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13th May 2019

Dalmore Scotch Whisky ‘L’Anima’ Sells for £108,900 at Sotheby’s Auction

A one of a kind bottle of Dalmore Scotch whisky, Dalmore ‘L’Anima’, has been sold at auction for £108,900.

Sold by Sotheby’s in London earlier this month, the bottle was a one-off produced by The Dalmore and Massimo Bottura, the chef-patron of Osteria Francescana, which has twice been voted the world’s best restaurant.

Proceeds from the sale will go towards ‘Food for Soul’, a non-profit organisation that fights against food waste and encourages social inclusion.

The buyer of the whisky also has an invitation for two at the Modena-based restaurant.

Sotheby’s new head of spirits, Jonny Fowle, said: “We were delighted to have partnered with The Dalmore on the sale of L’Anima and the exceptional result for this rare and special whisky exceeded our expectations, bringing the total for Spirits sold at Sotheby’s so far this year to US$2 million. It is always exciting for us to collaborate with distilleries on exclusive releases and we look forward to presenting more unique offerings at auction in the future.”

Richard Paterson, master distiller at The Dalmore added: “This is a one of a kind bottling from The Dalmore – a product of a fantastic collaboration between Massimo and myself. When Massimo and I first started discussing this collaboration it was clear we shared a passion to celebrate life by creating incredible food and drink. That passion is captured within this carefully composed one of a kind bottle.”

Finally, Bottura added further: “I’m even more enthusiastic that this unique project…will support Food for Soul to build projects that celebrate the culture and the potential of communities around the world.”

L’Anima was a blend of three ‘expressions’, using whiskies that had been matured in Bourbon and 40 year-old Pedro-Ximenez (from Gonzalez Byass) casks and vintage Port pipes (from Graham’s).

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13th May 2019

Is Edinburgh the New Scotch Tourism Capital?

Edinburgh is cementing itself as a whisky destination with four new distillery projects and the multi-million-pound Johnnie Walker experience, but could the city become Scotland’s new whisky tourism capital? Becky Paskin reports.

When Edinburgh’s last operational malt distillery closed in 1925, whisky tourism was a laughable concept. Distilleries were considered factories, focused on producing spirit in environments not exactly designed to safely accommodate curious members of the public.

Now, over 90 years later, Scotch whisky tourism is at an all-time high. In 2017 there were 1.9 million visits to Scotch distilleries from tourists from all over the world, who spent almost £61 million between them. Whisky producers across Scotland have realised the value of the tourist pound and have invested – and continue to invest – in incorporating world-class visitor facilities at their ‘factories’.

Of the 800,000 people visiting Moray Speyside each year, three out of five stop by a distillery for a tour, cup of tea, bite to eat or a browse of the whiskies on sale. The density of distilleries in the region – there are 51 operational sites – coupled with the draw of various outdoor pursuits, visitor attractions and breath-taking scenery, make Speyside a popular destination with international whisky enthusiasts, as well as those unfamiliar with the drink.

But what about Scotland’s capital? Edinburgh is the second-most visited city in the UK, attracting over two million overseas visitors each year and yet, despite its rich whisky distilling and blending heritage, for 30 years the Scotch Whisky Experience on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has been the city’s only real whisky visitor attraction. Supported by many of the largest Scotch distillers, the centre, which offers an interactive educational tour, an on-site restaurant and whisky shop, has maintained a vital presence for Scotland’s largest food and drink export in the country’s most-visited city.

Just two distilleries have continued to operate in the city since Glen Sciennes closed in 1925. There’s the colossal North British grain distillery, whose aroma of warm Shreddies permeates west Edinburgh’s air on a breezy day, but whose gates, in true Willy Wonka fashion, are firmly closed to the public. Meanwhile Glenkinchie, the closest working malt distillery, is a 15-mile drive from the Royal Mile – hardly an easy visit for time-strapped tourists flying into town for a quick weekend getaway.

