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Whisky Review #94 – Rosebank 21 (Cask Strength)

Rosebank…”The finest example of a Lowland malt” (Michael Jackson) is a whisky which creates many emotional outbursts amongst whisky lovers. Rosebank shares typical Lowland characters of grassiness, fruits and flowers with other famous Lowland distilleries such as St Magadelene and Littlemill.

Recently, we got lucky and tasted two Rosebank expressions bottled in the 1990s. Both of them are 21 years old, bottled at cask strength. The bottle that we tried in The Drunken Master Bar was from the 1992 bottling while the other one that we had in The Swan Song was from the 1990 bottling.

This review showcases the Rosebank 21 Years Old distilled in 1990 and released in 2011. Part of the Rose series, this expression is a heavenly dram which represents all the Lowland glory of Scotland.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 53.8%

Nose: Glorious Lowlands notes are immediately apparent. Grassy, herbal and slightly cereal. Then after a few minutes, the sweetness of fruits surface. Green apples, sweet pears and a hint of melons. Mintiness also appears with the grassy notes going into the background. Peppery spice combines with the grassy notes to give an extra complexity. (19/20)

Palate: The palate is herbal, grassy and fruity all at once. Green apples, sweet pears, peppery spice and mint come together after that. The oak influence becomes more prominent after a while and creates a slightly drying palate. The fruitiness of the dram combined with the gentle spice gives a comfortable feel to the overall experience. (18/20)

Finish: It has a medium to long finish that is oaky, minty and sweet. The drying effects from the grassiness of the dram lengthen the finish. (17/20)

Body: It is a balanced dram with typical Lowlands notes. The identity is Rosebank from the nose to the finish. Excellent dram! (36/40)

Total Score: 90/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I was not a Rosebank fan previously, but after drinking this expression, I was converted. It is light and floral but yet, complex. I especially love the minty notes that we get, as it is quite special to me.”

Geek Choc: “I am a Rosebank fan and can only love Rosebank more with every expression that I tried. Rosebank produces good quality whisky, and I am looking forward to the new Rosebank distillery.”

 

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Speyside Distillery – A History with Al Capone

Everyone knows that Speyside is part of the Highlands in Scotland. The region boasts of many beautiful distilleries and whiskies that many would pay an arm and a leg (or maybe a kidney) to buy them. However, there is one distillery, which despite its name, is often overlooked.

The Speyside Distillery is an underrated distillery located at Speyside, cuddling the magnificent Cairngorm Mountains. For those who know the land, it is probably one of the most picturesque distilleries in Scotland. The site that the distillery stands on today was once a barley mill and croft in the 1700s. It closed in 1965.

The beginning of the Speyside Distillery

The story began in 1770 when John and Robert Harvey founded Yorker Distillery. After which, they also built Dundashill and Bruichladdich Distillery over the years. Their experiences over the years led to the birth of the Harvey’s Codex in 1856. It was a family-only secret which detailed the art of malting and distilling, as well as the methods in choosing the source of Highland water and the type of casks. The family called their whisky “Harvey’s”.

Lord Byron was a supporter of the Harvey brothers, and in 1815, he gifted a cask of Harvey’s single malt whisky to King George III when he married the daughter of Seaham Hall’s owner, Lady Annabelle Milbanke. A recent tracing of this cask to Kew Palace puts new evidence that Speyside Distillery had a royal connection in the past under its old brand name.

The glorious history, however, came to a sad ending. The Harvey brothers were forced to relinquish their distillery in 1906 and focused on trading whisky made by their friends using the Harvey’s Codex. The industrial brothers did not give up. Instead, the focus on trading whisky helped them to control the quality of their whisky as well as creating a luxurious packaging. The whisky became well-known as Spey. These paid off during the Prohibition Years.

The Harvey Brothers during the Prohibition Years

Spey as a brand was sought after in the US black market during the Prohibition Years. Famous underground names approached the Harveys to export their whiskies from Seaham Hall (where they stored the whisky) into the US black market. Alec Harvey (son of John Harvey), worked with criminal minds such as Al Capone and George Remus during those dark years and reaped a lot of rewards financially. Belle Livingstone of Country Club and Owey Madden of Cotton Club were their esteemed customers too.

The Spey brand became the illegal secret that could not be named. Cotton Club and Country Club both ran membership-only clubs offering luxurious evenings of pleasure that included Spey.

When Prohibition ended, whisky became legal. The legend of Spey lost its illegal secret status but continued to be popular among the rich and powerful. However, the whisky supply dwindled and eventually ran out.

The Turning Wheels of the Modern Era

Alec Harvey’s daughter, Doreen, married John McDonough in 1955. Their first child, also named John, was born in 1956. As a child, John learned about his grandfather’s entrepreneurial journey and took an interest in both business and whisky trading. John Jnr. began a long career with Grand Metropolitan-International Distillers and Vintners and even relocated to Taiwan.

He worked hard to restore his family legacy as a distiller and brand master of Spey. His work in Taiwan inspired many industry players within the country, and they rallied behind him when he sought to relaunch the Spey brand.

