Highland Park Distillery Focus

Highland Park Distillery Focus

 

If Macallan takes the top spot for the best-marketed single malt brand of the 21st century, then there could be a very strong argument for Highland Park Distillery taking the runner-up spot. Owners of the Edrington Group (same as Macallan) have cleverly played on the Orcadian Norse history with plenty of references to Vikings, Norse gods, and other mythical characters.

The distillery itself is shrouded in mystery as to when it opened… Was it 1798 as the marketeers today are going with? Or, as some evidence suggests, did it not properly start operations until the later 1800s? Whatever the truth, the early years were very uneventful, and the distillery just made filling for blends until 1979, when showing incredible foresight, the owners start to invest in the single malt brand. The first release was an eight-year-old followed by a 12 and an 18-year. The brand quickly built up a cult following, which in more recent times has cleverly been reinforced by the brilliant marketing campaign. 

Highland Park Distillery has the distinction of being the most northerly whisky distillery in Scotland and sits on the hill in Kirkwall just above Scapa, which overlooks the famous Scapa Flow. Production is surprisingly a lot less than many people think at 2.5 million litres (Glenlivet is 21 million), and two pairs of stills operate with a fermentation time of 52 to 96 hours.

Unusually for the modern age, a significant percentage of the floor malting is done on-site (around 30%). Highland Park produces two types of malt with the peated having a ppm of 30-40 which is then blended in with the unpeated. Interestingly, the peat is very different in the Orkneys compared to what is found in Islay. For example, Islay’s peat is smokier due to having more marine vegetation that contains creosol which is picked up as tar.

Islay peat also contains lignin which comes from the trees and again adds a smokier taste. The Orkneys has no trees and so the peat is entirely composed of moss and heather. The smoke is thus lighter, more aromatic, and fragrant. This gives Highland Park a unique flavour profile, taking advantage of the island’s microclimate and fauna which is completely different from the mainland.  

Highland Park Distillery also has a wood policy which has greatly enhanced its reputation and flavour profile, as since 2004 all the whisky has been aged 100% in sherry casks. This adds an extra richness to the whisky. When you taste Highland Park, it is robust, salty, spicy but also aromatic, fragrant and fruity, underpinned by a light soft smoke. It’s not hard to understand the distillery’s universal popularity within the single malt drinking community. The Highland Park 18-year especially seems to win a number of awards and acclaim. 

From time to time, we have Highland Park casks on our stock list. As a stockist, we own every single cask we sell and will not purchase anything which is overpriced. If a Highland Park cask is available, then this is a rare opportunity to own a blue riband distillery. The success of their 40 and 50-year bottlings is evidence of how well the whisky ages. A wonderful short, medium, long-term opportunity. 

 Fact File

Distillery Glossary  

Founded: 1798? 

Region: Highland – Orkneys. 

Owners: Edrington 

Capacity: 2.5m litres 

Stills: 4 

Fermentation: 52-96 hours. 

Peated/Unpeated: Peated 30% at 30-40 ppm 

Casks Used: Sherry casks after 2004 using both European and American oak. 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: 2021 Double Gold San Francisco ISA for Highland Park 18 

Independent bottlings: Around 2500 

Core Range: 10, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 30 and 40….. Countless limited editions including 3 series of the Viking Legend series and a large number of single cask bottlings.

We have a special 2000 Highland Park cask on our current stock list. To find out more about investing in Highland Park Whisky, contact The Masters today!

Littlemill Distillery Focus

Littlemill Distillery Focus

 

It is always a touch poignant writing about lost distilleries that were forced to close through no fault of their own. Sometimes the economic ill winds blow across the landscape and there is no escaping them for certain businesses. This was the fate of distilleries like Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank, and Littlemill during the 1980s recession. Casks from these distilleries have now become increasingly rare and incredibly sought-after. Littlemill Distillery did have a brief renaissance after its initial 1984 closure when under new ownership the stills were fired up again in 1989, but alas by 1994 the distillery fell silent forever.

We at Cask Trade are very excited to announce that a 1990 Littlemill Hogshead has arrived on our stock list. Before we go into the details of this unique, exceptional offering, we think we should delve into the history of this famous, silent distillery.

Littlemill Distillery was established in 1773 on the banks of the River Clyde just north of Glasgow, and close to Loch Lomond. Two brothers George and Archibald Buchanan already owned a successful brewery but had designs on creating something a little more potent and interesting. So, on November 2nd, 1773, King George III granted them one of the first legal licenses to distil whisky. For the next 220 years, the distillery stayed in operation until its closure.

