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Sunday 31 March 2024


World Whiskies Awards 2024 | World Drinks Awards



The global winners in the World Whiskies Awards 2024 competitions were announced at function in London on 18 March 2024.

Whisky Magazine has been presenting the results of its World Whiskies Awards for 24 years (beginning as the Best of the Best competition in 2001). This year’s announcement represents the culmination of a rigorous blind-judging process that saw more than 200 judges from around the globe assess more than 1,500 different whiskies from more than 40 countries. The competition named its World’s Best winners across 23 categories, including single malt, blended, pot still and others. They were categorized as Best, Gold, Silver and Bronze as rated by the judges.


World's Best Single Malt: The English Sherry Cask, 46% ABV, England 


BEST Indian Single Malt: Indri Drú, 57.2% ABV, NAS

Gold: Indri Drú, 57.2% ABV, NAS 

Silver: Indri Diwali Collector's Edition 2023, 60.5% ABV, NAS

Bronze: The Kadamba XR Sherry Cask Collection 42.80% ABV, NAS 



BEST Overall Scotch Single Malt, Glen Moray Phoenix Rising, 40% ABV, NAS

BEST Scotch Speyside: Glen Moray Phoenix Rising, 40% ABV, NAS

BEST Scotch Speyside By Age

  • 12 Years & Under, GlenAllachie 12 YO, 48% ABV
  • 13 to 20 Years, GlenAllachie 15 YO, 48% ABV
  • 21 Years & Older, Aultmore 21 YO , 46% ABV


GlenAllachie has been a single malt standout of late, consistently garnering awards in international whisky competitions.

BEST Scotch Highlands: Glencadam, Reserva PX Cask, NAS, 46% ABV

  • 12 Years & Under Cu Bocan, Batch #1, 12 YO, 46% ABV,
  • 13 to 20 Years, Old Pulteney, 18 YO, 46% ABV,
  • 21 Years & Over, Royal Brackla, 21 YO, Oloroso, Palo Cortado and Pedro Ximénez Finish, 46% ABV 

BEST Scotch Campbeltown Glen Scotia Victoriana, NAS, 54.2% ABV

  • 12 Years & Under: Glen Scotia Icons of Campbeltown: The Mermaid, 54.1% ABV
  • 13 to 20 Years: Glen Scotia, 15 YO, 46% ABV.

BEST Scotch Islands: Arran, Quarter Cask, The Bothy, NAS, 56.1% ABV

  • 13 to 20 Years: Jura, 15 YO Sherry Cask, 42.8% ABV.

BEST Scotch Islay, 21 Years & Over:  Ardbeg, 25 YO, 46% ABV.

  • Gold: Ardbeg Uigeadail, NAS, 54.2% ABV;
  • 12 Years & Under, Bowmore, 12 YO, 40% ABV,
  • 13 to 20 Years, Bowmore 15 YO, 43% ABV.

BEST Scotch Islay Small Batch Single Malt: That Boutique-y Whisky Company Islay 8 Years Old

BEST Scotch Lowlands: Auchentoshan, Three Woods, NAS, 43% ABV 

  • 13 to 20 Years: Bladnoch, 19 YO, 46.7% ABV.


BEST Japanese Single Malt: Yoichi 10 YO

BEST Japanese Single Malt

  • 12 Years & Under: Yoichi 10 YO
  • Gold: Ichiro's Malt Chichibu Red Wine Cask
  • Silver: Yoichi 10 Years Old


BEST Taiwanese Single Malt:Kavalan Distillery Select No.2 NAS Taiwan


BEST Scotch Campbeltown Single Cask Single Malt

Glen Scotia, Cask 637 Refill Bourbon Barrel, Scotland

BEST Scotch Highlands Single Cask Single Malt 21 Years & Over

Loch Lomond, Cask 57 Refill American Oak Hogshead, Scotland



BEST BLENDED SCOTCH : Ballantine's 30 Years Old


  • Chivas Regal 18 Years Old
  • Ballantine's  21 Years Old
  • Hankey Bannister 12 Years Old Regency
  • NAS: Ardnamurchan Maclean's Nose


BEST Scotch Blended Malt: Dewar's Double Double 37 Years Old


  • The Lost Distillery Company Towiemore Archivist Micro-Batch Selection
  • Chivas Regal Ultis XX
  • Royal Salute 21 Years Old The Malts Blend



BEST International Blended: Migita, Japan, Blended Bourbon Style 


  • Kaichi Blended Whisky, Japan, NAS, 43% ABV 


  • St. Kilian Distillers:Terence Hill - The Hero - Whisky Mild, NAS, 46% ABV, Germany


Tuesday 26 March 2024



Diageo Global Travel has launched the ‘What’s Your Whisky?’ digital tool into travel retail. The tool enables whisky fans, from novices to enthusiasts, to find the perfect Scotch or whisky to suit their tastes.