The Relaunching of Spey and the Beginning of the Speyside Distillery

John Jnr. relaunched the Spey brand in Taiwan in 1990, with the support and help of his Taiwanese friends and colleagues. The group build the brand successfully into the No. three malt brand in Taiwan within a few short years. Finally, in 2012, John Jnr. revived his family legacy as distillers with his purchase of the Speyside Distillery Company Limited (SDCL) to operate the Speyside Distillery. The acquisition allows Spey whisky to go home finally and also helps to safeguard the supply of Spey for generations to come.

The Spey Whisky Range

The Spey is known as one of the smoothest and most approachable malts amongst the Speyside region due to its light and delicate character. The variety within the range offers drinkers a choice between ages and styles. You can find the range of whiskies from the Speyside Distillery here.

 

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Whisky Review #92 – Lagavulin 16 Years (White Horse Distillers)

 

Whisky lovers know that there is a difference between old and new liquids. When I say old liquids, I do not mean whiskies that are aged 30 to 40 years old. I mean the liquids of old when times were different. A Lagavulin 16 years old made in the 1970s compared to one which is made now is different because the methods used in distilling, maturing and storing are all different.

The White Horse Distillers Story

The duo at WhiskyGeeks had the pleasure of trying a Lagavulin 16 Years Old made during the era of the White Horse Distillers. If you are aware of the history of Lagavulin, you will know that James Logan Mackie & Co bought the distillery in 1862 and refurbished it. When James Mackie passed away in 1889, his nephew, Peter Mackie took over and launched the White Horse range. When Peter Mackie died, the company changed its name to White Horse Distillers and controlled the distillery in that name from 1924 to 1927. The company sold the distillery to DCL in 1927.

Given the timeline, a bottle of Lagavulin 16 years old that holds the name “White Horse Distillers” in its label is likely to exist since their time? Not necessary. This bottle that we tried came from the 1990s. In 1988, Lagavulin 16 Years was selected as one of the six Classic Malts, and this bottle was one of the first few batches where Diageo still puts “White Horse Distillers” on the label. They phrased it out in the late 90s and also changed the crest on the label. We had the pleasure to try this because of our friend, Michael, whom we met for dinner during our trip to Taiwan. It is too special not to share the tasting note, isn’t it?

So let’s dive in!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 43%

Nose: Lemon peels, orange peels, citrus, brine and green apples presented themselves at the forefront. Hints of vanilla linger in the background. There is no peat evident in the nose; neither are there sharp or biting notes of spice. We can nose this all day long. (17/20)

Palate: Oily mouthfeel with sweet orange peels, lemon peels and green apples in the palate. Gentle spice and peat mix with the citrus sweetness. Then vanilla cream appears in the palate. It is almost like eating vanilla cream puffs! (19/20)

Finish: Medium finish with very gentle and sweet vanilla lingering all the way to the end, while the citrus sweetness waft in and out. The gentle peat blows over the mouth like a smoke cloud, almost difficult to catch. (17/20)

Body: Wow! This is most unlike the modern Lagavulin 16! The gentle peat and the vanilla sweetness are so unlike the modern version that we are blown away! It is very balanced too. Out of this world, indeed! (36/40)

Total Score: 89/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, I did not know I was drinking a piece of history until I knew about the era of the bottle. After I know, I sipped the liquid more carefully than ever. Haha…very grateful to Michael and his friend at 常夜燈 for the chance to try this expression of the Lagavulin 16.”

Geek Choc: “I am flabbergasted. It tasted so different from the regular Lagavulin 16! Haha…amazing bottle with fantastic liquid!”

 

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Lagavulin – The Runaway Success

Lagavulin Distillery is one of the three distilleries on Islay that made up the Kildalton trio together with Ardbeg and Laphroaig. It is a picturesque distillery situated at Lagavulin Bay enjoyed by many who visited. Saddled with a relatively dull history, Lagavulin produced one of the most widely-enjoyed whiskies on Islay.

Brief History of Lagavulin

Legal distilling started at Lagavulin in 1816 when founder John Johnston built the distillery. A second distillery, named Ardmore, originally shared the same site but the Johnston family bought it in 1825. However, by 1835, Johnston ceased production at Ardmore.

In 1836, Johnston passed away, and the family sold the distilleries to Glasgow spirit merchant, Alexander Graham. He absorbed the production of Ardmore into Lagavulin in 1837. In 1852, John Crawford Graham took over the Lagavulin distillery, but his era lasted only a brief ten years.

By 1862, James Logan Mackie & Co. bought the distillery and refurbished it. With blender James helming the distillery, the public awareness of the distillery grew. However, it was his nephew, Peter J. Mackie who took Lagavulin to greater heights.

The Story behind Peter J. Mackie

Peter J Mackie first learned his art of whisky blending at Lagavulin at a tender age of 23. It was 1878 and his first trip to Islay to learn whisky at Lagavulin gave his invaluable experience of the production of whisky. His success with learning the secrets of distilling eventually led to his taking over of the distillery after his uncle, James Logan Mackie, died in 1889.

