As we near the end of National Wine Day 2022, I thought I would pay tribute to the marriage of whisky and wine. More and more distilleries and Independent Bottlers are sourcing and using wine casks to finish their whisky, offering a wider variety of flavour in the Scotch Whisky Industry than ever before.
Like everything, some work better than others and it is impossible for me to sit here and write to tell you which wine styles work the best for finishing and which to avoid. You’ll have to discover that for yourself. I can, however tell you how excited I am about the quality and variety that is coming from well known and new brands alike as they discover the fruits of past experiments and bottle some terrific combinations of flavour.
Over the last 3 decades, Mathieson had been working in the background, importing specialist spirits for the more cultivated drinker. Using his decades of experience in wine and spirits, he continued honing his blending and distilling skills for the project that lay ahead. In 2017, another milestone for the company came as spirit first flowed from the stills at Torabhaig Distillery on the Isle of Skye.
In a year full of ups and downs for everyone, we are keen to look at the positives we saw throughout the last 12 months.
For Inverurie Whisky Shop we have been kept busy, especially in the first half of the year with the Virtual Tastings. Launching at the start of the pandemic we have now hosted countless virtual events, sending tasting packs all over Europe and meeting some great new customers who have become firm friends along the way.
We changed the layout of our shop to allow for us to extend our independent bottlers range, allow more freedom for the you to browse comfortably and safely, and better display our ever-expanding stock.
Rewarding you is paramount to us so we implemented a loyalty scheme (are you not on it!?) where returning customers can gather points for every purchase, giving you options of money off, free shipping, free access to events.
Redecorating our upstairs room was a great step to providing a snug bar experience. With some high quality, unicorn whiskies, local hand fills and independently bottled casks available by the dram, our aim to open as a public whisky bar in the coming months is coming along nicely.
We currently use the bar for our tasting events and offer private hire to small groups so that they can enjoy a more relaxed, intimate and tutored tasting experience.
We have continued our Virtual tastings, but extended and integrated them into a hybrid experience for in-store and online opportunities. Our recent guest speakers this year have Alastair Day (Isle of Raasay), Scott Adamson (Tomatin) and Micky Plummer (Mackmyra). We’ve had some great events and look forward to more wonderful tastings with some great producers.
Continuing on the education theme that we are keen to instill to our customers, we started a weekly live chat with guests from the world of whisky. “A Blether with” looks at a relaxed, informal chat with people from the whisky floor but we encourage them to drop the ‘brand’ restraints and learn about the people themselves. We have attracted some fantastic guests such as Billy Walker, Charlie McLean and Stewart Buchanan.
A couple of stand out moments of the year past has to be serving HRH The Duke of Rothesay with our Shop Exclusive Duncan Taylor Octave, Culdrain – a sherried, unpeated Ardmore single cask – on his visit to the Garioch. The Prince likes a dram, having stopped off at Glen Garioch Distillery before dropping in past Inverurie.
Secondly, trumping this great honour, was winning the Whisky Magazines ‘Icons of Whisky’ 2022 Award for Best Independent Retailer. Having received a Highly Commended Award last year, managing to reach the next level was an amazing experience. In a room full of the best whisky producers, writers and marketers, it was an absolute privelage and shock to be announced as the winners. It has certainly laid down the gauntlet for 2022.
Finally, at the end of 2021 we launched our first Highland Whisky Academy dates. With behind the scenes tours of local distilleries, a visit to our local maltster and various guest speakers joining in, we have a truly once in a lifetime experience lined up for you. Visit the website or contact us at email@example.com to find out more.
Of course, the launch of Foghouse Ginwas a huge marker for us as we took our first step into producing our own spirits range. We are hugely excited by the gin and it has been a huge success so far. Reaching the finals of the Peoples Choice Taste Awards, decided mid-January, was a wonderful surprise but further proof that we are heading in the right direction. We cannot wait to expand the range and hope that you join us on the journey.
At the Inverurie Whisky Shop we are always looking to improve and evolve our offerings, which we certainly feel we managed in the last year despite everything. Here’s hoping for an equally successful 2022 but we cannot do this without you, our great customers, and your support.
And now on to some of our favourite products and producers of the last year!
