Talisker Classic Distillery Tour

Approximately five years ago, in a quiet student bar a few miles south of Manchester City Centre, my attention was grabbed by a tall bottle of amber liquid on the back shelf, and so I asked the bartender for a taste. It was like nothing I’d ever tried before: the smoky aroma, the smooth texture, the maritime taste and the slow burn. That was the moment that I really discovered Scotch. That was the very start of my whisky journey. One quick sip by the bar became one glass, and then searching the internet for a bottle. My gateway dram? Talisker Single Malt.
Isle of Skye
Talisker Distillery produce some of my favourite whiskies and will always hold a special place in my heart. Based in Carbost on the Isle of Skye, it is no small mission to plan a visit. We drove from mainland Scotland, across the Skye Bridge over Loch Alsh, and then an hour through the narrow and winding roads of Skye to reach the Distillery. Skye itself is well worth exploring (I recommend wild camping on the North Eastern coast), as it is essentially the coastal equivalent of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I’d say you can taste the rugged coastal landscape in the whisky produced here.
In true adventuring spirit, we did not book tickets for the tour in advance. We rocked up to the distillery and hoped for the best. Once we had finally found a place to park the Bumble Camper in the small car park, we were told that all Classic Tours were booked up until the late afternoon. We were in no rush, so booked onto the next available tour and took the time to explore the coast and have lunch in the local pub just a few minutes walk from the distillery.
Entrance Fee: £10
Tour Length: 45mins
There were about 10 people on the tour with the delightful Gordon, who had a good sense of humour was incredibly knowledgeable. We had some trouble-makers in our group, but Gordon was very patient and made sure they did not disrupt the tour too much for the rest of us.
Talisker Distillery
The tour itself was somewhat generic. It started off with information about malting barley. As Talisker is characteristically peaty, we were given some peat to pass around, then peated and unpeated barley to smell and taste the difference. This part was no doubt interesting for the whisky novices in the group, and as a Talisker fan I was happy to taste the barley that goes into the spirits.
We were then taken through the still room and saw the majestic copper stills: 2 wash stills and 3 spirit stills, and we were given a brief explanation of the spirit safe which was cordoned off about 5-10 metres from the public. This was disappointing as the spirit safe is one of my favourite parts about distillery tours! Next, it was outside to see the wormtub condensers. This was the first time I’d seen wormtubs in person as not many distilleries still use this method. We were then taken through a corridor with a glass panel on the wall revealing the warehouse, where we could see barrels of Talisker whisky, but sadly we were not allowed inside. Again, disappointing as I would have loved to have smelt the aromas of my favourite whisky maturing! Finally, we were each handed a dram of Talisker Dark Storm and had a somewhat hurried tasting session before being ushered back to the gift shop and bar.
 
The Warehouse
Overall, the distillery and surrounding land was beautiful to see but the tour itself was not particularly special as it focused more on the production of whisky in general than the things that make Talisker unique. They do offer a Whisky and Chocolate tour for £30 or a Talisker Masterclass tour for £45, which are longer tours with guided tastings of 3-5 additional drams, respectively.
Talsiker do have an exclusive bottling available at the distillery which is available to buy at the shop or taste at the bar. You can find my tasting notes on that here.

An Introduction to English Whisky Distillers – Part Two

Alongside the rise of new Scotch distillers there is a rumbling south of the border. England, like Scotland, has a history of producing whisky. Alfred Barnard recorded four English distillers in his book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887): Lea Valley Distillery (London), Bank Hall Distillery (Liverpool), Bristol Distillery and Vauxhall Distillery (Liverpool). Unlike Scotch however, production of whisky in England ceased in 1905 with the closure of the Lea Valley Distillery. Thankfully, this near-century silence ended in 2003. Now there are more distilleries than before and more on the way! Yet again, we have listed them for you alphabetically. 



Copper Rivet Distillery


In 2005, the Russel family began planning to build a distillery. Copper Rivet Distillery is the realisation of Bob, Matthew and Stephen Russel. In 2012, the Russel family recruited their head distiller. The family had always known that they would need guidance to create a premium spirit and looked to enlist help. What better place than the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh? It was there that Stephen was introduced to Abhi, who was teaching brewing and distilling to postgraduates. Once they began talking, it obvious that Abhi was who the Russels were looking for. The next question was where would the distillery be? 

