011

Distillery visit > Strathisla

Strathisla (pronounced strath-eye-la) is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland. It was founded in 1786 by Alexander Milne and George Taylor, and was originally named Milltown – it did not become Strathisla until 1870, although this was later changed again to Milton, before reverting to Strathisla in 1951. Despite not being the oldest (both Glenturret and Bowmore were founded before it), Strathisla boasts the longest continuous production of any distillery in Scotland – Bowmore and especially Glenturret have been closed and restarted during their histories.

The distillery is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque in Scotland and is located in the market town of Keith on the eastern side of the Speyside region. It sits on the banks of the River Isla, which runs through the town and it is this that gives the Strathisla its name and some of its water supply. The original water wheel can still be seen at the distillery and this used to power every part of the whisky production process. Strathisla has been owned by Chivas Brothers since 1950 and is one of three distilleries in Keith. The others are Glen Keith, which is almost next door and is also owned by Chivas Brothers but has laid dormant since 2000, and Strathmill, which is owned by Diageo. The facilities at Glen Keith are currently being used as one of Chivas’ main research centres.

Much of Strathisla’s annual production of 2.5million litres is used for the hugely popular Chivas Regal blended whisky range, which is in the top five for total world whisky sales. The whisky from Strathisla is regarded as the ‘heart of Chivas Regal’ and forms an influential part of the blend. The distillery is also marketed as ‘the spiritual home of Chivas Regal’. A relatively small percentage is released as single malt and the current range consists of a 12 years old, plus a limited 15 years old at cask strength. Strathisla can be found through the independent bottlers, although these are also fairly rare.

alex robertsonOur visit to Strathisla was hosted by Alex Robertson, the International Brand Ambassador for Chivas Brothers (pictured, left). When we arrived, it was easy to see why this distillery has the ‘most picturesque’ tag – it looks gorgeous, even on a grey March afternoon. We begin with a walk down the main driveway and in to the entrance of the visitor’s centre. This is largely geared towards promoting Strathisla as ‘The heart of Chivas Regal’, rather than the single malt and everything is labeled as such. Once inside, the interior is plushly furnished and littered with old pieces of memorabilia and nick-nacks from the distillery and Chivas brand.

We move briefly outside again in order to get to the milling room and this allows us another look at the exterior of this beautiful distillery. The old Porteus mill has been there for decades and still puts in shifts of around five tonnes of malted barley at a time. The mill grinds the barley in to three different gradings - coarse, middles and fines. This is done so as to maximise the amount of soluble sugar that is extracted later in the process and the mix of the three is called grist. Each distillery has its own ratio, but most play within certain parameters - if they have a too high percentages of fines, then when the water is added later the grist will stick together. Conversely, a higher percentage of coarse means that the water will drain through too quickly. Strathisla's grist percentages are around 24% coarse, 65% middles and 11% fines.

As we go upstairs to see the mash tun, which has an impressive copper dome, and it becomes clear that Strathisla is not just quaint from the outside. The interior has the same feel and you get the impression that everything is going to be tight, compact and on top of each other. The mash tun is where warm water is added to the grist so as to dissolve the soluble sugars in the grain. This is done four times at Strathisla, with the temperature of the water being increased each time. This maximises the amount of sugars that are dissolved, with some of the final batch being taken and used to kick start the next first batch. The four temperatures are 65.5°C, then 76°C, 84°C and finally 93°C. The final liquid is called wort.

washbacks at strathislaNext, Alex takes us through to the fermentation area, where the sugary wort from the mash tun is converted in to an alcoholic liquid. This takes place in huge containers called washbacks, which in the case of Strathisla are made out of wood. This is the traditional material for washbacks, although many distilleries now have stainless steel ones. Here, the liquid yeast is added to the wash and the reaction turns the soluble sugars in to alcohol. This takes 48 hours at Strathisla and they have 10 washbacks, all of which are at different stages of the fermentation process. The end product is a beer-like liquid, called wash, that has an alcoholic strength of 7-8% ABV and the whole room is warm and filled with the smell of malty beer with an edge of carbon dioxide, the by-product of fermentation.

the still room at strathislaWe move through to the still room, which has to be one of the most characterful and idiosyncratic in the Scottish whisky industry. The four stills are lined up and they are crammed in to a steep gabled roof, along with all the pipework. This room is the one directly below the chimney in the photo at the start of this post and it is not until you see this exterior that you realise that the still room is slightly below ground level. The claustrophobic feeling is exaggerated by the wooden roof (another rarity, especially given the current health and safety laws!) and the lyne arm of each still are slightly different to the next one, so as to fit within the shape of the roof! The room is warm and humid, as both pairs of stills are in operation and the noise is hard to describe.

