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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Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/04/diageo-launches-a-new-spirit-drink-based-on-jb-scotch-whisky-sweet-news/

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 (www.exelwines.co.uk). 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: http://homeofwhisky.exelwines.com/


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


Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/exel-wines-to-host-home-of-whisky-festival-scotch-whisky-news/

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.

Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/springbank-and-the-mitchells-scotch-whisky-sunday/

Brand New Limited Edition Single Malt From anCnoc – Only £57.00 Per Bottle – Scotch Whisky News


Two brand new limited edition bottlings from anCnoc are now available to order via The Whisky Shop only while stocks last! Don’t forget we have free postage on all orders over £60 delivered within the UK.

anCnoc flaughter

Colour: ancnoc flaughter is pale gold in appearance

The nose: Initially smoky and ashy underneath that fresh vanilla notes ooze softness and creaminess while a sharper hint of sticky toffee offers a balancing sweetness.

Taste: A warming and smooth experience peaty and intense but remarkably rounded it flickers with hints of fragrant pipe tobacco orchard Fruits brown sugar sweetness and a slight medicinal overtone. An intensely flavoursome smoky and smooth finish.

One of only 1500 bottles £57.00

Click here to buy

anCnoc rutter

Colour: The ancnoc Rutter is sparkling gold in appearance.

Nose: Very smoky it quickly unveils the unmistakable ancnoc character with delicate spices juicy pineapples pear drops and gentle vanilla. Rich and warming.

Taste: Full bodied and bursting with peaty richness. Soft undertones of honey creamy vanilla toffee and leather are punctuated by the freshness of green apples.

One of only 1500 bottles £57.00

Click here to buy

Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/brand-new-limited-edition-single-malt-from-ancnoc-only-57-00-per-bottle-scotch-whisky-news/




If you want to take your appreciation of whisky one step further, Create:Eat:Whisky is calling. Dreamt up by food event pioneers JellyGin, this immersive extravaganza will take you on a sensory journey through Jura whisky, using lighting, projection, sound and taste. Unfolding under the old beams of a former milk factory in Edinburgh, this will be a unique and atmospheric experience, bringing to life the magic of whisky from grain to glass.

Find out more and buy tickets here. We hope to see you there.

And in case you missed it, we’ve extended our Save The Date competition to 28th March. So keep your photos coming. Visit jurawhisky.com for more details.

Willie Cochrane and everybody at the Jura Distillery.


Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/jura-whisky-get-ready-to-experience-whisky-like-never-before-scotch-whisky-news-2/

Highland Park “A Journey of American Discovery” – Scotch Whisky News

We’re on a journey of American discovery this month as we speak with our US Brand Manager Steph Ridgway. Steph fills us in on the benefits, difficulties and differences of working in the US of A – along with her tip for the perfect New York Highland Park dram.

The adventurous Americans

We have a superb team of ambassadors across the globe who work hard to spread the good word of Highland Park, each of whom has a unique story to tell.

Throughout the year we’re going to catch up with each and every ambassador and find out their own personal Highland Park journey. This month we have the lovely Highland Park Brand Manager, Steph Ridgway who is based in the ultra-cosmopolitan city of New York in the USA.

Steph, your role covers a large whisky drinking nation. What challenges does that have geographically? There are so many people who really, really want Highland Park to come visit and educate them. Fortunately, I’ve got a team of amazing colleagues around the country who are just as passionate about Highland Park as I am, so they’ve been incredibly helpful in spreading the gospel!

Being so far away from where this award-winning whisky is made, how do you introduce people to what Orkney is like? I’ve been blessed with the classic Scottish gift of storytelling so I put it to good use. And of course, you can taste a little bit of the island in every bottle!

Do you manage to visit the distillery often yourself? I get there between three or four times a year. If I stay away too long, I get withdrawal symptoms.

