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Monday, 25 May 2020



Why Are Other Whiskies Still Using Glenlivet In Their Name?

Recognised as one of Highland Scotland’s most dazzling river valleys, Glenlivet was a famous location long before The Glenlivet whisky was invented and became an enduring symbol of its place of origin. Glenlivet, or Gleann-liobh-aite in Gaelic, means “valley of the smooth flowing one.”The Livet river flows into the Avon above Ballindaloch.

Writer John Wilson, aka Christopher North, travelled to the village of Tomintoul in 1815, just a few miles south of Glenlivet. Wilson depicted Tomintoul at the height of the smuggling era as “a wild mountain village where drinking, dancing, swearing and quarrelling went on all the time.” This rowdy influence was not lost on all Glenliveters. Wilson also thought that the whisky from Glenlivet was the finest he had ever tasted. As it turned out, lovely Glenlivet, 14 miles long and 6 miles wide, was the most highly favoured location in the Highlands for smugglers. In the small parish of Glenlivet alone it was believed that two hundred small stills were operated. In the little glen, whisky of a special quality has been made for centuries. To ask why would be pointless, for no one could give a finite answer to such a question. Distillers have known it instinctively, which is why there were so many bothy stills in that tiny parish. One of these stills belonged to George Smith.

In the late winter of 1792, what one farmer Andrew Smith’s infant son George could not have known was that he was born in the epicentre of a monumental social earthquake. At its core, this deep-rooted upheaval concerned what the average Scotsman perceived to be his right to distill whisky unfettered by governmental interference, regulation, or taxation. Secluded, remote Glenlivet felt the seismic shudder more than most other places. What took place in Glenlivet over George Smith’s lifetime sent political tremors across the whole of Britain, including deep within the walls of Parliament.

The Glenlivet is the prototypical single malt whisky born in Scotland’s most renowned Highlands river valley, Glenlivet. Smugglers believed that the unusual climate of Glenlivet, the altitude of the glen, and the mossy water of the hill streams there, combined to give the whisky its unique character. As the excisemen rarely visited the glen, the locals could take a long time in distilling new spirits, running the whisky ‘lazily’ over a small fire. This was a luxury not allowed to other smugglers, constantly on the look-out for the gaugers. Glenlivet whisky, fully matured and with its unique flavour, soon became a great favourite of the Lowland connoisseurs.”

Through the beaconlike wattage of its reputation, The Glenlivet by the mid-nineteenth century made Scotland’s malt whiskies the most prized whisky of all.

The father-and-son team of Smiths—George and John Gordon—were Highlands farmers by trade in the bucolic Banffshire district called Glenlivet. As their fledgling malt whisky business grew in fame, they turned to malt whisky distilling as a primary source of income. They operated under the guiding principles that product quality and authenticity and customer service must prevail above all else. Riding those codes through the harrowing peaks and valleys of Scotland’s turbulent whisky industry in the nineteenth century, they adeptly conquered both regional and national marketplaces. They secured these triumphs, however, only at the cost of severe personal and professional tolls.

When British King George IV came to Scotland in 1822, the citizens of Edinburgh painted the whole town red. During his much ballyhooed in August 1822, word got out that the King had become smitten with whisky, in particular, the highly respected illicit variety produced in or around Glenlivet. The literary source for this claim is a small passage in the memoirs of Lady Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, the daughter of a Scottish Member of Parliament:
"Lord Conyngham, the Chamberlain, was looking everywhere for pure Glenlivet   whisky; the King drank nothing else. It was not to be had out of the Highlands. My father sent word to me - I was the cellarer - to empty my pet bin, where was whisky long in wood, long in uncorked bottles, mild as milk, and the true contraband goût in it. Much as I grudged this treasure it made our fortunes afterwards, showing on what trifles great events depend.”
The King reportedly consumed whisky during his visit in a concoction called the “Atholl-brose,” a thick, sweetish mixture of whisky, honey and ground grain. His supposed appreciation of smuggler’s whisky instigated a national awareness of the superior quality of whisky from Glenlivet, which became something of a brand name for better smugglers’ whisky. This wide recognition catapulted forward the mystique of Scotland’s most famous glen, even though much of the illicit whisky touted as “Glenlivet” was produced in other areas of the Highlands. The king, however, was delighted with the quality of Lady Elizabeth's Glenlivat (sic) whisky. Just one year later, the parliament passed a new tax law, The Excise Act of 1823 that allowed working on small pot stills. Now, finally, the illicit distillers in the Highlands were able to legally produce the kind of whisky that was previously available only on the black market - the “real Glenlivet".

