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Category: Single Malt News

I just got a notification that the brand new Abhainnn Dearg Distillery, on the island of Lewis and Harris, has made their very first “spirit”, ‘The Spirit of Lewis‘, available for purchase in the UK; 500 500ml bottlings. Here is my short summary of their announcement – which I have included in its entirety for your reference below.

  • First bottling from Abhainn Dearg
  • First commerical spirit distilled in the Outer Hebredies in 170 years
  • Likely has not matured 3 yrs which is why it’s called a “spirit” and not “Scotch”
  • Available only in the UK, and possibly to mainland Europe by special order, but not the US

*** ANNOUNCEMENT ***
Abhainn Dearg Distillery is proud to announce that the The Spirit of Lewis, New Spirit, is available to buy online in the *UK today! Abhainn Dearg is a new distillery, this is our first sale of ‘The Spirit of Lewis’ and the first bottling of an Outer Hebridean spirit in almost 170 years.

This is a limited release where every bottle has been filled, labeled, corked and sealed by hand. Each bottle is signed by Mark Tayburn, who’s dream it was to build a distillery on Lewis and create a Single Malt, the dream goes on. Thank you all for your continued patience.

Peter Harris, the last Distillery Excise Officer retires this month, he was based in Elgin, convenient for the Speyside Distilleries, soon the team at Regional HQ will be in charge. Although the days of Excisemen patrolling the hills are part of history, it’s still the end of another era. What of this era? Is it to be one where technology creates bulk quantity and in reality well matured whisky is just awakened to run the gauntlet of the bottling plant? CCTV watching over, Big Brother, security for both men and machinery.

As we start our journey we hope to be joined by new distilleries, where wood, barley and water can be seen, touched and tasted. Those distillers who will take the road back to where it began, with a passion for the real dram, produced in Scotland.

If you’ve played with the new Distillery Filter much you will have noticed that one of the “Operational Statuses” for the distilleries is “Building Stock”. As I look out on the single malt landscape over the last 10 years and then turn and look into the next 10 years, one of the exciting things that I see is the onset of brand new distilleries producing single malts. As you know, however, one of the requirements for a spirit to be scotch is that it must age a minimum of 3 years. Yet, as you also know, standard single malts, which are mature enough for discriminating palattes, are typically aged 10 or 12 years. So, these new distilleries have a challenge of establishing a brand yet telling their customers not to show up with their money for 10 years. This is why I have included the “building stock” operational status. Until they’ve released that first standard distillery bottling at around 10 or 12 years I will not be updating their status to “Active” as they are literally building up their stocks for bottlings far down the road. Little did we know that single malts were such a “young man’s game”!

Since there are quite a few of them I wanted to provide a summary to perhaps picque your interest some in these new arrivals on the single malt scene. Here are the ones that I believe are, in fact, building stocks and are real, serious, and viable distilleries that will be showing up on our radars in 5-10 years, you can take a look at these new operations as well as some less-firm distillery projects here:

– Kilchoman an Islay
Owned by the Kilchoman Distillery Co Ltd, the distillery was built and started producing spirits in 2005. As seen in my previous post, Kilchoman is an “artisan” distillery using locally grown ingredients from their own farmland. They are striving to produce the new signature taste of Islay by delivering a highly charactered single malt. You can see more about them here.

– Port Charlotte an Islay
Owned by the Bruichladdich Distillery Co, who is introducing their new brand with the heavily-peated PCx series of bottlings, the distillery is in the process of becoming much more than a brand extension of Bruichladdich. The new Port Charlotte distillery is sometimes referred to as the “Phoenix distillery” as it is currently in the rebuilding process using the old Lochindaal distillery building and the stills from the Inverleven distillery.

– Abhainn Dearg a Highlands Island
Owned by Mark Tayburn, the distillery was built and started producing spirits in 2009. This distillery, located on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, is particularly exciting I think because it is a brand new “Island malt” from a new isle. The Isle of Lewis and Harris is west of Skye and Abhainn Dearg will be the westernmost distillery in Scotland. You can see more about them here.