It is rolling out with ARI at Lisbon and Faro airports, and with Aelia Duty Free at London City and Paris Orly airports this summer.

The tool features an interactive questionnaire, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), that draws upon a wealth of consumer and distiller insights. The tool uses AI, customer insights, interactive visual cues and a questionnaire to assess consumer’s individual whisky preferences before making recommendations from the Diageo portfolio


The platform uses easy-to-understand visual cues and consumer-friendly questions to assess each user’s preferences over a range of sweet, fruity, spicy and smoky whisky flavours. The data is then collected to create each consumers’ personal ‘flavour print’ which allows the technology to recommend whisky options with a flavour profile that matches the consumer’s.

The ‘What’s Your Whisky?’ experience allows consumers to explore the full range of our Scotch and whiskies in a personalised and completely new way. Rolling this out at scale will help thousands of people find their perfect whisky based on the innovative Flavour Print AI technology. This technology Diageo has already been deploying to great success at the Johnnie Walker Princes Street experience in Edinburgh is now available at travel retail.




Port Ellen, once the remnants of a "ghost" distillery on Islay, a great source of peated whisky in Scotland, is now an ultra exclusive distillery with a luxurious and polished blueprint.

Port Ellen was founded in 1825 on the island of Islay, known for its smoky whiskies. For more than 150 years, the distillery produced peated whisky, which was mostly used for blends as opposed to single malts.  In 1983, the workhorse distillery closed due to an excess of single malt whisky production in the area. The surplus forced a number of whisky-making locations to close in order to promote the financial robustness of larger companies.

In the years since, the site was used for malting barley. That didn’t last long. As whisky fans, collectors, and aficionados discovered there were still barrels of Port Ellen whisky hidden away in warehouses around Scotland, the liquid gained in popularity—and increased in price. In 2017, parent company Diageo announced that the distillery would be rebuilt and reopened.

There are several highly regarded ghost distilleries throughout Scotland, a term that refers to distilleries that were shuttered decades ago but still release whisky from barrels tucked away in warehouses throughout the country. Some of the prominent ones are Auchnagie, Stratheden, Gerston, Lossit and Towiemore, among others. But none as familiar as Port Ellen and its astronomical prices when released by parent company Diageo. The distillery officially reopened end March 2024 after seven years and a £185 million investment.

The new Port Ellen distillery has a completely fresh design, featuring a glass stillhouse, two pairs of copper pot stills that are exact replicas of the original stills, and a set of experimental stills that will be used for smaller batch whiskies (whisky production got underway early this year). The rest of the distillery was completely modernised as well, including the roller mill, the laboratory, the spirit safe, and a sustainability effort that has made it completely carbon neutral. The team is also launching a special programme to study smoke, which will use algorithmic imagery to decipher how the peat levels in the whisky respond to aging.

Port Ellen was a flavour factory for creating a sweet, smoky type of Islay whisky. For the reopening of Port Ellen, what they wanted to do was create two different styles of whisky there, that still had the same style that Port Ellen was known for. What they wanted to do was recreate the stills to the exact specifications as they were before it closed in 1983.

Among the eight million items within Diageo’s renowned alcohol archive lie the blueprints for the stills of Port Ellen from decades ago. The originals have been recreated. While some of the once-abandoned features of the distillery were replicated, Port Ellen reopened with a number of modern improvements and functional elements.

Port Ellen is a private oasis, and visitors will need to request an appointment in advance. Walk-ins are encouraged at other distilleries on Islay, including Caol IIa and Lagavulin. Visitors finish up with a tasting of some of the liquid from that distillery from before it closed in 1983 as a luxury experience.

The transformed construction subtly nods to the history of the ghost of Port Ellen, but there is one timeless relic that is crucial to today’s whisky emergence. Iain McArthur, a former employee of Port Ellen, recently retired after a noteworthy career in whisky making. The remnant cask that is presently being used by Port Ellen to create Gemini, a newly released whisky, was saved by McArthur before the original distillery closed down.