Cardow Distillery(today known as Cardhu) in Knockando was possibly the first Speyside distillery to be licensed under the Act. While women are often absent from the history of Scotch whisky, they actually played a key role in the industry from its inception. One of those early whisky women was Helen Cumming, the founder of Cardhu distillery in Archiestown. Bessie Williamson, who owned Laphroaig in Islay in the 20th century, was equally influential.

George Smith acquired a licence in 1824 for the distillery, which he operated on his farm Upper Drumin until 1859. In old tax documents, it is listed under the name "Drumin". From October 1826 to October 1827, George Smith produced 1,340 gallons of alcohol at the Drumin Distillery, distilled from malted barley. However, the first legal distillery named "Glenlivat" was a completely different distillery. It belonged to Capt. William Grant, and was in Achorachan (now being re-established as the lost distillery of Auchorachan). The river passing by is the very same Livet, but that section was known locally as the river Livat. With a production volume of 1,130 gallons in 1826/1827, it was only slightly smaller than the Smith distillery.

George Smith was very successful in the following years as a farmer and distillery owner. In 1837 he acquired the farm Castleton of Blairfindy, in 1838, the Nevie Farm, and in 1839 the Minmore Farm. In 1850 he acquired the farm Delnaboe above Tomintoul, where a distillery was already operating under the name Cairngrom.

By this time, most of the illegal distilleries had disappeared, and in the valley of the Livet River there were only two distilleries left: those of George Smith and Capt. William Grant. In 1852, the Glenlivat Distillery was closed by Captain Grant. In 1859, Smith also closed down his two distilleries and built a complete new distillery on Minmore Farm, and initially this distillery was also called Minmore Distillery. Only in the following years, Smith renamed it to "Glenlivet", and under this name, the former Minmore Distillery later achieved international fame.

George Smith’s The Glenlivet was a raging success when first brought to the market in 1824-25. A host of other distilleries in the Speyside area shamelessly tacked the word Glenlivet to their product, despite being nowhere near the location, some as far away as the Moray coast.                                                                   

Glen Elgin-Glenlivet
Glen Grant-Glenlivet
Glen Keith-Glenlivet
Glen Moray-Glenlivet

In 1881, George’s grandson, George Smith Grant, by then running the family firm, initiated legal proceedings along with Andrew Usher. ‘…it was not until it was brought prominently under my notice that in the large towns in Scotland and England dealers were beginning to sell as Glenlivet Whisky lower priced Whiskies of a different character bought by them as Glenfarclas Glenlivet or Cragganmore Glenlivet or some similar combination of words calculated to deceive anyone not having local knowledge and to cause such person, by tacking on the word Glenlivet to the name of a particular distillery, to buy a different class of whisky at a higher price than it would have borne in the market if left to find a purchaser under its own name.’

By 1882, Smith and Usher began forwarding individual affidavits against each of the offending distillers.

This provoked countersuits, with his competitors claiming that ‘Glenlivet’ had become a generic term during the illicit era and could now be used in the same way as ‘Islay’ to define a style of whisky. By 1883, Smith and Usher’s legal bill had reached £30,000, and 400 affidavits had been served.

By May 1884, all the parties were ready to compromise, and a deed was signed stipulating that the trademark for Glenlivet stood, and only Smith’s whisky could call itself ‘The Glenlivet’. The Smiths and Usher didn’t, however, succeed in banning other distillers from using the word.

Rather, they agreed to drop all charges against the other distillers and not prevent the use of the term by 10 distilleries: Glenlossie, Macallan, Aberlour, Benrinnes, Cragganmore, Linkwood, Glenrothes, Glen Grant, Mortlach and Glenfarclas, providing that ‘Glenlivet’ was only used as a suffix, in conjunction with the distillery name. At some point, it became common practise for the ‘Glenlivet’ part of the name to be joined to the distillery name by a hyphen.

By the 1980s, 28 distilleries were either registered as being ‘X-Glenlivet’ or using the term as a trademark, or on their labels. It’s only in recent years that Macallan, for example, has dropped the suffix.

