anCnoc Rutter / Flaughter / Tushkar

anCnoc whisky

anCnoc whiskyI already mentioned the likeliness of peated anCnoc expressions after I visited the distillery in May 2012. We even got to try a sample of a batch distilled around 2005 and I was pleasantly surprised by its qualities. In 2012 more than 25% of the distillery production was peated spirit, so we can expect more of this.

Rutter, Flaughter and Tushkar may seem strange words for outsiders, but they relate to traditional tools used in peat cutting – types of shovels that are also pictured on the labels. Each tool is used to take out a different layers of peat and these different types of peat result in different flavour profiles.

Although they don’t carry age statements, most of the casks used were laid down between 2004 and 2006.

None of them follow the trend of extreme peating levels, even Tushkar is only medium smoky. I think this is the right choice: anCnoc has a typically gentle profile that could be easily overwhelmed by too much peaty power.

anCnoc Rutter and anCnoc Flaughter will be available world-wide while anCnoc Tushkar will only be sold in Sweden.



anCnoc RutteranCnoc RutteranCnoc Rutter (46%, OB 2014, 11 ppm)

Matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Nose: Initially lots of lemon, with smoky notes in the background. Rather fruity with some barbecued pineapple. Nice minty notes and spicy gingerbread. Orange peel and fragrant hints of bergamot oil. Some youngish notes (pear drops). Mouth: quite oily and fairly light-bodied, with fruit candy (apple and banana sweets), moving towards bubblegum. Biscuits and spicy notes (ginger), with just enough peat to keep you happy. Honey and creamy vanilla from the wood. Very creamy overall. Finish: medium long, with most of the flavours fading too soon.

A nice whisky, good balance between the light, creamy distillery character and subtle smoke. Above average complexity as well (even though the typical pear drops and bubblegum can’t hide its youth). This is summer peat, not the usual winter. Around € 65.

Score: 86/100



anCnoc FlaughteranCnoc FlaughteranCnoc Flaughter
(46%, OB 2014, 14,8 ppm)

Matured in American oak casks, including rejuvenated hogsheads (de-char / re-char).

Nose: this one comes across much tighter. A lot of the juicy fruits and vanilla are taken out and replaced with more mineral notes. More earthy sharpness rather than more warm smoke. Linseed oil and aniseed. Lemon peel. Buttered toast. Floral notes again. Some honey. Mouth: more peat now (and it keeps growing in the glass) which seems to limit the complexity. Plenty of malty notes and mint. Still some fruit candy (going towards lokum). Honey. Lightly burnt meaty notes over time. Finish: long, with more of the sweet peat keeping strong.

This one is less to my liking. It’s more narrow and more robust. For me, it also shows less of the typical anCnoc character. But peatheads may prefer this one. Same price.

Score: 82/100



anCnoc TushkaranCnoc TushkaranCnoc Tushkar (46%, OB 2014, 15 ppm)

A Swedish exclusive.

Nose: yet a different kind of peatiness. More complex and integrated again. Warm smoke without the minerality and much subtler again. Trademark honey and fruity notes (pear jelly and mixed fruit tea). Hints of dried coconut flakes and wax. Something of wheat beer. Very interesting. Mouth: back to the creaminess of butter popcorn. Fruit jellies. Big vanilla. Some almonds. A slight meatiness as well as refreshing lemon sherbet. Simple but really enjoyable. Finish:

A well-deserved second place. It’s more like Rutter in highlighting the distillery character, but it integrates more peat. Probably slightly more expensive due to the Swedish tax policy?

Score: 85/100

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9th World Whiskies Conference Packed With Interest – Whisky News

AA WWC 2014

9th World Whiskies Conference packed with interest 

The 9th World Whiskies Conference has a full programme of topics for delegates from around the world. Keynote speaker Mike Keyes, President North American Region, Brown Forman, will start the day, and Dr Nick Morgan, Diageo, is the guest Lunch Speaker. 

The one day global whiskies business summit takes place in New York at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, Pier 61, on Tuesday April 8, 2014 and includes these leading lights from the global industry: 

  • Richard Paterson, Master Blender, Whyte and Mackay
  • Bernie Lubbers, Brand Ambassador, Heaven Hill Distilleries
  • Michael Payne, Executive Director, International Association of Airport Duty Free Stores
  • Daniel Fisher, Senior Vice President, Spirits Portfolio, Astor Wines Spirits
  • Lawson Whiting, Senior Vice President, Chief Brands Officer, Brown Forman
  • Meghan Labot, Vice President Strategy, Spring Design Partners, Inc
  • Pramod Krishna, Director General, Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies
  • Frank Coleman, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, Distilled Spirits Council
  • Ralph Erenzo, Sales and Marketing, Hudson Whiskey / Tuthilltown
  • David Blackmore, The Glenmorangie Company
  • Alan Kropf, Director of Education, Anchor Brewers Distillers
  • David Gerzof Richard, Emerson College Professor of Digital Media Marketing
  • Ross Hendry, Director, International Sales, Corby
  • David Ozgo, Chief Economist, Distilled Spirits Council 

“The global whiskies business continues to surge and the World Whiskies Conference offers a unique environment in which to learn from the best to harness growth and development of your own business,” says Damian Riley-Smith, Conference Director. 