He took it from Port Ellen to Lagavulin, and that's what Diageo took back to Port Ellen for the recent bottling. This was a critical, intrinsic part in, not only the distillery story, but also in saving that wonderful barrel.


For two years, Diageo analyzed various Scotch whiskies using AI and algorithms. They invested $230 million in a portfolio of whisky tourism projects. A portion of this lump sum was dedicated to the exploration of whisky maturation using technology called SmokeDNAi.

The announcement of SmokeDNAi comes on the heels of Port Ellen’s reopening in Scotland after 40 years with modern advancements to both construction and whisky-making.

Using SmokeDNAi, teams tested and analysed the flavour profiles and mouthfeel of non-identical twin whiskies distilled in different casks – one remnant and one original. The pair of rare whiskies is named Port Ellen Gemini, and each bottle costs $50,000.

The purpose of the analysis is to better understand whisky aging in a barrel.

SmokeDNAi technology: SmokeDNAi technology is used by Diageo to test and analyze mouth-feel and flavors of liquids from different casks. They want to have a slow maturation in a barrel where they’re controlling the flavour. They get a much better understanding of why they taste the way they taste, or why they smell the way they smell, or the mouth-feel.

Between two whisky casks from Port Ellen, the vanilla characteristic, vanillin, varied. One cask contained around 3%, while the other included more than double, around 6%. The remnant cask contained liquors from the 1960s and 1980s. Port Ellen can leverage data sets in order to maximize production, flavour and sales of whisky and new blends in the future.

Using samples of whisky, the liquid is put through a chemical analysis process, gas chromatography or liquid chromatography, and data sets of distinct components are broken down by an algorithm. Diageo then uses SmokeDNAi technology and Out of the Ether designs to create a visualization of the flavour profiles of liquors.


It basically takes a signature of that liquid, and then it gives analysts a reading or a spike reading of the different compounds that are in there. Diageo wanted to do was demystify that and make it easy. Diageo also sought to offer consumers taste and flavour through sight. Out of the Ether, "an algorithmic machine generated work of art that harnesses SmokeDNAi technology," according to Diageo, produces imagery of whisky smoke over time. Design experts, in collaboration with Bose Collins, worked to produce visuals that are more easily digested by a consumer versus data sets.

They have, for example, an overlay with the chemical name like vanillin, which smells and tastes like vanilla. Here, whisky enthusiasts can gaze at flavour combinations, aromas and unambiguous profiles that wouldn’t be visible to the naked eye.

On the visual, observers will see the small amounts of one particle that moves around. Then, there's a larger cloud in there and then that will show them the percentile of these compounds that sit in there. Visual profiles may include a combination of coconut, smoky, earthy, medicinal, floral and sweet flavours. It gives the observer a really great, at a glance, visualisation of what's going on inside the barrel, a much, much clearer understanding of your own whisky.


Thursday 21 March 2024





Diageo’s Black Dog 12 YO and 8 YO Blended Scotch Whiskies:

Black Dog Deluxe Gold and Centenary Black Reserve Scotch Whiskies in 2015

Black Dog is a brand of Scotch whisky that is bottled and marketed in India by United Spirits Limited (USL), a subsidiary of Diageo PLC. In 2013, Black Dog was reported to be the world's fastest growing Scotch whisky by volume, according to International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR), with the highest consumption reported in India. The whiskies used in the blend come from Scotland. Black Dog Scotch Whisky sold in India is bottled in Parmori District Nasik in Maharashtra, by importing the undiluted spirits from Scotland, a strategy that avoids the 150% import duties on liquor entering India that is bottled prior to import, while paying only about 30% when bottled in India. The Black Dog Centenary Black Reserve is a well-matured and blended 8-year-old and the Deluxe Gold Reserve was a decent 12-year-old Scotch whisky.

Sir Walter Millard features prominently on both items

Originally, the print on the carton and the bottle labels, as can be seen above for the Deluxe Gold Reserve, both began, ”Sir Walter Millard travelled to Scotland in 1883 in search of an impeccable Scotch whisky. His search ended in a blend created by James Mackinlay from Leath. Being a keen angler, Sir Walter Millard named the whisky Black Dog in honour of his favourite salmon fishing fly used in the Spey and Tay rivers of Scotland since the early 19th century. Thus was born the Black Dog Scotch Whisky.” This was followed by details of the nose, palate, finish and other regulation attributes, which is the norm for most brands of alcohol. The very same tale featured on the 8 YO as well. The story of this Sir Walter Millard fishing for salmon in the Spey and Tay rivers in the Scottish Highlands (Speyside) did not ring true.