The majority of the trademarks are now dead, and most of the distilleries are now registered under their own names. Some, however, have retained the suffix. Tamnavulin, Glen Moray, Speyburn and Tomintoul all still carry -Glenlivet in their registered name. The suffix is now only used on the labels of some independent bottlers.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020



Aqua vitae (‘water of life’ in Latin) was the generic term for distilled spirits throughout the Roman Empire, widely used during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and translated into many languages. In Gaelic, it was uisge beatha, in Irish uisce beatha. Whisky connoisseur Charles MacLean says that this was Anglicised from uiskie (c.1618) to whiskie (1715) to whisky (1746). F Paul Pacult, author of ‘A Double Scotch’, 2005, says that Aqua Vitae ultimately became Whisky in 1736.

I find the spelling Whiskey equally common in those days. In fact, the Hansard of 1896 uses the term Whiskey. Whisky or whiskey is by convention, not law: the Royal Commission on Whiskey and Other Potable Spirits (1908/09) spelt both Irish and Scotch with an ‘e’ throughout.

Gavin Smith writes in his A-Z of Whisky:
The first use of Scotch with the sense of specifically relating to whisky occurs in 1855, “while malt liquors give our Scotch and Irish whiskies”…

I have already written that at least 82 nations/nation states around the globe are trying their hand at making and selling whisky. Of these countries, all but four spell Aqua Vitae ‘Whisky’. The term ‘Whiskey’ is used in Ireland(since 1960), Mexico and Peru and for most American brands.

Albania, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Corsica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Ivory Coast, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tasmania, The Philippines, Uruguay, Vietnam, Wales, Zimbabwe, Zambia & possibly a couple more spell it Whisky. 78/82 should be above par for concluding that the global spelling of this type of alcoholic beverage is whisky.

Changing tack entirely, The East India Company (EIC), having first landed on Indian soil in 1608, stated that they were only a trading company. Accepted without demur, they showed their true intent as they slowly but surely realised that India was a divided country, involved in internecine squabbles. The Islamic Mughals ran their empire from Delhi, fought off invaders from Persia, and were involved in far too many petty skirmishes. Exploiting this divide, the Brits turned into rapacious plunderers, looting Indian states with gay abandon. Shashi Tharoor, a polemicist of renown, avers in the annual Oxford Debate (2019) that the British Raj became what it was till WWII off 43 trillion GBP looted from India over 200 years.

In 1765, the EIC had an irregular army of 20,000 with a few Civil Servants strung out over the country and company appointed British Army Officers under the command of one Major-General Stringer Lawrence. This would imply that there would have been at least three Brigadier Generals, six Cols, twelve majors and 48 Capt/Lts then.

The British Parliament now needed to shelter their troops as they fought in the French War, and 10 years later, against the Americans. So, the Crown did what they liked to do and made a decision that benefited British troops. They enacted the Quartering Acts of 1765, which stated that inns, stables, taverns, and wineries were required to house troops at the discretion of a British officer. Troops were allowed to take as they pleased, which would run taverns and wineries dry. This facility was accorded to the East India Company’s British officers and troops as well.

The cost of quartering troops would often fall on the shoulders of local landowners and Rajas. Eventually, their expenses were reimbursed by colonial kingdoms — not the British government. Soon, British troops started taking refuge in private homes. Without fear of penalty, they could barge into your house, kick you out of your bed, take your food, and tell you that you'd (maybe) be paid back in a few months.

As their reach expanded over India from Peshawar in the north to Sind in the west (in Pakistan now) and Rangoon (Yangon) in the east to the recaptured Madras in the South along the eastern coastline, so did their Armies, reaching 200,000 by 1790 and 260,000 by 1803. They dominated the Muslims who constituted the majority of the populace north of a line joining Pune (Poona) on the western coast and Bhubaneswar on the eastern coast (part of the Bengal Presidency). They also controlled the Punjab. By now, they had established over 45 Residencies, one in every princely state they took over, under Residents, a Civil Service officer who was boss of all he could see, helped by around 6,000 sepoys under British Officers. The officers were housed in Cantonments and the sepoys in adjuncts to the official Cantonment. As a composite army, it was complete, with Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry, Sappers/ Miners and Staff Corps in a Commissariat. The British had arrived, bringing their customs along. Their Officers’ Messes became the focal point for whist, croquet, dinner-dances and dining-in nights with their G&Ts, claret, port and madeira. Perhaps a cigar as well!

The Gwalior Residency was set up in 1782.

