It’s Back. But Legal.

Months ago I alluded that John would be resurrecting his Spice Tree Whisky. That time is now.

If you are new to the world of Whisky you may be saying “The Spice Tree“? What the hell is that?

Read my original Story on The Spice Tree: The Spice of Life (October 2005)

The original Spice Tree created quite a following due to its flavour profile, so after the Scotch Whisky Association forced us to stop making it, I was determined to find a more “acceptable” way to achieve the same style,” explains whiskymaker John Glaser. “It’s taken almost four years, but we’ve done it.

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Glenglassaugh 250 Club

I received a beautiful packet inviting me to participate in the Glenglassaugh 250 Club.

This is the opportunity to participate in the growth of the newly re-opened Glenglassaugh distillery by purchasing a newly-filled cask.
(I‘ve previously written about the upside & downside of cask purchases inA Wise Investment?)

A maximum of 250 memberships will be available each year – once the 250 annual memberships are sold, the list will be closed until the next year.

Membership does not simply include the cask (details below) but also:

  • A personalized VIP Distillery Tour for the member & 3 guests.
  • A Bottle of Glenglassaugh new make spirit.
  • Unlimited free use of the @%) Club private facilities during the maturation period.
  • A signed copy of the Glenglassaugh – A Distillery Reborn by Ian Buxton
  • A limited edition print of the distillery
  • A 10% discount on distillery purchases

Ok. Onto the details.

The following casks are available

  • 1st fill ex-Port Pipe (580 litres) @ £6,500
  • 1st fill ex-Sherry Butt (500 litres) @ £6,250
  • 1st fill ex-Sherry Hogshead (250 litres) @ £3,000
  • 1st fill ex-Port Hogshead (250 litres) @ £3,000
  • 1st fill ex-red Wine Barrel (210 litres) @ £2,500
  • Re-charred Wine Barrel (210 litres) @ £2,500
  • ex-Bourbon Barrel (190 litres) @ £2,500

For more info (and your own ownership prospectus) contact the distillery

Glenglassaugh Distillery Company Ltd
Portsoy, Aberdeenshire,
Scotland AB45 2SQ.
Tel +44 (0) 1261 842367
Fax +44 (0) 1261 842421
A vertical tasting of 3 Glenglassaugh whiskies is coming.

The bigger they come

World’s Biggest Bottle of Whisky unveiled

By Alexander Lawrie

A TINY Scotch whisky distillery has made the Guinness Book of Records after producing the world’s largest bottle of whisky.

The massive bottle of single malt was filled by hand with105 litres of 14-year-old Tomintoul Speyside Glenlivet Scotch.

And when full, the giant five foot container holds the equivalent of 150 standard bottles.

The monster whisky bottle, which will be on permanent display at the Clockhouse in the village square at Tomintoul village, was the brainchild of the Tomintoul distillery and a local whisky shop.

And after filling the gigantic bottle, the huge cork had to hammered into place with a massive mallet.

Duncan Baldwin, Tomintoul Distillery’s brand development director, said: “We are delighted to have been successful in achieving this record as ratified by Guinness Book of World Records.

“It was quite nerve-racking, filling and labelling such a large vessel by hand and especially so when sealing the bottle with the largest cork I have ever seen as it had to be hammered in with a mallet but the exercise went very well.

“It should be a great talking point for Tomintoul Distillery, the village and its visitors.”

Tempest in a (tea) pot (still).

According to a story in yesterday’s Telegraph US urged to boycott Scottish products after Lockerbie bomber’s release there is a movement afoot to “boycott Scottish Goods”

“US citizens are being urged to stop buying items ranging from Scotch whisky to kilts and petrol sold at BP-owned outlets as well as to cancel planned holidays in Britain to register their protest.”

I must point-out the obvious – that BP is based in London – a city which is NOT part of the Scottish empire. Yet.

While the large global Haggis conglomerates are worried, the Scotch companies aren’t phased at all.

And they shouldn’t be. I haven’t heard ANYTHING about this boycott movement – until I read it in a UK newspaper.

Is this a manufactured story? They point to an obviously amateur single page web-site called BoycottScotland <>.

And best I can tell, THAT domain is registered out of Canada – So maybe this is simply ANOTHER Canadian plot to drive a wedge between the UK and the US.

I’m pissed about the guy being released, but i don’t see the usefulness of calling for a boycott – and have no expectation that this one will in anyway be even remotely successful. But it’s obviously a slow newsday around the world with the pick-up rate of the story  – but no evidence of any impact of this boycott.

Disclosure: I went to Syracuse University and had friends and acquaintances who died in that bombing – including a good friend from High School, Denice O’Neil.

It’s got to stop

The always outspoken Mark Reynier turns his ire towards the plethora of Spirits awards…

These events, masquerading as consumer advice, are an out and out revenue earner for the associated magazine behind the event. With each entry being between £100 and £250, the bigger companies flood the entries with a pallet loads of samples to ensure winning something.

And Mark doesn’t stop there.

Competitions and festivals are sprouting up everywhere – they are big money – and sums that are eagerly paid by a crazed industry addicted to squandering vast amounts for more worthless medals than an African despot.