A study shows that these are patently false claims. Walter Samuel Millard (1864–1952) was born in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire in 1864, the seventh son of Rev. J.H. Millard, and was a 19-year-old stripling in 1883. To claim that an unknown lad of 19 could be an expert in assessing an international class blended whisky created for export to the Indian subcontinent and other British Colonies in proximity as well as fishing flies in well-known rivers of Scotland is a gross distortion of the truth in an era when such claims could not be checked. The internet changed everything radically. There is no record of his ever being knighted either.   

The entire lot of Black Dog whiskies were suddenly taken out of the Indian market in 2017-18, for rewording and to possibly preclude uncomfortable questions about Mr Millard. Today, on return to the market, there is no such fulsome and repeated mention of Sir Walter Millard. Pray, why would such a “prominent” name, which had featured for decades and served as an USP, be removed?

This brand of whisky reappeared only in 2018-19, in a radically different avatar and with the notation on the bottle labels and cardboard cartons changed considerably. The Black Dog Deluxe Gold Reserve became the Black Dog Triple Gold Reserve. The notation on the Black Dog Centenary Black Reserve also changed almost totally. How and why did this change come about?

No mention of Sir Walter Millard?

In the 19th century, the sun never set over the British Empire, so vast was its spread. Since the only mode of international cross-continental travel was by sea, the Empire invariably faced logistic and infrastructural problems as sea routes were subject to unpredictable weather conditions en route. While a great many problems could be resolved by local provisioning, the high and mighty faced problems in supplies which could only be brought from back home, e.g., wine, alcohol and tobacco.

Herbert Musgrave Phipson (1850–1936), was a British wine merchant and naturalist who lived in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, from 1878 to 1905. He had come to India in 1878 as a partner in the firm of J. A. Forbes & Co., Bombay. In 1883, he established his own company, Phipson & Co. Wine Merchants and employed a Briton from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Walter Samuel Millard (1864–1952), an educated young bachelor who would soon become fairly knowledgeable about liquor, which could be traced back to his in-laws to be. Records show that Millard first set foot in India in early 1884. Phipson also served as the Honorary Secretary of the Bombay Natural History Society and the Editor of its Journal for twenty years – as the sole editor for fifteen years till 1901 and then joint editor with Millard, who succeeded him as Hon'y Sec'y in 1906, when Phipson returned home due to his wife's continued sickness. There is no record in the UK of Walter Samuel Millard ever being knighted. This was a hoax played on the gullible customer. However, his services to the Society supra and other causes, as also to the British Armed Forces as a provender of high-quality perishables, is indisputable.

Phipson and Co. expanded quickly and had outlets all over Asia, in present-day Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and more, which required a lot of shuttling to and fro. Unfortunately for them, wine and alcohol seemed to be in short supply, mainly because they were sourced from home around The Cape Of Good Hope.

In 1883, Phipson was in England to place bulk orders for his trade and also set up both contacts and contracts with stockists of Red, White and Rose Wines, Port, Sherry, Gin, Brandy, Cognac and Whisky. Whisky could only be procured from Scotland. He was hard-pressed for time to find a Whisky to suit the hot and dusty Indian and other Asian countries. Phipson then employed Walter Samuel Millard (1864–1952), a 19-year-old educated bachelor presumably fairly knowledgeable about liquor to do the concomitant legwork. Both Millard and Phipson were pure Britishers, with nary a Scottish connection. This implied that the 19-year-old Millard had to travel to Scotland, scout the numerous districts,  distilleries and agents and make an informed decision.

Phipson detailed him to go to Speyside and look up distilleries and then fetch up at Mackinlay's in Leith, Edinburgh and get him to produce and/or provide a good blended whisky that would suit conditions in Asia. By then, MacKinley’s name and fame had started to circulate, to peak with his 15-YO blends that he would supply Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton between 1898 and 1907. He was known in Scotland as the 'Royalty of Whisky'. Three bottles of 15-year bottled-in-1898 Mackinlay's Scotch Whisky were found in 2010 among three crates of Scotch and two of brandy buried beneath a basic hut Shackleton had used during his dramatic failed 1907-09 Nimrod excursion to the Antarctic. Millard met Mackinlay's daughter at Leith, and was betrothed to her as a young 19-year-old youth. Phipson was still in England when the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) was founded on 15 September 1883. Upon his return to Bombay, he immediately joined BNHS.