The word burra means big/large and chota means small. Both are obviously relative. The Sahib would dress for dinner and at 1830 hrs, order his first drink, a burra peg of whisky (Blended Malt) and a siphon of soda. A little white or red wine with dinner and a chota peg of French brandy/cognac thereafter. The Brits were not known to be moderate drinkers, happy with just the one burra peg.

The term burra/chota peg could not have come before 1765; in all probability, it would have been introduced circa 1780. The British Crown assumed direct control of the Indian subcontinent in the form of the new British Raj in 1858, when the East India Company mishandled the Indian uprising of 1857. It assumed the Company's governmental functions and absorbed its navy and its armies. Blended Scotch would have arrived in 1860-61, initially in limited quantities, the volume increasing with time and expansion of the Industry post 1863.

The standard term ‘peg’ is a vestige of British colonialism and was/is used extensively in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and eastern Asia, i.e., wherever there were Indians to be found.

Starting 1780, the only term used to define volume in the Indian Defence, Paramilitary and Police Forces was/is peg. This is because the British overlords had decreed that every soldier/sailor would be issued four pegs of Rum every evening. 

When dealers in potable spirits changed over to glass bottles circa 1780-1810, the largest bottle suitable for enclosing spirits were a function of the type of furnace, the material used and the glass-blower's lung capacity and dexterity. Most bottles came out in the 26.5-27.0 fluid ounce capacity. The invention of the automatic glass bottle blowing machine in 1880 industrialised the process of making bottles and sizing on demand.

One 26½ oz (750 ml) bottle was taken to hold 26 pegs, mathematically working out to 28.8 ml/peg. The 26½ oz bottle was thirteen (13) fingers tall, with a few ml (1/2 oz) left over in the very top of the neck. This extra 1/2 oz was then taken as a provision made for evaporation in the Raj’s hot weather and with spillage, the hourglass-shaped ‘peg measure’ poured out just that bit less. The standard measure then became 28.4 ml, one Imperial ounce. The field ration was thus two fingers in height, when held horizontally across a bottle (four pegs).

In the Punjab of yore, the hefty Sardars (Sikhs) refused to accept the then piffling ration. The Maharaja of Patiala, with one eye on the British, solved this problem by a covert redefinition of the peg. He ruled that all Sikhs would be given two “Patiala pegs.” A Patiala peg is the amount of liquor needed to fill a standard glass equal to the height between the top of the index finger and the bottom of the little finger when held parallel to one another. The middle and ring fingers would be folded inwards, so the basic tenet of two-finger rationing was observed, if only in spirit.

Today, a peg that represented 28.4 ml, one Imperial ounce, or 29.57 ml (one US oz) has been increased to 30 ml for convenience in bars on civvy street.

Monday, 24 February 2020



Aqua Vitae Is A Global Product

At least 82 nations/nation states around the world are trying their hand at making and selling whisky. This goes to show that there can be no claim on Aqua Vitae, the water of life, being limited to just Scotland, Ireland and the USA. There is room in the world of whisky for everyone to enjoy a peg or two made in their own country.

Of these countries, all but four spell Aqua Vitae ‘Whisky’. The term ‘Whiskey’ is used in Ireland, Mexico and Peru and for most American brands.

Albania, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Corsica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Ivory Coast, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tasmania, The Philippines, Uruguay, Vietnam, Wales, Zimbabwe, Zambia & possibly a couple more spell it Whisky.

Let’s look at some unlikely countries that are producing their own version of the spirit synonymous with Scotland. 


Latvia, officially known as the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. Part of the USSR, it was always associated with Vodka, but now has a whisky distillery called Latvijas Balzams, in its capital city Riga. This distillery produces as many as ten different brands, mainly eight year old blended whiskies and blended malts and also a 10 YO single malt and a 10 YO blended malt. By European standards, their prices are on the low side, approx €20 for the 10 YO single and blended malt and <€18 for their blends. At least two of the blended whiskies – LB Viskijs and Aleksandrs Viskijs – are made from Latvian rye. 

The Czech Republic

The father of Czech whisky is the little-known Vaclav Sitner of the Prádlo distillery, near Pilzen on the western edge of the Czech Republic. The distillery was founded in 1929 in the Austro-Hungarian empire, selling spirits to Central Europe and the Balkans.