Littlemill Distillery has played a significant role in the history of Scotch whisky production. In 1931 the then-owner Duncan Thomas (an American entrepreneur and chemist) created a new type of highly-effective Saladin Box for malting. Thomas also installed the first hybrid stills which were essentially a pot still body with tall, rectifying columns that were able to produce a number of different styles of single malt.

Up until its dying days, Littlemill Distillery continued to innovate and was known for making the most exceptional Lowland whisky with a great depth of character. Their water source came from the Kilpatrick Hills, the peat from Stornoway, and their barley from Perthshire to create what the distillery described as a beautiful ‘summer whisky’. When tasting Littlemill, expect characteristics of vanilla and floral notes on the nose, opening up to honey and fudge on the palate, intermingled with pear drops and crisp apple. If you are fortunate enough to taste Littlemill you’ll be perplexed how such a sublime, delicious whisky was allowed to go out of production.

The cask we are offering has recently undergone a regauged health check and is currently sitting at 46.4% ABV. An opportunity to own one of the last casks from one of the great, silent distilleries. This cask is now perfectly matured and now ready for bottling.

Fact File

Littlemill 31-year.

Distilled: 16/10/1990

Cask Type: Hogshead

ABV: 45.6%

Regauged 09/12/90

LOA: 53.9

Est bottles: 169

To find out more about the 1990 Littlemill cask we have in stock, contact The Masters today!

Caol Ila Distillery Focus

Caol Ila Distillery Focus

 

Translating to ‘Sound of Islay’, Caol Ila Distillery is certainly one of the most loved distilleries by all the peat enthusiasts around the world. Opened in 1846 it was bought out by the DCL company in 1927 (later to morph into Diageo), and ran continuously until the owners decided to demolish the old distillery and build a new one in 1972. This transformation meant that Caol Ila Distillery was the largest whisky producer on Islay.

This was before single malt whisky was widely available and the main purpose of Caol Ila was to make fillings for the Johnnie Walker Blend. Interestingly in the severe 1980s downturn, they started to make an unpeated version for other blenders. This did in fact allow the distillery to survive these rough times (unlike its sister distillery Port Ellen), and a little-known fact is that Caol Ila has actually continued to make a limited amount of unpeated whisky every year since.

In more recent times, Diageo has invested a lot into the single malt brand including in renovating the visitor centre, and thus nowadays Caol Ila Distillery can be considered one of the top-tier distilleries. The future certainly looks very bright.

The character of the whisky undoubtedly has its own uniqueness. Caol Ila has a distinct ripe pear characteristic, combined with smoke and salt, and underpinned by grassy notes. Distillation features tall stills and a higher cut point. The fermentation time is 55 hours and most of the malting is actually done in-house, which is very rare these days.

Maturation mainly occurs in refill bourbon casks. The importance of Caol Ila Distillery Whisky to the Johnnie Walker Blend meant there were very few distillery bottlings until the turn of the century. Today the core range consists of the entry-level NAS, plus the 12-year, 18-year and 25-year. Caol Ila of course also features annually in Diageo’s Special Releases series.

To date, there have been over 4000 independent bottlings of the brand, but casks are becoming increasingly rare as the value of this distillery to its owner increases. Any investor who is fortunate to own a cask should know how much these casks are still sought-after by the bottling companies. The award-winning 25-year expression is evidence that the whisky generally ages very well, so there would be plenty of flexibility in your exit strategy.

 Fact File

Name: Caol Ila

Founded: 1846

Region: Islay

Owner: Diageo

Capacity: 6.5m litres

Stills: 6

Fermentation: 55 hours (short) to 120 hours (long)

Peated/Unpeated: Peated with a limited amount of unpeated.

Casks Used: Bourbon, Sherry.

Current Sales: N/A

Recent significant awards: N/A

Independent bottlings: Around 2000

Core Range: 14 yr, Distillers Edition

Caol Ila 12-year Tasting Notes: 

Nose – Smoke, peppermint, poached pears.

Palate – Stewed Apples, Vanilla, Kiwi fruit.

Finish – Burning coals, Honey, Caramel.

To find out more about investing in Caol Ila casks, contact The Masters today!

Cambus Distillery Focus

Cambus Distillery Focus

The 1820s were a transformative time for the fortunes of Scotch whisky. Firstly in 1823, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Robert Peel passed legislation, greatly reducing the taxation on whisky production. This encouraged the industry to go legal. Before that date, an excessive tax had been introduced to raise money to fight wars with France. The repercussions of this had only caused the opposite effect, with Scottish distillers migrating up to the Highlands and making their ‘water of life’ illegally, away from the prying eyes of the government.