Peter J Mackie (later becoming Sir Peter Mackie) was an important figure in whisky history. The Mackies started to blend whisky in the mid-1880s, with Lagavulin at the core, and Peter Mackie registered the “White Horse” brand in 1891, one year after the company changed its name to Mackie & Co. Peter Mackie also co-founded Craigellachie distillery and recognised as a great innovator of his time.

The “Fight” for Laphroaig

Peter Mackie leased Laphroaig distillery in the 19th century and tried to copy its style. Several legal battles ensured between the two distilleries and in 1908, Peter Mackie officially lost the battle. In his irritation, he built a second distillery on the site of Lagavulin, named Malt Hill. It tried to reproduce the same characters of Laphroaig, but it failed. It closed in 1962.

The Beginning of the Modern Era

Sir Peter Mackie passed away in 1924, and the company changed its name to White Horse Distillers Limited. During this period, they produced various expressions that are vastly different from the modern bottlings that we enjoyed now. One of them was a Lagavulin 16 Years. Bottled in the same style as the contemporary version, it had only one difference – the label held the name “White Horse Distillers”.

 

Sadly, White Horse Distillers Limited did not hold on to Lagavulin for very long. In 1927, the distillery went into the hands of DCL (present-day Diageo). When the war started, Lagavulin closed and only reopen after the war. However, tragedy struck again when a fire destroyed much of the distillery in 1951. Diageo rebuilt it.

The distillery floor malting closed in 1974 and turned into a visitor’s centre and admin offices.

The Modern Era

As Lagavulin heads into the modern era, the Lagavulin 16 Years becomes one of the six Classic Malts. Selected in 1988, it becomes Lagavulin’s pride. Today, Lagavulin holds the fort by operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with the ever-growing demand. The core range is the 16 Years Old and the distillery also released a limited edition cask strength 12 Years Old every year. One of the most popular at the moment is the 12 Years Old released in 2016 for the 200th anniversary of the distillery.

 

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Edradour – The Smallest Traditional Distillery in Scotland

Did you know that the smallest distillery in Scotland – Edradour – is near the original Lindores Abbey? Friar John Corr of Lindores Abbey paid duty for eight bolts of malt to make aqua vitae for King James IV in 1494. That is the oldest record of whisky, or aqua vitae, to date. In 1644, when Scotland increased higher duty on alcohol through the introduction of the Scottish Excise Act, Edradour operated illegally as one of the many of the other illicit stills around Scotland.

History of Edradour

The official records of Edradour started in 1825. Before that, we need to look at the history of whisky in Scotland. By 1823, the government of Scotland introduced the Excise Act which encouraged legal ownership through a reduction of duty paid on spirits. Because of the 1823 Excise Act, many distilleries took out licenses and began their history as official distilleries. Edradour is not different. In 1825, Edradour took its license and became a legal distillery through a local farmer cooperative. Alexander Forbes was the license holder. The farmers named the distillery Glenforres.

Expansion of Edradour

By 1834, the farmer cooperative wrote to the Duke of Atholl to request for new buildings for the distillery. As a result of the request, two of the representatives, James Scott and Duncan Stewart, became the official tenants of the distillery in 1837. They also renamed the distillery, Edradour, which means “the land between two rivers”.

As the distillery progressed, the farmers decided to start a formal cooperative. In 1841, John McGlashan and Co formed with eight members – Alexander Forbes, Duncan Stewart, James Scott, James Robertson, Alexander Stewart and William McIntosh. However, misfortune befell the cooperative and in 1853, James Reid, another local farmer, took over the distillery as James Reid and Company. Edradour struggled under James’ leadership and in 1884, the ownership of the distillery transferred to John McIntosh, the son of William McIntosh.

The McIntosh Legacy

Under John McIntosh’s leadership, the distillery began to grow. He rebuilt the distillery and rebranded the whisky. The rebuilding was a success and the distillery flourished. We can even see a surviving plan of the interior of the still house and the tun room today at Edradour.

As Edradour gained popularity, Alfred Barnard visited the distillery. Alfred Barnard, as you already know, wrote the most important book on whisky – The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom – in 1887. In the book, Barnard waxed lyrical about Edradour and described the distillery as “a few ancient buildings not unlike a farmstead”.

By 1907, the flourishing distillery saw the addition of one more person – Peter McIntosh, the nephew of John. Peter continued the McIntosh lineage at Edradour. However, as the years passed, Edradour needed a new partner to expand yet again. In 1911, Edradour took in John Stewart, a wine and spirit merchant as a partner to increase their scope and distribution. The distillery functioned through the First World War and emerged largely unscattered.

The Mafia Took Over

In 1933, William Whiteley purchased Edradour. Before the purchase, Whiteley bought the Edradour whisky for his flagship blends, “House of Lords” and “King’s Random”. He probably got tired of buying the whisky and decided to buy the distillery instead. Haha…

Whiteley retired in 1938, and his successor was none other than Irving Haim, an agent for Frank Costello. Costello was the feared Godfather of mafia fame in New York and headed one of the five families. While nothing changed the production at the distillery, the association with the mafia appeared to give Edradour a more attractive appeal. Edradour continued to produce whisky blends “House of Lords” and King’s Random” and grew in popularity even after the Second World War.