A few imported brands were deemed sufficiently ‘Soviet’ and were allowed in, such as Cuban rum Havana Club because of its Castro connection, but most, including Scotch whisky, were either banned, or trickled in sporadically through the specialist shops that only served the party elite. Spotting a gap in the market, Vaclav and his team realised there was a demand among wealthier Czechs and some of the Russian officials for a good-quality whisky.
Armed with a pot still and a handful of whisky books, they set out to create Hammerhead, the country’s first single malt, made from Czech barley and aged in Czech oak, in 1984. The distillery managed to acquire and install a traditional, cast-iron hammer mill of the same style and make as those found in most traditional Scottish distilleries at the time.

After the cold war, Stock Spirits bought the business in 2007 and came upon thousands of barrels of ageing whisky. No-one had bottled it, it was just lying there – an undiscovered jewel, gathering dust. It was bottled as a 23 YO, to rave reviews. A 25 YO followed and a 30-year-old Hammerhead was released in 2019.

The other whisky in the country is the Gold Cock, a blended whisky distilled by J R Jelinek.


It is believed that whisky was first produced in Slovakia in the 18th Century. It’s said to be quite unique due to the properties of the local water, which has a mineral character. Their primary distillery is The Nestville.

Nestville Whisky: One of the greatest inducements for starting Nestville Whisky production was the superior, crystal clear water that was shown to have a mineral composition particularly suited for the production of whisky. Geological studies found that the water flows through the Quaternary sediments of Zuberec and Biely Potok formations. The water travels a long way from Belianské Tatras to Lubovnianska Basin, being enriched with a unique mineral composition and then filtered through rocks that date back to the Paleogene and Quaternary periods.

This water, with its unique composition rich in Ca, Mg, Fe, gives the whisky its unique taste and originality. The taste can be changed by the ageing process in oak barrels and by smoky malt, but only the water has a composition that gives the whisky a unique flavour and constancy that cannot be changed.

Over a dozen brands are produced, with blends ranging from 6-10 YO, single malts at 43% ABV, single barrel also at 43% ABV and a cask strength single malt at 63.9% ABV.

Nestville Whisky Master Blender 2019 is first ever 10-year old Slovakian whisky. Like Master Blender 2017 and Master Blender 2018, this is also a special limited edition blended out of 4 barrels from archive stocks. By using 5 different types of casks during its maturation ( American white oak, European French oak, white oak, ex-bourbon, sherry and barrels in which their Starospišská slivovica – plum distillate – was matured ), it’s a complex and unique product). The effect of the plum barrel is obvious; its noticeably sweeter. Diluted to 43% to highlight its delicacy and perfect balance of sweetness, oak tannnins and fruity notes, it is non-chill filtered with no caramel added.


The Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve
Eimverk Distillery is a family-run distillery founded in 2009, dedicated to making premium Icelandic spirits from 100% local ingredients. Their whisky is named Flóki after one of Icelands first explorers, Hrafna-Flóki (Flóki of the ravens). Eimverk produces three whiskies, one Young Malt, one unique sheep-dung smoked malt whisky and one 3-YO Single Malt Whisky using locally grown Icelandic barley.

Flóki is handcrafted and took 4 years and 163 trial distillations as well as aging and maturation testes to perfect. Production started in 2013 with first sales in 2014. The Icelandic barley is a hardy strain selected to thrive during the short, intense Icelandic summer, while surviving the Arctic winter as it grew in volcanic rocky land. The starch content per grain is lower than elsewhere, leading to low sugar output and a more than 50% content of barley in the bottle.

Flóki’s sheep-dung-smoked reserve is the first of its kind in the world. The barley used in this malt has been smoked using the generations old tradition of smoking using sheep dung in Iceland. The result is truly one of a kind with a complex flavour profile and sweet smoky notes to compliment the intense flavour of the Icelandic barley. This two-year release is a limited reserve of a selection of single barrel bottling.

Their first 3 year old Single Malt Icelandic Whisky was released in a limited bottling of their very first 3 year old casks in November 2017. This single malt was matured in ex-Young Malt barrels which had been mellowed by the maturation of their Young Malt.


To meet the beer requirements of British army personnel in colonial India, the Murree Brewery was established in 1860 and incorporated a year later at Ghora Galli, located in the Pir Punjal range of the Western Himalayas at an elevation of 6,000 ft. above sea level, near the resort town of Murree, some 50 kilometers away from Rawalpindi. The founders were relatives of the British mountaineer Edward Whymper, who, five years later, became the first man to scale the Matterhorn.

