The John Milroy Exclusive Malts arrive from BB&R
It's not often that we lock up a new supplier to send us Single Malt exclusively for our store in California. We've visited just about every Scotch bottler around but in general most are either running out of stocks or they've already penned deals with national importers which cover the entire United States. That means, we can’t offer you their products and the incredible prices you deserve. We have indeed convinced a few choice suppliers to move some of their brands to our growing portfolio of exclusive offerings, namely Douglas & Hunter Laing companies, who do sell other single malt brands to national importers, but continue to offer their finest offerings to K&L’s customers. Now we can welcome a third exclusive partner of exceptional quality into the mix for the California market. We've spent years talking with Berry Bros and their Spirits Director Doug McIver about how to get Berry's single cask single malt into the store. Unfortunately, Berry Bros is a pretty big deal. Their brands are nationally distributed through our friends at Anchor Brewing & Distilling and they've previously entered into exclusivity deals with national retail chain to sell single casks (albeit at 80 proof) exclusively. So when our dear friend Doug McIver came to us with his personal brand of single cask scotch, selected from the exceptional stocks at Berry Bros, sold through a completely different channel, we knew we had to get on board.
The exceptional John Milroy brand of single malt Scotch is spiritual successor to the Milroy of Soho line, which John "Jack" Milroy and Berry Bros Doug McIver worked to make famous over the last 40 years. That special shop at No 3 Greek St in the posh Soho neighborhood of Westminster would become a whisky institution, selling great single malt since 1964 and built on the good nature and good taste of Milroy brothers and their unflappable store manager Doug McIver. Indeed, it remains one of the finest whisky shops in London, but the Milroy legacy goes further.
We’ve shared martinis at The Dukes Bar with Doug. We’ve explored the hallowed cellars below the venerated shop and tasted legends together in their cozy study. But, we’ve never managed to figure out how to work directly with Doug & the Berry’s team. BB&R, which opened its doors in 1698, is now a global force in the spirits industry, owning the Glenrothes Distillery and marketing its brands across the globe. They’ve made famous the Blue Hangar Scotch, the No 3 Gin, the Cutty Sark brand and countless other brands, but international ambitions don’t often align with our single cask program here in California. Berry’s big brands and bureaucracy have always made working directly together slightly our grasp.
When Doug's mentor and former employer struck out on his own with the John Milroy line, he knew that Berry Bros was the perfect partner to guarantee that the quality of stock remained up to Milroy's exacting standards. Jack’s devotion to promoting Scotch Whisky and his talent for identifying special casks meant that the Milroy’s name would always be synonymous with the very top quality single cask scotch available. In 2009, when Jack Milroy was ready to retire he came to his old friend Doug McIver with a request to keep the Milroy name untarnished and bottle only the very best under that label. Indeed, he said that Doug was the only one he trusted to take the reins of this venerable legacy. And so in 2009, the partnership that had started nearly 30 years earlier went full circle. From student to master, Doug had now ascended to pole position in driving the legacy that he had helped to create. This same legacy was ultimately responsible for his success and now became the fruit of his labor over those many years.
We’ve spent many years solidifying our relationship with this venerable house and the exceptional gentlemen in charge of their spirits portfolio. It's thanks to that close relationship and the incredible work he’s done selecting some of the best single casks from Berry's vast stocks of single cask whisky that we're proud to be the exclusive partners for the Milroy Brand in California. Finally, we're getting our casks direct from Doug at incredible prices.
Mortlach is one of Scotland's most unique malts and a rare distillery to find on the open market. Located in the famous Scotch distilling village of Dufftown, Mortlach boasts high profile neighbors like Balvenie and Glenfiddich. These famous distilleries draw some of the most visitors of any distillery in Scotland, yet Mortlach remains closed to the public despite the incredible number of potential visitors. Why is that? Because this special whisky is the stalwart workhorse of the Diageo blends and didn't even bother selling a distillery version of the spirit in the US until 2014.
