Peak careful opening door number 22 of The Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar because there’s a beastie lurking behind. . . it’s Peat’s Beast!
Peat’s Beast is a mysterious wee beastie, it’s a very smoky single malt whisky but the team at Fox Fitzgerald won’t tell us which distillery or even what part of Scotland it hails from. How mysterious! All we know is how it tastes: spicy and smoky, certainly, but also fruity with a sweetness from bourbon casks.
Fox Fitzgerald is made up of Eamon Jones and Aidan Smith, drinks industry veterans who met while working at Bulmers cider before a stint at Whyte & Mackay. The company is based in that well-known centre of the whisky trade, Heredforshire. It produces rare bottlings from distilleries such as Macallan and Tomintoul plus own-label products like Peat’s Beast (in various forms including a cask strength, a 25 year old expression and a PX cask finish) and The Corriemhor, a single malt created by Richard Paterson specifically to go with cigars. Swanky!
To tell us more about the Beast, the company and what the world of booze has in store for 2020, we have Eamonn Jones himself.
Master of Malt: Exactly how beastly is Peat’s Beast?
Eamonn Jones: Peat’s Beast is certainly beastly enough to be rewarded with a Double Gold medal at both the Berlin International Spirits Competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The key to a great peated whisky is to obviously deliver all the key elements like tar, medicinal notes, smoke, oily, briney, sea air etc. but also have the balance: sweet notes of great first fill bourbon casks, and just sheer quality of a great whisky. We want the peat element to enhance what is already a great whisky, not mask a very average whisky.
MoM: Can you tell us a little about where Peat’s Beast comes from and how it is matured?
EJ: Unfortunately we are not able to say where the peated whisky is distilled – our partner distillery doesn’t want it advertised that some of its best whisky is supplied to us. Suffice it to say, it is matured in one of Scotland’s most acclaimed and awarded distilleries and only the finest malted barley, spring water and first-fill bourbon casks are used to provide this peated beauty.
MoM: What exciting things went on at Fox Fitzgerald in 2019?
EJ: 2019 has been an incredible year at Fox Fitzgerald. The first client the business had when it was established in 2010 was Bruichladdich. This was a true eye opener – that business really could be about doing the right thing, not the most profitable thing. That a brand really could be built by passion, teamwork, imagination and fun in a world dominated by the corporate behemoths. Since Bruichladdich was sold in 2012, the visionary behind the distillery and the brand Mark Reynier looked for an opportunity where the Bruichladdich project could be taken to the next level; he found this with the Waterford Distillery in Ireland which has now been distilling since late 2015. Fox Fitzgerald is proud to be shareholders in this project but even prouder to be appointed global sales agents with the first bottlings being launched in 2020. We cannot wait to bring this incredible whisky based on the concepts of terroir, transparency and traceability to market. Similarly we are involved in the most incredible rum distillery, Renegade Rum on the island of Grenada, again the brainchild of Mark Reynier, and look forward to launching first spirits from this distillery in 2020.
Mom: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?
EJ: I think with all the political and economic upheaval in the UK and beyond, I see the year being one of consolidation. Quality branded spirits, supported by the global giants, will continue to grow and develop. There will be ever increased polarisation with premium spirits, especially those supported by large advertising budgets or those having a clear and authentic point of difference, continuing to maintain share. Similarly the rise of the discounters will see the value propositions thriving. However, anything caught in the middle will do well to maintain the status quo. Rums, clairins, mezcals etc. will continue to grow, especially in markets such as France and Italy, but growth will mostly come from those brands backed by the big boys. I see the global Scotch market remaining static at best, and Irish continuing to grow along with US whiskies. But in summary in such an uncertain global climate, I’d suggest the vast majority of brand owners would be more than happy to maintain current volumes and margin in 2020.
MoM: And finally, what will you be drinking this Christmas?
EJ: This Christmas, I’ll be drinking some beefy French reds, some crispy Burgundy white wines and some PX sherry cask finished Peat’s Beast. Our latest batch took incredible colour and a sweet tobacco note from the amazing casks and that contrasted with the peat notes and fine balance of the whisky; it makes for an incredible Christmas dram.