They, of course, did not pay any tax. By reducing this punitive taxation, Sir Robert had kick-started the Single Malt Industry that we know today, with famous distilleries like The Glenlivet & The Macallan both taking out licenses in 1824 and with many others soon following suit. However, it wasn’t till the creation of blends that scotch whisky went truly international and became the success story we know today.

The Scots are great inventors, that is clear, and it was a Scotsman called Robert Stein who invented the Continuous Still. Now before we proceed, much credit should also go to Irishman Aeneas Coffey, who certainly improved Stein’s design. Although the Irish saw no use for this new type of still, the Scots embraced it. Consequently, what became known as Grain Whisky was born. 

Cambus Distillery was one of the first Grain Distilleries to open up in 1836, in the Lowland region of Scotland. In 1877 it became one of the founding distilleries in a company called DCL (which eventually became Diageo), but like many operations times were tough in the 20th century, with not only the two World Wars but also the Great Depression.

Unfortunately for Cambus, they also had a fire that destroyed the facility in 1914. Production was very intermittent until the 1950s, but unfortunately in 1993, the doors closed for the very last time as part of a large cost-cutting exercise. Sadly, the site was demolished, but in 2011 a large cooperage was opened, so at least the whisky legacy continues. 

For investors, it is very clear that whisky enthusiasts have really been warming to Grain Whisky for quite some time. Many independent bottlings have been released, as well as an increasing number of official bottlings by the likes of Diageo, with several from William Grant and Pernod Ricard. It’s clear that the demand is there. With the Cambus 1988’s we recently had in stock, a rare opportunity arose to invest in 33-year whisky from a closed, lost distillery.

Right there you have the rarity factor in your favour. As for your exit strategy, this was a short-term investment as the liquid is ready to drink and be bottled. Pay close attention to the ABV as you want to give yourself a little breathing space, because it will lose most of its value if it drops below 40%.

We should mention the whisky itself, as it’s absolutely delicious! Like all good Grain Whiskies, it is smooth and soft, dominated by notes of vanilla, coconut and hints of custard. It will still age longer, that’s for sure and remember good quality old whisky, from closed lost distilleries, are always in demand.  

 Fact File

Name: Cambus Grain 

Founded: 1806 – Closed 1993 

Region: Grain 

Owner: Diageo 

Capacity: None 

Stills: Column 

Fermentation: Grain 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated 

Casks Used: Bourbon barrels and hogsheads 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: None entered 

Independent bottlings: Around 200 

Core Range: None

To find out more about investing in Cambus Grain Whisky casks, contact The Masters today!

A St Andrew’s Day Celebration of Whisky & Art

A St Andrew’s Day Celebration of Whisky & Art

Table of Drams

The Patron Saint of Scotland was honoured in style across two nights of St Andrew’s Day celebrations hosted by Cask Trade at the Alon Zakaim gallery in Mayfair this week (29/30).

An evening of whisky and art was enjoyed by more than 150 customers and their guests who enjoyed a rare opportunity to taste over 40 drams of cask-strength whisky in the stunning surroundings of the fine art gallery on Cork Street.

Colin and the Glassmates

Invited guests were taken on a dram journey with highlights including Tullibardine 13 years old Sherry Hogshead, Royal Brackla 12 years old Bourbon Barrel, Caol Ila 14 years old Bourbon Hogshead and Speyside Distillery 24 years old Bourbon Hogshead.

Tasting under the glow of the gallery’s Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art, the Cask Trade celebrations concluded with an extra special dram of Benromach 40 years old Old Cask, a limited release of just 1,047 bottles.

Benromach 40 YO

Cask Trade is an extraordinary cask business run by passionate experts with over 100 combined years in the industry who have created a moving marketplace for buying and selling casks that is open to all. For further details on their/our unrivalled inventory of casks contact click here.

Alon Zakaim Fine Art will be showcasing a range of works by Modern Masters such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Henry Moore as well as iconic photography by Terry O’Neill and Chris Smith until Christmas.

Guests

To find out more about our events and general goings-on at Cask Trade HQ, sign up to our newsletter by ticking the box at the bottom of the registration form. 

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Benromach 40 YO

The Macallan Distillery Focus

The Macallan Distillery Focus

 

The top three selling single malts globally are Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and Macallan. It is no coincidence that all three have played a significant role in establishing Single Malt Whisky as a premium product, which has garnered millions of passionate enthusiasts from around the world. Firstly, The Glenlivet is the pioneering distillery that is steeped in history and is the most famous distillery in Scotland by a country mile (see our Glenlivet Distillery Focus for the reasons why).