Now owned by a Parsi, Minoo Bhandara, the brewery is also a distillery with numerous blended whiskies, all 5 YO and more as well as single malts. A “Saladin” Box malting was installed in 1971 and a decision taken to embark on an ambitious long-term program to mature Malt Whiskies. Two underground cellars now hold over half a million liters of Malt Whisky for varying periods of maturation up to 12 years under controlled temperature conditions.

Its crowning glory was its 8-year-old single malt whisky that received lavish praise from Jim Murray. In 2007, Murree launched its real jewel, a 20 YO  single malt, as part of a one-time limited edition offer. 2400 bottles were produced priced modestly at around $40 a bottle.

Unfortunately for the locals, Muslims may not drink alcohol. But Bhandara runs a thriving business, with non-Muslims and foreigners buying his products after obtaining a permit. But then, like in many other duplicitous nations, his real customers are affluent Pakistani Muslims and the Armed Forces.



The state-owned alcohol monopoly Alko (later Primalco, now Altia) is a leading Nordic alcoholic beverage brand company operating in the wine and spirits markets in the Nordic and Baltic countries. After years of research and trials, the first brand to enter Finnish liquor stores was simply called Alko Whisky. In 1983 Alko introduced Viski 88 (later called Double Eight 88) that became the best-selling whisky in Finland and remained in production until the year 2000. A 10-year-old whisky was sold from 1991, until the company discontinued all whisky production in 2000.

Panimoravintola Beer Hunter's is a brewery, distillery and a restaurant, founded in 1998 and located in the city of Pori. On 8 November 2001, self-taught Mika Heikkinen of Panimoravintola began distilling the first batch of malt whisky produced in Finland. The first batch's casks are to be opened in 2034 when Mika Heikkinen turns 60 years of age. 

Starting December 2004, 100 bottles of Finnish malt whisky, the Old Buck, a 3 YO, were auctioned. Production is limited to small batches only, with 100 bottles being auctioned every year. 

North Korea’s Samilpo distillery created its own brand of whisky and launched it mid-2019. The Samilpo whisky bottle is based on the characteristic square design of Scotland’s Johnnie Walker, a popular but expensive brand in NoKo. 
The distillery sells two different expressions of its whisky in a format similar to the international best-selling Scottish brand – a 40% ABV “Black Label” and a 42% ABV “Red Label”. There had to be some difference somewhere, I suppose. Its 45% ABV expression which was announced as part of the family is not yet available. The bottles present an unusual volume, 620 ml. Apart from this figure and the ABV, nothing is written in English. 

Its USP is the unusual claim that its 15 types of amino acids, including eight essential amino acids, provide a health benefit that reduce harm to the liver and counter the negative side effects of alcohol abuse. Other vital details, including the age of the whisky, the stills, barrels or the types of grain used, have not yet been revealed.

Thursday, 20 February 2020



The Secret Speyside Collection was launched by Chivas Brothers on 27/06/2019, featuring fifteen rare Single Malts from four highly sought-after distilleries. 

This is its biggest Single Malt collection release till date, with the launch of fifteen aged Single Malt Scotch whiskies from four seldom-seen, yet definitely sought-after Speyside, Scotland distilleries.

The Collection is a meticulously curated selection of 18-30 year old whiskies from four of Speyside’s most elusive distilleries. Each has its own rich and unique history for Single Malt fans to discover: the vanished distillery of Caperdonich, the pioneering Longmorn distillery, the landmark Glen Keith distillery, and the remote Braes of Glenlivet distillery.

The fifteen-bottle collection consists of three rare Single Malts each from Glen Keith, Longmorn and Braes of Glenlivet, along with with three peated and three unpeated expressions from Caperdonich, which distilled its final Single Malt in 2002, before closing its doors and being dismantled in 2011.

The Secret Speyside Collection is the first of its kind from Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers and will offer Single Malt connoisseurs the chance to uncover, sample and collect some of the hidden malts at the heart of the iconic Speyside region that have rarely been made available in the past.

“With centuries of rich whisky heritage, Speyside is the treasure chest of Scotch. In curating the Collection, the Chivas Brothers team have hand-selected its contents to shine a light on some seldom-seen distilleries, their rare malts, and unique histories. This new world-class selection demonstrates the breadth of flavour and character that Speyside distilleries can achieve.”  Alan Winchester, Production Manager, Pernod Ricard
The Secret Speyside Collection came out in July as a Global Travel Retail exclusive for one year, to later roll out into selected markets globally from summer 2020. Priced between US$100 and US$990 per bottle, all 15 whiskies carry age statements of 18-30 years. All are at 48% ABV, except where cask strength, and Glen Keith which will proffer whiskies at 43% ABV.