– Daftmill an Eastern Highland
Owned by Francis and Ian Cuthbert, the distillery was built and started producting spirit in 2005. Daftmill will easily be the smallest distillery in Scotland, producing a mere 20,000 litres/yr, and is practically a “micro-brewery”. I think the Eastern Highlands are an interesting region and one that the KOTQ should really know more about than our collective “Glen Garioch experience” so it is exciting to see a brand new Eastern Highland on the scene. You can see more about them here.

– Glengyle / Kilkerran a Campbeltown
Owned by J & A Mitchell, the distillery was revived and started producing spirits in 2004. Glengyle is part of the Springbank family of distilleries but is its own operation and enterprise. I believe it will be producing a single malt under the brand name of Kilkerran. You can see more about them here.

– Roseisle a Speyside
Owned by Diageo, Roseisle is a huge distillery and the first large one built in Scotland since the 1970s. The distillery was built and started producing spirits in 2009 and, I believe, will mostly be used to supply Diageo’s blended scotch whiskies.

One last thing before I leave this topic, some of you may remember some news or talk about a new distillery opening on Shetland, an island north of the Orkney Islands, called Blackwood. Unfortunately, the news is not as good on this front as it appears that the Blackwood distillery is no more and there are no known plans to revive it.

I thought there might be some interest in the Whisky Explorer’s Club. Short story: it’s a membership club where they ship you a flight of 4 whiskies (“from around the world”) 6 times each year. You taste them blind and enter your tasting notes into their website to see what the whisky actually was. There are 3 membership levels and the one I just described costs $120/year.

You can read more about it here and/or join right away. I have to say I’m about 99% sure that I am going to do this.

Or just another attempt by the English to keep their “subjects” in line economically? You judge for yourself but England is now in the “whisky” business with an operating and distributing distillery for the first time in more than 100 years. The only spirit produced by the St. George’s distillery (by the River Thet, nestled among the farms of Norfolk, eastern England) is 3 years old, aged in old Jim Beam bourbon casks no less, and so is now technically “whisky”.

This sort of reminds me of the English’s sudden interest in manufacturing fine linen when they say their Irish “subjects” actually making money off of it in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, from a regional standpoint if you come across a bottle of St. George’s somewhere it may be interesting to sample it to see if it is an extreme lowland, an extreme eastern highland, or maybe something new altogether.

Here’s an excerpt from the article in the event, from an archiving point of view, that the link above goes dead:

“After three years maturing in charred white oak casks, the first English whiskey in more than a century is finally ready to flow out to excited and curious drinkers around the world. While Scotch is famous across the globe, there has not been a single whiskey distillery south of the border with England in more than 100 years. But at St. George’s Distillery by the River Thet, nestled among the farms of Norfolk, eastern England, the first casks have come of age.

The English Whisky Company’s first run of single malt spirit officially became whiskey on Nov. 27 as it passed the magical three-year mark, and will go on general sale from Dec. 16. Matured in casks used by Jim Beam bourbon whiskey in Kentucky, between 150,000 and 200,000 bottles will be produced per year, while some of the 1,040 barrels produced so far will be stored to mature for up to 20 years. They are currently being bottled by hand, with chairman James Nelstrop stapling the cardboard cases together as black Labrador Bert, the distillery dog, watches on. A bottle of English whiskey retails in Britain for about 35 pounds.”

I needed to share these videos with the other Keepers. Isle of Jura has spun off an interesting little marketing theme. Whatever your view on mixing single malts, you might find these interesting.

First the challenge:

Then to the Ilse of Jura for the results:

Sorry for link, I think I crashed the site, and can’t find the direct link to the video but this should be the page)

Keep in mind that it is what it is (how’s that for a Tao statement) but they have some interesting ideas. I won’t repeat the content, go to the site and check it out.

Tao