In 1875, Charles registered the brand Mackinlays Vatted Old Benvorlich Scotch whisky and opened offices in London, first on Queen Victoria Street then at Crutched Friar. Mackinlays Vatted Old Benvorlich was thus introduced to London. He purchased Corbett Borthwicks Warehouse, East Old Dock, Leith, later that year and used the spacious area as his blending headquarters.

James, son of Charles Mackinlay, established in 1815 (see label), was a second-generation whisky blender from the Leith family who produced a large number of brands of different ages, like Mackinlay's 'Fine Old Scotch Whisky' as three to seven-year olds were known and 'Rare Old Scotch Whisky', the term for eight-year-olds. He was also a supplier of raw single malt whiskies to other whisky brands that were sprouting all over, once the ban on blending grain and malt whiskies was removed for brewers and distillers in 1860 and for grocers in 1863. Millard toured the smallish Speyside region as ordered, taking extensive notes of as many popular brands he could find. He then left for Edinburgh, heading for Mackinlay's establishment. As stated earlier, he met and fell in love with Mackinlay's daughter there, whom he was to ultimately wed in 1889, the year the finest 12 YO expression of Black Dog was released.

Together with James, Millard discovered the blend he  was looking for. Its unique taste, delicate aroma and smooth effect on the palate were the aspects that appealed the most and brought an interim end to Millard's quest since time was of the essence and he needed to get back to India. British export rules did not allow the carrying of unnamed and unregistered bottles/containers of alcohol, so the whisky selected had to be named, registered and put on the ship's cargo manifest as such. The prevailing blanket ban on the export of Scotch whisky in wooden containers (read oak barrels) was not in force then and it is not clear whether the Whisky was transported in barrels, a format favoured by most other blenders, allowing the whisky in the oak casks to absorb maritime air while in transit, or in bottles. Millard may have named it after himself, probably for want of a better option, while Mackinlay helped him register it. There is no evidence to support either hypothesis, though Millard did escort that consignment. There is no record of any whisky named Millard's Black Dog either.

Phipson's actual reaction to this fait accompli is not recorded. There is an interesting anecdote as to the origin of this brand's final label. Being an 'Angler' and considering his love for this sport, Millard named the Scotch after his favourite fishing fly - the Black Dog - allowed, in all probability, as a quid pro quo by Phipson. This unsubstantiated tidbit notwithstanding, there is  a simpler and less fairy-tale like school of thought. It is quite probable that James Mackinlay, already a big name in Scotch Whisky blending, was titling his collection of brands after an array of fishing flies and that Millard selected a regal-sounding existing brand, Black Dog. Again, this is unsubstantiated as all MacKinlay's blends are examined in detail in a separate post. All said and done, Millard had just signed a contract for it and was, temporarily, the Boss. The bare truth is that Millard was nothing more than a young and educated representative of Phipson in 1883, destined to rise to fame for his long future association with the Bombay Natural History Society, and possibly, the success of his mascot, Black Dog.  

This Scotch, supposedly 'Millard's Black Dog', was only eight years old, a 'Rare Scotch', and in all possibility, a Blended Scotch whisky. Millard wanted MacKinlay to try the various whiskies- both single grain and single malts- he had described in his notes. He thus brought about, by default, the most important quality required of a blender of Scotch Whisky, viz., to give the spirit an extended period of time to blend/marry and mature in a wooden cask! MacKinlay was to set up the Glen Mhor Distillery at Inverness in the Highlands in 1892, with an extension in Leith, 160 miles away into the mid-Speyside region to facilitate blending. 

Millard loaded a shipful of 'his' Black Dog whisky and set course for India with more to follow. Competition was building up; a plethora of brands was also roving overseas in search of markets. While Mackinlay kept up the supply of Black Dog Rare Whisky, he was also carrying out experiments in his own backyard by adding similarly aged whiskies based on his knowledge and Millard's notes and testing them out. 12-year-old Scotch whiskies were now emerging, though the 'Premium Extra Special' whiskies were expensive. Millard returned in 1889 for his much-awaited wedding and, when there, found a delightful new expression that would take centre-stage globally.