Topics at the 2014 World Whiskies Conference are: 

  • Growth trends in the U.S. whiskey market.  Deluxe Canadian whiskies, ultra-premium Bourbon, Irish whiskey. Fatigue with Scotch or growing the market?
  • Panel Debate.  The impact of craft and its effects on the market; opportunity or threat to established brands
  • Reaching out to luxury markets.  Can American and Canadian whiskies thrive in new markets abroad, and how? China and India; what has worked and what has not?
  • Flavoured whisky.  With the massive uptake of flavoured whisky in North America, does this help the category or harm it?
  • Travel retail.  Expensive marketing or essential profile? What are the criteria for entry and success? Is it worth the investment?
  • Traditional marketing in a social media world.  How should traditional marketing methods mix with social media marketing?
  • New product design.  How does good product design influence sales? What are the key elements of great design? Which designs have worked, and which not.
  • Taste the difference.  Taste the difference between different priced whiskies. Why does one justify a higher price? Is it all about the flavor? Is it the age? How influential is the packaging?  

Delegate booking is available from and starts at $425. 

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anCnoc Takes a Trip to the Dark Side With New Peated Collection – Scotch Whisky News

AA Stephanie Bridge with the new anCnoc peated range and living peat bog created by Pyrus flowers

anCnoc Takes a Trip to the Dark Side With

New Peated Collection

anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky is inviting drinkers to find their ‘peaty side’ this year as the contemporary single malt launches an intriguing new collection of limited edition peated whiskies for the global market.

Aiming to unravel the mysteries of peated whisky for modern drinkers, this new collection from the Knockdhu Distillery will feature anCnoc’s classic light, easy-drinking style but with a dark, distinctive and smoky twist.

The first three releases in the collection were unveiled at a launch event in Glasgow last night (Wednesday 26th March), with the anCnoc team treating guests to tastings of each new single malt, alongside an inspiring mix of peaty experiences.

A menu inspired by anCnoc’s new dark side was created for the event by rising Scottish food experimentalists JellyGin, with jars of edible peat bog, copper rivet lollipops and clouds of anCnoc smoke delighting guests on the night. A living peat bog was even transported to the venue for the occasion.

The expressions in anCnoc’s new peated collection are named in honour of the traditional tools used to cut peat, with ‘Rutter’ and ‘Flaughter’ unveiled for the UK and global markets and ‘Tushkar’ released exclusively for Sweden.

Each new release will also display its own varying phenol content in parts per million (ppm) to indicate just how peated the whisky inside the bottle is, aiming to help drinkers find a peaty level to suit their palate.

Inspiration for the new peated collection comes from anCnoc’s 120 year history, which reveals that the very first whiskies crafted at Knockdhu had a peaty edge, thanks to the distillery’s location in the heart of some of Scotland’s most fertile peat land. 

AA anC Peaty Tushkar_Both

Tasting notes

Rutter (11.0 ppm): sparkling gold in appearance, initially smoky on the nose giving way to spices, pineapples, pear drops and vanilla. A full-bodied peaty richness to taste but with undertones of set honey, vanilla, toffee and leather, punctuated by green apples, giving way to a smoky peaty finish.

Flaughter (14.8ppm): pale gold in appearance a warm smokiness with spice, ash and surprising fruit on the nose. Distinctly smoky to taste with a fruity long-lasting finish.

Tushkar (15.0 ppm): polished gold in appearance with a rich sweet honey and vanilla nose wrapped in a veil of warm peat smoke, pierced by overtones of fresh green apples, orange peel and cut spring flowers. Rich, full-bodied wood smoke to taste, opening up to exotic spices, runny honey, toffee sweetness and a hint of freshly squeezed lemons.

The packaging of the new collection represents a dark and striking alternative look for anCnoc, with each green glass bottle featuring a glistening illustration of a traditional peat cutting tool on an eye-catching black label.

The whiskies will be available through independent and specialist retailers from April and will sit alongside anCnoc’s core range. They are bottled at 46% ABV and in their most natural state – neither chill-filtered nor coloured.

Charles Maclean, Master of the Quaich comments: ‘The difference between these three malts is subtle, but apparent. Their overall flavour – their aroma and taste –is nicely balanced, fresh and breezy; their smokiness subtle and understated, while their cheerful simplicity makes them very ‘more-ish’ and easy to drink’.

Project Manager, Stephanie Bridge, hopes that anCnoc’s new collection will encourage malt drinkers to explore peated whisky in a new way. She commented: ‘Our new limited edition peated single malts will form an exciting collection to sit alongside our core anCnoc expressions, offering drinkers a new, and perhaps a first experience of peated whisky. These malts have all the exceptional qualities of anCnoc but with a depth and smokiness that will be appealing both to peat aficionados and to drinkers of lighter malts with an interest in finding a peated malt whisky that they understand and enjoy. We’re on a mission to bring our very modern take on the world of peated whisky to our drinkers and to entice customers to experience this new side of anCnoc.’

anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky is part of the Inver House Distillers portfolio, and is produced at Knockdhu Distillery – established in 1894 and one of the smallest and most enchanting in the Scottish Highlands. It is renowned the world over by malt enthusiasts for bringing a contemporary twist to the traditions of fine malt whisky, producing a single malt that is accessible and versatile for all occasions.

AA anC Peaty Flaughter_Both


About anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky is produced at the Knockdhu Distillery which was established in 1894 and is one of the smallest and most enchanting in the Scottish Highlands. It’s renowned the world over by malt enthusiasts for producing a single malt that makes every day a special occasion. The new limited edition peated whiskies join the popular anCnoc 12 years old, a light yet complex dram; 16, 22 and 35 years old expressions; and a yearly vintage, currently the 1999. anCnoc is known for championing the contemporary visual arts and for its partnerships with some of Scotland’s most vibrant galleries and arts projects. 