whisky tasting of chivas regal rangeAfter a quick look at the spirit safe, where the final spirit is assessed and collected from the stills, we move outside to the welcome cooler air. We walk passed the old water wheel, which used to power the whole distillery, across the clipped lawn and back in to the visitor's centre. We are taken through to a very impressive wood paneled room, where we take part in a Chivas Regal whisky tasting tutored by Alex. The details and tasting notes of this are in a separate post which you can read by clicking here. It was very interesting to taste not just the Chivas Regal range (aged at 12, 18 and 25 years) but also two of the important constituent parts of the blend - Strathisla (new make spirit straight from the still and the 12 years old) and a grain whisky from Chivas' grain distillery of Strathclyde.

the royal salute vault at strathislaThe final stop of our tour contained a real treat. We were shown around one of the warehouses (Warehouse No.3) at the distillery - there are only three warehouses on the site, with the rest of the whisky being matured in other facilities around Scotland. Within this warehouse we were allowed in to the Royal Salute Vault - a double padlocked cage that contains some very special whisky indeed. The Royal Salute is a premium blended whisky that is produced by Chivas and we were amazed to be offered a dram of a highly rare version of this, which was 38 years of age and named Stone of Destiny. This treat was the final act in our tour of Strathisla, a distillery which oozed charm, character and class.

In order for you to see some of the sights and sounds of Strathisla, we have put together a short film in what is our first foray in to the world of video. The camera work is a little shaky, but hopefully that will improve with practice! Hopefully the film will give you an insight to the distillery and give you the chance to listen to Alex Robertson explaining about it. We hope that you enjoy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inbox > April 8, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here is this week's news - grab a dram and enjoy!
The Chivas Regal Cannes Experience
the chivas cannes experienceChivas Regal, the premium blended whisky brand, has announced an extension to its sponsorship of the iconic Cannes Film Festival. This will be the third year that it will be an official partner of the festival, which will be staged for the 64th time this year. To celebrate, Chivas are offering a VIP trip for you and three friends to Cannes. The winner will have a whistle stop 24 hour experience that includes return flights, tickets to a movie premiere including walking along the red carpet, meeting stars, entry to an exclusive after-show party, luxurious accommodation and dinner at a top restaurant in Cannes. To enter, simply go to the Chivas Regal Facebook page. Good luck!

Spirit of Unity > A unique whisky to help earthquake victims

'spirit of unity' whiskyA group of seven independent Scottish distilleries have collaborated to create a unique whisky that will generate vital funds for the Japanese and New Zealand earthquake relief work. Each of the seven – Arran, Benriach, Bladnoch, Glendronach, Glengyle, Kilchoman and Springbank – have donated a single cask of whisky, which have been blended together to create a limited edition named Spirit of Unity. The bottle and container (pictured, left) has also been donated free of charge by Chesapeake Branded Packaging. There are only 2,000 bottles, with 1,200 being sold in the UK market through two nominated retailers – Royal Mile Whiskies and Loch Fyne Whiskies – at £59 each (plus postage). The remaining 800 bottles will be sent to Japan and New Zealand, where they will be sold. Every penny of the sales will go to the relief efforts in the two countries and this will total almost £120,000. Spirit of Unity can be pre-ordered from UK retailers’ websites.

Whyte & Mackay > Recreate 100 year old whisky
mackinlay's shackleton whiskyWhisky company Whyte & Mackay have recreated a whisky that has been buried under the ice of Antarctica for a century. The company's Master Blender, the legendary Richard Paterson, has taken eight weeks to blend and marry the new whisky in order to achieve an exact replica of the original whisky. This original was produced by MacKinlay's and was left by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton on a failed expedition to the South Pole in the early 1900s. It was not discovered until 2007 and only recently three of the bottles were flown back to Whyte & Mackay's headquarters in Scotland, where Richard Paterson analysed the whisky. The originals are to be returned to the ice but the new version will be available shortly.

The replica Shackleton whisky will retail at £100, with 5% of the proceeds going to the New Zealand based charity who maintain part of Antarctica and who found the original crates of whisky. It has been bottled at the original's strength of 47.3% ABV and 50,000 bottles have been produced. The packaging for this new whisky has also been replicated to be as original as possible, including imperfections in the glass and wooden box! The whole series of events, from the discovery through to the blending process, has been recorded and will be released as a documentary by The National Geographic Society later in the year.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Master of Malt Blending Challenge

master of malts blending packA couple of weeks ago, we received a package from Master of Malt, the online whisky retailer. This followed on from an exciting email that we received from them, which invited us to take part in something very special. We were being asked to create our own blended whisky using the ingredients contained within the package. We were excited about the prospect and honoured to be asked to take part. However once our euphoria started to wear off, one problem was staring us in the face - what did we know about how to blend whisky? Hmmm, not much actually ...

