On World Whisky Day Eve we report on stories like £150k worth of Glenfarclas whisky being stolen, the Lakes’ Dhavall Gandhi going solo, and the revelation of whisky’s wackiest tasting notes.
Tomorrow is World Whisky Day so we’re going to celebrate with a touch of holy, healing Tequila. Har, har, har. We’re just kidding. No, it’s the water of life for us this weekend, and if you’re struggling to find anything ideal for the occasion then we think we might just have a couple of options to help. Of course, if you really want something special, you can always register your interest in some truly breathtaking bottles from Bowmore – 50-year-old Islay whisky awaits…
You can accompany your World Whisky Day dram with some reading on our beloved spirit, as the blog was full of it this week. We told the tale of Tamdhu, considered the changing role of the whisky distillery manager, and celebrated the distillery architects who made the mould. A Scotch-inspired twist of the Sidecar was also on the menu, as were drinks that help the environment and taste great, including a new gin from Hendrick’s. There was still time to preview our upcoming virtual gin festival, and learn how the world of Irish cream liqueur is evolving.
The Nightcap: 20 May edition!
Thieves swipe £150k worth of Glenfarclas whisky
Devastating news came from Glenfarclas Distillery this week, as it reported that more than £150,000-worth of whisky was stolen. The Grant family, who own and run the business, revealed on Facebook that the visitor centre had been broken into at 2:45am, stating that the thieves “clearly knew what they wanted” after smashing cabinets and making off with 20 of the most expensive bottles, including the oldest and most valuable Family Casks and a bottle of 60-year-old. The average worth of bottle is estimated to be £7,500. Police say they are looking for two men who broke into the distillery sometime between 5.15pm on Friday 13 May and 10am on Sunday 15 May. The family reveals that the team is understandably very shaken up by these events and asks that anyone who has any information related to this crime or are offered these bottles to “please get in touch with us immediately, and please share this post.” It’s likely the thieves will look to sell on the stolen whisky, which does give some hope that they could be found, and detectives in the North East have urged the public to be aware of alcohol being sold at a discounted price. Let’s hope they are recovered, and if you do know or suspect anything be sure to get in touch with the distillery.
Dhavall Gandhi announces new solo project
The Lakes Distillery has been one of the brightest new distilleries to emerge in the last few years and key to its success was its outstanding cask programme, overseen by director of whisky and former Macallan man Dhavall Gandhi, who is now establishing a creative studio called Dhavall Gandhi Whisky (how did he think up that name?). It’s been described as the “private bank of the whisky consulting world” and aims to “elevate the expectations” of the whisky industry. How? By partnering with firms with “a shared passion for whisky to define what is next” for the category on projects with exploratory concepts and stock transformation endeavours. “I founded Dhavall Gandhi Whisky as a creative studio with an über-niche focus,” Gandhi explains. “We believe that whisky is much more than how it tastes – it is about the emotional impact. Through creativity, thoughtful blending, and unrivalled expertise in sherry casks, we can help create whiskies that lead to better human connections.” The studio, which officially launched in 2022, will continue to work with The Lakes Distillery, one of its first clients. He told us: “Although I am not involved in the day-to-day running of the operations, I still maintain full creative control of the liquid from NMS to final product. This is a novel approach and it allows me to focus on things I do best.” He has also secured customers in New York and Tokyo. Gandhi has been über busy, it seems, as he will also announce details about another project set to launch in September 2022. Exciting times for the Lakes man, and we wish him all the best.
Freddie Noe to become master distiller of the Fred B. Noe Distillery
The James B. Beam Distilling Co is keeping it in the family again by announcing the appointment of Freddie Noe to be master distiller of the Fred B. Noe Distillery. The site officially opened last year as part of parent company Beam Suntory’s $60 million investment to revamp the James B Distilling Co in Clermont, Kentucky, in the US. Freddie previously surprised and honoured his dad, seventh-generation master distiller Fred Noe, by announcing the name of the distillery would be a tribute to him. This time the father turned the tables on his son by revealing his new title, and in doing so marked the first time in the history of JBBDCo that there are two family members, working alongside one another, sharing the master distiller title. Fred revealed this week that one of his biggest regrets is to never have distilled alongside his own father, Booker, adding that “working side-by-side with Freddie will be a dream come true”. Freddie himself said it would be “an honour beyond words to follow in my father’s footsteps.” He’ll now get to experiment with new fermentation, distillation, and blending techniques at the Fred B. Noe Distillery, while Fred Noe will maintain his role overseeing the James B. Beam Distilling Company’s portfolio of brands that include Jim Beam Bourbon, Knob Creek Bourbon, Basil Hayden, and others.
Redbreast launches Dream Cask Double Cask Edition
To mark World Whisky Day tomorrow Irish Distillers is wheeling out its big hitter Redbreast and expanding its celebrated Dream Cask series. The fifth edition in the range, Redbreast Dream Cask Double Cask Edition is a 30-year-old single pot still Irish whiskey aged in two casks hand-selected by master blender Billy Leighton, and blender Dave McCabe. Each picked a favourite from Midleton’s considerable inventory with Leighton plumping for a first-fill ex-Oloroso sherry butt in May 1990 and McCabe favouring a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel in November 1991. These two were then combined. It’s a really interesting idea because what we see here is the two distinct components of the Redbreast DNA brought together, but also how the more established blender favours the more classic sherried style, while the heir apparent goes for the intriguing, alternative option. “The traditional Redbreast style is so often associated with the influence of sherry casks that we sometimes overlook the role bourbon casks play in its composition,” McCabe says in the press release. Indeed. The whiskey is bottled at 56.9% ABV, and the resulting liquid is “rich in robust spice with wood-driven characteristics and notes of dark-roasted coffee, sweet liquorice, orange peel and smoked amplified by the wine cask’s influence,” according to Leighton. Ok here’s the bad news, the bottle is 500ml, it costs €550, and it’s only available through an online ballot. The good news is, Redbreast Dream Cask Double Cask Edition is outrageously good, right up there with the initial Dream Cask launch. Kudos to those who get their hands on it.