About International Beverage 

International Beverage Holdings ( was established in 2005 as the international arm of ThaiBev, one of South East Asia’s leading alcohol beverage companies. With a network of regional offices in Asia, Europe and North America, the company is responsible for the production, sales, marketing and distribution of a portfolio of premium global brands in over 80 countries and territories.

Inver House Distillers ( is globally integrated into International Beverage Holdings and drives the distillation and maturation of Scotch through its five distilleries.

International Beverage brands include:

  • Chang Beer: Thailand’s iconic beer brand
  • Single Malt Scotch Whiskies: Old Pulteney, Balblair, anCnoc, Speyburn
  • Blended Whiskies: Hankey Bannister
  • Mekhong: ‘The Spirit of Thailand’ since 1941
  • Caorunn – a small batch distilled Scottish Gin infused with 5 Celtic botanicals

The company’s success is built on the combination of a strong understanding of local cultures and markets with the creation of a truly global operational network.  Brand building pays respect to heritage, provenance and craftsmanship whilst delivering innovative and highly effective strategies at global level. A skilled and dedicated team of more than 12 nationalities speaking over 14 languages delivers the highest standards of customer service and attention to detail across all aspects of the business.

AA anC Peaty Rutter_Both

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Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach at The Whisky Exchange – Scotch Whisky News


Gordon MacPhail Mortlach

There’s a lot of talk in the whisky world at the moment about Mortlach. They’re not the most mainstream of distilleries, but they are much loved by whisky connoisseurs (or geeks, as I like to call us). However, Diageo have recently discontinued their one regular ongoing bottling, the 16 year old Flora Fauna release, and have announced a new, premium range that will be arriving in June:


New. Shiny. Hopefully tasty.

We’re not going to talk about the new range yet, other than to show the rather blingy bottles in the piccy above, as we’ve not tasted it yet and don’t want to wade in to any debates about pricing and the like until we have. Reports are starting to surface that the spirit is really good and we are feeling encouraged.

Mortlach 16 Flora  Fauna

We have also recently found a cache of the Mortlach Flora Fauna 16 year old, so don’t fret about its disappearance quite yet (although don’t hang around for too long if you want a bottle). However, for those looking to the future and want something to keep you going when the Flora Fauna runs out – step forward Gordon MacPhail.

GM are well known for putting out ridiculously good-value bottlings, mainly things that you don’t see elsewhere. While you get the slightly more quirky things, like their 8yo Bunnahabhain and Highland Park, and the Macallan Speymalts, you also get releases that would slot happily into most distillers’ ranges – step forward Longmorn 12, Linkwood 15 and 25Old Pulteney 8 and 15, and, relevantly, Mortlach 15 and 21.

Coming in at about £45 and £70 respectively, they’re already competitively priced for 15 and 21 year old whiskies, but with the new Mortlach range on the horizon, they’re looking even better than ever. I recently cracked open a bottle of the 15yo at a tasting that I hosted in honour of my birthday (I hate organising parties, so thought that hosting a whisky tasting would get me out of doing one – it worked) and it went down particularly well:

 Mortlach 15 Gordon  MacPhail

Gordon Macphail Mortlach 15 Year Old, 43%. £42.95

Nose: Sugared raisins, buttery pastry, cinnamon toast, stewed apples, linseed oil, fruit gums and garibaldi biscuits. There are some dark notes hiding around the back, with a touch of liquorice and demerara sugar.

Palate: Lighter than the nose suggests, with sweetness and woody spice up front – sweet apple, nutmeg, cinnamon and a touch of clove. The buttery notes from the nose carry through, with darker and more savoury flavours developing – damp wood and mulching leaves.

Finish: Medium length, with anise and cinnamon providing heat that fades into apple skin, apple sauce and liquorice.

Comment: Not too sherried but showing off some sherry influence – good spice and dark fruit notes balanced by some more fresh and rich buttery notes. A great everyday whisky that firmly ticks the traditional Speyside box.

We suspect that the days of GM’s prices on Mortlach staying where they are may well be numbered, but for now they are an easily obtainable, alternative source of Mortlach and we’d recommend checking them out sooner rather than later.

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Mora’s Fine Wine Whiskey Tasting Event for World Whisky Day, May 17 – World Whisky News


Mora’s Fine Wine Whiskey Tasting Event for World Whisky Day, May 17 

Come taste over 25 whiskies from around the globe and celebrate World Whisky Day with Mora’s Fine Wine Spirits at The Country Corner between 6-9pm on Saturday, May 17! 

$24 per person before April 19

$30 per person after April 19


**space limited, ticket purchase required** 

Ticket purchase includes sampling of over 25 fine whiskies, Whisky friendly snacks, Glencairn tasting glass, door prizes for lucky winners. 

Some of our Featured Distillers: (check back for updates)

Amrut, Balcones, Benriach, Benromach, Breckenridge, Brenne, Corsair, FEW Spirits, Garrison Brothers, Glendronach, Glenrothes, Highland Park, Isle of Arran, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Kilchoman, Koval, New Holland, Nikka, Smooth Ambler, Tamdhu, Town Branch 

About World Whisky Day: Now you may be thinking ‘isn’t every day a whisky day?’. Well kind of, however, World Whisky Day is about celebrating whisky/whiskey and about giving whisky global stage and global media attention for not just a day but for a considerable amount of time around this date. The purpose of this is to introduce whisky to people who have never tried it before and for those that already enjoy whisky to have something special. 

