The bartending trio behind Langstane Liquor Company have reverse-engineered the Whisky Highball and bottled the ultimate blended Scotch for the base. We sipped a Glasshouse Whisky and Soda with co-founder Alex Lawrence – who you might also recognise as global head of bar operations for Mr Lyan Group – to find out more…
“Fruity, bright, banging,” says Lawrence. “That’s the gist of it”. And honestly, we have to agree. If there are three words that best describe Glasshouse – the second spirit from Scottish trio Alex Lawrence, Ben Iravani and Josh Rennie, following on from Porter’s Gin – fruity, bright and banging are, well, bang on the money.
That’s because it was developed with the whisky Highball in mind, “All the big brands are doing whisky Highballs now, but no one’s actually sat down and gone, ‘I’m going to make a whisky for that drink’,” Lawrence says. “It’s just convenient that it’s nice. So that’s what we set out to do – we set out to make a highball, and this is just one component of it. I find that really exciting.”
So, what’s in the bottle? Glasshouse is a blended malt whisky made from 100% malted barley. Just two whiskies make up the bottling: one column still distillate and one pot still distillate from Highland distillery Loch Lomond, both aged in American oak. The resulting blend is bottled non-chill filtered at 46% ABV.
“We’re not going for ultra-nuanced, multi-layered whisky,” says Lawrence. “I don’t know how to do complicated blending. I’m a bartender. I put two things in a glass and it tastes great, and that’s what we’ve done here. The only thing we did play with was the ABV – at 46%, it’s a little punchier, but it needs that for it to be flavourful and lengthened [in a highball]. ”
On the nose, given aromas including bobbing apples and breakfast cereal. On the palate, pear drops and malt, with Toffee Crisp on the finish. That’s as far as the tastings notes go. But then, Glasshouse isn’t meant to be a geeky brand, Lawrence says, or even a complete product. That it tastes phenomenal sipped neat was a happy coincidence. “When I was blending and tasting it was always with soda water, never by itself,” he says.
The name Glasshouse is inspired by the Victorian glasshouses within which exotic fruits, like pineapples, were grown in Scotland back in the 1800s – a nod to the tropical fruit flavour notes found in the whisky. The colour scheme is modern and fresh; a contemporary blend of green and pink hues – an intentional sidestep from the overt boujiness* of single malt marketing.
“The pantone of the brand isn’t traditional,” says Lawrence. “It’s designed to be a little bit disruptive, but not in an aggravating manner. Put it this way, I’m not sure all the old guard of whisky are going to love this brand. But ultimately it’s not for whisky drinkers – it’s for more people that are gathering in a certain way.
“With that single malt that sits on your shelf, you have to wait for a special occasion,” he continues. “When you go to a party or a barbeque you want to take something fresh and bright that feels nuanced and grown-up but not packed with sugar. It shouldn’t feel precious, it shouldn’t feel un-consumable.”
At just under £30 a bottle, Glasshouse is intended to be consumed in a more disposable manner than a single malt. In fact, that’s the entire point of it. Ultimately, this is about democratising the Highball; making it easy to enjoy an uncomplicated, unfussy, super tasty drink so you can focus on more important stuff, like catching up with your mates. You don’t need fancy ice or elaborate glassware for that, as Lawrence points out.
“There’s so much to think about when you order a drink now,” he says. “It’s good because people are more discerning, but at the same time, you have a 10-step process to get a gin and tonic. Are you joking? Just put a lime in it, pal. And listen, I’m from that world – I still make cocktails, I still work in cocktail bars. But at the end of the day, I just want to sit down with some soda water and some whisky and have fun with my pals.”
*Young person’s term meaning snobbish or stuck-up.