As the world moved along, modernity appeared in Edradour. In 1947, electricity replaced the water wheel and the distillery received consistent power from then onwards. It continued to produce blends until 1976, where Haim passed on.

The Beginning of Modernity and the Single Malt Era

After Haim’s death, the distillery was sold to an American/Australian business consortium for a brief six years before getting bought over by Pernod Ricard. Nonetheless, it managed to snag the Queen’s Award in 1980. Pernod Ricard expanded the distillery by adding a new visitor centre in Edradour in 1983.

Pernod also introduced a new Edradour Single Malt – the Edradour 10 Years Old. At the same time, the King’s Random blend was discontinued. Pernod used the bulk of the spirit for their house blend (Clan Campbell) and the House of Lords while reserving some for its single malt.

Edradour moved back into Scottish Hands

Signatory Vintage Ltd bought Edradour in 2002, effectively moving it back into Scottish hands after 26 years of foreign ownership. Andrew Symington, the founder of Signatory Vintage Ltd, is also a Keeper of the Quaich. Unfortunately for Symington, a flash flood in August damaged the distillery. It was lucky that the flood narrowly missed the still house!

Rebuilding took some time, but Symington soon had the distillery up and about again.

The New Era Begins

Andrew Symington expanded the whisky portfolio of Edradour. In 2003, he started distillation of a peated version of Edradour, named Ballechin. He also started major refurbishment of the old buildings. One of the first new builds was a new Tasting Bar at the distillery in 2006. He also moved the operations of Signatory Vintage to Edradour. Symington did not want to continue the Edradour’s tradition of bottling offsite, so he built a new bottling facility at the distillery in 2007. Edradour now bottles at the source, creating more appeal to whisky drinkers around the world. The expansion continued with the opening of the Caledonia Hall (for events) and a new dunnage warehouse (to mature Edradour and Ballechin whisky onsite) in 2010.

Edradour Whisky Range

Edradour has both peated and unpeated whiskies. The peated whisky range is Ballechin while the unpeated one is named after the distillery. The core range includes the 10-year-old and the 12-year-old single malt, as well as an 18-year-old single malt. Edradour also experiences with wine casks and released whisky matured in Port, Burgundy, Sauternes and Chardonnay casks.

We also spotted many independent bottlings of Edradour, so there is plenty to choose if you want to grab a bottle or two from Edradour distillery. We also did a review on an Edradour single cask. You can read it here.

The Distillery Moving Forward

We believe that under Andrew Symington and Signatory Vintage, Edradour can only go from glory to glory. Symington became the Master of the Quaich in 2012 and Des McCagherty, of Signatory Vintage and Edradour, became Keeper of the Quaich in 2013.

Whisky Review #78 – Linlithgow 1982 (SV)

 

Do you know the other name of Linlithgow? If your answer is Saint Magdalene, you are right! Recognized as one of the closed distilleries with fantastic golden liquid, Linlithgow invoked much excitement amongst whisky fans whenever a bottle of its whiskies surfaced in auction sites. The same enthusiasm arose in us when we saw its name on the menu in The Swan Song, and we wasted no time in ordering a dram of the liquid!

Signatory Vintage is the bottler of this particular expression of Linlithgow. Matured for 25 years in a wine-treated butt (cask #2201), Signatory Vintage bottled this expression in 2008 for La Maison du Whisky Collectors’ Edition.

Let us check out this dram now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 59.2%

Nose: At first, there is a strong peppery spice in the forefront that mixes with the sweet and fruity nose. After airing for some time, the spice disappears, and apricots (wow!) replaces the spice! The intense tropical fruitiness gets stronger, and the nose becomes so fragrant that we can’t help but to bring the glass to our mouths! (18/20)

Palate: Clean mouthfeel with sweet apricots and pears enveloping the mouth as we sip, taking us to a fruity, tropical island where all we want to do is sit and relax. It is incredibly fruity with hints of peppery spice that combines beautifully without being underwhelming. It is the abv talking, and we love it! (18/20)

Finish: The pleasant warmth from the peppery spice as we swallow is comforting, reminding us of the higher abv and why we are enjoying this dram so much. The medium to long finish is full of sweet tropical fruits, bringing us right back to that fruity, tropical island that we were in when we first tasted the liquid. (18/20)

Body: This is a fantastic dram to be sure! Superbly balanced with a right combination of pepper and fruity flavours, it is an exciting dram to try. Words cannot justify the experience, and you just got to try it to understand why we love it. (37/40)

Total Score: 91/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “Well, if I did not know this is a Linlithgow, I might think that it is a Littlemill. The dram showcased its Lowlands’ characteristics well and is an excellent expression to start.”

Geek Choc: “Hmm…I think this is fantastic. It is my first time trying an St Mag, and I am not disappointed! I will try more moving forward.”