Mora’s Fine Wine Spirits


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Diageo announced today that it is to launch JB URBAN HONEY, a new Spirit Drink based on JB Scotch Whisky, which has been designed to open up the category to a new generation of men and women.

JB Urban Honey - Angled angle

JB URBAN HONEY is a 35% ABV Spirit Drink made from JB Scotch Whisky infused with honey and is a characterful drink that creates a balanced and smooth liquid. The taste has been created to be distinctively fresh when consumed neat, on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail. 

JB URBAN HONEY is clearly labelled as a Spirit Drink on its front label, while also differentiated from the parent brand with the use of a honeycomb pattern, a city skyline illustration and a prominent ‘bee’ illustration, ensuring compliance with Scotch Whisky Association guidelines.

Since its creation, JB Scotch Whisky has been a bold and innovative brand with a witty, playful edge. As Dougal McGeorge – Global JB Brand Director – explains this has been fundamental to the development of the new Spirit Drink: “Creation of JB URBAN HONEY is true to the urban roots of the JB brand and its reputation for re-invention in the whisky category. The rapid growth of flavoured Spirit Drinks made JB a natural choice for us as we looked to drive innovation.”


JB URBAN HONEY will be launched in Spain starting in April 2014.

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Exel Wines to host Home of Whisky Festival – Scotch Whisky News

 AA WM 2014

Exel Wines to host Home of Whisky Festival

Exel Wines is to host the first ever whisky festival in Perth with the support of Homecoming Scotland 2014. The Home of Whisky Festival will take place in the Salutation Hotel, Perth on Saturday 3 May between 12-5pm.

Perthshire has long had a love affair with the ‘water of life’, As one of Scotland’s great whisky producing regions, it is home to both the country’s smallest distillery, Edradour as well as Scotland’s oldest, Glenturret, with many other notable distillers to be found on the Perthshire whisky trail.

Cabinet Secretary for Food and Drink, Richard Lochhead said:

“Whisky is one of Scotland’s most iconic products and, with a number of great distilleries in Perthshire, the Fair City is the perfect location for a festival celebrating our national drink. The master classes and tasting sessions on offer in the first ever Home of Whisky Festival are the perfect opportunity to enjoy and learn about Scotland’s finest during Homecoming Whisky Month in May.”

Where better to hold a whisky festival thought Dianne Barrie, Company Administrator at Exel Wines, “It came out of a discussion I was having with Peter McKay, UK Sales Manager at the Scottish Liqueur Centre who was in our shop on 47 South Street a few months back. We were talking about Perth’s rich whisky-making heritage and the idea of hosting a whisky festival in the city seemed like a great way to celebrate this. When I got back to the office I put the idea to my colleagues who liked it too and the rest, as they say, is history!”

Russell Wallace, General Manager added, “Exel Wines is delighted to be hosting a whisky festival in Perth with the support of Homecoming Scotland 2014. The Home of Whisky Festival will showcase not only the whisky industry in Perthshire, but also throughout Scotland, giving those attending an opportunity to sample some of the best whisky Scotland has to offer and learn more about whisky production and distribution across the globe.”

AA Homecoming

As well as having the opportunity to taste some fine drams from distilleries and independent bottlers across the country, part of the day’s event will include a number of in-depth master classes led by some of the most notable names in the whisky industry. With free dram tokens, a free tasting glass and some of the most knowledgeable whisky experts in the industry, this festival is set to be both informative and enjoyable.

Established in 2009, Exel Wines has gone from strength-to-strength over the years to become one of the UK’s largest online retailers of wine, whisky, craft beer and spirits ( With a retail outlet based on 47 South Street, it is also Perth’s leading whisky retailer offering both the wine and whisky enthusiast a little treasure trove of delights, including many rare and collectable bottles.

For more information about Home of Whisky Festival and to purchase tickets visit:


Homecoming Scotland 2014 – Whisky Month

Whisky Month is a key part of the Homecoming Scotland 2014 programme of events

Whisky Month will be a month-long, country-wide celebration of Scotland’s national drink during May 2014 

It will explore the subtle blend of stories, circumstances, provenance and generation after generation of skilled craftsmanship that make it the national drink – a drink that is as uniquely Scottish as the landscape and people that created it 

The packed month of events will highlight the very best of Scotland’s food, drink and music, celebrated through festivals and events both large and small, taking place right across the country

AA Scotland


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SAN FRANCISCO 2014 AWARDS – More Awards For Tomatin! – Scotch Whisky News

AA Tomatin2  


Further to our press release from last week, I am delighted to inform you that we have since been awarded four medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2014. Regarded as one of the most respected spirits competitions in the world, the competition saw our products evaluated by top spirits professionals on a blind tasting basis. 

We are understandably delighted to be scoring consistently high in our industry’s esteemed awards competitions reflecting the consistently high quality whisky we produce.   

2014 Awards: 

Tomatin 18 Year Old Single Malt – DOUBLE GOLD

Tomatin 12 Year Old Single Malt – GOLD

Tomatin LEGACY Single Malt – GOLD

Cù Bòcan Single Malt – SILVER

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Barry Crockett, former Master Distiller at the Midleton Distillery, has become the 17th inductee into the coveted Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame.