From coast-to-coast, are there differences in taste profiles of the American malt whisky consumer? By and large, the American single malt drinker is fairly adventurous and willing to try different things. I’ve met my share of whisky drinkers in sunny Los Angeles who just adore the big, smoky peaty drams and just as many drinkers from wintry Minnesota who like the light, delicateness of a Speyside dram. That’s why there’s so much love for Highland Park across the country, we deliver the best of both worlds in a single glass.

You are a member of the Les Dames de Escoffie (LDE). What is that and how do you use it to educate people about single malt whisky? LDE is a membership organisation for women in food. Having earned my culinary and restaurant management degrees, I spent many years in the hospitality industry before taking on this role. My background in food has enabled me to engage people beyond a normal nosing and tasting, rather offering unique pairings with food. This makes it a touch more relatable and less intimidating for folks who are new to Scotch Whisky.

How has it been to welcome the Norse gods (and goddesses) into the States? Wow – it has been such fun! Getting to tell the stories and watch how people react to the whiskies. The recognition that they’ve brought to the Highland Park brand overall has been incredible.

If you could take just one person to visit the distillery on Orkney, who would that be? I’d have to take two; 1) Anthony Bourdain, because he’d be an absolute blast to run around the island with, drinking drams of Highland Park and making new friends along the way and 2) My mum because, well, she’s my mum and she’s the one who got me into whisky in the first place. My mum’s really pretty cool.

Which city in the US would you say is the most Orcadian? Out of all the US cities that I’ve lived in or travelled to, I’d have to say Chicago. There’s a boatload of wind and the people are hardworking, friendly and fearless. And they love their whisky.

Finally, which warrior or god/goddess are you most like, from the Highland Park range? If I’m to believe what people say, I’m a cross between LOKI and FREYA… kind of like yin and yang. Just enough Freya to keep me honest and just enough LOKI to make it interesting.

Ambassador’s whisky of the month…

Living in New York, we asked Brand Manager Steph Ridgway what the ideal Highland Park to drink in an urban environment is? The response – “Loki, without a doubt. It’s the edgiest one in the bunch and it keeps you on your toes… just like New York!”

About: One of the most complex characters in Norse mythology, Loki constantly challenges the gods, questioning their order and hierarchy within Asgard. Yet with every treacherous situation he engineers, his actions ultimately create heroes amongst the other gods. Like its namesake, this whisky is unpredictable and impulsive, echoing the formidable weather of the Orkney Islands. It is a single malt which is both dynamic and energetic, with constantly evolving flavours and a fiendish inner complexity.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A spirited lift of dried bitter orange, which quickly turns into lemon peels. Cardamom notes trick then tease the nose, before an enticing hit of gingerbread develops. With water, liquorice and aromatic smoke are both unleashed.

Palate: The true shape-shifting ability of Loki springs to life on the palate: its waxy texture is amplified by an intense smoke that doesn’t appear on the nose, shattering the light citrusy illusion of the aroma. All is not what it seems. The smoke fades as liquorice and rich spiced apple flavours come out to play. Lemon and grapefruit are consistent throughout this elusive, yet intriguing character. With a touch of water, lingering notes of melted dark chocolate over spent embers leave a soft smoky impression.

Finish: As Loki departs, he leaves behind toasted cloves, hickory smoke and soft vanilla. It is constantly changing, from appearance to finish. Loki is an enigma and truly another whisky of the gods.

Have your own ‘ spirit’ in Orkney…
Orkney might be a just a tad too far away for a lot of you to journey to – but as part of the Inner Circle, we want to make sure you’re a firm part of the family. As we’ve mentioned before, we have an ever growing Mosaic on display in the distillery’s Visitor Centre which we would love you to be a part of.

All you need to do to join this divine piece of memorabilia is upload a photo of yourself – simply click here for the on screen instructions.

Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/highland-park-a-journey-of-american-discovery-scotch-whisky-news/

Spirit of Toronto 2014: Masterclasses Now Online – Whisky News

Website now fully updated

With tickets going on sale this coming Monday March 24 at 10am, the Spirit of Toronto website has now been fully updated including the schedule for our 2014 Masterclass Series. For those of you attending the show for the first time, these are seated tutored tastings presented by a variety of guest speakers on the lower level of Roy Thomson Hall.

