News from from Scotland (Spet-Oct 2006)
News from Scotland (full version)
Between the 19th and 24th of September 2006 I had the opportunity to travel through a sunny Scotland, visiting a fair number of distilleries, as well as taking part of the Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival. The general trend for the whisky industry for 2006 is GROWTH. If the distilleries are not at full capacity, the objectives for all the distilleries I visited is an increase in production for next year.
News from the Orkney
At Highland Park, the Highland Park bottles have been redesigned based on the 100ml sample bottles used during the 1960s at the distillery. A photo of the new bottling can be seen on the slide show. In addition, the Ambassador Cask n°2 has just been released. It is only 10 years old, but the whisky is well matured, is round and smooth. Tasting notes will be published in the next weeks.
Scapa distillery was almost completely refurbished last year, with all the equipment being replaced at the exception of the Loch Lomond Still. Production is ongoing and Chivas Brothers has also just released a 14 YO Scapa cask strength, available (almost) only at their distillery shops.
In the Highlands
At Balbair, a new distillery manager has been appointed last month, John MacDonald. Balbair distillery is located a few km far from Tain in a very romantic location. The distillery is very nice and extremely clean. The last bottlings of Balbair, including the famous Balbair 38 YO, has received a lot of praise this year, so John will have the hard task to make sure that the quality will be at least as good as it is now in the next coming years.
Also, during this week, I read in a Diageo Booklet that there will be a Clynelish Distillery Edition available before Christmas.
At Dalmore, production is going to increase next year and it has been said that Dalmore is planning to organize a Highland whisky festival for next year with the other neighbouring distilleries.
At Tomatin, the Tomatin 18 and 25 years old have been just released.
Since last year, Glendronach had to abandon their coal fired stills by a direct fire system in order to compile with the Health and Safety regulations. In 2002, Glendronach switched from Sherry to Bourbon cask. However the stock of sherry casks for the forthcoming years is guaranteed. I hope that Chivas Brothers will release soon a cask strength edition of Glendronach, like they just did with Scapa.
From Glen Garioch, I haven’t heard any news, but I would not be surprised to see new bottlings during the next months. New Bomwore (1968) and Auchentoshan (Sherry Matured) have been launched last month, so Glen Garioch should be theoretically the next one to come.
At Macallan, the Macallan 8 YO cask strength Easter Elachies Summer Edition has been just released (distillery exclusivity). A new exhibition has been opened in a warehouse in the distillery dedicated to the wood and the whisky flavours. It shows the differences between the European and American oak, how the casks are made and there is a didactic path with glass drops, each containing a different aroma. Highly interesting! Worth the visit¨
Dufftown and the Speyside Autumn Whisky Festival
I stayed a few days at Dufftown, before and during the whisky festival.
The Dufftown distillery looked closed, although Diageo is now promoting actively the Singleton of Dufftown. It is a 12 Year Old Dufftown, but with more sherry than the 15 Years Old from the Fauna and Flora. Tasting notes to come, but it is definitely smoother and rounder.
At Glenfiddich, Richard Cotton has been recently appointed Distillery Manager for the Glenfiddich-Balvenie-Kinivie Distillery. During my visits, all the three still houses were working very hard. There has been a lot of questions recently about Kinivie recently. To clarify the situation, the mash tuns and washbacks for Kinivie are located within the Balvenie distillery and then the wash flows directly to the Kinivie Still house a few hundred meters down Balvenie Distillery. At Balvenie, the washbacks and mashtuns for the two distilleries are separated. A few months ago, the first original bottling of Kinivie has been bottles, the Hazelwood 105, in commemoration of Ms Gordon who celebrated her 105th Birthday in her house in Hazelwood. Glenfiddich recently launched a limited edition, the Glenfiddich 12 YO Toasted. It is a 12 YO Glenfiddich matured in first fill bourbon casks. Very good, just a pity that it was only bottled at 40%. The new Glenfiddich 15 YO cask strength had its name changed to Distillery Edition for regulation purposes since some water was sometimes added to keep the strength constant between the batches.
Mortlach was also working at full speed, but I could not visit the distillery during the Whisky festival, since I participated in some other events
Within the Speyside Whisky Festival, I took the opportunity to visit the Tamdhu distillery and its saladin malting boxes. The system looks old fashion and requires a lot of manpower, but it seems very efficient, since Tamdhu is producing malted barley at a lower cost than other maltings. The exceeding production of Tamdhu is sold to the distilleries of the Edrington group such as Glenrothes, Highland Park or Macallan. All the golden promise barley harvested in the farms of Macallan is malted at Tamdhu.
Following the Tamdhu visit, we went in direction to Macallan for the visit of the distillery, in presence of Singlemalt TV. The end of the tour ended with a tasting of Macallans aged between 12 and 30 years old.
In the afternoon, I participated to the Tamnavulin Tour, where we had the opportunity to visit the Tamnavulin distillery which is silent since Christmas 1994. The maintenance manager, Mike Drury guided us through the distillery. It was a quite rare opportunity to visit a silent distillery. Tamnavulin is owned by Whyte and Mackay, who also owns the Parkmore distillery (in facts the warehouses since there is only the shell of the distillery left).
During my stay in Dufftown, I took the opportunity to visit the Glenrothes Distillery and the Glen Spey distillery at Rothes. Glen Spey distillery was working, so it might be that Diageo will release some whisky from this distillery as single in the near future.
To close the Speyside Whisky Festival, I enjoyed the Gala Dinner at the Taste of Speyside, where excellent food was served with some excellent whiskies selected by Richard Watt from Duncan Taylor.
I enjoyed my stay at the Autumn Speyside Festival. The atmosphere was very enjoyable and not too crowded, so that you have the possibility to make some nice contacts and have nice chats with whisky enthusiasts coming from the USA, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Holland and other countries. The Festival was extremely well organized and the idea of moving people by bus is very good and would be advisable to other whisky festivals.
Since images tells much more than a thousand words, click here for the slideshow.
I also want to thank the following people for their kindness and their help:
Hilda Eunson and Patricia Retson at Highland Park, Pat MacPherson at Glenfiddich/Balvenie, Morag Swanson at Dalmore Distillery, John MacDonald at Balbair Distillery, Margaret Gray and Alec Reid at Macallan, the committee of Dufftown 2000 and all the other persons that I forgot to mention or who want to keep anonymous.