The Glenlivet bids farewell to Alan Winchester
Chivas Brothers is waving goodbye to an iconic whisky man this week as former Glenlivet master distiller Alan Winchester leaves his ambassadorial role for the single malt brand. The 48-year industry veteran, who was recently honoured with The Spirit of Speyside Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for his work in the whisky, retired as master distiller for The Glenlivet in 2018 but now heads for pastures new as an advisor at the upcoming Cabrach Distillery. The announcement has been framed as a retirement, so it’s possible that’s a part time role. What will be a full time task is continuing his legacy, and for that Chivas Brothers has announced the appointment of a new team of The Glenlivet Makers, comprising of distillers and a cask expert. New distillery manager, Lisa Glen, will lead the new team, alongside lead distiller, Kevin Reid, and cask expert, Kevin Balmforth. Glen began her career as an engineer in the Merchant Navy before becoming a distillery operations technician and later team leader at The Glenlivet, where she oversaw the operations and processes of the plant for eight years. The departing Winchester says that being master distiller of The Glenlivet “was truly an honour,” adding that “representing such a revered, quintessential single malt has been nothing short of a privilege”. Thanks for all the good times Alan, and best of luck.
The English Whisky Guild publicly launches
It’s been on the cards for a while but now it’s official: we have an English Whisky Guild. The EWG publicly launched this week equipped with an aim to showcase and protect whisky crafted in England and bolstered by data that suggests the volume of spirit produced by distilleries in this country will soar by 189% from 2019 to 2023, with the number of bottles sold expected to rise by 418% from 2019 to 2023. A legal definition for whisky that would establish protections for the English whisky industry is the group’s first project, and it’s already submitted a geographical indicator (GI) to the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). The EWG will also look to support its community of producers while building awareness of the category. Drinks writer Dave Broom calls it a “significant and hugely welcome step in the evolution of English whisky,” while EWG’s inaugural chairman Andrew Nelstrop, says the group will welcome other English distilleries to join “at this exciting time.”
Compass Box Whisky Releases The Circle, No.2
Compass Box is launching a new whisky that’s all about tapping into the phenomenon of synaesthesia. It’s the second edition from The Circle programme, which serves to connect the creative processes of the blending room with those of the bar trade. A bartender gets to put their input into this whisky’s creation after winning the competition, and 2019’s victor Mannie Monaghan, owner of the bar Below Stairs in Leeds, UK, asked the Compass Box whisky makers: “Is it possible to make a whisky that evokes the colour coral?” Synaesthesia refers to a blending of the senses that can entail hearing shapes or tasting colours, and Monaghan is a self-described synaesthete – unlike whiskymaker James Saxon, who relied on the bar owner to first identify whisky that matched the colour in his mind. What he’s made is described as a soft, and sweet whisky took shape, with more than half of the recipe coming from tropical, pineapple-accented spirit of Glen Elgin Distillery. Whiskies aged in ex-sherry casks add warmth and a clinging texture, while dashes of a peated whisky, and a little malt whisky further matured in STR wine casks, bring contrast and depth. You can see for yourself if The Circle, No.2 hits the mark, and it will be on our virtual shelves soon.
And finally… Glen Moray reveals whisky’s wackiest tasting notes
Another World Whisky Day tie-in came from Glen Moray, who revealed the results of asking experts to reveal the strangest tasting notes they’ve encountered. Leading writers including, Dave Broom, Jim Coleman, Ian Wisniewski, Mark Gillespie, Brian Townsend, Philip Day, and our own Henry Jeffreys all rose to the challenge, outlining their pet peeves, guilty pleasures, and funniest finds while suggesting some modern alternatives. “My bete noir for tasting notes, and I’m as guilty as anyone, is being unnecessarily specific, for example saying Conference pear, rather than just pear, Manuka honey rather than just honey, wild strawberries and Colombian coffee,” our Henry says. “I think they are used to give a false sense of exactness. But, that’s not to say that tasting notes have to be a plain. I love silly comparisons. My favourite ever tasting though, comes from wine and it is ‘sturdier than Robert Mitchum’s trousers press’. Beat that!” Coleman revealed one tasting note that has stuck with him is ‘tastes like the left wing of a dead seagull on an Islay beach,’ while Broom had his own favourite avian analogy, citing Charlie MacLean’s taste of ‘dead guillemot’. Other top notes include roofing tar and plankton, pork scratchings with dusted paprika, and dirt. While examples of more far-fetched, descriptive whisky lingo included: ‘Like a young cricket bowler joining the senior squad too young: some of the delivery is wayward but the power, energy and enthusiasm is there in abundance.’ It’s hilarious stuff, but this particular writer is also a little concerned about their own notes now…