 

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A Brief History of Littlemill Distillery

Littlemill Distillery was one of the mysterious distilleries in Scotland in which we do not have a clear idea of its founding year. Rumours have it that George Buchanan of Glasgow founded the distillery after he took over the Auchentorlie Estate in the 1950s. George built Littlemill Distillery together with the houses that he constructed for the excise officers on site. If the dates were right, Littlemill Distillery was the oldest distillery in Scotland.

History of Littlemill Distillery

The history of Littlemill Distillery is long and adventurous. It all started with George Buchanan in 1772 (so it seems). The distillery then went through a period of rapid instability between 1817 to 1857 where it changed hands multiple times. Below is a short timeline of how it happened:

1817 – Matthew Clark & Co. bought Littlemill Distillery

1823 – Jane Macgregor became the licensee of Littlemill after the Custom and Excise Act of 1823

1840 – Hector Henderson took over the distillery (He also founded Caol Ila Distillery)

1875 – William Hay bought the distillery.

Littlemill saw new stability after the Hay family took over the reins. The distillery was rebuilt, expanded and improved by the family. They remained in charge until 1913, when neighbouring grain producer, Yoker Distillery Co. bought Littlemill. With the Hay family gone, the distillery fell into a period of instability again. Blenders, Charles Mackinlay, as well as J&G Thompson, were owners of Littlemill before selling it to the first of its American owners.

The succession of American Ownership

In 1931, Duncan Thomas, the first of Littlemill’s American owners, bought the distillery. Duncan ran the distillery under his company “Littlemill Distillery Co.”. He stopped the triple distillation that was (and still are) popular in the Lowlands and changed the direction of the distillery for a double distillation. He changed malting methods by installing a Saladin box with two ventilation towers and a single kiln. Duncan also introduced innovative hybrid stills with aluminium-coated bodies and rectifying columns to gain better control of his distillation. The changes allowed the distillery to produce three different whiskies – Littlemill (light and unpeated), Dunglas (unpeated full-bodied) and Dumbuck (heavily peated).

Barton Brands (based in Chicago) became a shareholder in Littlemill Distillery in 1959. The injected funds from Barton allowed the building of Loch Lomond Distillery in 1965 and eased the supply problem. By 1971, Barton Brands bought out Duncan Thomas’ share, and Littlemill Distillery went along in the deal.

Mothballed

Littlemill Distillery continued to produce three different whiskies until 1984 when Barton Brands was bought over by Argyll Group. The new owners mothballed the distillery. Argyll then sold the distillery to Gibson International (Barton’s Scottish arm) in 1989. Littlemill reopened and operated until 1992 when Gibson International went bankrupt and mothballed the distillery. In 1994, the banks liquidated Gibson International, and Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd bought Littlemill Distillery. However, they did not reopen Littlemill. As the owners also bought Loch Lomond Distillery in 1986, they removed the stills from Littlemill and moved them to Loch Lomond.

Shutter for life

After the new owners emptied Littlemill Distillery, they briefly contemplated running the distillery as a museum. However, they dropped the idea and shuttered the distillery for life in 1996. The owners sold it to a developer in 2004. Unfortunately, the emptied distillery caught fire shortly afterwards. Nothing was left on site when they finally put out the fire.

A housing development now sits on the site of what was once Littlemill Distillery.

Littlemill Whiskies

The distillery may be gone, but the whiskies are still floating in the market. There are both official bottlings, and independent bottlings for Littlemill and some of these bottles are going at high asking prices. Prevailing prices for an independent bottling of Littlemill can be as high as SGD$500-$600. While it does not cost as much as a Port Ellen, it is still a hefty sum to pay!

It is a pity that Barton Brands discontinued both Dunglas and Dumbuck in 1972, so whatever is left now are the bottlings for Littlemill, the distillery’s namesake. If you ever spot a Dunglas or a Dumbuck bottle in an auction, do check the authenicity before bidding!

Chloe Wood – Bruichladdich’s Brand Ambassador

Chloe with her bottle of Laddie Valinch 28

Chloe Wood – the new brand ambassador from Bruichladdich, made waves in Singapore even before she arrived when news of her joining the Singapore team was released officially sometime last year. The community is excited to meet a young lady who has so much knowledge about the brand and who grows up in Islay. Everyone knew that Chloe has much to share with us about Bruichladdich and what they do.

Fast forward to WhiskyLive Singapore 2017 in November last year – Chloe was there to lead the Masterclass for Octomore. We were there as well and got to know Chloe very quickly. Her friendly manners got all of us high and jolly (well, the Octomores played a part too) and we had a wonderful time with her.  We also learnt so much about Octomores from Chloe!

We invited Chloe for an interview with WhiskyGeeks and finally got a chance to sit down with her sometime in mid-December at her office for a chat.

