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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Springbank

The hidden world of private cask sales part one

Ever fancied your very own cask of Springbank? Well, until quite recently, this is how much single malt whisky was sold. In the first of a two part story, Ian…

Ever fancied your very own cask of Springbank? Well, until quite recently, this is how much single malt whisky was sold. In the first of a two part story, Ian Buxton looks into the often murky past and present of buying private casks from some of Scotland’s best-known distilleries. 

I’ve been thinking for some while about how the Scotch whisky industry sells casks to private individuals. Now you might very reasonably draw the conclusion that I should get out more but, that not being possible for the foreseeable future, I suggest that you pull up a chair, pour yourself a stiff dram and get ready for a long story – a two-parter, in fact. And we begin with a short history lesson (if it helps, think of it as home-schooling for grown-ups).

The purchase of a cask of single malt whisky by an individual is probably as old as the industry itself. Without stepping back terribly far in time – no more than 40 years – it was quite commonplace for a doting parent to purchase a cask of whisky in the name of a newborn child to await the celebration of their majority. The better class of pub and numerous hotels frequently had their own cask, often from their nearest distillery. Syndicates of chums, shooting or fishing friends, might subscribe for a cask to be bottled and enjoyed when out on the hill or riverbank. Companies had their own cask bottled for corporate gifts or to celebrate a significant anniversary or even a major deal.

What treasures lurk behind the white-washed walls of Bowmore?

You could approach the distillery direct or buy via a broker, then a more important part of the industry. When times got hard, distilleries were grateful for the business – Springbank in particular was a consistent seller of private casks. When I first entered the industry in the late 1980s, it was not unusual to visit a warehouse and see a small collection of privately-owned casks, some where all contact had been lost with the owner. These ‘orphan’ casks were just beginning to be a bit of a nuisance. Paperwork had to be maintained, they took up scarce warehouse space and were slowly deteriorating in quality or strength but could not be touched in case the owner or their descendants suddenly appeared. Sometimes a feature could be made of them – some readers may recall the display of orphan casks that once occupied a highly visible corner of Bowmore’s legendary No. 1 Vaults on the shores of Loch Indaal. The guide would point them out – containing allegedly the oldest whisky on the site – but not to be touched or sampled for even the most important VIP guest.  What mysteries they held could only be guessed at, delicious speculation over a later dram.

The trade was then more informal. If not quite conducted on a handshake there were fewer rules. In particular, it was acknowledged that having paid for the cask the owner could do with it whatever he or she wished (provided the tax was paid).  Private bottling was normal and, by and large, thought unexceptional.

From time to time such drams still appear at auction. Here, for example, is a Jura single malt privately bottled for the hotel of the same name that stands opposite the distillery and here is one of the many Springbank bottlings, this to commemorate the decommissioning of HMS Campbeltown. And, finally, just to show that anyone could do this, here’s a Port Charlotte from a cask that I bought in 2002 and bottled through Royal Mile Whiskies (check out the back label if you don’t believe me).

Imagine having one of these!

So despite the protestations of certain distillery’s PR teams and what you may sometimes read, the sale of private casks has been a long-honoured tradition. But it was never, until relatively recently, approached with an overtly commercial eye: the purchase price was typically little more than the distillery’s standard trade filling price with a small margin added for the inconvenience. How do you think it was possible otherwise for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society to begin a modest operation, discretion assured, back in 1983 when they could benefit from the ‘whisky loch‘ of such bitter memory. The distillers were, quietly, glad enough to see them then, as few buyers were interested in older casks. With Scotland awash with whisky, every sale was gratefully received.

But industry consolidation brought hard-eyed accountants to the fore. The profit was not considered worth the paperwork involved and a generation of marketing managers, more astute than their predecessors, began to question the lack of brand control as single malt sales grew in importance and value. One by one, the supply dried up. When, in November 1989, Aberlour distillery ran a national advertising campaign to sell casks there were eyebrows quietly raised at the SWA at the headline, “Invest in a hogshead of Aberlour”. The price of £1,350 (ex duty, VAT and bottling) was considered excessive by many and the very idea of promoting private sales was simply ‘not done’.

So, by 1990, it may have seemed the halcyon days were numbered. The possibility of your own cask moved slowly out of reach as prices rose and availability fell. But, if you’re seriously rich, all is not lost.  Look out for part two next month where I delve into the shadowy world of million pound casks and some very private buyers.