But all that is about to change. Three decades after the Scotch Whisky Experience opened there are now four new distillery projects underway, a major revamp for Glenkinchie in the works plus the impending construction of a multi-storey Johnnie Walker whisky experience, which is by itself expected to boost tourist spend in Edinburgh by around £135m.

With a greater choice of new attractions providing the opportunity for visitors to further their whisky experience, twice the annual footfall of Speyside and countless shops and bars to satisfy a craving, could Edinburgh soon become the epicentre of Scotch whisky tourism?

‘Edinburgh has really been the honeypot of tourism for Scotland and now with the growth of whisky tourism it’s very exciting,’ says Susan Morrison, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Experience, which welcomed around 400,000 visitors in 2017. To put that in perspective, Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland, the top tourist attractions outside of London, both attract over two million visits annually.

‘We capture an element of [Edinburgh tourists] but we don’t by any means capture all visitors, so the more of us around that do that, the better. There’s room for a lot more whisky attractions in the city, which will help us capture more of the visitors that come to Edinburgh than currently we manage to do ourselves here at the top of the Mile.’

Just last week Diageo’s multi-million-pound, seven-storey Johnnie Walker whisky experience was given the green light by city planners. Situated within the former House of Fraser store on Princes Street, right in the city centre, the attraction will feature an immersive ‘multi-sensory’ experience guiding visitors through the art and science of whisky making as well as the 200-year history of the blended Scotch brand. A rooftop bar – which is yet to receive licensing approval – will offer views of Edinburgh Castle and across the city skyline, while a ‘significant’ ground-level shop will provide tastings and whiskies from the Johnnie Walker and Diageo range.

The attraction forms part of a £150m investment by Diageo in improving its Scotch whisky visitor experiences, including at Glenkinchie. Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo global Scotch whisky director, says the group expects the Johnnie Walker Experience to attract the same level of interest as its Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which welcomes 1.71m visitors each year.

‘As the centrepiece of the investment and the future global brand flagship for Johnnie Walker, the visitor experience in central Edinburgh, opening in 2020, will bring to life the story of the brand and its makers and create a unique welcome for millions of whisky fans around the world,’ she says.

‘By offering such a cutting-edge space – which combines experiences with the diversity and rich heritage of Johnnie Walker – we are offering something new that will excite both whisky lovers and those new to Scotch. We have ambitious plans to make this a truly world-leading attraction.’

In the meantime, the revival of the John Crabbie name, one synonymous with Edinburgh’s 19th century blending heritage, is well underway. Brand owner Halewood International began distilling single malt spirit at Chain Pier, a small site at Granton Harbour in December 2018, although plans are to relocate its core single malt production to a larger premises in Leith later this year. The new £7m distillery, named Bonnington, is currently being built on Graham Street, near to John Crabbie’s original premises at Yardheads.

The opening of Chain Pier distillery will be swiftly followed by Holyrood this July. Situated in the renovated Engine Shed on St Leonard’s Lane, a 15-minute walk from the Royal Mile, Holyrood distillery has been built with the visitor experience at its heart. With an interactive distillery tour, bespoke cask ownership scheme and bright, attractive visitor centre, Holyrood expects to tour 45,000 visitors in its first year, building up to 200,000 by year five.

Bill Farrar, sales and marketing director for Holyrood, says demand for a genuine distillery experience in Edinburgh is already high. ‘We asked people if they could visit a distillery within 20 minutes of where they were they standing, would they? We don’t have the room to take all those people if they were telling the truth.

‘Holyrood is very much designed to appeal to a wide cross-section of people rather than just someone who’s fanatical about single malt,’ he adds. ‘There’s a really big demand for what we hope to do.’

