Scotland – Day 8: The Final Stretch
When you hear people talk about the whisky shortage in Scotland, it's best to specify just exactly what they mean by "shortage". Do they mean actual distilled whisky, or do they mean mature, interesting, tasty whisky that you and I, as rabid whisky fans, actually want to drink? If they mean the former, then there's no reason to panic about the lack of supply. In a few years the results of increased production, distillery expansions, and the rise of new distilleries will solve that problem. However, if they're wondering how the shortage will affect the mature single cask business (for example, the one we run here at K&L), I've got three words: be very afraid.
Two years ago when we visited George Grant at his Glenfarclas distillery, every cask from every vintage was on the table – from 1960 up until 2005. We could sample anything, buy anything, and take as much as we wanted. Today, that's not the case. Like every other distillery and independent bottler in Scotland, George has been visited by Chinese businessmen, by Norwegian businessmen, by German businessmen, by Brazilian businessmen, by Indian businessmen, and thousands of other businessmen from just about any country you can think of. They all want casks and they've all got money. But, like I've said a hundred times on this blog, it's no longer about the money. They don't need our business right now. They can pick and choose their customers as they please. We like working with George and we're glad he likes working with us.
"The first time we launched the Glenfarclas 40 year no one was interested. It took us almost ten years to sell the five hundred bottles we made. Today, I could sell that amount in less than a week," George told us.
Stocks are low and prices for mature whiskies have doubled. This was the case at Signatory as well. Their supplies are being gobbled up ten times faster than they can replace them. We're at the point where we're considering buying some casks for 2015 as well. We don't know what's going to be here for next year's trip, so it might make sense to secure a bit more than usual. Yikes! It's tough to know how much to buy! What can we do? Let's start by tasting.
One thing I love about the Grant family is their approach to luxury – it's not something to be hoarded or stored away for later. It's something to be used and consumed. You've got good whisky? You should open it and drink it. George gave us a sample of the upcoming 60 year old Glenfarclas release like it was no big deal. George's dad couldn't join us as he was currently travelling in his 1931 Bentley – a car he has shipped all over the world so he can drive it wherever he may be.
"He didn't buy it to look at it," George said. "He bought it so he could drive it!"
We busted into the warehouses in search of some sherry-aged whisky. We found a number of great things and we came up with some great ideas. I think you're all going to be very, very happy when you see what we've come up with. More on that later.
The town of Aberlour is not only home to great whisky, but also to incredible biscuits! Walker's shortbread is made right there in the town center. How could you not stop and take a look?
So many options! How can you choose just one?
"The one in the black tin with the bagpiper on it is a limited edition made specifically for our local rotary club," the lady behind the counter said. "You can only get it here."
"Then that's the one I want!" I said. Limited edition! I was pumped. In fact, I've decided to stop blogging about whisky and switch over to the various tins available from the Walker's shortbread line-up. My first post will be about the all-black, embossed Scottish bagpipe player edition – a small batch of cookies made specifically for the Aberlour Rotary Club. I give it 92 points.
With so much to pack in on our last day, we booked it over to Benriach where we met with Euan to go through samples of all three Benriach distilleries: the eponymous Elgin location, along with Glendronach and the newly-acquired Glenglassaugh. We still need to taste through more samples tonight in our hotel room as we didn't have time to get through the lot.
One last trip down through the Cairngorns and one final goodbye from the heavens. A beautiful end to a beautiful trip.
See you tomorrow in Burgundy!