If on track, the new 12 YO Black Dog would have to be renamed, since the original, which was to be gradually and unobtrusively withdrawn, was already a global brand. This saw the emergence of the (blended at Mackinlay) Phipson Black Dog, an exquisite 12 YO Blended Scotch, in a totally different shaped dark brown bottle, which became a bestseller overnight in Scotland, sufficient cause for jacking up the price, first internationally, then locally.  

There is yet another school of thought, which, on reflection and ratiocination, seems most likely. Phipson was in England in early 1883, in pursuit of essentials to set up his wine shop. He had heard of James MacKinlay, aka 'The Royalty of Blenders' and wanted to commission him to produce a rare/fine Scotch Whisky to suit Asia and other tropical British colonies. He employed Walter, an educated young lad of 19 for this task. Millard was to scour Speyside for good whiskies, meet up with and assist James in conjuring up a magical potion, while he got back to India, knowing that this would be a time-consuming task. Millard did as ordered, while also courting James' daughter, who he married in 1889, the year James put together the majestic deluxe 12 YO blend. Millard and James were successful in creating a rare 8 YO blend, which Millard, short of time and ideas, named Black Dog on James' advice. As stated earlier, Phipson Black Dog was to follow and make history. This theory supports the fact that Millard first set foot in India in 1884, escorting the consignment of the whisky in question. Was it named Millard Black Dog? There is no direct evidence for or against any answer to this query.

The point of note here is that barrels of Scotch Whisky are allowed to mature in Scotland for as long as required, though mandated for a minimum of three years to qualify as a Scotch Whisky. Maturing liquor in India is a radically different proposition. The different tropical climate raises the annual Angel's Share (loss due to evaporation) to 10-12% vs 2-2.5% in Scotland and maturing beyond six years renders that whisky unpalatable. Only bottling of liquor imported from overseas is done in India.

James then bought Glen Albyn distillery in Inverness with the profit his MacKinlay whiskies and The Black Dog were reeling in, hand over hand. Such was his reputation that the explorer Ernest Shackleton took with him 25 cases of “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. MacKinlay and Co.” to the Antarctic on his 1909 expedition to the South Pole. As already stated, three bottles of rare 19th century Scotch whisky, MacKinlay's 15 YO, left behind by Shackleton in 1909, were discovered 101 years later, buried under the floorboards of his shack.

One of the recovered bottles
The packing case

His ne'er do well son then bought Glen Ord distillery in 1896 and sold his whisky as Glen Oran, which failed in the market. James intervened and sold off both Glen Ord and Glen Albyn in 1899 to recoup losses.

Note outline of logo of the erstwhile fly Source: Noel Moitra

A study of the labels reveals that the Black Dog was a 12 YO Scotch Whisky, specially blended and bottled for the sole proprietors, Phipson & Co., Limited, 750 ML and 43% Alcohol by volume. Metrication was introduced in India in Dec 1956, effective 01 Jan 1958, whereas the UK went metric only in 1965. This bottle is therefore of a 1958 or 1965 vintage. Moreover, Phipson & Co. was established in 1883. This leads to the same question-was there ever a Millard's Black Dog Scotch Whisky? Or was this an elaborate USL hoax?

This would mean that the USL/Diageo story about Sir Walter Millard and his favourite fishing fly is a myth. This Scotch Whisky could have been named after Millard for only six years, 1883-89, if at all. He was a callow stripling then, certainly not knighted and in no position to be a great angler with a string of fishing flies. The rivers mentioned, Spey and Tay, are in the Speyside region of Scotland and far from accessible from distant Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Great Britain. This is yet another false claim that compounds the myth.

Where did the Phipson bottle shown come from? From my memorabilia. No bottle bearing the name Millard Black Dog has yet been found. Or was this a scam buried in posterity, with nobody having the time to check the veracity of any claim of over a hundred and forty years ago?


That said, this 12 YO premium whisky had beaten Walker's Very Special Old Highland by a margin of 20 years; Johnnie Walker's 12 YO Black Label hit the market in that new avatar only in 1909, when a decision was made to simplify the names of its rather pompous but anachronous brands. It was well appreciated, but found inferior to Black Dog, even after it undercut the latter's price. Black Dog was the premium whisky served on board Air India's international flights, and one of the leading brands of Scotch whisky on board passenger ships and Indian Navy warships. Surprisingly, this whisky was not available anywhere west of the Middle East, suggesting the transfer of each and every single one of these bottles to India and her neighbours and that Phipson held sway only in and around the Middle East and Indian subcontinent.