Until the 1980s, nearly all single malt distilleries just made fillings for blends. During the time when blended whisky temporarily fell out of fashion, there was suddenly a huge surplus of this whisky lying in warehouses, and the distilleries had in most cases lost their only customer – the blenders. Having been backed into a corner, many whisky companies realised that they had no choice but to bottle this single malt and hope that consumers would take to it.

Macallan Distillery

It seems laughable today that executives were so convinced it wouldn’t work, but back then they really had no choice. Step forward Glenfiddich, who was incredibly bold with the first example of a large-budget extensive marketing campaign put behind a single malt. Their courage has certainly paid off many times over and the distillery has been the No.1 selling malt ever since. Although The Macallan takes enormous credit for very cleverly marketing their Single Malt Whisky as a luxury brand.

This has not only massively enhanced their own brand equity but raised the whole category. Today, many single malts are seen as very premium spirits which command the top shelf of many bars. The packaging and labelling have all improved immensely across the industry after Macallan pioneered the way. In November 2020 Macallan launched the Red Collection which was comprised of six bottlings, with the youngest being a 40-year-old and the oldest a 78-year-old. The first set sold for £756,400!

Macallan’s product placement in the James Bond movie Spectre was another piece of marketing genius (albeit very expensive) that featured their 50-year-old expression. Macallan has also shown great innovation with its distillery design which ironically some have compared to a James Bond villain’s lair. The initial cost was a cool £140,000,000! It’s hard to believe that in 1978 the global marketing budget for Macallan was a cool £50! A clear example of how little thought at that time was put into marketing the brand as a single malt bottling.

The Red Collection

Macallan Distillery was founded in 1824; this was a significant date, as it was just after the excise act of 1823 which fundamentally changed how Scotch whisky was taxed. This was to encourage the industry to go legal and swept away a lot of the excessive taxation and regulations that were enforced previously. The early days were a struggle for the company and like many distilleries in the area, they used the ‘Glenlivet’ name for about 50 years before being forced to rename their whisky Macallan-Glenlivet, after a court case over trademark.

For the next 100 years very little happened, although the whisky was highly sought-after by the blending houses, evidenced by the number of stills increasing from six in 1965 to 21 in 1974. With the 1980’s global crash in blended whisky, the distillery owners had no choice but to focus on single malt bottlings. In 1984 the first of the 18-year range was launched; this was the initial, tentative step on the ladder to the top. Macallan was on its way to becoming the most revered, luxurious whisky brand in the world.

Macallan Distillery

The next catalyst for growth occurred when the Edrington Group bought a majority stake in the distillery for £601,000,000 in 1999. The new owners then started Macallan on the path to position the brand as a luxury product. Initially, the main focus was on aging and finishing the whisky in sherry casks and then gradually shifting from blending to exclusive single malt bottlings. Some highlight releases included the 50-year and 60-year in Lalique decanters, the ‘Tales of The Macallan Volume I’ which had a price tag of £60,000, and the Quest Collection which featured a 52 and a 72-year. All these limited releases were expertly packaged and marketed. Macallan pioneered the way and raised the whole category in terms of the perception and exclusivity of single malts. 

The production style is certainly unique. Macallan Distillery uses very small stills with very acutely angled lyne arms. The Master Distiller also takes a very small middle cut between the heads and tails of the distillation. With very minimal copper contact the new-make of Macallan is quite heavy in style, the consequences of this meaning it needs plenty of aging. The general opinion is that Macallan really comes alive in sherry casks after at least 15 years of maturation. That aside there have been plenty of well-received bourbon cask bottlings, and the double cask maturations have also won plenty of plaudits. The extensive core range today consists of 10 expressions with the 12, 18, 25, and 30-year sherry casks certainly being the most popular (and expensive!).

Macallan Distillery

From an investment perspective, Macallan casks are incredibly rare but they do become available on occasion. We just recently sold a 1989 bourbon cask in a private sale, so they do exist. However, we strongly recommend that a full health check is carried out and the samples are tasted by at least a couple of independent experts. If at that point all the key factors are favourable regarding age, quality, ABV and longevity, it then comes down to price. In terms of demand and prestige, this is the No.1 blue riband malt in Scotland.  

Fact File

Name: The Macallan 

Founded: 1824 

Region: Speyside 

Owner: Edrington Group 

Capacity: 15m litres 

Stills: 21 

Fermentation: 48+ hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated  

Casks Used: Sherry, Bourbon,  

Current Sales: 700,000 9l cases. 

Recent significant awards: None entered. 

Independent bottlings:  Around 2000 

Core Range: Sherry cask matured – 12, 18, 25, 30-year……../ Triple Cask – 12-year……../ Double Cask – 12, 15 and 18-year.