As the years past the family considered a number of locations and both London and Scotland were strong contenders. There was only one place that the family truly had set their hearts on – Kent, particularly Medway. Sites at Fort Amherst, Rochester High Street, Chatham and the Isle of Grain were all considered but suffered from irreparable issues. It was only when Matthew Russel stumbled across Pumphouse No.5 whilst on an outing with his family. Once it was discovered that the Pumphouse was for sale, Copper Rivet Distillery had found its home. 

Copper Rivet will release their Masthouse whisky in 2020. Their single malt will be aged in ex-sherry cask, sweet wine barrels and ex-bourbon casks. In the meantime, you can enjoy their Dockyard Gin or Vela Vodka. 

www.copperrivetdistillery.com

twitter.com/rivetdistillery

Dartmoor Distillery

Dartmoor Distillery began with a visit to Islay. Founders Greg Millar and Simon Crow were
determined to start their own distillery after working in one of Islay’s own. Devon offers the perfect conditions for a whisky distillery. The land and climate offers great barley, the granite geology purifies the water and that salty sea air should provide some extra flavour to whisky ageing in the barrels.

The Dartmoor Distillery will be based in the Bovey Tracey Town Hall. The Town Hall is a grade II listed building, built in 1866. Over the last 150 years, the Town Hall has served as the council chambers, the fire station and the cinema. As the council plans to move to a new civic centre, Dartmoor distillery plans to give the Town Hall a new purpose and will maintain its heritage.

Dartmoor Distillery will use a 1,400 litre copper pot still that Greg and Simon had sourced from Migeul D’Anjou, a cognac master distiller from Pons, in the Cognac region.  Once the new make has passed through their specially selected still, it will be matured in three different barrel types; American Oak bourbon barrels, French oak wine barrels, and Spanish oak sherry barrels.

Dartmoor’s distillation is overseen by master distillery Frank McHardy. McHardy is an industry veteran of 54 years. Throughout those years McHardy has worked Invergordon, Tamnavullin, Bruichladdich, Springbank and Bushmills. From his years of experience McHardy should be able to propel Dartmoor distillery forward into a prestigious institution that can take pride in the quality of their spirits.

dartmoorwhiskydistillery.co.uk

twitter.com/DartmoorWhisky


East London Liquor Company

Another addition to London’s spirit scene. The East London Liquor Company is bringing back distillation to London’s east end and, alongside Bimber, are bringing whisky back to London after a century. The E.L.L.C began as a project in 2012, under the leadership of of Alex Wolpert. Prior to the E.L.L.C Wolpert worked across the drink industry; in restaurants, bars and the training and purchasing operations of the Barworks and Diner Group. However, after years of working throughout the industry Wolpert decided to go his own way. 

The first step was to find the perfect location. It was in 2013 that Wolpert found an old pub on the site of the abandoned glue factory in Bow Wharf. Interestingly, the home of E.L.L.C is just a few miles from Lea Valley Distillery – the last distillery in England to produce whisky for 100 years.  

With the location decided and renovation and construction underway, it was time to formulate the gin. Wolpert enlisted the aid of distilling consultant Jamie Baxter. Under the tutelage of Baxter Chase Distillery, City of London Distillery and Burleigh Gin have all come to fruition. Whilst work was being done on distillery and the Holsteinn stills were still being developed, Baxter began concocting E.L.L.C’s gins. The development of these gins took place in Leicester, using 3 small alembic stills. Baxter’s time developing and experimenting resulted in three distinct gins: E.L.L.C London Dry Gin, E.L.L.C Batch 1 Gin and E.L.L.C Batch 2 Gin. In July 2014, production finally began on-site. 

eastlondonliquorcompany.com

twitter.com/DistillinginE3


< Part One

An Introduction to English Whisky Distillers – Part One

Alongside the rise of new Scotch distillers there is a rumbling south of the border. In fact, England’s number of distilleries has increased 413% over 6 years. England, like Scotland, has a history of producing whisky. Alfred Barnard recorded four English distillers in his book The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom (1887): Lea Valley Distillery (London), Bank Hall Distillery (Liverpool), Bristol Distillery and Vauxhall Distillery (Liverpool). Unlike Scotch however, production of whisky in England ceased in 1905 with the closure of the Lea Valley Distillery. Thankfully, this near-century silence ended in 2003. Now there are more distilleries than before and more on the way! Yet again, we have listed them for you alphabetically. 