Painstakingly conjured up over a period of twelve long years, Black Dog Scotch instantly became the favourite of connoisseurs all over the world after making a dramatic debut as an eight-year-old in 1883, and re-emerging as a different Premium 12 YO blend six years later. This was hardly surprising, considering that each Black Dog Scotch was a masterful blend of fine taste and exquisite artistry. The label clearly states 'Since 1883'.

A newspaper cutting supposedly bolstering the Millard story. It is an obvious fraud: In 1883, Walter Samuel Millard was a 19-year old civilian stripling, and certainly not knighted; Sep 17, 1883 was a Tuesday, not Saturday; the word aficionado entered the English dictionary with a different connotation in the mid-19th century; the spellings of honour/flavour are wrong. I must thank Callum McKean, of the News Reference Team, The British Library, London, who searched through the British Newspaper Archive, a database of digitised local and regional newspapers which is especially comprehensive for the late nineteenth century. He was unable to locate this article. It appeared to him that this is a modern mock-up image as the typeface, wording and layout of the newspaper pictured were not consistent with any late nineteenth-century newspapers of which he was aware. (This could perhaps explain the spelling mistakes, wrong selection of words and why the date and day of publication were mismatched too)N M.

Today, Phipson's Black Dog has become a collector's item. My coursemates and I imbibed this and many other premium brands while celebrating our commissioning into the Indian Air Force 1971. I kept my eyes and ears open for any future mention of this brand, and found many old 12-bottle cases of Phipson Black Dog 12 YO in the Indian Navy Duty-Free Canteen. I managed a bottle or two, to my good luck, off sympathetic coursemates.

When the British started to leave India in 1942, Phipson and Co. battled hard to stay on, well beyond 1947 when India gained Independence. Walter Millard died in England in 1952. Carew and Co., a smaller liquor dealer, and Phipson & Co. were partly taken over in 1963-64 and merged with itself by McDowell & Co, owned by United Breweries Group (UB), an Indian alcoholic beverages company. in 2002, the company acquired Phipson Distillery marking the demise of Phipson Black Dog. In 2006, McDowell & Co Ltd, Herbertsons Limited, Triumph Distillers and Vintners Private Limited, Baramati Grape Industries India Limited, Shaw Wallace Distilleries Limited and four other companies were merged to form United Spirits Limited, the world's second-largest spirits company by volume. It is now a subsidiary of Diageo, and headquartered in Bangalore. USL exports its products to over 37 countries. 

USL also owned Whyte & Mackay and as Phipson Black Dog died with the taking over of the company, it turned to Richard Paterson, Master Blender at W&M to recreate The Black Dog. This acquisition of Scottish major Whyte & Mackay, with one of the largest inventories of aged malts and grain whisky reserves, saw USL bolstering Black Dog with better-aged variants to prop up premium appeal. USL started premiumising Black Dog. Rather than just placing the product on retail shelves, the company took an account management approach and created a huge buzz around the brand. But Phipson Black Dog rules the roost.

Four versions of the five current generation Black Dog Scotch Whisky exist today, with one premium version sold out. The 18 and 25 YO versions will not last much longer, as of today.

Current Editions:

Black Dog Centenary Black Reserve Scotch Whisky

Black Dog Centenary Reserve is a rich and rare blended Scotch whisky loaded with exceptional character. It is blended well with a multitude of malt and grain spirits chosen from various regions of Scotland. On completing 8 years in barrels, it is exported to India for bottling and sale. A few barrels are bottled for the local market as well. The whisky had a distinctive briny note, picked up in transit from Scotland to India. In 2008, a new law was passed by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) banning the export of Scotch whisky in wooden casks. The original proposal of mandating export of all Scotch whisky only in properly labelled bottles was opposed in strength and defeated by distillers. Even so, single malt Scotch whisky may only be exported in bottles labelled as mandated by the SWA.