The Distilleries of the Secret Speyside Collection

1. Caperdonich – A Vanished Distillery

Once gone, there will never be another. This collection contains the only available Single Malts from this distillery, which was taken down in 2011. The whiskies released from this ‘vanished distillery’ of Speyside offer a rare opportunity to discover and compare peated and unpeated expressions of the same age (21 and 25 YO) from the same distillery.
There will be six whiskies from Caperdonich, half peated and the other half unpeated. The peated selection includes an 18 YO, a 21 YO and a cask strength 25 YO whisky. The unpeated whiskies are a 21 YO, 25 YO and a cask strength 30 YO. The peated 25 YO  and non-peated 30 YO were released in October 2019.

2. Longmorn - The Pioneering Distillery

Blending unique insights in technology and craft, Longmorn was designed by founder John Duff in 1894 to create a whisky of outstanding quality. Duff even built a railway station next to the distillery to facilitate supplies getting to the distillery and speed up the finished product getting into the hands of whisky lovers. One of Scotland’s best kept secrets, Longmorn has long been considered world class by distillers, blenders and connoisseurs, often referred to as ‘every distiller’s favourite apart from their own.’


The three whiskies from Longmorn in this collection are an 18 YO, 23 YO and a cask strength 25 YO, with each bringing a more intense take on its rich flavour profile that is highly regarded by distillers and industry experts worldwide.

3. Glen Keith - The Landmark Distillery

Glen Keith was the first Speyside distillery built in the 20th century. The distillery rose from the ruins of an old mill on the banks of the River Isla, famed for its pure water and leaping wild salmon. This collection marks the first official age-statement release this century from the landmark distillery.

The three whiskies from Glen Keith in this collection are a 21 YO, 25 YO and a 28 YO (all 43% ABV). Each is exceptionally smooth as Glen Keith’s pot stills are taller than most, giving an extra ‘copper kiss’ to the single malt and resulting in a complex, intensely smooth example of the classic Speyside style. 

4. Braes of Glenlivet - The Remote Distillery

This is the first official bottling from one of the highest distilleries in Speyside. In years past, when the snow fell, it settled on the hills of Braes of Glenlivet first. The remote distillery was watched over by a lone keeper at night and was truly at the mercy of the uncompromising Scottish elements.


The three whiskies from Braes of Glenlivet in this collection are a 25 YO, 27 YO  and a cask strength 30 YO. Made using the purest water from the Preenie Well, 2 miles deep in the Braes hills, the resulting whisky is smooth, balanced and intensely flavourful.

The 15 Secret Speyside Collection single malts are as follows:

1.   Caperdonich 18 Year Old Peated: 48% ABV, matured in American oak barrels, RRP US$130
2.   Caperdonich 21 Year Old Peated: 48% ABV, American oak barrels, RRP US$290
3.   Caperdonich 25 Year Old Peated: cask strength/TBC on release, oak hogsheads, RRP US$550
4.   Caperdonich 21 Year Old Unpeated: 48% ABV, first-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$250
5.   Caperdonich 25 Year Old Unpeated: 48% ABV, first-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$480
6.   Caperdonich 30 Year Old Unpeated: cask strength/TBC on release, first-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$990
7.   Longmorn 18 Year Old: 48% ABV, American oak barrels/hogsheads, RRP US$100
8.   Longmorn 23 Year Old: 48% ABV, American oak barrels/hogsheads, RRP US$290
9.   Longmorn 25 Year Old: 52.2% ABV (cask strength), American oak barrels/hogsheads/butts, RRP US$450
10.  Glen Keith 21 Year Old: 43% ABV, ‘specially selected’ oak barrels and   butts, RRP US$180
11.  Glen Keith 25 Year Old: 43% ABV, first-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$380
12.  Glen Keith 28 Year Old: 43% ABV, first-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$500
13.  Braes of Glenlivet 25 Year Old: 48% ABV, first-fill American oak barrels,       RRP US$400
14.  Braes of Glenlivet 27 Year Old: 48% ABV, first-fill American oak barrels,   RRP US$450
15.  Braes of Glenlivet 30 Year Old: 50.3% ABV (cask strength), American oak barrels/hogsheads, RRP US$600