 To find out more about investing in whisky casks, contact The Masters today!

The Glenlivet Distillery Focus

The Glenlivet Distillery Focus

 

Glenlivet Distillery opened in 1824 when George Smith, a local farmer and former illicit distiller, took out the first legal license after the change in the law. Before this date, most malt whiskies were distilled illegally, thanks to draconian government tax laws on whisky production. Many Scots refused to pay the tax, so they hid away from the prying eyes of the excisemen, in areas of Scotland like Speyside and in particular the Glenlivet valley.

Distillery Exterior

Illegal Beginnings

It was estimated that over 200 illegal stills were operating at any one time in the valley because it was the perfect place to make whisky. They had barley, peat, and water all close by and most important of all, only one pathway into the valley. This meant that they could use the hills above as lookouts so the excisemen could be spotted a long way off, which helped them evade capture. The illegal Glenlivet valley whisky forged a great reputation around Scotland and one theory to this was that, as it was made in such a remote area, that it had to be stored in small oak casks called ‘ankers’ before it could be transported south, to be sold and traded.

During this time, the whisky was exposed to the positive effects of the cask (which wasn’t really understood at that time), so the whisky tasted smoother and had more flavour. In 1822 the famous visit of King George IV to Edinburgh occurred and incredibly the King asked to try the highly-illegal Glenlivet whisky. After much denial of its existence, a local judge was persuaded to relinquish his prized possession and the King was suitably impressed.

Glenlivet Casks

The Royal Approval 

Now, this is where history gets a bit murky, but there is evidence that the King lobbied the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Robert Peel), to improve the plight of the Scottish distillers. The following year the taxation was massively reduced, to encourage the industry to go legal. George Smith took advantage of this, but it was a very courageous move, as his fellow illegal distillers in the valley felt he was bringing the authorities into their secret lair and thus ending their livelihoods. He had to have an armed guard outside his distillery 24/7 and protect himself with a couple of pistols, which he carried with him constantly. Many new legal distilleries were burnt down in this time, but Glenlivet Distillery survived and things settled down after a few years.  

George Smith was certainly a pioneer and he developed a new pair of tall lantern-shaped stills, which produced a spirit that was floral, sweet, and fruity. This new, official Glenlivet whisky built upon the previous illegal reputation and soon became the most sought-after in Scotland. Demand outstripped supply and it used to sell for at least double any other whisky at that time. George Smith’s Edinburgh agent Andrew Usher used Glenlivet in the first-ever marketed blended whisky, Usher’s OVG (old vatted Glenlivet)!

Stills

Another interesting occurrence at that time was that the many distilleries emerging in the area we now call Speyside, also called their whisky ‘Glenlivet’, trading in on George Smith’s distillery (even though they were actually nowhere near the valley itself). At one point, 27 distilleries called their whisky ’Glenlivet’, including famous names like Macallan, Aberlour and Cragganmore. Eventually, it was left to the son, John Gordon Smith, to take the other distilleries to court, in a very famous 1880 London legal case.

The court ruling was that only one distillery was allowed to solely call itself ‘The Glenlivet’ – the other distilleries could still use the name, but only as a suffix with their own name. Therefore, as an example, Macallan went from calling their whisky ‘Glenlivet’ to ‘Macallan Glenlivet’ and this continued until the 1980s, when every distillery then just went with their own name.

The US Market

We thought it pertinent to mention Glenlivet Distillery’s huge popularity in the all-important US market. In 1933, after the end of prohibition, the distillery owner Captain Bill Smith-Grant MC travelled out to America, to see if he could win any contracts for his whisky. He did, and one famous contract he won was that of the Glenlivet 12-year, which would go on to become the exclusive whisky on the luxury Pullman trains. At the time these trains then transported the rich and famous, before air travel took off. This established Glenlivet as a major brand over there and to this day, it is the number one single malt, with a great reputation. From an investor’s perspective, there will always be American buyers interested in purchasing Glenlivet.

Washbacks

A little bit about the liquid and distillery today. They have recently expanded to 14 pairs of stills, producing 21,000,000 litres of spirit per year! The tall lantern shape stills, which go back to George Smith’s original design, produce a whisky, which has a very sweet, ripe fruit flavour. If you look on a flavour map of Scottish distilleries, you’ll have Ardbeg & Laphroaig at one end of the scale, with Glenlivet Distillery at the opposite end. There are too many expressions and bottlings to list, but Glenlivet ages fantastically well at all ages and in all different types of casks. Every two years they release a new 50-year bottling (The Winchester Collection), and Gordon McPhail has a Glenlivet 70-year which they released in 2010. It was distilled in May 1940 during WWII!… 

From a cask investment point of view, you know that Glenlivet will age very well, the liquid is very high quality and there will always be buyers (especially from the US). It is always worth looking very closely to add any blue riband malt to your portfolio. 