Master of Malt have been retailing for 25 years. The business is based in Tunbridge Wells in Kent and started life as a whisky shop, before expanding on to the internet. The company's website is now one of the UK's leading online sites for whisky, and also includes other spirits such as Cognac, gin, rum, tequila and vodka. The site is built around a vast core range of whisky and also contains plenty of other whisky related facts, information and tips. They are industry innovators and this is shown by their Drinks by the Dram range, which allows you to purchase 3cl samples of most of their whisky catalogue to try before you buy the full bottle.

master of malts 'drinks by the dram'So, here is the idea ... Master of Malt have asked ten whisky blogs/publications to produce their own version of a blended whisky - the participants are listed below with links to their sites - from the same set of core ingredients (these are again listed below with some basic tasting notes). We then return our recipes to them and they will make all ten, which they will then sell in a special Drinks by the Dram ten pack. Anyone buying the pack will get a 3cl sample bottle of each blend and be asked to vote for their favourite. When all of the votes are in, Master of Malt will then produce, market and retail the winning blend. The same ten participants will then also come up with a name for the blend and the label design.

The other nine participants > Cask Strength, Connosr, Dr Whisky, Edinburgh Whisky, Glasgow's Whisky (& Ale), Guid Scotch Drink, Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society, WhiskyCast and Whisky Magazine.

The blending pack that we received included a few scientific-looking bits of equipment (glass measuring beakers, pipettes etc) plus the selection of whiskies listed below. We decided to sample each of the whiskies individually before doing anything else and we have included our basic tasting notes next to them. The identities and ages of the whiskies were not revealed to us, so as to avoid any prejudice or preconception of what we were using. We could use some or all of them and in any combination.

selection of master of malts from the blending packThe whiskies included were >
A grain base > perfumed and fragrant, almond, vanilla, bittersweet, fresh, gristy cereals, sultana.
A malt base > caramel, sultana, toasted nuts, hint of dried grass, obviously sweet and buttery.
A Lowland malt
> very delicate, coconut, honey, fresh pears, white chocolate, vanilla, fresh oak, dried grasses.
A Highland malt > malty cereal grains, bitter almond, orange oil, honey, chocolate, coffee, wood spices - especially cinnamon.
A sherried Speyside malt > caramel, dried fruits, grains, brown sugar, orange peel, nuts, wood spice, Christmas cake, prunes.
An Islay malt
> burnt rubber, damp earth, moss, burnt cereals, vanilla, oatcakes, bonfire smoke, chilli, salt.
An old Speyside malt > woody, cereals, oatcakes, grassy, raisins, sultana, butterscotch, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg.
An old sherry finished Highland malt
> burnt sugar, cedarwood, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, biscuity, heavy cereals, espresso, milk chocolate.
A very, very old grain whisky
> heavy cereals, white chocolate, fresh coconut, wood spices - oak, cinnamon, vanilla, icing sugar, bitter finish.
A very old Islay malt > floral, malty cereals, ashy smoke in background, biscuits, salty brine, rich in mouth.

Once we had sampled each of the component parts, we set about trying to match things together that would compliment each other in the final blend - this was not as easy as you would think. We quickly discovered that two or three whiskies that we thought would go well together, actually didn't work as well as expected when mixed. This led to a long yet enjoyable session of trying different combinations and amounts of the component whiskies, until we had something that was starting to resemble what we wanted for our final blend.

However, this needed refining and the breakthrough came when we met Sandy Hyslop on our recent trip to Scotland. Sandy is the Master Blender for the hugely popular Ballantine's blended whisky range and he told us a few of the basic things to consider when constructing a blended whisky. Thanks to his tips and another long but enjoyable blending session, we finally had a whisky that we are proud to put our name to. The 'Karen & Matt Blend' describes our whisky taste and preference at this particular point of time. The recipe has now been sent back to Master of Malt and we are eagerly awaiting the next part of the process where ours and the other nine are recreated. What will the others taste like? We will let you know ...

The Whisky Round Table > April 2011

The latest edition of The Whisky Round Table is now available for all to read. The host this month are our good friend Gal Granov, who runs the informative Whisky Israel blog from the whisky outpost that is Israel (the clue was in the name really ...). We are delighted to be part of the Whisky Round Table, so hope that you will join us and our colleagues for this edition. Gal has decided to get a discussion going about the merits of single cask whiskies, so to read this month's sitting of the Whisky Round Table - click here.