Masterclass seats may be reserved when tickets for this year’s show go on sale. Early admission at 5:30pm is **$35 HST included and reserves seating in any one of the pre-show masterclasses starting at 5:30pm, with priority entry into the main tasting hall when the class is over. The remainder of the classes are scheduled for 7:00pm and 8:30pm and may be reserved at a cost of $15 HST included per person per class.
(** Please note that Early Admission for the 5pm session is $75 HST included.)

Liquid Time Travel: “A remarkable drinking experience…”

The word rare is bandied about easily these days. Too easily in most cases, so I’ll skip the hyperbole and simply state that this year’s headline masterclass is not one that you’re likely to attend anywhere else as whisky specialist and writer Angus MacRaild joins us to present a time capsule of Scottish whisky and history entitled “Liquid Time Travel”:

“With these bygone whiskies you taste so much more character derived from a much slower, more careful and hands-on production process. You get a far more authentic sense of their origins and location, and a real sense that they were actually made by people.”

Angus is one of Scotland’s leading luminaries in the valuation and sourcing of old whisky bottles, and together we’ve curated a special collection to celebrate Spirit of Toronto’s 10th anniversary.

I personally love themes so Angus has agreed to begin this journey in the 1930s with a taste of pre-War distillation, offering a glimpse into an extinct style of whisky making. Carrying forward through the decades, guests can look forward to gaining an appreciation of the labour intensive methods that were once used to make whisky over a much longer period of time. All of this will be further illustrated with samples of whisky made in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

A collector since age fifteen, Angus’ knowledge and passion for whisky rival his contagious enthusiasm, and I look forward to having him treat our guests to what can only be described as an education in the glass.

2014 Masterclass Series

The schedule for our 2014 Masterclass Series is now online and we’re happy with the variety it offers, be it something that appeals to seasoned connoisseurs, novice tasters or those simply looking for an adventure on the palate.

Without a doubt you can’t go wrong with the classics and Speyside’s most iconic and best regarded distilleries are well represented this year, offering guests an in-depth taste of The Balvenie, The Glenrothes, Aberlour, The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.

Those looking to do more than just taste will not want to miss the chance to try their hand at blending with Wiser’s Master Blender Don Livermore as he samples 6 component whiskies and invites you to blend your own version of the fabulous and award-winning Wiser’s Legacy.

India, Ireland and Italy: three countries that are not usually featured in our line-up but variety is the spice of life and we’re confident that none of these will disappoint. The charismatic Ashok Chokaligam is back and this time with single cask offerings from Amrut, the darling of new world whisky and rightfully so.

Also to be noted is that Irish whiskey is experiencing its own renaissance at the moment and there is no better place to learn about its DNA than through the whiskeys made at the Midleton Distillery, to be presented by Jameson brand ambassador Sibeal Bird.

On the continent another renaissance is taking place in Italy with grappa, courtesy of the Marzadro Distillery. Forget what you may already know about grappa: from what I have tasted Marzadro produces a spirit of character and finesse, distilled in copper alembic stills and then further aged in a variety of woods including cherry, ash and acacia. Those who appreciate having their preconceptions challenged will be pleasantly surprised.

Speaking of preconceptions, Compass Box Whisky looks forward to debunking what they term the ‘single malt myth’. I know for a fact that this class concludes with a taste of The General, a veritable tour de force if only for its great antiquity. If this doesn’t convince you of the merits of blending, then I’m afraid nothing will.

Dry Fly Distilling is another whiskymaker known for charting new frontiers, having fired up their stills in 2007 which put them at the forefront of American craft distilling. Those of you with an open mind and palate have much to look forward to as Kent Fleischmann samples their whiskeys made from 100% wheat and triticale, a rye/wheat hybrid developed in Scotland in the 19th century.

Last but not least I look forward to presenting a ‘Love Letter to Islay’ with Gordon and Melanie Homer, a tasting born out of passion and terroir as Islay’s unofficial ambassadors give us their own guided tour of Scotland’s most iconic whisky making region.