Funny. And becoming sadly true.

I think the most prestigious awards have got to be the ones handed out by the Malt Maniacs – though the Maniacs do gravitate toward more esoteric tastes – or our own Drammies…which have become the “People’s Choice awards” for the Whisky world – yet neither awards get played up as much when a single “expert” declares his favourite – usually, I think, directly associated with advertising dollars.

Eh. It is what it is.

Read the rest of Mark’s rant at the Bruichladdich Blog.

Famous Grouse Master Blender retires after 40 years.

The Famous Grouse recipe to be passed on to the next generation

John Ramsay, Master Blender for The Edrington Group has announced that he will be retiring from his position on 31 July 2009. Following a two and half year handover, Gordon Motion, will take over as the company’s new Master Blender.

The position of Master Blender is unquestionably one of the most important and complex roles held in the whisky industry, highlighted by the fact that only six such positions exist across all of the major Scottish distillers.

Master blenders are most well-known for their unique skill in the fine art of nosing whisky. In any one day John can nose up to 600 samples to check their quality and consistency. This requires a very acute sense of smell, and means that the Master Blender has to make some personal sacrifices – namely not wearing aftershave or eating garlic as they impair the senses and taking every measure possible not to get a cold!

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Production over 25 years has been flat

According to a letter published today in The Herald the production of LPA (litres pure alcohol) of Scotch Whisky has not changed much over the past 25 years.

a total growth of 1.14% over the 25-year span, equivalent to an annual growth in physical volumes of 0.145%.

At least that’s what Donald Blair contends in a report published in September last year entitled The Global Scotch Whisky Industry: Hit or Myth – a 25-year study

I used independent research commissioned and published by the Scotch Whisky Association to estimate that, had the Scotch whisky industry matched general global economic growth during the 25-year period studied (conservatively estimated at around 1.5% a year in real terms by some researchers), there would have been around 16,700 new jobs necessarily created in Scotland to meet the increased global demand for Scotch. The jobs foregone through the industry’s minuscule growth in the past 25 years thus put Diageo’s potential 900 job losses in the shade.

"Ruin" Scotch Whisky? I Don't Think So.

Almost 3 years ago, someone asked me about the requirement to bottle Scotch Whisky in Scotland.

I told them that there was, at that time, no requirement for Scotch Whisky to be bottled in Scotland. That was a true statement then and it is a true statement now.

Even at that time, the SWA was working on some legislation to ensure that Single Malt Scotch Whisky would have to be bottled in Scotland, but that would not affect the bottling of other categories of Scotch Whisky overseas. That legislation has never made it to law.

David Williamson of the SWA expanded:

As you are aware, there has never been a requirement in the legal definition of Scotch Whisky for it to be bottled only in Scotland. As Scotch Whisky has grown in popularity around the world over the last century, we have therefore seen Scotch Whisky, principally Blended Scotch Whisky, shipped for local bottling in certain export markets.

Over the years, overseas bottling developed in some markets because it was the only way in which imported spirits, such as Scotch Whisky, were allowed to operate on a level playing field with domestic spirit drinks. In contrast, bottled imported spirits would face tariff or tax discrimination, distorting competition in the market and denying local consumers choice. In other markets, Scotch Whisky has been imported in bulk for blending with domestic whiskies.

While it is likely that there would therefore be considerable legal difficulties in requiring that all Scotch Whisky now be bottled in Scotland, the situation is very different for Single Malt Scotch Whisky, as only very small quantities have been exported for local bottling in the past and any requirement to bottle in Scotland would only impact on trade to a limited extent. SWA members are therefore supportive of introducing such a requirement as part of the wider package of proposals that are currently being brought forward.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

But all of a sudden, Diageo’s VERY REASONABLE, if not happily accepted, plan to move bottling operations from Kilmarnock to Fife is being attacked.

Yes, jobs will be lost in Kilmarnock…But new jobs will be created elsewhere. And Fife isn’t exactly China, is it?

In this economy*, lost jobs are not often replaced in other areas of the same country, are they?

When written as “DIAGEO’S plan to end Johnnie Walker’s historic links with Kilmarnock could be the beginning of a process that will destroy the Scotch whisky industry,” it sounds quite alarmist, doesn’t it.

“A spokesman for Diageo accused the MPs of overreacting. “We fully appreciate that emotions are running high, but we reserve our right to have undertaken a major review of our business in Scotland,”

I whole-heartedly agree.

As Douglas Fraser, business and economy editor at BBC Scotland, correctly states

Already, between 10% and 20% of Scotch Whisky – leaves Scotland in bulk rather than bottles. Diageo sends less than half that proportion.

So articles such as Diageo plans ‘could ruin Scotch whisky’ are alarmist and unnecessary – and fueled by a political over-reaction to the necessity of consolidating jobs in a down economy – which is ANY employers prerogative.

I am sure Diageo has been dreaming of moving more bottling “off-shore” and has a perfect excuse In this economy*. And nothing in the existing OR PLANNED law prevents them from doing so. But they aren’t doing that here, are they?