Awarded by ex-editor of Whisky Magazine, Rob Allanson, at the publication’s annual awards ceremony in London, Crockett was recognised for his contribution to the growth of the Irish Whiskey category during his 47 year career with Irish Distillers. 

Allanson commended Crockett for “redefining Irish whiskey by combining technology, innovation, and craftsmanship with a deep sense of history” and overseeing operations at Midleton during “some of the most eventful times in Irish whiskey’s history”. 

Crockett’s award was supported by other key wins for Irish Distillers at the Icons of Whisky Rest of World* competition, including ‘Whisky Distiller of the Year’ for the third year running and ‘Whisky Visitor Attraction of the Year’ for the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin. Final tasting results for the World Whiskies Awards were also revealed, with Redbreast 15 Year Old scooping ‘World’s Best Irish Pot Still’. 

Irish Distillers’ success last week follows a groundbreaking medal win at New York’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge earlier this month, with Redbreast 21 Year Old awarded the Chairman’s Trophy in the Irish Pot Still Whiskey category. With a perfect 100 score, Redbreast 21 Year Old became the first Irish whiskey to ever achieve this feat and is the only spirit from any category to do so this year – it also marks the fifth consecutive year that a Redbreast expression has received the top Irish Pot Still Whiskey score. 

Crockett, who was also recognised for his Outstanding Achievement at the International Spirits Challenge last year, said: “I am deeply honoured to join the list of whiskey greats in the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. The success of Irish whiskey around the world in recent years has given me a great deal of pleasure and I am particularly proud to have been able to contribute to its development. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Midleton distillery and I would like to thank, once again, everyone at Irish Distillers who has supported me over the last 47 years.” 


*Icons of Whisky Rest of World judges whiskey distillers based outside of Scotland and the USA 

Icons of Whisky results:

Hall of Fame (17th Inductee) – Barry Crockett

Whisky Distiller of the Year (Rest of World) – Irish Distillers

Whisky Visitor Attraction of the Year (Rest of World) – Old Jameson Distillery 

World Whiskies Awards results:

Redbreast 12 Year Old – World’s Best Irish Pot Still 

Ultimate Spirits Challenge results (out of 100):

Blended Irish Whiskey:                                                     

93  Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel                     

93  Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve                                                  

93  Jameson Gold                                                              

93  Jameson 18 Years Old                                               

92  Jameson 12 Years Old                                                

92  Midleton Very Rare                                                       

92  Powers Gold Label                                                      

89  Jameson Original                                     

Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey:

100  Redbreast 21 Year Old

96  Powers Signature Release                        

94  Powers John’s Lane Release

94  Redbreast 15 Year Old

94  Redbreast 12 Year Old

94  Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength

92  Green Spot

92  Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy 

About Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard

Irish Distillers Group was formed in 1966, when a merger took place between Irish whiskey distillers, John Power Son, John Jameson Son and the Cork Distillery Company. In an attempt to reverse the decline in Irish whiskey sales, the board of directors decided to close the existing distilleries in Cork and Dublin, and to consolidate production at a new purpose-built facility.  

A site alongside the existing distillery in Midleton, Co. Cork was chosen as the location for the new distillery, as there was no room for expansion in Dublin. Both the Old Jameson Distillery and the Old Midleton Distillery currently operate as visitor centres attracting over 330,000 visitors annually. Following an early unsolicited takeover offer and one of the most protracted battles in Irish corporate history made by GrandMet, Allied-Lyons and Guinness, Irish Distillers was taken over by Pernod Ricard in June 1988 with the support of the management and employees. 

Irish whiskey brands within the Irish Distillers’ portfolio include Jameson, Paddy and Powers, with Single Pot Still brands, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, Redbreast and the much-revered Midleton, which includes prestigious expressions such as Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy and Midleton Very Rare. 

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Springbank and The Mitchells – Scotch Whisky Sunday


Springbank and The Mitchells by Mark Davidson

All distilleries can be said to be unique but the story of Springbank distillery is of particular note. It is normal when cataloguing distilleries to start at the beginning and record the date of birth of the still. However in the distilling industry it is often the case that formal documentation of origins start when a licence is acquired. It is also common that a license is attained after a period of illicit operation. Such is the case with Springbank distillery. In these occasions it is almost certain that a date will never be attributed to the initial distillation of spirit. This is due to the distiller’s belief that it is their right to produce the ‘water of  life’ free from taxation. Being a product of the land and elements most early distillers were farmers, using crop surplus as a means of supplementing their income. It seems that Springbank was not much different.

The first distinction to be made about the distillery is it’s lineage. Still in the hands of the family that first produced spirit on the site before official accounting began Springbank is the oldest distillery to remain in the hands of the founders. This part of the history begins when the Mitchell family settled in Argyll. making Campbeltown, at the tip of the peninsula, the location of their farm. It would not have been long before the family put it’s knowledge of malting to use and added distilling into their working schedule.

It is but a short sea voyage from Ireland, widely recognised as the origin of the art of distillation in this part of the world, to the south western extremities of Scotland. The spread of Christianity has long been mapped in its journey from inner-Hebridean islands to the mainland. Missionaries like Saint Columba have also been credited with bringing the alchemy of the still to Scotland.

Campbeltown being an ancient seat of power for early Celtic Scots would have also been a centre for commerce. Thanks to an outstanding natural harbour the importance of its settlement as a port was sealed. Further blessed with a milder climate and untypically fertile soil for this part of the country the region was known for the farming of the land as well as the sea.