Dram of the Year – For me (Mike) it was a tough call, some truly great drams including some of our own selections and releases. However I’ve gone for the Tomatin Rivesaltes 12 Year Old, released as part of their French Cask Collection. This was a simply sublime dram from a vastly underrated trilogy.
Independent Bottler – it has to go to those guys at the Little Brown Dog Distillery. Every release has been awesome and highly sought after. Some truly different and experimental drams have been released that are more than your standard whiskies, Calvados, Brandy and Rye all coming through with equal success.
Whisky Distillery – The Glencadam Distillery finally, in our opinion, broke free from the shackles of an ‘under-rated gem’ and is truly coming to the fore. A huge seller for us at the shop and in the last few months we’ve seen demand grow and grow. With a wonderful array of casks available, we expect more big things to come from Robert Fleming, Iain Forteath and the team.
Gin – It would be easy to slot Foghouse in here, of course! However we are going for Lost Loch Distillery and their eeNoo gin, our biggest selling gin of the year. Fruity and sweet but with classic gin notes, this is a hugely versatile gin made locally on Deeside.
One to Watch: Ardent Spirits. Having been privileged to visit the warehouses of Ardent Spirits and neighbouring distillery, Burn O Bennie, we are very excited by the work and spirit quality coming from these guys. An absolute treasure trove of whiskies are currently maturing under their guidance and I expect more wonderful things to come in the next year or two.
With that in mind, if you have any ideas on what we can do to improve our service and offerings to you, please get in touch. Wether it is a product, event or service that we can offer, we’d love to hear it!
I was delighted when I was asked to visit the warehouses of Scotlands latest Independent Whisky Bottling company, Ardent Spirits.
When I was dropped off by Toni, the long suffering wife, I was greeted by members of the team at Ardent Spirits, Mike Bain, the company founder, Liam Pennycook, distiller, and Toki Pennycook, Distillery and Warehouse mascot and grand-pup to yours truly. It was as excited a welcome as I have ever received turning up to anything. Waggy tail, toys, kisses and lots of cuddles ensued – and that was just from Mike!
Mike is a well known face in the spirits industry in Aberdeenshire, having been involved in, and started many successful companies such as Dusk Bar, Deeside Brewery, Deeside Distillery, Devil’s Point Rum and now Burn O Bennie Distillery and Ardent Spirits are added to the repertoire.
Both are very different companies, with the Burn O Bennie Distillery focusing on producing a range of craft, small batch spirits and whiskies and Ardent Spirits being Mike’s Independent Whisky business, releasing aged casks that have been sourced from distilleries across Scotland.
Ardent Spirits first came to the fore with the release of Sea Shanty Rum, a charity fundraising spiced rum paying homage to the Shanty songs sung by sailors at work.
During a quick tour of the on site distillery, Liam guided me through the distillation process which takes place using the best brewing equipment on the market. Designed to create great beer, it seems folly that the mash for great whisky doesn’t happen more often in this way. The mash is used with a healthy 10-12% Chocolate Malt and brewed to a hefty 14% Wash after a 168 hour fermentation. Two German made copper stills distill the spirit, which is then used to fill a huge variety of casks including quarter casks, bourbon barrels, wine casks and sherry casks. It’s exciting times at Burn O’Bennie with some great reviews coming from the young spirit, including none other than Charles MacLean himself. Indeed, Charles admitted one of his biggest mistakes in whisky was thinking that the 2 year old spirit was in 18 years old! In the majority of trial tastings, the 18 month old spirit was favoured against big hitters such as MacAllan 18, Glendronach 18 and Glenfarclas 21 year olds. The problem now is taming the spirit so that it doesn’t lose that majestic flavour. A job Mike and Liam are well aware of, and have plans for.
The main purpose of my visit, however was then put to me – to choose a cask that was to become the inaugural release for Ardent Spirits. What an honour! It was very exciting to see the range of casks in the warehouse and the thought of sampling through them got the tastebuds pulsing.
There was a limit, however. The team had decided that the first release was to be a Ben Nevis – a distillery going through a wave of popularity just now and with good reason. Big, punchy flavours, robust mouthfeel and a funkiness seldom found anywhere else bar Campbeltown.
With four casks to choose from and if memory serves me right there were two 8 year olds, a 9 year old and a 10 year old.