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks. A former marketing director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

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Stunning spring sippers!

Spring is finally here and to celebrate we’ve got a selection of seasonally appropriate spirits to enjoy! What felt like an endless winter has finally passed. Honestly, it was so…

Spring is finally here and to celebrate we’ve got a selection of seasonally appropriate spirits to enjoy!

What felt like an endless winter has finally passed. Honestly, it was so dark and stormy in the UK that I’m surprised Gosling’s didn’t try and trademark the weather. But now spring is here and we can all start to enjoy the thought of sunnier days. Barbecues. Pub gardens. Bank holidays. It’s all on the horizon. 

This made us realise at MoM Towers that people will be wanting to stock up on the kind of tasty boozes that immediately make you think of spring. That’s why we’ve rounded-up some of the most light, sweet and refreshing drinks around to save you the hassle. Enjoy!

Stunning Spring Sippers!

Mr Lyan’s Rainy Day Spritz

A delightful pre-bottled cocktail that means you get all of the deliciousness and none of the fuss, Mr Lyan’s Rainy Day Spritz was made by the fantastic Ryan Chetiyawardana (a.k.a Mr. Lyan), who we’re big fans of here. His winning combination of raspberry eau-de-vie, crisp vermouth and bitter rhubarb liqueur is enjoyed best as an aperitif or by mixing with soda, white wine, or Prosecco in the style of a classic spritz.

What does it taste like?

Intense and exhilarating notes of raspberry in all sorts of variations – fresh fruit, jammy compote and subtly funky raspberry brandy. A hint of shrub and rhubarb liqueur gives it balance.

Stunning Spring Sippers!

Moniack Mead

Mead has never been so popular, with bottles flying off the shelves here at MoM Towers. Henry even did a whole blog post on the historic drink. This traditional honey mead, produced at Moniack Castle by Highland Wineries, was made by fermenting honey, so if you fancy seeing what all the fuss is about this expression is a great place to start.

What does it taste like?

Smooth and warming with a certain dryness, prominent honey and caramel flavours without being overly sweet, along with light floral notes.

Stunning Spring Sippers!

Twisted Nose Watercress Dry Gin

A super tasty and individual London dry gin, Twisted Nose Watercress Dry Gin was made in very small batches in traditional copper stills using a botanical selection that includes juniper, grapefruit zest, cassia bark, fennel seed, orris, angelica, lavender and, most notably, locally-grown watercress. The name comes from the word the Romans used for watercress, “Nasturtium”, which means twisted nose.

What does it taste like?

Bright peppery note, sweet herbs, crisp grapefruit, lively fennel and subtle floral hints.

Stunning Spring Sippers!

Signature Blend #1 (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

If you’re a lover of Daiquiris then look no further than this rum. Pete Holland (of The Floating Rum Shack fame) developed this particular treat with the classic cocktail in mind, although it’s so deliciously mixable it will work in a variety of serves. The first release from That Boutique-y Rum Company’s Signature Blend range was created from a combination of unaged rum from Martinique and some particularly bold dark rum from Jamaica. 

What does it taste like?

Sugar cane juice, Conference pears, foam banana sweets, dried pineapple rings, watermelon, pink grapefruit tartness, black olives, classic Martinique grassiness, stewed winter fruits, ginger root, a hint of seaweed and some eucalyptus leaves.

Stunning Spring Sippers!

Springbank 10 Year Old

Springbank has a loyal and passionate following thanks to its distinctive drams and Springbank 10 Year Old is no exception.  This slightly peated Scotch, which was matured in ex-bourbon and then ex-sherry casks, is full of that wonderful signature character and makes it the perfect way to introduce yourself to the renowned Campbeltown distillery. It’s also got the word spring in its name. Which is pretty neat.

What does it taste like?

Exotic spices, guava, heather honey, soft smoke, marzipan, sweet cider, toasty barley and cigar boxes.

Stunning Spring Sippers!

Two Birds Watermelon Gin

What says spring more than a fabulously fruity and refreshing gin? Two Birds Watermelon Gin was crafted in a still founder Mark Gamble designed and built himself using his London Dry Gin as a base and the addition of a key botanical: watermelon. The name should have really given that away. 