Adnams

Established in 1872, you may have seen a can of Adnam’s beer in your local shop. However, what
you may not know is that in 2010 Adnams branched out and built Adnams Copper House Distillery. Unlike some of the other whisky distillers here, Adnams has a rich heritage. Beer has been brewed on the site of the Adnam brewery and distillery for around 672 years. Adnams can trace their lineage back to Johanna de Corby and 17 other ‘ale wives’ who were charged for breaking ale assizes. The Adnams enter the scene in 1872, when brother Ernest and George Adnam – with the help of their father – bought the Sole Bay Brewery. Country life in Suffolk didn’t suit brother George and he moved to South Africa, where he was unfortunately eaten by a crocodile. No joke, he was actually eaten by a crocodile.

The Copper House Distillery is the most energy-efficient in the U.K. and also generates water and steam for the brewery. Adnams employs a full time environmental manager and follows a four-pillar approach to sustainability; carbon, water, waste and biodiversity. So far Adnams is the only brewery to complete a full carbon lifecycle assessment on their entire beer range as well as a full water lifecycle assessment to reduce their water usage. Alongside this they are zero to landfill and provide habitats for an estimated 240,000 honey bees.  



Bimber Distillery

A London based distillery, Bimber was founded in August 2015 and released their first vodka bottling in early 2016. Bimber may sound more like a dwarf from Tolkien’s universe! That is not where this distillery takes it name from. The name Bimber draws its name from the Polish, meaning moonshine, in honour of the founders heritage. 

At this present time, Bimber is currently home to two Alembic copper pot stills ‘Doris’ – 1000 litres –  and ‘Astraea’ – 600 litres. Now, you may think those two names are entirely random but both have meaning. Now, unless you’ve done some ancient history during your time in education or are a hellenophile you may be forgiven for not knowing that Doris was a Greek god. The name Doris is an amalgamation of doron – meaning gift – and zoros –  meaning pure. Get it? Doris is giving us the gift of a pure alcohol! Astraea is another Greek goddess. Astraea was the goddess of innocence and purity. The still Astraea will be used to refine Bimber’s new make. 

Bimber received their license to distill whisky on 16th May, 2016. The spirit was distilled and laid down in a number of casks. Bimber will be using ex-Bourbon casks from Woodford Reserve, Virgin American Oak, ex-Pedro Ximenez casks, and ex-Ruby Port barrels. The whisky will be left in the barrels for 3 years and 1 day. In the mean time, you can taste their gins, vodka and fruit-infused creations.   

Cooper King Distillery

The smallest whisky distillery in England, established by former scientist and architect Abbie and
Chris. In 2014, Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume decided to leave the hustle and bustle of life in the U.K and headed for Australia. It was during this time that they visited Tasmania’s eight distilleries and were inspired to established their own. Educated by godfather of Tasmanian whisky, Bill Lark, I think we can allow for high expectations for Cooper King distillery. The Cooper King distillery will be located 10 miles north of York, in the small village of Sutton-on-the-Forest, between the Howardian Hills and the Yorkshire Dales. Such a location promises some breathtaking scenery. The distillery and warehouses will be situated in a renovated stable block accompanied by a tasting room and well-stocked store.

You may think that Cooper King is an odd name for a distillery. The name is inspired Charles Cooper King, born in England in 1843 and a Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Marine Artillery. Charles Cooper King was also Chris Jaume’s great-great-grandfather. In 1885 Charles documented the Cooper King family history in a handwritten volume and traced the family to almost every English county. Cooper King was able to trace his ancestry back to 1030, linking to the Pigot family of Yorkshire. Interestingly, the Pigot family’s coat of arms can be seen throughout Ripon Cathedral.

Like many other distilleries, Cooper King is aiming to be as sustainable as possible. To achieve this aim Abbie and Chris are looking into numerous methods. They plan to to compost their food waste, feed it into a bio-plant that will turn it into electricity for homes. As well as this, they aim to run their distillery on 100% green energy.