The earliest date ascribed to the production of whisky in Scotland is 1494, in Campbeltown the record starts in 1591. John and William Mitchell began their legacy in 1837 when they acquired William Reid Junior and Company. Although there is no excise return for the date, the Reid family are said to have started distillation on the present site of the distillery in 1828. However thanks to a local coppersmith’s ledger there is evidence of one Archibald Mitchell Senior’s apparent need for a kettle shaped piece of copper!

To track the history of Springbank the story of Campbeltown as a capital of distillation must be told. The importance of the town in distilling history can be illustrated by the fact that even at this early date Springbank was the fourteenth of Campbeltown’s documented distilleries. This statistic is further put in perspective when it is appreciated that there have been a total of 34 stills recorded. Nowhere else has had such a concentration of production. Why should it be that such an isolated spot has excelled in the perfection of the art? Beyond the factors already mentioned for the location of the town itself several other important facets of locality, changes to distilling regulations not to mention the dice rolls of opportunity can be cited.

Close to town there was long a coal mine supplying fuel for the fires to heat the stills, peat fields were also local and used to great effect during the malting process and the short distance by sea to the major centre of population, Glasgow, was easily exploited thanks to the strong shipping network. The illicit nature of production, whereas not unusual around Scotland- particularly in the remoter regions, was promoted when an act of 1785 excluded Argyll from the lower taxed Highland region. Around the time of Springbank’s foundation there was one of the landmark events in Scottish distilling history. 1823 saw the passing of an act which equated to the liberation of commercial distilling. Up to this date most control of illicit distillation had been lost and steps taken to regulate the legitimate producers by taxation, licensing and other legislation had merely driven down the quality of the legal spirit to the further advantage of the smuggler.

Recognising the weakness in the system and in a position to influence those abusing the law the Duke of Gordon was able to persuade government to lift the stifling restraints on production and opened the door to a revolution which saw the production of spirit exponentially increase. Hand in hand with this mushrooming of quality output at affordable prices  was the proliferation of legal stills. From an established base of three licensed stills, before 1823, Campbeltown was able to count 27 registered distillers by 1834 and 30 by 1843. A total of 34 licences have been recorded in the period of 1817 to 1829. Indeed one street alone, Longrow, had no less than 7 distilleries along its length.Hence, uniquely, a town became a whole region classification in the production of whisky. Although today flavour boundaries are less well defined geographically compared to the past in its heyday Campbeltown was known for its full bodied malts, similar in taste to today’s heavily peated Islay whiskies. This character was popular in Glasgow at this time and welcomed by blenders when grain and malts were mixed. By adding an economic amount of Campbeltown to a cheap mix of grains the drinker would not notice a lack of flavour in their glass.

Taking full advantage of their position the Mitchells, as well as 2 or 3 other local dynasties, built their own mini empires. Archibald Senior had 5 children, son William was at first a business partner to brother John (who himself had originally bought out his cousin’s stake in Toberanrigh) in Springbank having bought it from John’s father-in-law in 1837. Records show their partnership as J. W. Mitchell Co. at least between 1852 and 1860. However after a disagreement William left to partner other brother Archibald Junior at Rieclachan (founded 1825). Later still William set up on his own as founder of Glen Gyle in 1872. On William’s departure from Springbank John was joined by his son, Alexander. Together they went on to found J. A. Mitchell in 1878 which by 1881 was limited as a company after some rebuilding of the plant. This was to be dissolved on Alexander’s sequestration in 1890 but was later reconstructed by 1897 and remains the name of the present owners. The last brother. Hugh, joined Archibald Junior at Rieclachan. Their sister, Mary, founded Drumore in 1824.

Around the date of 1887, in a town of less than 2000 inhabitants, there were 21 distilleries. As an example Springbank was employing 15 people. The town was said to be the second wealthiest in the British empire. So what went wrong? Why is there only three distilleries operating in Campbeltown today? Is the town still considered a region? The answer does not lie in a single event but like the ascendancy of the town can be attributed to a conspiracy of circumstances. As the industry received a huge leg-up by the relaxing of laws in 1823 it benefited once again at the end of that century. This time the rise in popularity can be credited to the phenomenal success of blending. It was now possible to reach more palates and pockets thanks to the mixing of the expensive full flavoured malts with the cheaper lighter grains. Twin this with some marketing entrepreneurs and a lack of brandy, brought about by the decimation of European vines after an insect plague, the late Victorian era saw another spate of distillery construction. Campbeltown, perhaps at saturation point, did not partake in this latest bonanza to nearly the same degree that the Speyside region enjoyed. An excellent transport network offered by the railways, Campbeltown’s remoteness now acting as a weakness, further attracted blending company accountants to deal with the previously distant North East. The Cognac drinkers of England could more accept a  substitute that was based on the milder character of the Speyside region’s spirit, finding the once popular full flavour of peaty malts too aggressive.

As their grip on sales began to weaken the opportunity presented byprohibition in the USA (1919-1933) must have been a real gift horse, even if an awkward one. However by reaping this harvest they sewed the seeds of their decline. By pandering to a desperate market where the eye was forced to be on supply first quality second most Campbeltown distillers succumbed under economic pressure to temptation. Corners were cut in order that demand was met. Stills were not allowed to cool down between distillations, poor barley was used, casks of doubtful virtue were filled, immature whisky bottled – generally poor practice was employed. To further compound their misery the distillers had to source still fuel from further afield than up to date when a local coal mine closed in the 1920s. The region’s barley production was also in decline around this period. Of course this was all happening in the post war world wide economic depression, a time when the temperance movement held a serious social influence. Without revenue for investment the future of the industry didn’t look good. The cutting of trade ties with the nearby new Irish free state again would work against good fortune.

