Speyside whiskies

31 January, 2014

“Although only fully defined recently in the last set of Scotch whisky laws, the Speyside style has long been connected with a benchmark The Glenlivet set going back many years. History tells us many Speyside distillers sought to emulate the Glenlivet style, and many used the ‘Glenlivet’ regional name as a badge of ultimate quality.”

Burgess adds: “In today’s world, single malts have become brands in themselves but there is a lasting legacy of what those pioneering distillers were trying to achieve – our founder George Smith among them – to create a smooth, sweet floral whisky that could be appreciated by consumers in Scotland and beyond.”

Latest from The Glenlivet is a trio of experimental expressions exclusive to members of the Glenlivet Guardians, the distillery’s equivalent of Diageo’s Friends of the Classic Malts or Ardbeg’s Committee. The three whiskies in question are Classic, described as fruity with soft sweet caramel and toffee notes; Exotic, which is rich with warm spicy notes; and Revival, fruity with a creamy sweetness. Guardians have voted for which one they wish to see bottled as the limited edition The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter, which is due to be released next month.

Cardhu remains Diageo’s leading Speyside single malt, accounting for some 150,000 cases per year, but last month the company announced a new release programme which is destined to shine the international spotlight on another of Diageo’s Speyside single malts, the previously elusive Mortlach.

As Diageo’s head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan says: “No one is more committed to distilling on Speyside than Diageo. There is wide stylistic variation, from Cardhu and Glendullan, which display classic Speyside style, to Cragganmore, which is significantly different, to Benrinnes, and to Mortlach, which is the most different of them all. Mortlach is among the most distinctive single malts in Scotland, and the distillery has an absolutely unique distillation regime. We say that Mortlach is 2.8 times distilled. People who know the whisky are passionate about it.

“We are investing £18 million at the distillery in Dufftown, with work due to begin in the next few months and take two years to complete. A replica of the current stillhouse will be built, along with a new mash tun and washbacks. The capacity of the plant will be doubled from 3.8mla to 7.6mla.”

From the middle of this year onwards, four expressions of Mortlach will be available in global markets, with the focus squarely on global travel and the luxury and connoisseur segment. The expressions in question are Mortlach Rare Old, Special Strength, 18-year-old and 25-year-old, with the malt’s signature European oak maturation element being very much in evidence.

Beyond the massive financial votes of confidence invested in Speyside by Diageo and Chivas Brothers, last month’s Mortlach announcement closely coincided with one from The Edrington Group, relating to its intention to spend no less than £100 million rebuilding its Macallan distillery and associated visitor centre. Subject to receiving planning consent, work on the project will begin in autumn 2014 and is due to be completed in spring 2017.

Edrington is to work with architects Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners to develop the Macallan Estate, which boasts the Jacobean manor house of Easter Elchies at its heart, and as Ian Curle, chief executive of Edrington, says: “This is a confident investment in the future of The Macallan and its home on Speyside. Our plan for the estate includes a contemporary distillery that embodies the international style of The Macallan and builds on the brand’s tradition of quality and craftsmanship. As this long-term investment develops it will bring significant employment and economic benefit to the local community.”

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