Black Dog Triple Gold Reserve Scotch Whisky

The latest offering from the brand is Black Dog Triple Gold Reserve. In the triple maturation process, Grain and 32 odd Malt whiskies (the descriptive panel says 25) are matured separately in American Bourbon Casks and then blended together and matured again in Oloroso Sherry Butts for an extra long period of time to give the blend a distinctive flavour and a delicate finish. This gives this scotch a very fine finish and is a tangible improvement of the 12 YO Black Dog Deluxe Gold Reserve. Its effect on the market is yet to be assessed, what with Whyte and Mackay and its massive inventory being sold yet again, this time to Philippines-based Emperador Inc.  These whiskies come from four regions of Scotland - Speyside, Islay, Highlands and Lowlands, each matured for a minimum period of 12 years creating a bouquet that captures all the flavours of Scotland, giving the blend its very distinctive flavour and taste. Over 80% of its output is bottled in India, the balance going into travel packs in Duty-Free shops and other markets. There is a distinct difference between the two, possibly caused by the effect of maritime air on the barrels as they travel to hot and dusty India, where the angel is far more demanding-up to a 12% cut. Moreover, the water used is different. Sadly, this version is but a pale shadow of the Black Dog 12 YO of yesteryear. 

Whyte & Mackay use a different source of water, have different stills and can NEVER replicate Mackinlay's whiskies. That said, Johnny Walker Black Label started to use peated Caol Ila 12 YO, Talisker 12, along with Cardhu, Oban, Glenkinchie,  Dalwhinnie, Dailuaine, Linkwood, Clynelish and Cragganmore among others, changing the flavour profile markedly and elevating this brand to No.1 in the Blended Scotch 12 YO range, from which it was displaced in India by Chivas Regal, The Famous Grouse 12 YO, which was discontinued for a few years but is freely available now. Teacher's 50, Ballantine's 12 YO, Dewar's 12 YO and Buchanan's 12 YO are currently vying for top honours in this category. Grand Old Parr is not easily available in India. Incidentally, The Famous Grouse Malt Whisky is also a great 12 YO Blended Malt whisky.

                       New avatar of The Famous Grouse 12 YO Blended Scotch
                                    The Famous Grouse 12 YO Blended Malt

Black Dog Reserve Scotch Whisky

Black Dog 18 years old Scotch Whisky is known as Black Dog Reserve Scotch. It is matured for a minimum of 18 years in oak casks. Master blenders carefully put together a fine blend of Aged Malt and Grain Whiskies to make this an exceptional Scotch whisky. Black Dog Reserve Scotch won the Gold award at the MUNDUS Vini International Spirit Awards held in Germany in 2011. This is the third Gold award won by this 18-year-old Whisky, making it one of the top five of the world’s best-tasting 18-year-old blended Scotch whiskies. I can vouch for it, as it melts into your tongue like honey. It is as good as The Glen Ord Singleton 18 YO, which helps form the body of JW Blue Label, an NAS blend. 

Black Dog Quintessence Scotch Whisky

The Black Dog Quintessence is a 21-year-old blend. It is pure liquid gold as it is handcrafted to meticulous perfection by Black Dog’s master blenders. Only 25 of the finest single malts and grain whiskies have been drawn from the Highland region of Scotland, in particular from Speyside to provide that special key – “finesse”. Like a loving partnership, each individual part has made its own inimitable contribution. Balance and harmony prevail throughout this noble elegant spirit. After a long 20-year maturation in Bourbon barrels, the final year is spent in the finest Oloroso sherry butts. These aren't just any sherry butts; they are specially selected from Spain’s noblest Bodegas of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez de la Frontera; these Matusalem butts provide the perfect platform to marry and mould Black Dog 21 years old Blended Scotch Whisky.  This whisky has been sold out, more's the pity. I did manage to taste it at The Patio in 2013 and can still recall that dram.

The Black Dog Deluxe Gold Reserve 12 YO is available at most duty-free shops at close to US$ 37.00 per 750 CL. These are all Bottled In Scotland whiskies but are rapidly fading out. They are far too expensive. In the free market in India, The Black Dog Deluxe Gold Reserve 12 YO Bottled In India is readily available at the INR equivalent of US$ 16-22. The rush for this brand at this price by people who don't care where it was bottled is unbelievable. 

Black Dog's scorching growth contrasts with overall blended scotch sales coming under pressure globally for different reasons. In India, the red-tape festooned bureaucracy has barred the sale of imported Scotch whisky to just the Defence Forces for reasons unknown. The only other blended scotch brands to report five year double-digit growth are Black & White (19.8%), Old Parr (14.8%), Passport (13.7%) and VAT 69 (10%) among a list of the world's 50 top scotch brands compiled by International Wine & Spirit Research

Photo Credits: Kerman Moitra


This is a reprint of my 2021 article at