The reason they've been so stingy is that very few distilleries can replace the unique and special flavor profile created by the extremely complicated distillation process at Mortlach. The distillery describes the spirit from Mortlach as 2.81 times distilled, a nod to how nonsensical the process is, but also a precise analysis of the resulting distillate. Mortlach's 6 stills (3 wash 3 spirit) work in concert rather than in parallel, to distill various cuts of different styles which are ultimately mingled and distilled a final time and condensed in old fashioned worm tubs. The result, although further distilled from the standard 2 times, is a weighty beefy spirit with tons of character and considerable heft.
We've had excellent success with young Mortlach's from the Hepburn Choice line. We sold those several years ago year at 7 years old and $50. This wonderful little cask of Mortlach shows off the depth and power that can be achieved at this special distillery, even at a young age. A powerful nose of spicy malt, subtle oak, tropical fruit and fresh marcona almonds. The palate is rich and textural and deserves a few drops of water, which brings out some citrus and fresh oak along with the wonderful nuttiness we might expect.
Another Diageo Malt with an usual distillation process, Benrinnes sits in the shadow of the Hill of Rennes just behind another very special distillery, Glenfarclas. Benrinnes was founded in this fertile valley by Farmer John Innes in 1826, but was completely destroyed in a flood in 1829. Obviously, this area was being under served on the distillation front at the time because the quickly rebuilt on the site and reopened by 1835. The distillery was again damaged in 1896 by a fire and had to be rebuilt again, this time they became one of the first distilleries to be powered fully by electricity. Over the next 50 years, ownership changed multiple times before being sold to DCL (one Diageo's predecessor entities) and in the 50s the distillery was completely rebuilt again. This time they added a malt canister (called a Salladin Box) and closed the Malt floors.
In 1974, the distillery adopted a new style of distillation (somewhat similar to Mortlach's in Dufftown) using 5 stills to create a very unique and fruitforward distillate. This involves redistilling feints, foreshots, from the various low wine stills and capturing and redistilling spirits feints and foreshots a third time. The distillate is then condensed using traditional worm tubs, which are very rare today in Scotland. In 2007, the complicated distillation process was abandonded for a more traditional double distillation. We haven't tasted the new distillates yet, but it's very likely that the style has changed quite significantly.
If that's true that's a terrible shame, because Benrinnes is one of the most exciting malts available on the secondary market. This special cask of nicely matured Benrinnes has TONS of character as expect. The nose is powerful fruits and soft almost smoky malt. The spirit is rich and chewy, warm and inviting. It's absolutely incredible that we're able to sell this special whisky at such a ludicrously low price. This one won't last long so get on it ASAP.
This lovely distillery in the hollow on the western edge of Elgin is cranking out a good deal of solid quality Speyside malt whisky. The little Speyside distillery was originally founded in 1897 as part of a successful brewery operation. It was only in neglectful operation for 13 years before the owners shut the doors in 1910. At some point the distillery was purchased by the owners of Glenmorangie and refurbished, but the distillery didn't operate again until 1923. In 1958 the distillery was expanded signficantly, to produce 2 million pure liters of alcohol a year. In this year, they traditional floor maltings were also abandoned for the much more efficient Saladine Box method of malting.
Glenmorangie was ultimately sold to luxury brand conglomoerate LVMH and the focus became their two flagship distilleries, Glenmo and Ardbeg. Glen Moray was left basically untouched as a brand by the LVMH marketing people and remained a workhorse in the cheap blends popular in France. While, I would have likely argued that that LVMH could have used the distillery as a Speyside counterpoint to the Highland and Islay brands that they'd made so famous, the powers that be felt differently and in 2008 the distillery was sold to France's second largest drinks group, La Martiniquase owners of St James distillery in Martinique and countless other French spirits brands.
Over the last decade they've increased production and can now crank out an impressive 3.3 million liters of pure alcohol from 3 pairs of stills. Like any modern distillery the focus is now efficiency and cost savings. This has resulted in the introduction of a high tech steam recapture system, which cuts fuel and water use significantly.
The owners have released several very solid and affordable single malts, but none reach the potential distillery's full potential. This excellent cask is the perfect introduction to the traditional Speyside style produced at Glen Moray and represents, like all our exclusive casks, an outrageous value. Other markets where these casks are sold are charging nearly double our retail price, so as soon as the world catches on to how low we've been able to go on this wonderful new line up they'll likely be gone. Expect more unique and delicious single casks from Milroy in the coming weeks.