The Cooper King distillery will produce whisky, gin and a plethora of liqueurs and flavoured spirits. Abbie and Chris will be receiving support from a brewing consultant and a Tasmanian distillation consultant. With their support and guidance, Abbie and Chris plan to produce a whisky entirely English and distinctly different to whisky produced north of the border. The whisky will use Yorkshire barley, a unique copper pot still handcrafted in Tasmania and will use oak casks coopered by Alastair Simms of White Rose Cooperage – the last master cooper in England! We can expect Cooper King whisky to arrived in 2020! Cooper King gin will be a blend of their own malt spirit with premium English wheat spirit and carefully selected botanicals.

www.cooperkingdistillery.co.uk

twitter.com/CKdistillery

                                                                                                                                                Part Two  >

New Scotch Distilleries to Watch – Part 8!

It seems that every other week a new distillery is planned, granted permission or has been built up and down Scotland. In fact, from 2010 to 2015 the HMRC granted over 150 distilling licenses! Admittedly most of these licenses have been granted to companies planning to produce vodka and gin, however, there at least 40 of these distilleries that plan to produce our beloved single malt scotch. How can you keep with all these developments, how can you keep up to date with the all this new whisky? Fortunately, we are doing that for you – and in alphabetical order!

Borders


Borders Distillery is the second project of R&B Distillers and construction will begin once the distillery on the isle of Rasaay is complete. The site of the Borders distillery was chosen through a public poll, the small town of Peebles was chosen. 

R&B distillers was founded in 2014 by Alasdair Day and Bill Dobbie. Whilst neither had any experience with whisky before, Day’s family’s involvement with whisky dates back over a 120 years. In 1895, Day’s great grandfather Richard Day, worked for the Coldstream grocer J&A Davidson. By 1923, Richard had taken over the business and was blending several styles of Scotch whisky. All of these recipes survive, kept in the company’s ‘cellar book’ or account book from 1899. In 2009, Day revived one of his great grandfather’s blends – the Tweedale. Day used the exact same nine distilleries that his great grandfather used!   

Following the success of the Tweedale, Day decided to maintain momentum by constructing a distillery. Originally, Day had planned to build it in the Borders – maintaining a link to his whisky heritage. However, both Day and Dobbie were convinced to build Rasaay distillery first. Apart from this, there is not much information. 

As with Rasaay distillery, R&B distillers have been selling a precursor whisky – Borders single grain. The Borders single grain contains fifty percent wheat and fifty percent malted barley from the same Highland distillery. Like Rasaay Whilst We Wait, the Borders single grain is representative of what the distillery shall make. As well as being representative in flavour some believe that the use of barley and wheat is an inference to what the distillery will produce. Whilst nothing has been said, the Borders will likely distil both malt and grain in copper pot stills in a nod to historical regional distillation techniques.

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle


In July, 2016, Boban Costin and Elizabeth Sutherland submitted a proposal to the Highland and Island council to convert a number of building on the Dunrobin Castle site to a microdistillery and warehouse. This proposal was given the go-ahead by the council.

Dunrobin Castle is well suited for a distillery. The distillery would have access to the estate’s private water supply the Cagar Foesaig. As well as this the Dunrobin estate owns and managers some of the Highlands most arable farmland and already produce barley for a number of distillery. So we have an abundance of barley and a source of water from the estate mountain ranges, perfect for a distillery. To help the project along Costin and Sutherland have invited veteran Douglas Cruikshank, former Chivas Brothers director, to give guidance. So the natural ingredients and guidance of a man with forty-seven years of experience in the industry… Dunrobin is getting off to a good start!

Dunrobin plans to produce one single malt and two styles of gin! At first the distillery will produce 94,000 litres year from two copper pot stills. This is planned to rise to 300,000 litres a year!. Dunrobin is expected to be operational in June 2018. 


Jedburgh Distillery

Jedforest Hotel


One of the largest distilleries in our lists! The project is estimated at £40,000,000 and will provide fifty jobs for the region. The distillery will even have a two hundred seat restaurant!  

