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WHISKY NEWS ROUND-UP: Finn Thomson, Ardbeg, and more

Peter Ranscombe takes a light-hearted look through the latest whisky news.

THE Thomson family is marking its 300-year connection with the whisky industry by launching one of Scotland’s rarest private cask collections.

Finn Thomson Whisky has signed up a slate of independent bottle shops to sell the whiskies in the UK, along with distributors in countries including Italy and the Netherlands.

“During the 1980s and 90s, my grandfather collected young casks of single malts and grains that had formed the secret recipe of my family’s famous Beneagles blend,” explained Finn Thomson himself.

“As a result of this my family became the custodians of one of Scotland’s largest private cask collections.”

The First Drop whisky

Sticking with rare collections, and all 71 bottles of “The First Drop” – a rare 1964 single grain Scotch whisky bottled by House of Hazelwood – has sold out within weeks of launch.

The spirit was made at the Girvan grain distillery on 8 January 1964.

House of Hazelwood was launched earlier this year by the Gordon family, which owns labels including The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Grants.

Don’t miss a review of House of Hazelwood’s whiskies by Scottish Field‘s new drinks blogger, James Roberston.

National Trust for Scotland digging at The Glenlivet

From relics in bottles to relics buried underground.

The Glenlivet teamed up with archaeologists from the National Trust for Scotland to spend two weeks digging on the site of its former distillery, further up the glen.

The dig unearthed fire pits, timber-lined vats and receivers, and whisky tasting glasses.

“Despite the site having been intentionally dismantled when the distillery was relocated in 1859, we have been surprised by the level of preservation of some of its structural elements,” said Derek Alexander, the National Trust for Scotland’s head of archaeology.

Ardbeg

Never a brand to shy away from trying something new, Ardbeg is getting ready to launch its first graphic novel – the imaginatively-titled Planet Ardbeg.

New York cartoonist Ronald Wimberly has created the 40-page science fiction anthology with fellow artists Emma Ríos and Sanford Greene.

The limited-edition book tells the “origin stories” of three of Ardbeg’s whiskies.

Some of the people who work at the distillery even star in the stories.

Fergus McCreadie at Caol Ila

Staying on Islay, and Caol Ila has opened its new visitors’ centre.

Mercury Prize-shortlisted jazz pianist Fergus McCreadie penned a tune for the occasion, and performed it outside the distillery.

The opening of the tourist attraction marks the end of a four-year, £185 million project to upgrade the visitors’ centres run by owner Diageo, Scotland’s largest distillery.

The programme included turning the former House of Fraser department store on Princes Street in Edinburgh into a visitors’ centre for its Johnnie Walker blended whisky brand.

The world's smallest whisky bar in Edinburgh

Back to the mainland, and Nc’nean distillery near Drimnin took over the world’s smallest whisky bar on Wednesday.

The tiny bar, in a former police telephone box in Edinburgh, has been operated by whisky bottler Cask 88 during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Nc’Nean took over the site for the day to serve tastes of its organic single malt.

“As a small, independent brand ourselves, it feels like it’s just meant to be,” said founder Annabel Thomas.

Cabrach distillery begins construction

Construction has begun on what will become one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries.

Cabrach distillery in Aberdeenshire will make about 100,000 litres of spirit each year, putting in on a par with sites such as Edradour and Nc’Nean.

Building the community-owned distillery is part of a wider regeneration plan for the Cabrach, an area that once supported more than 1,000 residents, but is now home to fewer than 100 people.

Three farm distilleries operated in the area some 170 years ago – Blackmiddens, Lesmurdie, and Tomnaven.

Artist's impression of Uilebheist distillery in Inverness

Uilebheist, the first distillery to be built in Inverness for 130 years, is selling 100 ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.

Each cask will mature for at least 10 years, with their owners having the chance to sample the spirit along the way.

The distillery, which will also have its own brewery, aims to fill between 200 and 250 cask each year.

Uilebheist will be powered by electricity generated by a hydro-electric scheme on the River Ness.

Plans for the St Boswells distillery

In other construction news, the Scottish Government is to help Trevor Jackson find the money needed to build The St Boswells’ Distillery in the Borders.

Ministers have added Jackson Distillers’ project to Scotland’s Green Investment Portfolio, which aims to find private sector cash for businesses.

Planning permission for the £50 million distillery was granted last year, and fundraising for the project is due to complete by the end of this year.

St Boswells aims to be Scotland’s first carbon-neutral grain whisky distillery.

The Macallan Horizon prototype

Those clever people at carmaker Bentley and The Macallan have been busy beavering away on the design for a bottle of whisky that’s designed to be stored on its side.

The Macallan Horizon is due to go on sale next summer, but the distillery has released some photos of what the bottle and its holder might look like.

Materials used for the packaging include copper from an old whisky still, aluminium from Bentley’s factory, and recycled wood and glass.

As well as its horizontal design, the bottle also twists through 180 degrees.

Scones at Moness Resort

And finally, Tony Orr – head chef at Moness Resort in Aberfeldy – has added his local whisky into the butter that he’s serving with his scones.

He’s using Dewar’s Aberfeldy 12-year-old single malt in the butter, which is served as part of his Perthshire afternoon tea in Moness’ Uisge restaurant.

Orr is also going to be bringing the scones to Aberfeldy’s market next month.

“We think these scones are delicious, and so do our customers – I can’t wait to see what the reaction is when they go to the Aberfeldy market,” he said.

Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages.

Plus, check out Blair Bowman’s whisky column in the September issue of Scottish Field magazine.

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