The first cask was excellent, the 10 year old. Full of cask influence, vanilla, creamy mouthfeel, a whack of cereal maltiness and caramel. It was very sweet and delicious, however for me, not what a Ben Nevis fan would be after. The lack of peat and funk was evident and, while very enjoyable, perhaps lacked the complexity that fans of the distillery would be after.
Cask two served this purpose much more satisfaction. Just short of 10 years old there was earthy, salted meat notes, grapefruit dryness and a wonderful salted caramel sweetness. It had the moreish savory note synonymous with Ben Nevis. Punchy, strong and willing to put up a fight.
Cask three was more on the peated side of Nevis. Coastal smokey notes with saline flavours, sweet bonfire embers and toasted marshmallows on the finish. A fine balance perhaps between the previous two casks and certainly in contention for what will be a wonderful bottling.
The fourth cask gave more of the dry, citrus notes of cask two. A drier mouthfeel and finish. The flavour was loaded with burnt sugar, toasted oak and cinnamon. Bonfire embers lingered and a bittersweet earthiness enveloped the whole experience.
We finished the day sampling some wonderful casks, without going into too much detail there are some simply stunning well aged liquids to come from Ardent as well as some fantastic young whiskies, finished in Oloroso casks, Rum casks and Wine casks.
So which cask did I choose? Why not buy a bottle and compare your own notes to the ones above to see if you can guess. Perhaps I’ll tell you if your right, but ask me after tasting it!
Russell Brinklow debuts with his first Blog for Inverurie Whisky Shop as we headed to the usually closed distillery at Aultmore to take in a rare chance to tour the site, offered as part of the Spirit of Speyside celebrations.
We do enjoy an Aultmore at the Inverurie Whisky Shop with its beautiful summer flavours of peaches and lemonade, toffee and ice cream soda, fudge and milky coffee with some spice and the wonderful nose of freshly mown grass.
One could be forgiven for thinking you were on a picnic in an orchard while sitting back and enjoying this dram.
Typically, this whisky can be found in traditional ex-bourbon matured state, there are limited expressions from the distillery, but many more can be found from Independent Bottling companies. Sherry finishes are available, out there in the wild, but it is in the pure ex-bourbon condition that this spirit excels as a single malt. It deserves the title of “Bourbon Bomb” and we made sure to add one to our tasting night under that guise earlier this year.
One of Speysides hidden gems, Aultmore Distillery sits in the small hamlet of the same name close to the town of Keith on the Buckie road (B9016). It was built in 1896 by Alexander Edwards who was also the owner of Benrinnes Distillery and co-founder of the Craigellachie Distillery.
Production commenced the following year and quickly doubled in output before being sold to John Dewars & sons for £20,000 in 1923.
The distillery in its present guise is very different to the original having been rebuild entirely in the 1960/70s, passers-by will notice the roll up glass windows which serve the purpose of ease of access when replacing the stills as well as providing a nice cool air in the hot still house. These windows are also evident in sister distilleries at Craigellachie and Aberfeldy.
There are not many legendary stories around this distillery which has been the backbone of many blends, but one is around the bold white label on the bottles of “Foggie Moss”, the distillery bottlings which are available at 12 and 21 years old. The Foggie Moss is where the distillery stands and where the water is drawn from for the spirit.
In the days of travelling excise men, the locals would place a large white sheet or tarpaulin over the peat stacks to warn all the illicit distillers to hide their equipment.
In recent times the Aultmore has become popular in the far east, China and Thailand in particular where the name Buckie on the bottle has significance. If you want a dram of Aultmore in a bar in Keith you could ask for the “Buckie Road” and the bartender should know what you are looking for.
Autmore hamlet itself is situated of course on the road to Buckie just off the A96.
The Thai significance is that a ‘Buckie’ is a term used to describe people who are successful financially and upwardly mobile……so a bottle of Aultmore is seen as a sign of wealth.
The distillery is not open to the public, but one day each year the doors are open to those lucky enough to get their hands on a Spirit of Speyside ticket for the open day.
Mike and I were able to visit this year and enjoyed a guided tour by Matthew Cordiner Global Brand Ambassador with Dewars, The Grainman, Gary Ross was also on hand giving us some great, in depth (and some quite ridiculous) facts and figures!