The Whisky Round Table is the brainchild of Jason Johnston-Yellin, who is the author of the 'must read' whisky blog Guid Scotch Drink. His idea was to gather together 12 whisky bloggers from around the world and get them to discuss a whisky topic once a month. The hosting of The Round Table is passed around the 12 members, with each host setting the question for each month - the subjects have been wide and varied to date. Links to the previous editions of Whisky Round Table articles can be found by clicking here. Enjoy!

The Whisky Round Table can also be followed on Twitter. Come and join us @WhiskyKnights.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A trip to Speyside > March 2011

glenburgie, glenlivet and strathisla distilleries
At the end of last month we were delighted to be invited on a mini tour of the Speyside whisky region by Chivas Brothers. The company, which forms part of the larger Pernod Ricard group, owns 12 distilleries in total, 11 of which are located in Speyside. Our tour was to visit three of them - Glenburgie (pronounced glen-burg-ee and pictured, above left), The Glenlivet (pictured, above centre) and Strathisla (pronounced strath-eye-la and pictured, above right). The three distilleries are the foundation on which Chivas Brothers is built - Glenburgie single malt contributes greatly to the famous Ballantine's blended whisky range, Strathisla likewise for the Chivas Regal blended range and The Glenlivet is a world famous and iconic single malt whisky in its own right.

On the trip we learnt plenty about each of the three distilleries and the Chivas Brothers' organisation and methodology. We met a number of people who spoke to us about the nuances of the whisky industry - these included Alex Robertson (the International Brand Ambassador for Chivas), Sandy Hyslop (the Master Blender of Ballantine's) and Alan Winchester (the Chivas Distillery Manager, who oversees The Glenlivet amongst other distilleries). All imparted a great deal of information and enthusiasm in the short time that we spent with them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank them again for their time. We will be writing about the trip and our findings over the coming weeks in a series of blog posts.

We were joined on the trip by a mix of old and new whisky blogging friends, including our fellow Londoners Joel and Neil from Cask Strength, Chris from Edinburgh Whisky Blog, Jim and Nicola from Whisky Boys and Patrick from Whisky-News, a whisky website which he writes in both English and French. If you are not aware of these sites, then we urge you to visit them as all are very good and are packed with information. They will also be writing about the trip, so please follow their versions of events too.

We would also like to thank Courtney (the Chivas Communications Executive) and Grace and Kaye from Richmond Towers, who do PR for Chivas Brothers, for all the organisation and additional information given. Final mention must go to 'Willie', the bus driver who ferried us around in the minibus for two days and had no sympathy for all our 'morning of Day 2' hangovers - this manifested itself in him driving as fast as possible through the Scottish countryside, finding every pothole and accelerating towards every corner! Maybe, it just felt worse than it actually was .....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Inbox > April 1, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox has been born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here is this week's news - grab a dram and enjoy!
Firstly, we are sorry that Whisky for Everyone has been a little quieter than usual on the blogging front in the last couple of weeks. However we have been far from lazy and have been working on a couple of projects and articles, in between doing our day jobs. We have also managed to squeeze in a trip up to Scotland c/o Chivas Brothers, which was very enjoyable. As a result, we have plenty in the pipeline that will appear over the next two weeks or so. Watch this space! Anyway, on with the real news ...

Caol Ila > Major refurbishment plan announced
caol ila distilleryCaol Ila, the largest distillery on the famous Scottish whisky island of Islay, is to undergo a major refurbishment. Diageo, the distillery's owners, have announced that it is to invest £3.5million to expand and upgrade Caol Ila, which has an award winning range of single malts and contributes greatly to their blends, such as Johnnie Walker. The work is to increase the distillery's annual production capacity by 700,000 litres to 6.4 million per year. This includes adding two new washbacks (the huge tanks where the fermentation process takes place), replacing the mash tun and modernising the control systems in the still room. The work will begin in June, following the popular Islay Festival, and will take an estimated six months. The distillery will be closed to the public during this time, although the visitor's shop will remain open. Click here to read the full press release.

Woodford Reserve > Limited edition released
woodford reserve kentucky derby 2011Woodford Reserve, the historic bourbon distillery located in Versailles in the American state of Kentucky, have announced a limited bottling to celebrate the world famous Kentucky Derby horse race. The Brown Forman Corporation, who own the distillery, have commissioned the award winning artist Brett Amory to paint an image for the label - this shows two horses racing to the finish line. Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, which has been run at the famous Churchill Downs race course in Louisville, Kentucky since 1875. This year sees the 137th running on May 7 and the whiskey is released to commemorate Woodford's association with the race. It will be available from early April in 42 US states and will appear in 50cl bottles with a recommended retail price of $42.99.