During this dark time 19 of the remaining 20 stills shut. Prompting one commentator to pen “if the full repertoire of hisky is not to be  irredeemably impoverished the Campbeltowns must remain”. This quote is from 1930 when 10 distilleries stood but few actually distilled. With the closure in 1934 of Rieclachan there were to be only two distilleries left producing for the next 70 years.  This begs the question, why did Springbank survive? Perhaps their longevitycan be explained by the fact that the brand’s taste was distinct from the classic Campbeltown. It was milder than the regional hallmark fully weighted and peat based flavour. Unusually the malt was promoted as a single as earlyas the end of the 19th century, underlining its identity as a unique expression. During the era of prohibition the whisky rebranded itself as a ‘West Highland’ as opposed to a ‘Campbeltown’ in order to further remove it from customers’ association with the progressively poorer standards of its neighbours. Retaining independence was also critical in their survival. As the recession tightened its grip on small producers it was common to find them selling out to the mighty Distillers Company Limited (DCL). DCL was on a mission to rationalise the supply network. By simply buying up and closing down stills the remaining operators had a greater chance of finding a buyer for their spirit. The distillery, not for the only time in its history, did close. Come 1926, a year after no less than 4 still closures, the situation was so bad that the savings made by stopping production would hopefully tide the company over until the market could sustain a restart. As it turned out it only took a few years until the stills were at work again.

Thanks, most probably, to always having been a family legacy rather than a profit driven commodity- bought and sold, rationalised and produced for the mass market, Springbank is and always has been very traditional. By controlling all aspects of production the distiller can ensure the level of quality necessary to retain his customers’ loyalty. This requires the ability to turn grains of barley (optic variety) into bottles of malt. Where every other of Scotland’s 100 malt distilleries are required to buy in ready malted barley and, with two noble exceptions, pass on the mature item to a bottling facility Springbank do it all themselves. The modern maltster is able to guarantee high quality at low cost. The development of massive malting and kilning vessels means one headache of a distillery manager is soothed. Lorries arrive with tens of tonnes of specifically peated (or unpeated) malt as close to invariable as is possible. The price of this consistency is perhaps a loss of complexity in a certain aspect of detail in character.


When malted by hand in relatively small amounts on traditional floor maltings the barley cannot behave uniformly from batch to batch. Although perhaps indiscernible in the finished product this is one method that influences the layers of taste and aroma to be experienced by the senses. At Springbank there are two malting floors each capable of handling 10-12 tonnes of barley which has been steeped in water for about 35 hours. By raising the grain’s moisture content to about 47% germination is triggered. The sprouting barley is left for 5-7 days and is turned every 4 hours. This movement helps keep an even temperature throughout the green malt and prevents rootlets and shoots entangling. At this stage the enzyme diastase begins to convert the plant kernel’s energy from a dormant starch form into a more accessible sugar ready for the next stage of growth. This laborious task is repeated over a 14 week period in order to store enough malt for the season’s few weeks of mashing and distilling. The floors were reinstated in 1992 after being abandoned in the 1970s.


In order to yield a viable amount of alcohol from the malt the germination must be stopped at an optimum point. Heat is generated which halts the plant’s development and captures as much sugar as possible for the brewer. This stage involves the malt being roasted on a wire mesh floor in the kiln. For the Springbank specification a peating level of around 15 parts per million (PPM) is required. This entails burning peat for 6 hours before switching to hot air from an oil fired source for 18+ hours. 



After going through a 50 year old Porteus mill the grist is ready for mashing. A 100+ year old cast iron and, unusually, open topped mash tun is used. Progressively hotter water is fed in four batches through the porridge like mash. The last two being used as the first two for the next mash. The sweet and thick wort is then held in a washback for the fermentation stage.


Again tradition is adhered to. Where modern efficiency prefers easily cleaned stainless steel many companies hold on to their wooden washbacks. It seems another small component of character can be traced to the donation made by the organic nature of the material. 5 of these vessels, each of 21000 litres (4625 gallons) are required. Swedish boatskin larch is the wood of choice. After the introduction of yeast and a particularly slow fermentation, about 70 hours, the crude beer is now ready for distilling. In almost every case a Scottish distiller distils using two stills. The first, or wash, still raises the alcoholic content of the liquid from below 10 % alcohol by volume (abv) to somewhere above 20% abv. This is done by heating the contents of the copper kettle to boil off the alcohol. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water, the condensed vapour is gathered and sent through the second, or low wines/spirit still. This still is nearly always smaller than the previous and may or may not resemble it in shape, the contours very much moulding the make-up of the spirit. As the first part, foreshots, and last portion, feints, are too impure they are collected for redistilation along with the next batch of low wines from the wash still.


At Springbank a unique system is employed. Three stills lead to what has been called a “two and a half” distillation technique. Nonsense to chemists it would be more appropriately described as a partial double partial triple distillation. The wash, at about 5% abv produces low wines at about 20-25% abv after being run through the wash still. 20% of the low wines are fed straight to the second spirit still. The rest go into the first spirit still to produce feints at 50-55% abv. 80% of these feints also go into the second spirit still. The foreshots and feints from the second spirit still are fed back into the first spirit still along with the next batch of low wines. The spirit ultimately collected for filling into casks is about 72% abv.