The distillery was in production and it was great to see the vast Mash tun with viewing window, and then to inhale the aromas in the Washback room. The stills were bubbling away in the still house and we were able to observe the stillman measuring the cuts in the spirit safe.
When you see the stills you would be forgiven for looking for a heavy, sulphuric and meaty spirit. Short, dumpy and with a downward sloping Lyne-arm, we expect this to create something akin to The MacAllan, however the opposite spirit flavour is achieved by distilling at a lower temperature for longer. Ultimately throwing the argument of still shape up in the air once more.
There is no warehousing at Aultmore at present, but all told this was a rare and exciting experience to get inside this hidden gem of Speyside
We have a fantastic selection of Aultmore in the shop just now, why not give this wonderful whisky a try. From single casks to small batch creations there is certainly a secret Speyside wonder for you.
B is for Blends! Part two of our series showcasing what we do at the Inverurie Whisky Shop. During these blogs we will be educating, introducing and highlighting different parts of the business, the people within and of course, the products we sell.
This may come as a shock to a lot of our customers, but around 97.5% of all the whiskies in our shop are a blend. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is the same for the vast majority of whisky shops in the world.
A is for Aberdeenshire – Our home region and the “Granary of Scotland”
Aberdeenshire is the A in our new feature blog, showcasing an A-Z of who we are and what we do at the Inverurie Whisky Shop. I like to think of the North East corner of Scotland as the “nose’ of a giant Highlander’s head that our country’s shoreline replicates. Wearing a Tam O’Shanter, with flowing tassels and ginger hair represented by the Western Isles and bearing a huge Cheshire grin that is the Firth of Forth, separated from the Tay by a bushy red moustache. It’s a novel idea but one that is hard to unsee.
To compliment the rise of full on sherry bomb releases – which we love by the way – we are starting our mini series of 6 testaments to wonderful whiskies that sometimes get overlooked due to the colour, or lack of colour in the liquid.
Whisky, like everything in life, goes through cycles. We’ve seen the rise of single malts, the cask strength and single cask come through and the exploration of terriore becoming more prominent.
We have reached the start of the a new trend. Never before has there been so much attention on the coca-cola coloured “sherry-bomb”.
Whiskies bought on colour alone. On that rich, dark tones oozing promises of a sherry flavour overload.
A little over 20 months ago I was on a road trip from Inverurie to Tomintoul with Peter Dignan, co-founder of the Lost Loch Distillery in Deeside, and creators of Scotlands first Absinthe, Murmichan.
The purpose of the trip was to help Peter collect two casks from the Tomintoul Distillery. Peter’s family stayed nearby, and Peter would often be found playing in the grounds surrounding the distillery. He has kept a close tie with the distillery ever since.
After the success of #ProjectAFG the boys at Little Brown Dog Distillery have been working hard on their second commercial (I use that term loosely) release. Only 150 350ml flasks have been produced from the micro-micro distillery, based in West Aquorthies in the shadow of Bennachie.
We are delighted to announce that Alistair Day, top man at the Isle of Raasay Distillery and creator and blender of the Tweedale Whisky range, will be joining us to take you through a wonderful journey of trials, tribulations and tastes on 13th March this year. Buy your ticket Here
It’s been a big year for the Distillery, seeing their Gin launched and doing very well (available here at £34.90) and also the pre-sales launch of their first Single Malt bottling, due out in the later stages of the year. You can find out more information on this bottling here.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So what do you do when handed a sample of Single Cask Oloroso Matured Whisky? Obviously you get home as soon as you can and create a line up against other Superb Oloroso Sherried Whiskies!
At the Inverurie Whisky Shop we are delighted to be able to work with lots of local talent, from the Whisky Distillers at Glen Garioch and Brewers of Beer Story at Insch to the Gin makers of Rothienorman, our post code holds a plethora of people at a genuinely world class level. Outside the world of Alcohol though is no different. We have had the pleasure of launching local author Duncan Harley’s historical books, Gareth Henderson of Strathisla Woodcraft’s creations and now we have the absolute delight of introducing Kimberley Smith’s KimberleyART products.