 Fact File

Name: The Glenlivet 

Founded: 1824 

Region: Speyside 

Owner: Pernod Ricard 

Capacity: 21m litres 

Stills: 28 

Fermentation: 54 hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated  

Casks Used: bourbon, sherry, French oak, Cognac, rum 

Current Sales: 1 million cases 

Recent significant awards: The Glenlivet 18 is the big award winner of the range. Too many awards for the range to mention. 

Independent bottlings:  Around 2500 

Core Range: Founders Reserve, Caribbean Cask, 12, Captains Reserve, Nadurra Peated, Nadurra Sherry, Nadurra 1st fill bourbon, 15, 18, 21, 25, 50. 

To find out more about investing in Glenlivet whisky casks, contact The Masters today!

Talisker Distillery Focus

Talisker Distillery Focus

 

Today, there are over 130 single malt distilleries in Scotland. It is incredible to note the diversity of styles and flavours from a product that is essentially just barley, water, and yeast, and then aged in an oak cask for 3+ years. Within that framework of germination, drying the barley, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation it is clear there are infinite combinations and nuances that distilleries apply, which makes their whisky completely unique.

We cannot think of another spirit category anywhere in the world which encompasses such variety. Maybe this is what is responsible for capturing the imagination of so many whisky enthusiasts and consumers around the world. Scotland has such a dramatic, beautiful landscape/coastline, and many of these distilleries are found in very remote, isolated locations. Talisker Distillery is on the West Coast of the Isle of Skye and certainly fits all the above criteria.

Controversial Circumstances

Talisker opened in 1830 in quite controversial circumstances. The MacAskill brothers managed to buy extensive landholdings on the Isle of Skye and promptly set about removing the majority of the local populace from the island. However, their new distillery wasn’t profitable and a succession of owners throughout the next few decades did not improve its fortunes, until new owners Alexander Allan and Roderick Kemp took over in 1880. Clearly, they had an instant impact as a few years later the famous Scottish novelist and poet – Robert Louis Stevenson – wrote this line ‘The king o’drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Isla, or Glenlivet!’ Talisker was clearly on the map!

In 1916 Talisker Distillery came under the control of the consortium DCL (which eventually morphed into Diageo), this was probably quite fortuitous as disaster struck in 1960 when fire destroyed the distillery. The whole complex completely burned to the ground! However, the owners set about rebuilding immediately, and two years later Talisker’s new-make spirit was flowing again.

Classic Malt

1988 saw the release of Diageo’s innovative ‘Classic Malt’ series, to great success, which included Talisker 10-year-old. Finally, this incredible whisky was being discovered and enjoyed by consumers around the world. The rest, as they say, is history. Although it’s worth mentioning that since then, Diageo has released a whole plethora of Old and Rare limited editions, developed an extensive core range, and generally spent heavily promoting this wonderful distillery.

The Talisker Atlantic Challenge readily springs to mind, where rowers compete to see who can get from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean in the shortest possible time. Talisker Distillery also has a very successful trade event called ‘The Race to Skye’. After a shaky beginning and a turbulent 20th century, it’s safe to say that Talisker is entrenched in the top tier of single malt whisky.

A Supurb Whisky

The style of Talisker is this sublime mix of smoke, fruit, salt, and spice all underpinned by a medium-bodied oiliness. It truly is a superb whisky. Interestingly with Talisker, they have a number of unusual nuances which contribute to its signature style. Firstly, there are five stills – two wash stills and three spirit stills. The wash stills are very tall in their design with an extensive U-shaped bend in the lyne arm, combined with a very low purifier pipe. This causes all the heavier elements to be refluxed back into the still, and with reduced copper interaction taking place, causing the new-make to be quite sulphury.

Talisker 34 YO

The second distillation takes place in two small spirit stills using worm tub condensers. All this combined creates a medium-bodied, oily spirit with the above-mentioned combination of flavours. This is then enhanced with a wide range of casks used for aging and finishing. The Talisker Port Ruighe which is finished in port casks is a great example of the versatility of the spirit, and is highly recommended. Today, Talisker has an extensive core range with the oldest being a 30-year-old, and the limited special editions include several 41-year-olds and a 43-year-old. 

For anyone who has an opportunity to buy a Talisker Distillery cask, the key consideration is the price. Assuming that the regauge health check comes back in good order and that the price is not too inflated then Talisker must rate as a very strong purchase. As a blue riband distillery that is loved the world over, backed by Diageo’s powerful distribution network and marketing dollars, it’s really only going to continue to go from strength to strength.  