By choosing to retain an ‘old fashioned’ still heating method Springbank again help the ultimate flavour of their whisky become a particularly hard to pigeon hole taste. In days gone by all stills would have been direct fired by some fossil fuel. More recently oil or gas have been used directly but today the most common type of heating is the use of steam in coils or pans within the still.. Offering a safer, cheaper and more controllable heat source the benefits are obvious. However the traditional method did result in another contribution of character to the dram. Occasional flares of heat found in direct firing meant solid particles within the wash would stick to the bottom of the still and begin to toast. In order that this didn’t foul the stills a rummager would be needed. Basically a copper link mesh the rummager rotates internally scrapping the burnt yeast and other particles from the still body. As it does this a fresh surface of copper is exposed allowing the valuable catalytic qualities of the metal to be promoted. Although there are a few companies still sticking to this option of heating Springbank is unique in that their wash still is both heated externally by oil flame and internally by steam coils. Like current normal practice their spirit stills are exclusively steam heated . Also of note the wash still is one of only very few left in the industry that is riveted. Advancements in coppersmithing sees spot welding produce very smooth surfaces on today’s stills where the joining of plates are difficult to see. Finally the wash still continues to have its vapour condensed in the traditional manner. Whereas, like most distilleries, the two spirit stills use shell and tube condensers the wash still uses a worm. This is the way it has been done for centuries, a tube of diminishing diameter is coiled into a tub of flowing water. As the vapour comes into contact with the cold copper surface it returns to liquid. The point at which gas turns to liquid decides the particular chemical structuring of the spirits components.

Where the modern method results in a more predictable path worms will vary their efficiency depending on the temperature of the cooling water- yet again adding another layer of individuality. In size and shape the stills are similar being relatively small (wash ~10,000 litres, spirits about 12,000 litres odd) and are onion like in shape. Before the last and longest step in the process, maturation, casks are filled on site this practice once again more traditional then most as many distilleries road tanker their spirit to centralised warehouses. A steel tank can store up to 2 weeks production before it is reduced in strength to 63% abv and then put into cask.

Springbank does well in a variety of wood types while other makes tend to reveal their qualities best when a particular variety of oak is selected- perhaps ex-sherry red oak for full bodied spirit or refilled ex-bourbon white oak for peaty malts and lighter spirits. Water for all aspects of use is sourced from the dammed Crosshill Loch. The loch is filled from springs on Ben Ghuilean. It appears that all the town’s stills were fed from a single, common source- a unique feature compared to other regions.


When it comes to the storing of casks Mitchell’s own some of the oldest warehouse of their type. Unlike the modern aircraft hangar-like constructions of today yesteryear’s distillers built low level, slate roofed, stone walled, earthen floored bonds. Ideal environments for the slow steady ageing of casks these buildings, particularly when at sea level, tend to keep humidity and temperature variances to a minimum. Although a racked warehouse is also used Springbank owns 6 of the old fashion style dunnage warehouses.


The final influence a company has on its brand is its bottling Although on the surface this stage may seem straight forward over time market forces have influenced, via processing, the final product. Discovering sales are more buoyant when a whisky is dark in colour most whisky companies see fit to alter the colour of their brand. This is done by adding E150a, essentially caramelised sugar. Often legitimised by claims that because a brand bottling will vary in appearance from batch to batch but ‘quality control’ steps ensure flavour is maintained, the consumer is being reassured of consistency thanks to a standard colour hue. Embracing the variance of not only appearance but also flavour Springbank reject the addition of an impurity in any of its bottling as a deception and taint.

Another process adopted by the dominant players in the market is that of chill-filteration. Whisky contains fatty acids, esters, proteins, etc, (known as congeners) derived from, among other sources, the barley and the cask. Some of these are invisible when kept in solution by alcohol but can appear as a haze when in low alcohol mixes, particularly at low temperature. As industry standard is to pre-water to 40% abv clouding can be expected.

When some drinkers take ice in their glass the effect is usually more noticeable. Seen as unappealing to some the industry arranged for these troublesome elements to be removed guaranteeing a clear product. However by extracting these valuable components flavour, aroma and texture can be compromised. It could be thought of as a loss of soul. For mass appeal this may not necessarily be a bad thing. These brands are all the best selling, lack of strong character leading to more accessibility to the immature palate. However Springbank does not accept the simplifying of the drinking experience to reach the majority as acceptable and avoid any techniques to alter the natural qualities of its malt.


“Complexity which astounds”

“Simply stupendous”

“Incomparable” “Perhaps the finest liquor distilled on the planet”

“An elderly eccentric among distilleries”

“Springbank is majestic in its resonant complexity, its subtlety and weight”

 “One of the most remarkable distilleries on Earth”

 “Reputation and renown second to none”

“A hidden Jewel”

“Fiercely independent”

 “Synonymous with style and complexity”

 “A malt drinker’s dream”

“An embarrassment of riches”

“you won’t refuse the second one”

“A dram for the connoisseur”

“Beautifully balanced”

“(A) benchmark dram”

Besides these words Springbank has earned numerous awards, perhaps principally being unanimously voted premier grand cru classe in a blind tasting for The Times. It was at one time the best selling malt in Japan, was chosen as the house whisky on the QEII and was voted favourite in Whisky Magazine’s 1999 readers poll. Enjoy Springbnak responsibly, i.e. finish every drop and share it.

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