Whisky Season Blossoms
We’ve worked with bottlers all over Scotland, but very few have offered us more interesting selections than the wonder Chieftain’s Brand from Ian Macleod. We’ve sourced old whisky from Brora, Bladnoch, Mortlach, Mannochmore and more. They were never as prolific as some of our other bottlers, like the wonderful Laing Brothers, but when a cask came up from Chieftain’s it was usually incredible. Over the years we had more and more trouble finding casks that met our strict price needs and then our local supplier and the national importer had a falling out. The result is that the Chieftain’s brand has been completely lost to the West Coast for several years. Now Scotland is moving away from this side of the business and luckily, we’ve reconnected with the importer in a big way just in time. After this run of casks, which include some of the rarest and more exciting whiskies we’ve seen in years, the Chieftain’s brand will be abandoned. I’ve yet to get a clear explanation why, but it’s safe to assume that the company is repositioning itself to focus on the three distilleries - Glengoyne, Tamdhu, and the resurrected Rosebank Distillery.
One of the few families owned independent distillers in Scotland, Ian Macleod was founded as a broker back in 1936. In 1963, Leonard Russell Senior purchased the broker and blender and acquired the famous Isle of Skye brand of Scotch and business continues as normal for many more decades. But in 2003, the broker cleverly seizes on an opportunity to buy one of Scotland’s most underappreciated malts, the Glengoyne Distillery. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect in terms of the need for independent bottlers and blenders to control means of production. While no one could have predicted the incredible growth in interest in Scotch Malt worldwide in the last 15 years, Macleod seems to have seen the writing on the wall. The further expanded the portfolio with the acquisition of Tamdhu Distillery in 2011, just about the time we started to buy casks from them.
Walking through Ian Macleod’s Broxburn Bottlings hall was always such a tease. They bottled for countless distillers and had partnered with J&G Grant of Glenfarclas to build this facility. In the relatively small racking warehouse, you’d pass by absolute legends and have to hold your lip. But invariably we’d be taken into the little lab in the office and be unleashed on a plethora of freshly drawn single malt samples. It was always an incredible experience and we were incredible disappointed when that relationship ended. Now just as we’ve rekindled our connection, the brand itself seems to be disappearing for good. Hopefully they’ll reintroduce another Single Cask brand someday soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they move completely away from the single cask business going forward.
Needless to say, they’ve pulled out all the stops with their final release and we’ve taken every possible advantage. There may never be another grouping of casks quite like this one and in the context of the greater marketplace of malts each is extremely valuable for their own reasons. None are inexpensive and others very expensive, but what we they offer is an experience that is simply not available anywhere else. It’s a secret little club that only a few hundred of our customers will ever know existed, but your membership lasts a lifetime. We’re sad to see this special brand go but looking forward to the incredible things Macleod is doing across Scotland. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to report here about the official reopening of the Rosebank Distillery and one day perhaps sell single casks of that special malt as well. In the meantime, we have plenty of whisky to keep us going.
***Please note that these malts are all sold on a pre-arrival basis and there is a significant advantage for early adopters. Expect prices to increase by at least 10% when the product arrives. The container is expected to land back east at the end of October so orders should be fulfilled no later than December 1st, but as with all pre-arrivals those dates are subject to change. You can always check back with me if you have any questions. ***
The magical distillery on the south shore of Islay, like all south shore distillers, is quite unlike any other. But Laphroaig has a certain place in the hearts of the hardest core peat lovers. They're the last distiller down there to malt a portion of their barley on site. Their complex system of tiny stills create the most peculiar and enticing peated spirit in the world. The quality and consistency of their casks is second to none. But over the last decade, what was once a staple in the independent bottling repertoire has completely disappeared. Laphroaig is simply not selling casks any longer. And when we do find casks they're usually in very inactive hogsheads and declassified to their trade name, "Williamson." Now that's not a huge problem because Laphroaig always tastes good, but bottlers can't replace even those few casks the prices have gone absolutely bonkers. Signatory recently bottled a sister cask those we sold here just three years ago for $200, Laphroaig from the Fall of 1997, for $700. And by god those bottles sell. But a beautiful butt for a not completely abhorrent price, we jumped all over it. Thank the Lord of the Isles that we did, as it's a complete and utter masterpiece. Some purists askew the idea of Laphroaig in active sherry, but much of the experience is limited to low proof distillery bottlings and finishes. It's truly a stupendous find and going to be one of those casks that people remember for years to come. Collectors and drinkers alike take note.