Automatic ticket notification

Those of you subscribed to this list will receive an automatic notification the night before tickets go on sale next week. We’re often asked about the best way to purchase tickets in order to secure your first choices but regrettably we can offer no guarantees as tickets will be available online, by telephone and in person, and all three purchase methods are certain to experience a queue.

Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/spirit-of-toronto-2014-masterclasses-now-online-whisky-news/

News From Bowmore Distillery – Scotch Whisky News

Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky


or as they say here, Failte…

Bowmore, the first distillery on Islay, Scotland’s Whisky island, is proud to introduce it’s latest expression, Small Batch – a perfect and accessible embodiment of the Taste of Islay.  The distillery has used its century’s long experience to create a perfect combination of flavours that encapsulate scotch from the Southern Isles.

To celebrate the release of Small Batch, we are pleased to introduce our new animation, which recreates all that is Islay, using Scottish illustrators and composers.

 AA Bowmore

 ”If I could select only one dram to transport an enthusiast to Islay, it would be Small Batch. No one liquid better showcases the tranquillity and elegance of the Island.”

– Rachel Barrie, Master Blender. Morrison Bowmore Distillers

Taste of Islay encapsulated in Bowmore Small Batch

Exclusively matured in first and second-fill ex-bourbon casks, Small Batch evokes the Islay house character of gentle peat, smoke, salt, citrus and vanilla. This makes Bowmore Small Batch the perfect dram for those wanting to experience an Islay single malt.

The first-fill ex-bourbon imparts a delicious vanilla sweetness alongside spice and a bourbon style oak smoke, created by a charring of the barrel in the bourbon production process. The second-fill cask brings fantastic complexities with honey and creamy malt combining perfectly with hints of sea salt, coconut and lime. The water from the Laggan River and infamous Islay peat adds the quintessential earthy smokiness that makes Bowmore renowned for its single malts.

Have you enjoyed a dram of Bowmore Small Batch yet? Let us know what you think on our Facebook.


The Bowmore Team

Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/news-from-bowmore-distillery-scotch-whisky-news/

ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE® Celebrates Its Fifth Anniversary and Announces This Year’s Top Scotch, Whiskey & Whisky – Whisky News

  AA 1A

The judges’ votes are in and today we announce the brands that hit the highest scores at the fifth annual ULTIMATE SPIRITS CHALLENGE.  Led by F. Paul Pacult and his merry band of judges including: Sean Ludford (judging co-chair), Jacques Bezuidenhout, Tad Carducci, James Conley, Dale DeGroff, Jim Meehan, Dan Nicolaescu, Steve Olson, Andy Seymour, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW and David Wondrich, USC named the top spirits in their categories based on the 100-point scale (including a rare 100 pointer!).

The results are in for the 2014 Ultimate Spirits Challenge®, the world’s premier spirits competition. Today, Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC) announces 37 Chairman Trophy winners, the highest award, along with 218 Finalists, 171 Tried True AwardsSM and 89 Great Values. The Challenge, celebrating its fifth anniversary, was held in New York on March 10-14. For the second consecutive year, a perfect 100 point score was given by multiple panels to a whiskey. This year’s 100-point recipient is Redbreast 21 Years Old Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey

“Interest in Ultimate Spirits Challenge has never been greater,” says Ultimate Spirits Challenge founder F. Paul Pacult. “Companies enter because they want brands to be evaluated against their peers by the world’s best judges. USC provides the most trusted, sought after testimonials that help distillers and importers build their brands.” 

This year, USC introduces the Tried True AwardSM to recognize brands that can be relied on to provide unfailing quality and superb taste to consumers year after year. To be eligible, brands that entered USC 2014 must have scored 85 points or higher in this year’s Challenge as well as in at least two previous Challenges. 