What does it taste like?

Juniper starts it off, followed by a touch of lemon peel and a good hit of sweet, refreshing watermelon.

 

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Explore Scotland’s whisky regions!

This week you’ll journey with us through the wonderful whisky regions of Scotland, stopping for a delicious dram or two along the way… I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone…

This week you’ll journey with us through the wonderful whisky regions of Scotland, stopping for a delicious dram or two along the way…

I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone by now that we do enjoy a dram or two of Scotch whisky here at MoM Towers. Some who share our passion may prefer to indulge in expressions from the same region, be it the Lowlands, the Highlands, Campbeltown, Islay, the Islands or Speyside. We, however, love all of them like children and, just like every parent you’ve ever met, we can’t wait to talk your ear off about how much we do.

So, whether you prefer the peaty powerhouses typically found on Islay, the sherried and sweet often associated with Speyside, the malty, fruity whiskies you’ll regularly see in the Highlands or all the above and more, then you’ll be happy to join us on a journey that marvels at the huge range of different styles of whisky that are produced all over Scotland.

Before we start, it’s worth checking out this Drinks by the Dram Tasting Set, which contains five 30ml samples that showcase the Regions of Scotland. Now, on with our adventure!

Bladnoch 17 Year Old California Red Wine Cask Finish

Region: Lowland

We start our journey at the fabulous Bladnoch Distillery, which started up production once again in 2017 following some periods of difficulty. Since its return, the brand has created some delicious and intriguing drams, such as the 17 Year Old California Red Wine Cask Finish. Originally matured into ex-bourbon barrels, this 17 year old single malt was then finished in Californian red wine casks to create a rich, rewarding and wonderfully fruity profile.

What does it taste like?:

Dried fruit, orange marmalade, coffee, cherries, toffee, vanilla, liquorice, shortbread, black pepper and sweet oak.

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old

Region: Lowland

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old is not only the flagship expression from the Glenkinchie distillery, but it makes for a fine introduction to all things Lowland Scotch. A creamy, sweet and smooth expression that’s ever-popular and incredibly versatile, it’s no surprise this expression was named the winner of the Best Lowland Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2016.

What does it taste like?:

Light and aromatic with hints of barley malt, almonds, hazelnuts, stewed fruits, dessert wine, apple peels and manuka honey/beeswax.

Springbank 10 Year Old

Region: Campbeltown

We journey now to Campbeltown and its famed Springbank distillery, which is known for its distinctive, powerful whiskies and loyal following of enthusiastic, passionate fans. The brand’s 10 Year Old expression, a blend of both bourbon and sherry matured whiskies, is the kind of dram that makes you understand why. Quite simply a sublime introduction for those not familiar with the distillery or the Campbeltown region in general.

What does it taste like?:

Oaked aridity, rich peat, earthen rootiness, exotic fruits, salinity, cereal sweetness, dark nuttiness and whirling smoke.

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection

Region: Speyside

We venture now to arguably the most famous and certainly most productive of all Scotch whisky regions: Speyside! Glenrothes has been providing great whisky in this part of the world since 1878, but it’s only recently eschewed its famous vintages to make for age statements. This 12 year old single malt, released as part of the Soleo Collection, is one such example and you’ll find that this teaming with the kind of sherried deliciousness people love from a Speyside Scotch.

What does it taste like?:

Floral vanilla, galia melon, shortbread cookies, honey, banana, white chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon.

Strathisla 12 Year Old

Region: Speyside

This fruity, floral and sherry-rich single malt was distilled at Strathisla, which is not only the oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland, but also one of the most beautiful. It’s currently owned by Chivas Brothers and much of the whisky is used for its blends, however, given its significance to Scotch whisky and the brand, it’s little surprise Chivas Brothers decided to honour the distillery with its own expression.

What does it taste like?:

Soft oak, candied peel, Danish pastries, cooked apple, malt, sultanas, cinnamon and allspice.

Caol Ila 2004 (bottled 2016) Moscatel Cask Finish – Distillers Edition

Region: Islay

We now find ourselves on the Isle of Islay, which is pretty much the closest we’ve got to a holy land for us Scotch whisky fans (don’t forget to make your pilgrimage for Feis Ile 2019 from 24 May-1 June). We know that some of you will have immediately scrolled when you saw this blog for the first thing that could be classed as Islay awesomeness in a bottle. Good thing you did, as the Caol Ila Distillers Edition bottlings are not to be missed. This edition is the 2004 vintage Distillers Edition, which was bottled in 2016 after it was finished for a period in a Moscatel cask. Expect smoke, expect sweetness and most of all, expect a truly sublime Scotch.