The wonderful Chieftain's brand from Ian Macleod had been one of our primary sources for several years. They've got a knack for finding special casks. This is the first barrel of Ardbeg we've bottled from the "new" regime and only the second exclusive Ardbeg we've ever managed to extricate from the clutches of this very stingy distiller. Who can blame them for keeping every drop? The Ardbeg brand is still on fire and there's absolutely no reason for them to be selling to brokers or blenders. Yet here we are. Their new release, a 19-year-old version that sold out in moments at $300 a bottle is nowhere close to as intense or unique as this amazing single cask. 15 years in first fill bourbon and bottled at cask strength, there's absolutely nothing on the market in the US like this. In Europe, similar bottlings from other suppliers are selling for more than twice this price. This special cask only held 162, so don't be surprised once it disappears. This malt itself isn't particularly rare, Ardbeg is a staple for any serious shop or bar program, the fact that it's bottled as a full-strength single cask makes it one of the world's rarest bottles. You won't find purity and intensity coupled so perfectly anywhere else in the Scotland. A cask like this is exactly how Ardbeg fans become fanatics. If only there was much much more of this, the world would be a better place.
The odd and wonderful Tobermory distillery is one of Scotland's most picturesque and divisive. Only the Jura Distillery has more disparate opinions of their products. But something that almost every peat lover can agree on is the fact that the distiller's peated line, Ledaig, is an absolute monster of a malt. And it's remained in obscurity until relative recently, when the new ownership began retooling their high-end offerings. Like all the Isle of Mull Malts, Ledaig gets expensive quickly. When we can get their 10 year at $50 a bottle it sells out pretty quickly, but they generally ask $70+ for the 10 year. We've also had a good deal of independents offer us Ledaig over the years, but it's almost always young stocks in very quiet hogsheads. That's simply because the mark is only produced a few weeks out of the year and is turning out to be quite in demand, so high quality older expression very next to non-existent on the IB market. When we do see Ledaig, it's almost NEVER in sherry. The distillery needs these barrels for their limited releases and rightfully so, there's nothing better than an old smoldering Ledaig in an active sherry. No cask this year will offer more deliciousness for your dollar. Old peated cask strength sherry butt from a tiny distiller for under $150. There won’t be much more like this in the future.
The enigmatic Caperdonich Distillery is extremely rare. Built in 1897 and named "Glen Grant #2," Caperdonich by J. & J. Grant in the town of Rothes. Only 5 short years later, the Pattison whisky crisis shuttered the gleaming new distillery. It lay dormant for 60 more years before Glenlivet Distilleries LTD. rebuilt and resumed production. The name Caperdonich, meaning "secret well," was adopted due to new regulation prohibiting multiple distilleries from sharing the same name. It was purchased again in 1977 by Seagrams, who sold it to Pernod Ricard in 2001. Pernod ultimately closed the relatively small output distillery the following year along with Braeval, BenRiach and Allt-A-Bhainne. Those three siblings would find a second lives in the subsequent whisky boom, but Caperdonich was not so lucky. Eventually demolished completely in 2010, Caperdonich has not really achieved cult status in the whisky collector's pantheon because of a complete lack of availability. It's so rare that few modern collectors have even had the chance to taste it. In its short life it never had an official bottling, but certain casks have become legendary. When we tasted this, we knew we had to have it. On the label, the cask type is listed simply "Hogshead," but the dark color and heady sherry notes can't be missed. Caperdonich and sherry are an absolute match made in heaven and this is a very active 2nd fill hoggie here. You won't regret becoming part of Caperdonich's hidden legacy.
We once could bottle wonderful casks of BenRiach distillery direct at extremely reasonable prices all the time. This unusual distillery has always been a favorite of ours, filled with experiments left over from their corporate past and their adventurous new owners. One of the few Speysiders to still boast a malt floor and it was always exciting to see the unusual experiments that were hiding in the old warehouses at BenRiach. But at some point in the last 5 years, the prices climbed into the stratosphere and when the distillery sold to Brown-Forman, our hopes of seeing reasonably priced old single casks dwindled. Honestly you can't really blame them for raising their prices, but it is difficult for us to justify continuing to purchase single casks at significantly higher prices. Our customers are to savvy for that. Not to say there isn't a market for it, but we simply can't sell 20-year-old malt for $500 unless there's something seriously special about it. So, it's particularly satisfying to see exceptional casks work their way out of the system. This wonderful BenRiach aged for 21 years and finished in fresh rum barrel for more than 3 years is our answer cask strength answer to the Balvenie 21 year. The malty beast that is BenRiach is trained into perfect submission after years in an old rum barrel. The resulting whisky is extremely polished, supple and packed full of tropical fruit. The price is astonishing, but this whisky is about more than just value. Only 220 bottles.