From placemats and coasters to tea towels and calendars, Kimberley is certainly making waves since her company started. Having recently signed up as a preferred supplier to the National Trust for Scotland, you may have already seen her works of art at places such as Haddo House, Crathes Castle and beyond.
At the Inverurie Whisky Shop Kimberley’s focus is, of course, Distilleries. At a networking meeting, I had the pleasure of meeting Kimberley and got chatting about her art and the potential for a collaboration. Needless to say she has lived up to the obvious potential. From an original set of four distilleries, her work this year has increased her offerings to more than double that – from our local Glen Garioch and GlenDronach distilleries to the Islay based Laphroaig and Bowmore. Speyside Distilleries Balvenie, Benromach and Dallas Dhu also feature. We are delighted to be working with Kimberley, and had the chance to catch up with her to give you the opportunity to meet the master behind the magic.
Where did you grow up and when did you first discover your artistic talent?
I grew up in a small rural village called Tarves, in the North East of Scotland. I was definitely a country girl, and I remember spending summers cycling to Haddo House and making forts out of hay bales!
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, all through primary and secondary school I was determined to go to Art School. However I ended up studying architecture at University to try and use my creativity for a more conventional career path.
Buidings feature heavily in your art, is this a direct influence of your architecture studies? What drew you to Castles and, more recently, Distilleries?
It was during my time at university studying architecture that I started to paint the local castles as part of a project, showcasing the local architecture. I found the history fascinating and loved how each place had its own unique character and story. After graduating I took a job as a project engineer but continued to paint in my spare time. I started painting distilleries more recently after visiting a couple of the local ones and realising how much history is behind each whisky, and that the distilleries are all so different from each other. I love trying to portray the character and essence of each place through my work, whether it’s a distillery on the coast of Islay or hidden in a glen in Speyside.
What was your biggest influence in taking the leap into business?
KimberleyART started up as a hobby to share my work online and sell a few prints. It has grown slowly over the years since 2016, but this year after meeting so many lovely people that are making a living out of their own creative business, I thought I’d love to do that myself. I still work part time, but am really enjoying seeing my hobby growing into a fully functioning business.
What has been your biggest achievement so far and where do you see KimberleyART progressing to?
My biggest achievement from a business perspective has to be becoming an approved supplier for the National Trust for Scotland. As I have painted most of their North East Properties I had always hoped one day my products might feature in their shops. Now, each castle has its own collection in their gift shops and I feel really proud when visiting one of the properties and see my work on the shelf!
Is their anything in particular in the pipeline that your are excited about?
At the moment I have a few new products that I’m excited to launch, including a ‘Distilleries of Scotland’ range featuring paintings from all across Scotland. Two calendars for 2020, one featuring distilleries and the other will be a selection of my favourite paintings from all around Scotland.
Of course, Kimberley’s work is available at the Inverurie Whisky Shop, both online and in store, and we are looking forward to introducing the Distilleries of Scotland range in the near future. Keep an eye out for more news from KimberleyART by following her Facebook at @Kimberleyartetsy
Hidden away in The Glenlivet Estate near the highest town in the Highlands, Tomintoul, in the heart of Speyside, this relatively new distillery (built in 1964) on the banks of the River Avon (pronounced A’an) has been a big hit with shoppers to Inverurie Whisky Shop, and remains a strong performer with its Core Range of Tlath, 10 and 16 Year Old Expressions. But they are much, much more than that…
Few occasions whet the Whisky Enthusiasts appetite quite like the Spirit of Speyside Festival. With hundreds of events from midnight tastings to blending masterclasses, the May holiday weekend draws in thousands of visitors to this most famous of Whisky Regions every year.
Last week I touched on the trend currently hitting the whisky industry of purchasing by colour. Dark, almost black whisky is king at the moment and often the first posts of a new whisky are followed by “look at that colour”, “how dark is that?” and “that looks fantastic – I gotta get one”. Without looking at tasting notes, the distillery or age, the whisky ends up on wanted lists everywhere and come release date – all sold within minutes.
We had this experience recently with the latest Infrequent Flyers release. I mentioned the Glenrothes last week – as soon as pre orders went out for the collection this was the one that sold out almost immediately. The Adelphi releases previous had the same outcome, this time the Linkwood and before that Benrinnes stole the show with that dark, mysterious and alluring colour.