What does it taste like?:

Honey, subtly floral malt, a crash of sea spray, peat smoke, golden syrup, orange oil, jasmine tea, brown sugar, red grapes, cinnamon, cassia and a few touches of spearmint.

Kilchoman Machir Bay

Region: Islay

We’re now at Islay’s farm distillery Kilchoman for a delicious dram of Machir Bay, the flagship of the Kilchoman range. Named after the scenic beach on Islay, this excellent single malt Scotch whisky that was matured in both bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks and boasts a wonderful balance of peat, sweetness and zesty citrus. One to savour.

What does it taste like?:

Citrus zests, crumbly vanilla biscuits, elegant peat smoke, tropical fruit, dried raisin and cracked black pepper.

Deanston 18 Year Old

Region: Highland

Our next stop is the wonderful Highland region for a delightful dram of Deanston. All of the distillery’s whisky is distilled with Scottish-grown barley and the 18 Year Old expression served its finishing period in first-fill Kentucky bourbon casks. With just a hint of drying smoke and plenty of creamy, sweet characteristics, Deanston 18 Year Old is a fine expression that should not be overlooked.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy vanilla, Golden Grahams, honeydew melon, flint, lemon cheesecake, orange boiled sweets, oily walnut, stem ginger and beeswax.

Highland Park Valknut

Region: Island

The Islands, which are often classed as being part of the Highlands, are home to some classic names like Talisker, Tobermory and, of course, Highland Park, the latter of which is our final stop. It’s located on the island of Orkney, where you’ll find puffins, plenty of great Scotch and also puffins (did I mention Orkney has puffins, guys?). The brand’s expression Valknut is part of the Viking Legend series and features a small portion of Orkney-grown Tartan barley. This is a more smoky customer than you may be used to from Highland Park, but it’s still got plenty of that typical rich, succulent profile you’ve come to love from Scotland’s most northerly distillery.

What does it taste like?:

Warming peat smoke, fresh vanilla, thyme honey, toasted barley, fennel seed, flamed orange peel, gingerbread, BBQ char, nutmeg and sandalwood.

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Behold! Six brilliantly old and rare Boutique-y whiskies are here!

‘Old’ and ‘rare’ are terms often bandied about with much abandon in whisky. Not here, folks. We’ve got six really rather marvellous, hard-to-find That Boutique-y Whisky Company gems that certainly…

‘Old’ and ‘rare’ are terms often bandied about with much abandon in whisky. Not here, folks. We’ve got six really rather marvellous, hard-to-find That Boutique-y Whisky Company gems that certainly live up to that billing, including a Macallan and not one but two Rosebanks!

We’re always on the look-out for unusual bottlings that max out deliciousness. And we love the people behind That Boutique-y Whisky Company because they are after the same: they sniff out incredible whiskies, independently bottle the best of the best, and then share them with the world. They are our kind of folk. And they’ve done it again. Say hello to six incredibly exciting brand-new bottlings: Rosebank 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Rosebank 28 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Ardbeg 27 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Highland Park 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Macallan 30 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); and Springbank 22 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)!

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36 New Master of Malt Single Cask Series Bottlings!

Hear ye hear ye! We have a brand new selection of Master of Malt Single Cask Series Bottlings, so flock to MoM Towers my fellow whisky-lovers – you don’t want…

Hear ye hear ye! We have a brand new selection of Master of Malt Single Cask Series Bottlings, so flock to MoM Towers my fellow whisky-lovers – you don’t want to miss out on this lot…

Our Single Cask Series is bigger than ever, with a whopping 36 new whiskies for our Single Cask Series!

Who wouldn’t want to savour the joy of a single cask whisky? The following editions have spent years maturing in a specific cask and now each idiosyncrasy is ready for you to interpret and enjoy. Each and every bottling here is truly unique. Once that cask is emptied, there is no more, people!