Mossburn Distillers Ltd submitted a planning application in June, 2016, to construct a large scale distillery near the former Jedforest Hotel, Camptown. Permission was granted by the council in November shortly after. The project is divided into two phases. The first phase spans between 2017 – 2018, and will see the construction of a smaller distillery for education purposes. Once that is completed, the second phase will be the large scale distillery. This is planned to produce 1,000,000 bottles a year – around 2,500,000 a year!



Toulvaddie

Toulvaddie is a relatively new edition to the upcoming Scotch distilleries. However, it is already achieving a number of firsts. Toulvaddie is the first legal distillery in Fearn and Tarbart peninsula but more importantly it is the first Scotch distillery founded by a woman for over two hundreds years. The distillery is to be built on the site of the former Royal Navy Airbase, HMS owl, and will begin production in 2017. The distillery will produce 30,000 litres a year once built. In the meantime, Toulvaddie will be selling seventy litre casks and access to a Founders club. Toulvaddie will produce both peated and unpeated whisky.           
                    

Wolfburn


Wolfburn distillery can be traced back to 1821 and ceased production in the 1850s. Whilst up and running, the distillery produced 125,000 litres a year – making it the largest distillery in Caithness. 

In May, 2011, one of Wolfburn’s team went in search of the old distillery’s location in Thurso, Caithness. A 150 years had not been kind to the distillery and all that remained was a few discernible pieces of masonry. In 2012, Wolfburn purchased a parcel of land just a short walk from the original distillery site and ground was broken in August of that year. Wolfburn received help along the way, being given the old fermenters from the now defunct Caperdonich. It was on the 25th January that spirits started to flow from Wolfburn again. In 2016 Wolfburn released two whiskies, the first in March and the second in September.  


< Part 7



New Scotch Distilleries to Watch – Part 7!

It seems that every other week a new distillery is planned, granted permission or has been built up and down Scotland. In fact, from 2010 to 2015 the HMRC granted over 150 distilling licenses! Admittedly most of these licenses have been granted to companies planning to produce vodka and gin, however, there at least 40 of these distilleries that plan to produce our beloved single malt scotch. How can you keep with all these developments, how can you keep up to date with the all this new whisky? Fortunately, we are doing that for you – and in alphabetical order!

Raasay Distillery


One of two of R&B Distillers projects. The Raasay Distillery will be the f
irst legal distillery on the isle of Raasay, all others before were illicit stills! R&B received permission from the Highland and Islands council in February 2016 to begin the construction and restoration work of the Victorian ex-hotel, Borodale house. 

R&B broke ground soon after in June. The construction work should be completed in Spring 2017 and production should hopefully begin around April with the first bottles of single malt expected in 2020! Raasay Distillery will be produce ninety-four thousand litres a year and expect to make around one-hundred and fifty thousand bottles of Scotch a year! If 2020 seems too far away do not worry, R&B released Rasaay While We Wait – a lightly peated single malt aged in Tuscan red wine casks. A tipple intended to represent the distillery own future production. As well as this R&B offers membership for the Na Tùsairean Club – Scots Gaelic for ‘The Pioneers’. The members of the club will own whisky from the first one hundred casks and will also have access to the luxury lounge at the Borodale house.  

The small isle of Raasay will benefit greatly from the distillery. R&B is expected to employ up to 10% of the islands population of 120 and the distillery is projected to bring around 12,000 visitors in the first year. Raasay’s wildlife will also benefit! R&B have constructed a bat hotel (For the most North-westerly population of Brown Long Eared bats), planting a tree for every one that is felled and a culvert has been laid under the road to allow the burn to flow freely as well as a mammal passage for local wildlife – like otters. 

www.rbdistillers.com

www.twitter.com/RBdistillersLtd

www.masterofmalt.com/distilleries/r-and-b-whisky-distillery/

Shetland Reel Saxa Vord Distillery


Saxa Vord Distillery is the work of Stuart and Wilma Nickerson. Stuart has worked in the whisky industry for thirty five years, having managed several distilleries and revived the Glenglassaugh Distillery before selling it to the Benriach Group. The distillery is also owned by Debbie and Frank Strang, owners of the Saxa Vord holiday resort in Unst and The Malt Whisky Co. based in Portknockie. The distillery is on the site of the former RAF base Saxa Vord at Unst, in the Shetland Isles. Saxa Vord Distillery is amongst the first of this new wave of distilleries. Shetland Reel, the name of Saxa Vord spirits, is the first single malt whisky from the Shetland Isle sold legally. So far there have been four different limited edition casks strength whiskies! The whisky was distilled in Portsoy but bottled in Unst. Two of the whiskies were matured in casks that held Scotch, and the other two were matured in virgin German oak. These single malts have unfortunately sold out! Currently, to fill the void, you can purchase blended malt whisky or a variety of gins! 