Meanwhile, the construction on the uniquely designed, vertical Port of Leith distillery on the Firth of Forth is expected to commence imminently. Once completed, the £5m project will be the first Scottish whisky distillery to be arranged vertically, with the production process laid out from top to bottom. That’s a major draw for whisky enthusiasts searching for a new distillery experience, although the rooftop bar and restaurant with views across the Firth will no doubt attract a less experienced crowd.

Although tourism spend at Edinburgh’s new whisky attractions will no doubt boost the local economy, the impact is expected to be felt beyond the city limits and across the wider Scotch industry as whole.

‘If there’s more whisky attractions for tourists to visit in Edinburgh that inspire them to go further north, that can only be a great thing for whisky tourism in general,’ says Morrison. ‘With these new distilleries, Edinburgh will hopefully become a gateway to the rest of the whisky industry.’

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10th May 2019

Best New Whiskies To Drink This Spring

This spring is an especially auspicious time for whisky enthusiasts seeking something new. On shelf at your local liquor store are a parade of labels you probably haven‘t seen before. Many of them are worth taking home with you. And since these releases run the gamut of prices—ranging from the cost of two tickets to movie night all the way up to the re-sale value of a lightly used car—there‘s something to satisfy every budget. Here‘s a look at the season‘s most exciting offerings, and what you can expect to taste when you‘re ready to pour.

Coopers‘ Craft Barrel Reserve — $32.99

This unique offering from Brown-Forman (the same folks who bring you Old Forester, Jack Daniel‘s, and Woodford Reserve) collects its robust caramel and vanilla flavors courtesy of chiseled oak staves. Special barrels built at the brand‘s very own cooperage are scored with grooves, allowing the liquid to penetrate deeper into the wood, pulling out more flavors as it ages. Bottled at 100-proof, it‘s a sturdy sipping whiskey designed to showcase the artistry of barrel-making. It began a slow rollout in select markets this January, but you can expect to spot the label from coast to coast before year‘s end.

WhistlePig PiggyBack — $49.99

This April release marks the first from the Vermont-based producer since the passing of its legendary master distiller, Dave Pickerell. It‘s a younger variation on the brand‘s flagship rye—this one carrying a 6-year age statement as opposed to the original‘s 10. Designed to play well in Manhattans and Boulevardiers, the liquid maintains a strong cinnamon spice in the finish which also plays perfectly well when sipped neat. It‘s 96.56-proof in the bottle is a nod to Pickerell‘s birth year, 1956.

Bulleit Rye 12-Year-Old — $49.99

In the opposite direction, Bulleit just announced a rye with an older age than its popular flagship. Initially carving a name for itself in the bourbon category, the Diageo-owned brand has found great success delving into that other American whiskey. Expanding its presence there further still, this limited release is a dry and oaky offering that ends in toffee and graham cracker spice. Overall, an assertive entry point into the world of super-premium ryes. Bulleit has yet to announce this one as a permanent fixture, so you‘ll want to grab it before it goes away.

Starward — Nova Australian Single Malt — $55

Australian single malt is positioning itself to be the next big category of world whisky. This is the country‘s first major release in American markets, one that is largely shaped by maturation in ex-shiraz barrels from Down Under. It demonstrates a surprising degree of complexity and tongue-tickling astringency for a spirit that spent not much more than three years in wood. It‘s worth getting your hands on now; if Australian single malt goes the way of Japanese whisky, it won‘t sit on shelves for long.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 — $84.99

Barrell has earned a reputation as one of the country‘s premiere non-distilling producers. They don‘t have to make the stuff, when they‘re this good at sourcing and blending it. To wit, this 11-year-old gem just took home Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Billed as a ‘cinnamon bomb‘, Batch 018 is a careful combination of bourbons aged in both Kentucky and Tennessee. The younger liquid in the mix has bright tropical notes, balanced out by the structure of a spicier spirit—aged for upwards of 15 years in an American rickhouse. Together there is complexity and backbone in a full-flavored sipper, clocking in at a whopping 111.56 barrel-proof. Add a drop or two of water and enjoy.

The GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival — $89.99

Want to know why this highland scotch maker has amassed a cult following? In a word: sherry. Want to taste it for yourself? Procure a bottle of the recently re-released Revival. This one went away briefly in 2015 as old stocks dwindled but its return is a triumphant reminder of what we‘ve been missing. All of the distillate here matures in wood sourced from the sherry bodegas of Jerez, Spain. Revival spent time in butts that formerly held Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso. What rolls out of the wood is a rich whisky with dark and sweet notes of figs, dates and raisins. An exquisite sipper that could still be a bargain at twice the price.

Orphan Barrel Forager‘s Keep — $399.99

Orphan Barrel specializes in bringing to market notable whiskies from now-defunct distilleries. These shuttered warehouses were confined to North America, housing extra old barrels of rye, bourbon, Canadian whisky. Now they dive headfirst into the world of scotch with this 26-year-old single malt from Speyside. Pittyvaich closed permanently in 1993, and was not long for this world. In fact, this limited release now carries more age than its distillery ever did. Now available for pre-order, this gentle liquid meets the mouth with a pronounced creaminess and sustained notes cedar and citrus pith. It‘ll hit shelves, briefly, on June 3rd of this year.

The Last Drop Distillers 1969 Glenrothes Single Malt Whisky — $6,250

If budgetary constraints are of no concern, you ought to consider the newest release from The Last Drop. The London-based company is a connoisseur‘s dream brought to life; dedicated to the procurement of impossibly rare stocks of aged spirit that will never exist again. This month they unveiled a 50-year-old Speyside malt sourced entirely from two casks at the Glenrothes distillery. The first barrel yielded just 130 bottles of whisky. The second, 141. So an allotment of only 271 will make its way across the globe. If you‘re lucky enough to snag one you can expect smooth texture, light hints of cigar smoke, and the ineffable umami complexities that only half a century‘s worth of maturation can deliver.

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22nd January 2019

Whisky Barrels — A Promising Alternative Investment

How much would you pay for a cask of rare Scotch whisky? For some, it seems, there is no limit when it comes to the liquid gold. Earlier this month, an anonymous buyer in Hong Kong paid an incredible, auction-record £285,000 for a sherry cask filled with a 30-year-old Macallan single malt. Its contents, if emptied, would work out at a whopping £1,000 per 70cl bottle. However, other individuals have paid even more for a cask of the prestige alcoholic spirit, with one Scotch whisky brokerage reporting a sale over £500,000. Some industry experts believe there are £1m casks out there waiting to be discovered.

So why are people willing to spend such extortionate amounts of money on the spirit? The answer isn't as straightforward as you may think. For some, casks are merely an investment, well suited for whisky enthusiast or simply an individual looking for an alternative investment. For others, such as connoisseurs and collectors, there's more significance on the experience - tasting a spirit that has been ageing in oak casks for decades upon decades. Although, rarity is also highly sought after. That may sound weird when an estimated three billion litres of the beverage is busy maturing in storage at one given time, which is enough to fill 1,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools. However, in reality, much of it is relatively new, keeping in mind that it requires at least three years of maturation before a spirit can legally take on the name Scotch.

Those operating at the top end, of the extremely rare whisky market, says “there is no shortage of interest from potential buyers”. Analyst and broker Rare Whisky 101 (RW101) has noted increased demand for "quality casks" from connoisseurs, collectors and investors in recent times. Along with, The Dunfermline-based firm, co-founded in 2014 by Andy Simpson and David Robertson, says its past deals with brands such as Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Macallan and Springbank have achieved an average cask price of more than £130,000.

So, is it worth investing in?

Current investors has this to say “whisky is an attractive investment opportunity due to being a slower, long-term industry like gold rather than a rapidly evolving one.” This style of the market is known to provide investors with high returns, and offers very little risk, due to the price of whiskies ever-increasing with age.

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