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Tasmanian Whisky – Everything You Need to Know! (Part 8: William McHenry and The Small Concern)

This is the final instalment in my series on Tasmanian Whisky and we begin with William McHenry and Sons; a distillery located about as remotely as you could imagine, on…

William McHenry distillery

This is the final instalment in my series on Tasmanian Whisky and we begin with William McHenry and Sons; a distillery located about as remotely as you could imagine, on the southeastern tip of Tasmania.

The distillery has its connections with the Gaelic whisky world; the owner, William McHenry, being a descendant of an Isle of Skye whisky smuggler. By trade, McHenry was in the pharmaceutical industry, and lived in Sydney, and one balmy Australian day at a barbecue, a friend made a passing comment about William’s Scottish roots, and the idea of making a whisky in honour of them. A few years later, McHenry moved with his family to Tasmania, settling on a beautiful 100-acre estate close to Port Arthur, an historic penal colony.

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Coastal Whisky: The Curious Relationship Between Whisky and the Seas

Some whiskies can be said to have a ‘coastal’ or ‘maritime’ character, and invariably these are also whiskies that I absolutely love. In fact, these seaside malts are the reason…

Coastal Whisky Bowmore

Some whiskies can be said to have a ‘coastal’ or ‘maritime’ character, and invariably these are also whiskies that I absolutely love. In fact, these seaside malts are the reason I became interested in whisky in the first place, and the very best examples are still probably my favourite spirits in the world. This is personal taste, of course, and whilst I love most of the gods’ rich tapestry of whisky flavour profiles, I just happen to be a sucker for the Neptunian ones. So, consider me your Neil Oliver as we embark on a journey of discovery and also consider exactly how is it that some malts seemingly take on the very taste of the coast. This, is whisky on the edge… *Cue music*

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Dramboree 2014 – Tickets on Sale Tomorrow!

Dramboree 2014: “July 4, 5, 6 – Scotland. Whisky. Fun.” What more could you possibly need to know?! Well, Dramboree is a fun and informal annual whisky weekend of the…

Dramboree 2014 Logo

Dramboree 2014: “July 4, 5, 6 – Scotland. Whisky. Fun.”

What more could you possibly need to know?!

Well, Dramboree is a fun and informal annual whisky weekend of the very highest order, now in its second year. Taking inspiration from Maltstock, Whisky Squad’s Jason B. Standing and The Great Whisky Company’s Jonny McMillan found themselves discussing a perfect UK-based whisky weekend a couple of years ago before it dawned on them that they were the exact people to make it happen! Hey presto – Dramboree was born, and after a highly successful first outing, this year promises to be even bigger and better!

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Wizards of Whisky 2014 Winners!

For the longest time, I’ve had a suspicion about That Boutique-y Whisky Company being full of powerful wizards, what with the lightning-bolt shaped scars on their heads, their ability to…

Wizards of Whisky 2014 Logo

For the longest time, I’ve had a suspicion about That Boutique-y Whisky Company being full of powerful wizards, what with the lightning-bolt shaped scars on their heads, their ability to talk to snakes (they’re very boring, all they want to do is sing songs about falling asleep) and how they’re very good at conjuring up delicious drinks. Sha-zam and abracadara!

Seeing as a number of their independently bottled marvels have just won Wizards of Whisky 2014 Awards, we think it’s pretty safe to say that they’re definitely sorcerers of the highest order, up there with Dumbledore, Gandalf and Emperor Palpatine (he shoots lightning from his hands, he totally counts as a wizard).

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Dramboree: A Whisky Weekend in Scotland! (Part 2)

Following a fine Friday evening at Dramboree (see Part 1 of my Executive report), an entire day of whisky fun still lay ahead! I give you… Part Deux. After a…

dramboree glass whisky weekend 2013

Following a fine Friday evening at Dramboree (see Part 1 of my Executive report), an entire day of whisky fun still lay ahead! I give you… Part Deux.

After a hearty breakfast we set off for Aberfeldy distillery, our first port of call with tastings from Springbank’s Melanie Stranger and the guys from Whisky Lounge to look forward to later on (not to mention that Whisky Table!) all organised by our fantastic hosts Jonny McMillan and Jason B. Standing. There would also be a barbecue courtesy of Master of Malt (that’s us!).

Plenty to look forward to then as we set off on a short stroll down to the home of Dewar’s blend and Aberfeldy single malt Scotch whisky.

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