Clydeside Distillery, SWA Export Stats + More Tasting Notes
I’ve held this one over an extra few days as the Scotch Whisky Association sent out a release on Friday but it was embargoed till today. It contains the latest export market results by value and volume and there are some significant changes. But we’ll get to those later. First, The Clydeside Distillery.
Earlier this month, I was privileged to be shown round the new Clydeside Distillery by visitor centre manager, Bridgeen Mullen. It wasn’t quite finished and they were anxiously awaiting the council’s Building Control people to come in and pass them fit so they could get on with some final flourishes and prepare for opening. Seems they are now all systems go to try for a “soft” opening soon. It’s a great location in the old Pump House overlooking the Clyde, past the SECC but before the Transport Museum, if you’re going out from the city.
The visit begins in a lovely reception area full of warm colours and a comfortable café where there will be a focus on Scottish produce and dishes as well as baked goods. There will also be a full bar service and Bridgeen, who hails from Donegal over the Irish Sea, is keen that the café will attract local people and not just visitors to the distillery from outside the city. She is concentrating hard on getting just the right staff in all areas of the visitor experience, including multi-lingual guides. Booklets in several languages will be available too.
The tour starts with a self-guided trip through the history of whisky making in Glasgow and the production stages of Scotch Whisky. There’s a great little film about the port of Glasgow in the 19th century and beyond as well as one on the great whisky barons such as William Teacher, Peter Mackie and Tommy Dewar (no relation – I get asked that a lot). Of course the Morrison family, who started this new Clydeside venture, are in the exhibition too, having been involved in whisky since early in the 20th century. I won’t give away all the detail here. Once it’s open, go and see it for yourself as it’s really well done.
The guided part of the tour is when you go through the distillery itself. The equipment is looking all brand new and shiny and they ran their first mash this last week of October. I’m looking forward to trying some new spirit when they have some available. The distillery manager, Alistair McDonald came from Auchentoshan (though is an Islay man). The washbacks are steel rather than wood, a popular choice these days for ease of cleaning. The stills have their new copper look – for now at least. For those among you who like numbers, the mash tun takes 1.5 tonnes of barley and the washbacks’ capacity is 7,500 litres each. The wash still full capacity is 8,000 litres and the spirit still holds 5,000 litres. They have the capability to make a maximum of 500,000 litres of alcohol (note that’s of alcohol, not liquid litres) per annum. They’ll be using bourbon casks for maturation here.
Tours will run from 10.00 with the last one at 16.00, on the hour during the week and every 30 minutes at weekends. A full price adult ticket will be from £15 and that does include 3 drams which will be 10 year old whiskies, certainly at first, as their own production won’t be mature for some years yet. You get to taste the three whiskies in the lovely tasting room upstairs at the end of the tour. When you descend to the shop/reception afterwards you can buy the whiskies and apply your own label to them. Nice touch. Then sit down for some sustenance in the café. There is a room which can be made available for functions with set menu options. Plus, there’s a small, private tasting room which holds about 6 people – and with great views over the Clyde – for corporate entertaining or groups of whisky enthusiasts. At the moment the car parking may look limited but there are plans to use some of the land nearby and it’s a quick taxi ride from the city. They’re also going to feature in the Glasgow Open Top Bus tour.
Even though it wasn’t quite finished when I visited, it was looking fabulous and will be a credit to all who have put so much effort into making it happen, not least Bridgeen, the Morrisons and the rest of their team.Find more at www.theclydeside.com as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Well, that probably filled the whole column this month but I have received a raft of whiskies in the last few weeks so have been nosing and tasting quite a bit, though not enough room for all of them here. Let’s start with Dewar’s 25 Year Old blend which is to replace the no-age-statement Signature in their range, from the nose of my former colleague Tom Aitken. This one comes from the creative powers of current Master Blender, Stephanie MacLeod and it’s finished casks previously used to mature Royal Brackla, one of the Dewar’s malts. At 40% vol. it was the lowest strength of all those tried this time round. It’s available only in travel retail from this month, at around $225 but will be made available to domestic markets in due course. So what’s inside? A lovely, rich old gold liquid. On the nose it has waxy, floor polish and maybe a touch of lavender, some dried fruits, honey and candied citrus with a touch of smoke. That waxy, lavender floor polish note I’ve found in a number of Dewar’s and Aberfeldy whiskies but maybe it’s the wax note of a honeycomb and honey made from lavender. There are some herb and malted barley notes too. The palate is medium with a silky elegant mouth feel. Notes of honey, herbs, oak and vanilla sweetness, some liquorice and some dryness/astringency at the back. A longish finish and quite dry. Would I drink it again? You bet.