The politicians got caught with their pants down and the people whom they represent who may be losing jobs will not be happy – but when the only argument the opposition has is that Diageo is laying the ground-work for ruining Scottish historical significance of a whisky brand, they’ve already lost the battle.

When will people realize that Diageo isn’t a foundation of Scottish culture – it’s a large multi-national company – that exists to bring share-holder value. And while I have been an outspoken commenter against a number of their marketing practices, as a Diageo shareholder, business consultant and MBA, I understand and accept operational review and elimination of redundancies.

That’s Business, folks.
* Vastly overused term.

Cold as Ice

This past weekend’s Wall Street Journal brought another installment in the age old question…Should I or shouldn’t I add ice to my Scotch?

The story, by Eric Felten in his regular How’s Your Drink column, is entitled A Chill to Scotch Purists’ Hearts and includes a quote from yours truly:

Mr. Paterson is hardly the only whisky purist to rail against the pernicious effects of ice in Scotch. Kevin Erskine, who writes about whisky at, says that when drinking Scotch neat “I may add varying amounts of water depending on the whisky, the weather and my mood — but never an ice cube.

As anyone who regularly gets asked for quotes can tell you…that is NOT exactly what I said…It’s NOT a misquote, but I think he left the important part out.

This is the full quote…

Personally I never drink straight whisky of any sort on the rocks. (And by straight I am talking about without a mixer – not the American
ATF designation of straight). When I drink it neat I may add varying amounts of water depending on the whisky, the weather and my mood – but never an ice cube.

I will drink whisky mixed in cocktails – and for those cocktails that call for ice, I happily accept it. But I never drink it “straight” on the rocks. I’m not against anyone doing it – I just don’t see the point.

I only want to clarify, as the edited version gives me the air of Scotch Snobbery – something that I rail against frequently.

Eric goes on to explain why “purist” are ag’in it.:

The purists’ complaint is that whereas a small splash of spring water seems to open up a whisky, releasing its full bouquet and flavor, ice tends to do the opposite. The tongue is anesthetized by the cold, and the whisky itself acquires a smoothness that glosses over the deeper complexities of the dram.

This is my position – and it is not some silly machismo “Real Men Drink Whisky Straight” – it’s a practicality. As I have said many times…when “tasting” whisky (as opposed to “drinking”) – you want ALL the flavour to come through…and ice WILL dull flavours.

There’s a REASON martinis are served ice cold – a glass of Gin (or Vodka) at room temperature is generally not the most pleasant thing…Whisky, on the other hand IS (or should be) delightful when tasted at room temperature.

Bad beers taste better cold, because flavours are muted…but great beers are generally consumed a little warmer – to allow you to get every nuance.

Such it is with whisky. But more so, I simply don’t want a glass of whisky-flavoured water.

BUT sometimes…you want a cold drink…what to do? I have 2 solutions.

1. Keep your bottle of whisky in the freezer. Cold without the dilution. QED.

2. But perhaps a more interesting way is to use “Whisky Stones” from an American company called Teroforma.

What the hell are Whisky Stones?

They are small, square soapstone cubes meant to be stored in your freezer and added to your Whisky when you are in the mood for something cold.

I first stumbled across the Stones on one of my favourite places to shop ThinkGeek…a catalog that sells crap for geeks..uh, like me.

The stones are nonporous, and will impart neither flavor nor odor. More gentle than ice, Whisky Stones can be used to cool down your favorite spirits just enough to take the edge off without “closing down” the flavors.

Designed by Andrew Hellman – as Teroforma’s co-founder, Andrew is not above taking credit for designing a stone cube…

It was his idea that we transplant an age-old concept from Scandinavia, where they have been making and using whisky stones for years, and have it made in the US, taking advantage of locally sourced materials and local craftsmanship.

Over 150 years ago, a Vermont farmer unearthed a sizable chunk of soapstone while tilling his field. Noticing the unique flexibility and thermal properties of the material, Vermont Soapstone was born. Still mined and milled locally under the watchful eye of owner Glenn Bowman, Vermont Soapstone was the perfect choice to make our whisky stones.

Chill them in the freezer for 4 or more hours and toss them into your whiskey instead of ice. They cool things down just a touch without daring to come between you and the dram of your dreams. Simply rinse after use and store in the freezer.

I tried them (in a nice glass of Maker’s Mark) and while they don’t transfer the cold as quickly as ice cubes would do, nor do they drop the temperature as much – they do work as advertised. And they look interesting sitting in a glass.

Cool. But not wet.

Available on the Teroforma web site they currently sell for $15 for a set of 8 until June 1.
After June 1 you’ll get 9 for $20.

I suggest you finally get your dad something he wants for Father’s Day.

File under: Believe it when you see it

According to a story in The Shetland Times “PLANS for a whisky distillery on Shetland are still on track, according to the woman behind the venture.”

Speaking yesterday from the mainland, Caroline Whitfield said that the old company Blackwood Distillers was being wound up after the investors had transferred their shares into a new business Catfirth Ltd.

Later in that story…

However the reorganisation means that the idea of a Shetland distillery is back on track, she said, while refusing to give any indication of when the first sod might be dug on site.

Anyone holding their breath?
Read the story here