Introducing Chloe Wood

Chloe at Islay (Picture Credits)

For a start, allow us to introduce Chloe Wood. She is Islay-born, and have grown up in Islay for much of her life. Chloe is into sports, and is a qualified coach in hockey, rugby, football, badminton and swimming! She was also a certified lifeguard before working with Bruichladdich. As a child, Chloe was not introduced to the whisky scene and never had much connection with whisky. However, she knows that whisky is part of life in Islay and as she grew up, her interests grew as well. As Chloe wasn’t keen to attend university, she escaped with a diploma and headed straight for work. When the job came up at Bruichladdich “Laddie Shop”, she jumped at the chance to join the big family.

The Laddie Shop opened the world of whisky to Chloe. Her daily interaction with customers, her co-workers and the occasional chat with whisky legend, Jim McEwan, all gave her knowledge and grew her passion for whisky. Chloe did not look back since, and she is now four years with the company with much to give back.

The Wood Family

As an only child, Chloe is close with her cousins, who also works with Bruichladdich. Her family is deeply involved with Islay and Bruichladdich to be sure. Her grandfather owns Octofad Farm, which is part of the Bruichladdich family too. Her dad, Andrew Wood, who is in the construction business, built grain sheds on the farm in 2008/2009 to hold and dry the barley that the farmers are producing for Bruichladdich, and now, the operation has grown. Octofad Farm dried all the Islay barley used in the distillation at Bruichladdich. “30 tonnes of barley takes 12 hours to dry”, Chloe said.

Chloe’s mum, on the other hand, runs a B&B on Islay. There are always Bruichladdich fans staying at the B&B, so the Wood family is consistently in touch with whisky and Bruichladdich.

Working with Bruichladdich as a host in the Academy

Chloe worked for The Laddie Shop for about a year and a half before she transferred to a role in the Academy. As a host in the Academy, she led educational tours for staff, distributors and wholesalers. Her vast knowledge in the brands came largely from her role as an educator. In the Academy, the host led highly-detailed tours for three tracks – Bruichladdich, Botanist and Remy Cointreau’s brands. As the educator for the Bruichladdich track, Chloe shared that the tours included visits to the barley fields and water source, an experience to cut peat and of course the distillery tour with a chance to taste whisky from the warehouses. It ended with a tasting session of the Bruichladdich’s core range of whiskies. The whole event takes place over two days.

Unfortunately, it is only for staff, distributors and wholesalers. Visitors to the distillery can politely request to see the water source, but it is up to the distillery’s discretion to bring the visitors. If the weather is foul, it is likely not possible to hike to the water source.

Bruichladdich Cask Sales

Up until 2011, Bruichladdich sells casks to its fans and help them to store the whisky in their warehouse for a fee. There were over 4000 cask owners by the time the cask sales stopped. In 2001, each cask cost about £400 and the price increased to £1000 by 2011. The cost to store the whisky was growing, and Bruichladdich was finding it more difficult to upkeep the sales portion as there are just too many cask owners. Therefore, they stopped the programme in 2011.

Funny Stories from Chloe’s days as an International Tour Guide

Chloe worked as an international tour guide for Bruichladdich as well and hosted overseas visitors for distillery tours. One of the funniest stories that she remembered was the one time where she brought a group of huge, Swedish men around the warehouse, and she made the mistake of saying, “Well, if you can lift any of the casks in the warehouse, it is yours to bring home!” She was confident in her knowledge that the hogsheads and barrels in the warehouse were too heavy for a single man to lift. Unfortunately, one of the Swedish men found a small cask hiding in between the big guys. The small barrel is only 35 litres, and he lifted it easily! “I am bringing this home, Chloe!” Hollered the man jokingly.

Chloe was so stunned that she did not know what to do for a moment. Thankfully, the men did not get rowdy and put the cask down quite willingly after she promised to give them an extra dram during the tasting session. What an adventure!

A typical day as a Brand Ambassador

For those of us who think that brand ambassadors have a fantastic job, think again. We ask Chloe what her day usually is like and the schedule is quite a hectic one!

In the day, she has meetings with the marketing manager, training with bartenders or staff, designing her presentation and arranging the tasting sessions for her training. On top of that, she has to do supply planning for her travels as well as writing tasting notes and stories for the people she meets during her travels.

In the evening, she attends meetings with bartenders and bar managers as well as with other brand ambassadors who might be visiting. Sometimes, she needs to host or speak at events too. Besides all these, Chloe travels a lot. Spending six to seven months of the year on the road can be tiring.

Do you still want to be a Brand Ambassador?

The Laddie Valinch 28 Chloe Wood

The Laddie Valinch 28 Chloe Wood

We asked Chloe about the Laddie Valinch 28 which was a special bottle for her. It got her name on it! The Valinch is a series of bottling by Bruichladdich to honour all the employees of the company. It can be a Laddie, or a Port Charlotte and each bottle is a single cask from the distillery. Currently, the Valinch series is at no. 31.

The Laddie Valinch 28 is a Sauternes cask (#780) with an outturn of 444 bottles. It is a 12 years old with an abv of 48.8%. We got the honour of tasting it straight from a new bottle that day. Man, it was fantastic! The nose is full of fresh honey, pears and green apple, a little grassy and light spice in the background. The palate is sweet like a white wine with an oily mouthfeel. Lemon mixed with the pears and green apples to form a tropical feel. Pleasant spice tickled the tongue for a warm feeling. The finish is long with lemony notes and a tingle of spice. It gets a little dry towards the end, just like an excellent white wine. The influence of the Sauternes cask was evident but nothing that overwhelms the character of the spirit. What an impressive dram!