I always get quite excited when a new Compass Box expression is promised. They never do anything that’s bland or boring. And, as a marketer, I always love their packaging. No change this month. We have two new blended malt releases, Phenomenology and No Name.
Phenomenology first – a 46% blended malt; 7,908 bottles worldwide. What is phenomenology? We’re told it’s “how different people experience the same phenomenon.” Well, all tasting notes are subjective, right? Educators, blenders or brand ambassadors can give guidelines as to expectation but everyone has their own frame of reference. So, no descriptors or recipe details on this one. It’s made up of 5 components, two of which make up 96.5% of the blend. It’s a medium sun gold colour and the nose a bit closed at first. Then a wisp of smoke and some cologne notes; citrus juice – maybe mandarin? Some oak at the back and some fruity notes – a touch of sultana and peach. With water, more of a dough or yeast note; some barley sugar or demerara and sweet cereal. On the palate, well, I’m not saying! I do have notes but in the spirit of the name I’ll keep them to myself. The finish is medium and a bit astringent with just a dab of salt.
The second one from CB is called No Name – 48.9% vol and 15,000 bottles globally. Reason behind the name is to let the whisky speak for itself, they say. And speak, it certainly does. Quite an assertive little number here, their peatiest whisky yet. Smoke and tar, some “perfume” notes, richly toasted cereal, salty sea air and fruit juice. With water it’s creamier, with more fruit and spice notes. Griddled limes and some candyfloss sweetness. For me it was reminiscent of Bonfire Night or at least the foods you can cook in a bonfire. Definitely notes of wood embers here. On balance, I prefer Phenomenolgy but would be happy with either depending on mood.
I also had two Kilchoman whiskies to taste so plenty of peat this time round. The latest two are the 2009 Vintage at 46% and Red Wine Cask Matured at 50%. The latter was distilled in only 2012 and has spent all its life before bottling in red wine casks from the Douro region of Portugal. I’ve tasted quite a lot of Kilchomans and sometimes thought “not quite ready yet” as if the whisky hadn’t reached full potential. Here the 2009 is okay (it will be about 8 years old, of course) but the Red Wine Cask is more of a standout for me. It does have smoke and tar on the nose but also some tangy fruit notes like smoked peel then richer dried fruits – sultana and a little bit of raisin. With water, it’s fruitier with more spice notes and the smoke and tar recedes a little. There’s quite an oily mouth feel (on both expressions) and Red Wine is fruity with smoke + char + tar and some wood notes; a hint of sweet vanilla and warm spices, both sweet and savoury like clove and cumin. The finish is fairly long with persistent tar and smoke and a touch of salt.
I went back to the other two Special Release samples sent from Diageo last month – the Port Dundas 52 Year Old single grain (44.6%) and the Teaninich 17 Year Old at 55.9%. The Teaninich didn’t really do it for me though there are nice touches of citrus zest, soft dried fruit, herbs and bitter cherry. Though it wasn’t massively complex, I preferred the Port Dundas which I found richer and fruitier and much more to my taste. Each to their own, the beauty of Scotch being that there’s something for all of us and each drinker has a range of preferences which can encompass light, heavy and smoky characters.
Lastly, those SWA stats. Value of our exports certainly grew in the first half of 2017 by 3.4% to £1.8 billion. Within that, single malts are up 7% to £479 million. Volumes are down by 2.2%. By far our biggest market is France (consider that one, Brexiteers) where volumes are down nearly 7%, but value by only 0.2%. The USA is a star performer with volumes up by 10.5% and values by 8.6%. The biggest drop in volume was Brazil, followed by Thailand and UAE while for value it was Brazil, South Korea and UAE. China continues to do well for us as does Japan. Canada doesn’t make it into the top 20 for volume but does for value. Latvia has seen a 78.8% increase in volume over last year and a massive 99.3% increase in value. What are you guys doing over there? As ever, it’s a bit like musical chairs as markets rise and fall depending on their own economies and political situations.
So that’s it for October. Autumn’s come rushing in and those peaty, bonfire whiskies may come more to the fore from my collection for the next week or so. Till end of November, happy dramming.