www.shetlandreel.com

www.twitter.com/ShetlandReelGin

www.masterofmalt.com/distilleries/saxa-vord-gin-distillery/

The Borders Distillery

The Three Still Co.’s edition to the race for the Borders first distillery in over 180 years. Behind the Three Still Co. is Tim Carton, John Fordyce, Tony Roberts, and George Tait. All are industry veterans, having been heads for William Grant & Sons. Evidently, we are not the only ones excited for this distillery! Three Stills was able to raise £10,000,000! Leading investors are Edinburgh based Badenoch & Co. – whose owner Malcolm Offord will become Three Stills chairman – and the Duke of Buccleuch. Alongside this was private funding from France, Switzerland and South America.


In August 2016, Three Stills broke ground at a disused mill at Hawick beginning construction on the regions first legal distillery since 1837. Three Stills chose Hawick for access to ‘plentiful supply of pure water’ and because the region ‘is undoubtedly Scotland’s most fertile barley-producing land.’ The Borders distillery is expected to begin production in July 2017. The distillery will be producing both single malt whisky and a gin using local botanicals. We can expect the gin to ready for sale in 2018! In the meantime get yourself a bottle of the Clan Fraser blend and look forward to whisky flowing from the Borders again! 

www.clanfraserwhisky.com


www.badenochandco.co.uk/portfolio_three_stills

The Glasgow Distillery Company


The Glasgow Distillery Company takes its name from Glasgow’s original distillery that was originally founded at Dundashill in 1770 and survived until the turn of the 20th century. The individuals behind revival are Liam Hughes, Mike Hayward and Ian McDougal. They were able to raised several million pounds and received £130,000 from the Regional Selective Assistance through Scottish Enterprise. In 2013 Glasgow Distillery Co. acquired a property at Glasgow’s Hillingdon Business Park, and established the first distillery in Glasgow for a hundred and ten years. Whilst we will have to wait until 2018 for their single malt Glasgow Distillery Co. have released several gins, a vodka and have independently bottle two Speyside single malts.

www.glasgowdistillery.com

www.twitter.com/GlasgowDC

www.masterofmalt.com/distilleries/the-glasgow-distillery-co-gin-and-whisky-distillery

Torabhaig Distillery


A subsidiary of Mossburn Distillers, Torabhaig Distillery will be the first distillery to open on the Isle of Skye for one hundred and eighty-five years! The site for the distillery is a 19th century farm steading, on Skye’s east coast. The project cost around £5,000,000 and construction began in May 2014. The completion of the distillery and the production of spirit was expected at the end of 2015 but due to the condition of the farm construction took longer than expected. Production is now expected in early 2017 and the distillery should be open to the public in summer 2017. Once completed the distillery will produced five hundred thousand litres a year. Initially, every drop will be reserved for single malts, however, there is the possibility of blending further down the line. 

Torabhaig was originally the idea of Sir Ian Noble, founder of Noble Grossart, who moved to Skye 1972. Noble – who founded independent blender and bottler Pràban na Linne (Gaelic Whiskies) in 1976 – planned to convert the 19th farm steading at Torabhaig into a distillery. He’d obtained planning permission for the project as early as 2002, though sadly passed away in 2010 before his plans could be realised. Sir Ian’s wife Lucilla Noble has has been offered a position on the board of Torabhaig Distillery. Lucilla commented:

                     “Iain long ago recognised the great potential of the Torabhaig steading as the perfect site for a distillery on the Sleat peninsula and worked hard towards that objective. I am very pleased that this ambitious redevelopment is about to be started and that his vision will become a reality.”




< Part 6                                                    Part 8 >