All products entered are rated on the 100-point scale by the spirits industry’s most renowned judges that include award-winning authors, spirits buyers, journalists, educators, bar owners and consultants. This year’s judges were: USC Founder and Judging Chairman F. Paul Pacult, Judging Co-Chairman Sean Ludford, Jacques Bezuidenhout, Tad Carducci, James Conley, Dale DeGroff, Jim Meehan, Dan Nicolaescu, Steve Olson, Andy Seymour, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW and David Wondrich

AA 1


All spirits rated 85 points and higher receive their own page showing current award results, downloadable score icons, tasting notes and bottle image. USC results will be promoted via the Ultimate Beverage Challenge Guide to be published in the October issue of The Beverage Media Group’s top 15 U.S. markets, reaching more than 70,000 on- and off-premise spirits buyers.  


For a complete list of results visit www.ultimate-beverage.com/usc2014results 


American: Wild Turkey Forgiven

Kentucky Straight Bourbon: George T. Stagg

Rye: Bulleit 95 Small Batch 


Blended: Tullamore D.E.W. Special Reserve 12 Years Old (Tried True Award)

Irish Pot Still: Redbreast 21 Years Old

Single Malt: Bushmills 16 Years Old (Tried True Award


Blended Malt: Big Peat

Blended: Ballantine’s 17 Years Old

Single Malt: Glenmorangie Quarter Century 25 Years Old


Alberta Premium Dark Horse


Nikka Coffey Grain

AA 1

Next Challenge: Ultimate Wine Challenge, June 2-13, 2014. Information at: www.ultimate-beverage.com/uwc2014info 

Ultimate Spirits Challenge…like no other competition and doesn’t want to be. 


Ultimate Beverage Challenge (UBC) provides expert evaluation of wines and spirits for producers, importers and marketers through its two innovative annual competitions: Ultimate Spirits Challenge and Ultimate Wine Challenge. Based on exacting standards, expert judges and rigorous methodology, UBC raises the standards of spirits and wine evaluation and supplies ratings and accolades to help companies build their brands with buyers, both industry and consumer. UBC partners are F. Paul Pacult, Sue Woodley, David Talbot and Sean Ludford. Past Challenge results and event photos, videos and press coverage can be found at http://www.ultimate-beverage.com/

Ultimate Beverage Challenge inquiries: info@ultimate-beverage.com, 1-347-878-6551

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/UltimateBeverageChallenge 

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/ultimatebeverage

Article source: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com/2014/03/ultimate-spirits-challenge-celebrates-its-fifth-anniversary-and-announces-this-years-top-scotch-whiskey-whisky-whisky-news/

Dalmore 1986 (Montgomerie’s)

Montgomerie's Rare SelectMontgomerie's Rare SelectAngus Dundee started as a blending company in London but in recent years they’ve acquired distilleries like Tomintoul and Glencadam, and they launched labels like Old Ballantruan. They also sell independent bottlings under the names Mackillop’s Choice and Montgomerie’s Rare Select.

Today’s dram is a 27 years old Dalmore 1986. Sister casks #3090 and #3096 have been bottled in the Mackillop’s series. What’s interesting is that you rarely see independent Dalmore. Most blenders tend to exchange new spirit though, so this may have been an exchanged parcel.



Dalmore 1986 - Montgomerie's Rare Select #3093Dalmore 1986 - Montgomerie's Rare Select #3093Dalmore 27 yo 1986 (46%, Montgomerie’s Rare Select 2013, cask #3093)

Nose: fairly neutral with lots of sweet cereals. Some apples, fresh oranges and orange blossom. Nutmeg and wet sawdust as well. Hints of hay. Mouth: quite punchy, with lots of citrus notes (both sweet orange and slighty sharper grapefruit zest) but also plenty of oak now. Pepper, ginger, some vanilla. Very faint hints of coconut and pineapple, but hidden behind the grainy facade. Finish: medium long, compact and malty with a lingering sweetness.

It’s not a bad whisky, with nice orange notes, but overall too malty and neutral for my taste. Not worth the asking price of around € 145 in my opinion.

Score: 80/100

Article source: http://www.whiskynotes.be/2014/dalmore/dalmore-1986-montgomeries/