Glenglassaugh Rarities; Holyrood /Ferovinum Growth; Bladnoch Valentine

Hello everyone

Gosh, first month of the year gone already and the next two are pretty busy for me with the occasional trip, whiskies coming in for tasting and maybe a couple of interviews to do.

We‘ll start this time with news of a new collection from Glenglassaugh. I was thinking about samples till I saw the prices of these old and rare ones. The main launch event seems to have been Singapore on 22nd January so then I knew why I‘d seen a Facebook posting from Rachel Barrie some days earlier – a selfie from the flight to Singapore. However, it was still worth asking about samples but, apparently, any spare drops left Rachel had taken over there with her.

This new collection is The Serpentine Coastal Cask Collection – a collection of old and rare cask bottlings dating back to the 1970s. There are three bottlings at 48, 49 and 51 years of age all from single casks and numbered bottles. Rachel is quoted as saying, “It is extremely rare to find casks which have been left to mature in coastal locations for such a long period of time, and our warehouses, perched on cliffs overlooking Sandend Bay, have acted as the custodians of this old and rare liquid for over five decades. These casks give a unique insight into the nature of whisky making at the distillery before it was closed and capture a moment in time like few other expressions can.” It is, indeed, rare and lucky to have whisky of this age and of fine quality. They need distillers and master blenders who know what they‘re doing in terms of wood policy and care of the whisky. These rare bottlings will be available on allocation globally and we‘re also told, Over the course of the year a limited selection of casks will be released into the collection“.

The casks which have been bottled are:

Cask Number: 1863, distilled 28th May 1974 Cask Type: Aleatico Red Wine Barrique Age: 48 Years Old. Bottled at 46.1.% abv and UK pricing is £7,500. An interesting cask choice here for its age – very forward thinking of whoever was in charge at that time.

Cask Number: 5640, distilled 9th November 1973 Cask Type: Bourbon Barrel Age: 49 Years Old; 42.1% abv; UK pricing £8,300. This one is very close to whisky‘s minimum legal strength and would need to have been bottled before it dipped too low though it will have been chosen here because of its quality and taste. 

Cask Number: 1723, distilled 25th October 1972 Cask Type: Oloroso Puncheon Age: 51 Years Old; estimated at 44.2% abv but to be confirmed and with a UK price of £10,600.

In all three cases, prices in other markets may vary from the UK equivalent dependent on duty and taxes. Another set for those with deep pockets but doubtless singularly tasty if Rachel has passed them as suitable for bottling.

Another release in just yesterday advising that Holyrood Distillery has partnered with Ferovinum, a specialist wine and spirits funding platform, to help fund further growth. Holyrood has already enjoyed success and the new money is, primarily to fund new fill casks and carry cased goods to overseas markets, as the business rolls out a busy programme of new releases and market expansion for its innovative whisky, gin and rum brands.“

I‘d heard the name but wasn‘t sure exactly what Ferovinum does and how it works. Therefore a pleasant conversation this afternoon with Gregor Mathieson, Ferovinum‘s Director of Spirits. They are not cask investment people or investors but work „trade to trade“. Basically they „…release capital from any point of the production pipeline“ according to Gregor. They work with UK rum and sparkling wine producers amongst others, including whisky distillers. As soon as casks are filled they can value at the lowest wholesale price and build from there, looking at established broker prices for bulk and then overlay their own data as they understand all current costs, production methods and volumes, routes to market etc. therefore, far more clued up than any bank manager. They are not a bank. They are plugged into all ends of the industry and can help with wood supply, moving cased goods and importation.

In this case they value the whisky in cask and provide capital based on that and hold title over those casks (or whatever stage of the chain) till the client needs them back or for the duration of the funding. The distilling client then obtains money from the sale and hands back the capital plus an agreed service fee, with the uplift in value being their profit. This is apparently easier than working with the large lending banks who don‘t always want to work with smaller producers, finding it less cost effective. In terms of assisting with distribution, Ferovinum can act as the importer of record and then move the goods (or „receivables“) on to the distributor. They will soon be opening an operation in the US to that end where they have federal clearance for all of the US but then have to get clearance from each individual state. They expect to be up and running by the spring in California, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey. They also have an office in Ireland and can fund in Europe too. Their own funds to help wine and spirit producers come from a mix of sources with Nat West bank being a core funder as well as other UK and international banks and private equity investors. It sounds like a really useful way to help the smaller producers and I feel much more educated now about such things.

My next column isn‘t due till around Valentine‘s Day so I‘ll issue a reminder now to consider whisky as a Valentine gift. Just today a release came in from Bladnoch Distillery‘s agency, suggesting their core age statement range – 11, 14 and 19 year olds, as well as their oldest limited-edition expression, a 30-year-old. Now that will depend on affordability for many as the 30YO doesn‘t come cheap at £1200 a bottle. All four whiskies are natural colour and not chill-filtered. The 11 is from bourbon barrels, the 14 from oloroso sherry wood; the 19 is from PX casks and the 30 from a mix of oloroso sherry and moscatel casks. Prices per bottle (UK) for the three younger ages are £75, £110 and £190 respectively. Samples of at least some of these whiskies were offered so I have leapt on that and hope to have them in time for my mid-February piece.

Some years ago I used a Bladnoch at a whisky pairing dinner in Wigtown, near its location. I paired it with an asparagus and cheese tart which was a thoroughly enjoyable match. It‘s good to see Bladnoch getting more attention these days. I feel it was often overlooked, tucked away down in that south western corner of Scotland and occasional closures and lack of investment didn‘t help. However, under current owners its profile has come up and it forms part of a nice little distilling area – which also includes Annandale – where whisky enthusiasts can spend some time visiting distilleries and appreciating all the other things the greater area can offer e.g. good hotels, coastal activities, renowned gardens and the Dark Skies National Park for all you stargazers. The latter would be a romantic spot for Valentine‘s Day with a warming dram of Bladnoch to help the evening along ( the non-drivers only, please).

I hope many of you raised a dram to Scotland‘s national poet, Robert Burns on 25th January even if you didn‘t go down the haggis, neeps and tatties route for dinner. We did and had a teaspoon or two of Laphroaig (a great accompaniment – I used Four Oak) sprinkled over the haggis with a very good Glenallachie to drink alongside it for me and an Aberfeldy from Douglas Laing‘s Provenance range for my partner. A damn fine evening, in my view!

That‘s all for January. As mentioned above I‘ll be back next month and am hoping to get a couple of interviews in this quarter up to the end of March. Till then, happy dramming.

Slainte mhath,



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