Chloe’s Favourite Whisky

We asked if the Laddie Valinch 28 is Chloe’s favourite whisky, to which she said, “Oh! No, not really. I remembered that my first taste of whisky when I started work at Bruichladdich was an Octomore 12 years old. I fell in love with it immediately! It was 9 am in the morning, and Jim told me that he wanted me to try something special. That was my favourite!”

Besides that unattainable whisky, Chloe loves the Octomore 8.3 and the Bruichladdich Islay Barley bottlings! Those are her favourite for now. Are those your favourite too?

The Future for Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich has a bright future and one which we would like to be a part of. Besides her busy schedule, Chloe wants to expand the brand in the Asia and South East Asia region. She hopes to bring both Bruichladdich and Islay to the people here so that more people can experience the progressive innovation that is so prevalent in Bruichladdich. Chloe even wants to learn Mandarin so that she can communicate easily with Bruichladdich fans from China and Taiwan!

Besides that, education is also a priority in Chloe’s list of “must-do”. She wants to show people what whisky is all about, tell stories about the different brands and to bring Islay to everyone whom she meets! It is a pleasure to talk about her home and to invite people to visit Islay and Scotland.

What to look out for in Islay?

Besides all our talk about whisky, we also took the chance to ask Chloe what we should look out for when international visitors go to Islay. Her reply? “Check out the beautiful beaches, farmland, wildlife and sanctuaries. Eat fresh seafood, drink all the whisky and don’t drive if you are visiting distilleries. Oh, and don’t book tours too close to each other. The journey from one distillery to another can take you longer than expected! Lastly, watch out for wifi problem! It is an island after all!”

Advice for youths

Before we left, we asked Chloe if she has any advice for youths. Her biggest answer was TRAVEL! Travelling was indeed what she did as a youth and she shared that there is much to learn when you travel. You get to learn about yourself and others; see the world and know what you like. These experiences helped when you start working. We have to agree with that!

We wish Chloe all the best in her exciting journey for 2018, and we hope to see her again soon!

Bruichladdich – Progressive Hebridean Distillers

Bruichladdich – one of the most famous distilleries on Islay – happens to be one of WhiskyGeeks’ favourite distillery as well. While we have yet to visit this top-notched distillery, we just have to pen something about this progressive, Hebridean, distiller.

History of Bruichladdich Distillery

The history of Bruichladdich is comparable to a roller coaster ride. The Harvey brothers – William, John and Robert – established Bruichladdich in 1881 on the shores of Loch Indaal, on the Rinns of Islay. They built Bruichladdich stone by stone and designed the building with an efficient layout.

They installed uniquely tall and narrow-necked stills and other state-of-the-art equipment that was unheard of in those days. Bruichladdich was one of the top notched distilleries in Islay. Sadly, the Harvey brothers were better distillers and engineers than they were businessmen. The distillery struggled against the bigger players, and soon, it fell into trouble. A fire broke out in 1934, and shortly afterwards, William Harvey passed away. The distillery was sold several times after 1936 before getting mothballed in 1994. The reason for mothballing was “surplus to requirement”.

The Rise of the Modern Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich distillery saw a gleam of hope when it was purchased by Mark Reynier of Murray McDavid with the funds from a group of private investors in December 2000. Official records said that he brought the distillery for £6.5 million, but in fact, he brought the 8,000 casks maturing inside the distillery for that amount! The buildings were practically free. Right after the purchase, Mark hired Jim McEwan, the whisky legend who was, at that time, working with Bowmore Distillery, as the master distiller and production director.

The next few months saw Bruichladdich risen from the grave as Mark and Jim dismantled and renovated the entire distillery. While most of the exterior of the building was dismantled and renovated, they refurbished the old, Victorian equipment and restored them for usage. Mark was determined to retain as many of the Harvey equipment as possible, and they managed to do just that! Today, these old pieces of machinery stood proudly in the distillery as the hallmark of the history of Bruichladdich.

In 2012, Rémy Cointreau bought Bruichladdich Distillery and remained as the owner today.

Philosophy at Bruichladdich Distillery

Production at Bruichladdich with Graham Hayes (Picture Credits)

Bruichladdich is a non-conformist distillery, rejecting many of the “whisky production theories” of the day. Believing that industrialisation and self-interest have strangled the whisky industry, Bruichladdich strives to be different.  Instead of following the “rules” of the days, the people behind the distillery set their mind to be innovative and creative distillers.

The people at the distillery believe that whisky needs a character to convey authenticity. They believe in variety, innovation and progress. Bruichladdich is not after a title of homogeneity; it is after a change. The distillers think that the world needs a challenger, one that will stand in the face of blandness and denounced it as such. Hence the distillery often surprises their fans with exceptional, new creations.