Fact File

Name: Talisker 

Founded: 1830 

Region: Highlands (Skye) 

Owner: Diageo 

Capacity: 3.3m litres 

Stills: 5 

Fermentation: 65+ hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Peated 75% to 20-25 ppm + 25 % unpeated. 

Casks Used: bourbon / oloroso sherry with many different cask finishes in port, Manzanilla casks and Amoroso sherry. 

Current Sales: Around 100,000 cases. 

Recent significant awards: Double Gold 2019 San Francisco IWSA for their 18 year.  

Independent bottlings: Around 500 

Core Range: Skye , Storm , Port Ruighe, Distillers Edition, Dark Storm, 10, 18, 25, 30.

To find out more about investing in Talisker whisky casks, contact The Masters today!

Myriam In Scotland – The Dramathon, Glen Moray & GlenAllachie

Myriam In Scotland – The Dramathon, Glen Moray & GlenAllachie

Sales & Marketing Manager Myriam once again returned to her Scottish roots in a recent trip back to the land of Scotch. The phrase, ‘do it for the ‘dram’ was definitely the mantra of the trip, so whether it was in aid of the Dramathon, a distillery tour, or simply for the purpose of warming the cockles by the fire, whisky was undoubtedly celebrated throughout the holiday.

The Dramathon

“When staying in Speyside, the common assumption is that the sole purpose of visiting is to tour its world-famous distilleries. While for many this is true, there is a lot more to Speyside than malt whisky, but for sure it’s always a pleasure to combine an appreciation of whisky with the spectacular landscapes the Highlands have to offer. The main reason for me visiting this year was to run the Dramathon, also known as the Speyside Single Malt Marathon, which involves running through an impressive number of distilleries along the iconic River Spey.

Outside Tamdhu Distillery

I remember the very beginnings of the event when I was working at Glenfarclas in 2014. Two enthusiastic runners came to the distillery to meet George Grant (6th generation of the family-owned Glenfarclas distillery) to pitch him the idea of running and ‘responsibly dramming’ their way through a route on the Speyside Way. The trail was to start at Glenfarclas and finish at Glenfiddich as a way of promoting tourism through a wacky combination of whisky appreciation and running.

It may seem like an unlikely pairing at first, but in other ways, it makes sense. Speyside is home to more than 50 distilleries, which is close to half of the total number of distilleries in Scotland, making it the greatest concentration of malt whisky producers compared to every other region. The area is also known for the Speyside Way; today a scenic walking trail of 137km, but historically, a vital network, the 19th century Strathspey Railway line served the whisky distilleries of Speyside for over 100 years.

The Dramathon route

Offering an idyllic countryside backdrop for a marathon incorporating the river Spey, the historic Speyside Way and the Malt Whisky Trail, it turns out that whisky and running in Speyside is a winning combination. What better way to motivate yourself than running through stunning surroundings and some of the most iconic distillery names in the whisky industry from start to finish.

With four different trails available, the ‘Full Dram’ (42km), ‘Half Dram’ (21km), ‘Wee Dram’ (10km) and the team of four relay option, there is something for everyone. Taking part in this event, you get a real sense of community spirit, with many locals supporting you at different stages along the way. I ran the ‘Half Dram’ which started at Tamdhu and continued past Knockando, Dailuaine, Dalmunach, Aberlour, GlenAllachie, Craigellachie, The Macallan, The Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries.

The finish line at Glenfiddich is nothing short of exceptional, with its beautifully designed architecture; the malt barn, visitor centre, still house and warehouses all surrounding you. To top it all off, a well-deserved goodie bag is presented to each runner containing a medal made from an oak stave, a generous selection of miniatures from Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder, The Balvenie and GlenAllachie, and of course, a Dramathon branded Glencairn glass to drink them in!”

Glen Moray

Today an established traditional brand, Glen Moray, originally a 19th-century brewery, was converted into a distillery and began making whisky in 1897. Marketed as a single malt as early as the 1920s when it was bought over by the owners of Glenmorangie, it took the mantel of the firm’s ‘budget’ malt which made Glen Moray widely accessible as a good quality malt at a fair price. Now owned by La Martinquaise since 2008, Glen Moray also supplies fillings for blend, notably Cutty Sark, in addition to its core range of single malt releases and regular appearances in independent bottlings globally.

With a flair for experimentation, Glen Moray is widely known as one of the first distilleries to mature its whisky in ex-wine casks. Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy, Barolo, Madeira, Sauternes, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and even Rhum Agricole and cider casks are among some of the innovative cask finishes released in recent years.