Bruichladdich also produces a gin – The Botanist. Similar to what they do for their whiskies, they make sure that The Botanist is different from gins presented by other companies. If you have yet to try a Botanist, it is time for you to try!

The Land, The Water and The Ingredients

Bruichladdich works closely with the people living in Islay as well as the land that forms Islay. Islay farmers planted barley in response to Bruichladdich’s call for an Islay Barley, and others built sheds to dry the barley for the distillery. The land yields the barley; the mountains and lochs produce the water source for mashing, distilling and bottling. Most importantly, the people of the island come together to create whiskies that speak of its origins. It is also the largest, independent employer in Islay.

Bruichladdich believes passionately in terroir – authenticity, place and provenance. That is a heritage that they are proud of.

Bruichladdich Range of Whiskies

Some of the whiskies made in Bruichladdich Distillery (Picture Credits)

Bruichladdich produces three different brands of whiskies in the distillery. They have the Bruichladdich brand, serving up unpeated whisky. Then, there is Port Charlotte, a heavily-peated whisky at 40ppm. For the peatheads, there is Octomore, the most-heavily peated whisky in the world.

Bruichladdich

Classic Bruichladdich is unpeated, floral and sophisticated. It is a natural whisky which is non-chill filtered and colouring free. The whisky is made purely from Scottish barley, although there are some expressions distilled from Islay Barley and Bere Barley.

This range of whisky is living proof that Bruichladdich rejects traditional labelling of the whisky-producing regions in Scotland. Produced in an area where peat is the norm, the Classic Laddie challenges the label of what constitutes an Islay whisky.

Port Charlotte

The range of Port Charlotte is a tribute to the men who once worked in Lochindaal distillery from 1829 to 1929. It is peated to 40ppm and still retains the classic floral complexity of the typical Bruichladdich. The most exciting nibbles about Port Charlotte is that the original stone warehouse of Lochindaal distillery in Port Charlotte still stores the maturing spirits now.

Octomore

Octomore is famous; or in the distillery’s own words, it has taken the world by storm. It was a “what if” idea that turned into a reality. Named after the Octomore farm on the hill above Port Charlotte, the whisky is a legacy to the farm that used to be a distillery. In 1816, Octomore farm was a self-sufficient distillery. It grew its barley, cut its peat and distil its whisky on the farm. While the spark burned only for a few years, Bruichladdich Distillery carried the legend till today through the Octomore range of whisky.

Octomore is known as the world’s most heavily peated whisky. One of the latest expression, the Octomore 8.3, is peated to 309ppm! Contrast to expectation, the whisky is aromatic, floral and sophisticated. You will never expect something so delicious!

Looking to the Future

It is no secret that Bruichladdich continues to be a progressive distillery in today’s whisky world. We trust that Bruichladdich is striving harder than ever before to produce authentic, good-quality whiskies for the world.

We look forward to new releases from Bruichladdich.  As always.

 

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Whisky Review #72 – Bruichladdich Black Art 4 1990

Bruichladdich is a distillery that is full of surprise. They have three different ranges of whisky that covers everyone’s palate. The distillery believes in giving people choices. There are the Laddie and its varieties, which are the unpeated whiskies. They are also Port Charlotte and Octomore, which are peated. Some of these are heavily peated.

The subject of today’s review is the Bruichladdich Black Arts 4, a series of limited release by Bruichladdich. It is part of the unpeated expressions that the brand is famous for. The Black Art Series is mysterious, because, only its creator, Jim McEwan, knew the actual casks used for the creation of the liquid. The only thing that we know is that the liquid is a 23 years old single malt Scotch whisky.

The Black Arts 4 is the fourth incarnation of their Black Art Series. Working with beautiful American and French oak, it explores the intimate relationship between spirit and wood. This liquid is so exquisite that some have been found quoting Shakespeare while drinking this extraordinary whisky.

“Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires,” – Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Regardless if Shakespeare would love this whisky or not, let us dive into the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV:49.2%

Nose: Sweet toffee notes mixed with red apples and berries tingle the nose at first. Soon, we get warm spice that lingers in the background. The nose promises a spicy palate even if the sweetness of toffees and fruits are present. (17/20)

Palate: Predictable spice warms the palate immediately with light sweet berries notes and sticky toffee following right after the spice. Sweet barley sugar appears in the second sip. The palate develops into a sweet medley that reduces the spice. (17/20)

Finish: The finish is medium with sweet berries and red apples lingering on the palate. It is slightly astringent and dry at the end. (18/20)

Body: It is well-balanced but predictable. There is no surprise for this Bruichladdich Black Art, but it is a tasty dram for those who have not try the Black Art Series. (30/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is the first Black Art I had. Even though I could not compare what I had to the other expressions in the Black Art Series, I think this is a good presentation of what classic Bruichladdich is all about.”

Geel Choc: “Wow…I love this Black Art 4. It is also the first Black Art I had, so similar to Flora; I can’t compare it with the others. However, I think it is a level-up from The Classic Laddie with more complexity. Good dram!”

 

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