Glen Moray Distillery

In the early days, Glen Moray’s goal was to supply a widely affordable and accessible malt. This marketing strategy seems to have stuck, as production has ramped up from three million to five million litres per annum, and with the Glen Moray 12 Years Old available at most supermarkets for around £30. Perhaps this has led to the brand being the unsung hero among so many of its Speyside competitors.

That being said, it seems as though it has not yet reached the status of a ‘collectors’ whisky. Whatever its reputation, in my mind what is certain, is that the cask-strength single cask releases reveal an exceptionally high-quality malt. A typical Speyside style with soft, fruity, and honeyed notes, the independent bottlings are in a realm of their own. For those that are looking for something surprising and underrated, give Glen Moray a try, you will not be disappointed by the single cask releases.”

Glen Moray Distillery

We have 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2014 barrels & hogsheads on our current stock list. We’re always happy to talk whisky, so why not start your investment journey with Cask Trade and Glen Moray today?

GlenAllachie

“GlenAllachie was founded in the heyday of the 1960s whisky boom, purpose-built to supply fillings for the growing global demand for blended Scotch whisky. The base spirit is light, honeyed and floral, typical of the Speyside style, and exactly the type of versatile spirit that is desired by blenders. Until recently, the entirety of the distillery’s four million litre annual output was produced for blending. Owned by Pernod Ricard from 1989, for many years GlenAllachie was never a recognised brand in its own right. Instead, it formed a key part of the Chivas Regal blend, contributing to the success of one of the giants of the whisky industry.

Today the distillery tells a very different story since it was bought over by the independent GlenAllachie Distillers Company in 2017. With blending requirements now a thing of the past, these days GlenAllachie solely focuses on single malt age statements and smaller batch limited editions as a full redevelopment of the brand and the whisky has been well underway. At the production stage, fermentation is longer than most, over 140 hours, which adds fruity esters and more complexity to the final product.

Glenallachie Distillery

During maturation, the spirit starts its life in ex-bourbon casks, to then be transferred into sherry casks, or other types of ex-wine casks used in the finishing process near the end of the maturation. These methods have paved the way for GlenAllachie to develop a house style of deliciously fruity and dark-coloured whiskies, typically finished in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximinez sherry casks, like for example, the award-winning GlenAllachie 15 Years Old.

These are not new techniques but the depth of expertise, from the production stages to the selection of a range of sherry casks, wine casks and even Chinquapin virgin oak, to name but a few examples, which has led to a complete transformation of the quality and reputation of the whisky. At the head of this independent venture, distillery manager Billy Walker, previously from Glendronach, Benriach & Glenglassaugh distilleries, has successfully revived a little-known distillery into a brand with a whisky enthusiast cult-following on a global scale. If you haven’t tried the GlenAllachie 15 Years Old yet, it’s probably time to add one to your Christmas shopping list.”

Glenallachie Distillery

To find out more about investing in Whisky Casks and to speak to the Masters themselves, contact the Team today!

Glen Spey Distillery Focus

Glen Spey Distillery Focus

 

The small Speyside village of Rothes boasts three large distilleries; Glen Grant, Glenrothes, and Speyburn, plus the world-famous Forsythe Coppersmiths. There is also, however, a very small distillery that very few people have heard of. This is Glen Spey Distillery. Owned by Diageo and opened back in 1878, Glen Spey was another distillery that opened thanks to the arrival of the railway and the late Victorian whisky boom.  

The style of the whisky is very light, nutty and oily, and still to this day nearly all the liquid goes into Diageo’s J&B blend. Current production sits at around 1.5 million litres,  but finding a Single Malt bottling is very difficult. Diageo has only ever released two limited edition bottlings in the entirety of Glen Spey Distillery’s history, but there has been over 300 Independent Bottlings, so there is clearly demand in this sector of the market. 

The appeal for any Glen Spey cask is its rarity. There will certainly be various Independent Bottlers from our client list who look to bottle casks from less well-known distilleries so this will clearly be your exit strategy. Glen Spey casks are currently good value and should make a valuable addition to any portfolio. 

 Fact File

Name: Glen Spey 

Founded: 1878 

Region: Speyside 

Owner: Diageo 

Capacity: 1.5m litres 

Stills: 4 

Fermentation: two at 46 & 100 hours 

Peated/Unpeated: Unpeated 

Casks Used: Bourbon barrels and hogsheads. Limited amount of sherry. 

Current Sales: N/A 

Recent significant awards: None entered 

Independent bottlings: Around 300. 

Core Range: None 

To find out more about investing in Glen Spey casks, contact The Masters today!