Thursday, 23 February 2017


                            SOMETHING TRULY SPECIAL


I first tasted Something Special in 1977 in Poona. It was an exquisite experience and I decided to carry out detailed research on this Blended Scotch. I found that it was an illegal and raw blend first bottled in 1793 from what was to become Bon Accord Distillery in 1860. The Something Special website claims that Hill & Thomson Wines and Liquor in Edinburgh started the production and sale of an excellent blended Scotch whisky in 1793 and that it was granted a Royal Warrant by King William IV in 1838. This is a hoax, as William IV died in 1837. The whisky and distillery are not named.

THE OLD & TRULY SPECIAL                       

                                    US IMPORT         

It came out as a 12 YO Premium Whisky thereafter, not an 8 YO. Bon Accord distillery, renamed to North of Scotland distillery, was taken over by the Longmorn Distillery Company in 1893, and the whisky was bottled soon thereafter as a Grant's Distilleries' product (1897). The website also claims that it was granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, who died in 1901. This is most probably another hoax, as no distillery was given the prefix ‘Royal’ in that period. In 1877 Hill, Thompson & Co. offered the role of export salesman to William Shaw. In 1902 he established the Queen Anne blend, which soon became the company’s flagship whisky.

Grant's Distillery was destroyed by a fire in 1910, but was repaired and running in 1911. A new blended whisky, named Something Special, came out with great fanfare in 1912, quietly burying its dubious past. The website states that the business was still owned by Hill & Thomson and advertised as “A Scotch for a Special Occasion.” It quickly became popular in the United Kingdom and around the world. 

The iconic decanter was first produced in the distinctive diamond shape in 1959 and heralded around the world as a statement of quality and originality.

In 1972, the Glenlivet and Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd amalgamated with the blending concerns of Hill, Thomson and Co.Ltd and Longmorn Distilleries Ltd to become The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. Something Special was then bottled by Hill, Thomson and Co.Ltd, Paisley, Scotland as an 8 YO at very good prices ($15 for an 86 proof 43% ABV 750 ml decanter). The website claims SOMETHING SPECIAL™ whisky was launched in new markets across Latin America and Asia in 1985, where discerning connoisseurs were demanding high quality Scotch whisky. This is a white lie, as SOMETHING SPECIAL™ was freely available across India, even in its Military Canteens in the 70s. Sale in India was stopped for no given reason in end 2013 and its primary market remains Latin America and Italy. A bottle or two is often found in odd locations. 

The archives paint a very different story. In 1709 Andrew Thomson inherited the business of his father–in–law, Mr Brown, who was a brewer and vintner in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. About 20 years later the business was moved to "The Vaults" in neighbouring Leith, which were bought by the company on 29 July 1782. The firm of J G Thomson & Co was founded by James Gibson Thomas in 1785 at the Vaults to supply goods like whisky, brandy and wines. James Gibson Thomson junior, the son of the company’s founder, was associated with the company from 1820 to 1876.

In its early years the major part of the business was in the import and distribution of wines from the continent. Later it traded in wines and spirits of all descriptions, imported or home produced. The company’s wholesale business was carried out under the name of J G Thomson & Co and the private trade was carried out under the name of Thomson Lauder & Co.

In 1884 the firm acquired Glen Garioch Distillery in Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire. and owned it until 1908. In 1890 it took over the Leith firm, Scott & Allan, and its two clippers, which brought cargoes of wines and brandies into Leith. Scott & Allan were also cork cutters. In 1905 J G Thomson & Co became a limited liability company.

The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1921 and the buildings and stocks were taken over by J M Hogge on behalf of the new company, which was a private company without a stock exchange quotation. By the 1930s J G Thomson & Co was supplying wines to most of the top hotels in Scotland and had become one of the country’s leading independent whisky blenders, with a prosperous overseas trade. By 1959 it owned three bonded warehouses and large duty paid warehouses. The company acted as agent, stockist and distributor in Scotland for many famous and internationally known brands of wines and spirits. It also functioned as a very large exporter of whisky to all parts of the world, especially to the USA, and was involved in the blending of whisky. The company maintained a large transport fleet with depots in Leith and Glasgow, and it maintained its own cooperage.

After the Second World War many private hotels amalgamated into larger chains or were acquired by breweries. This effectively removed J G Thomson’s principal outlets. In 1960 it was bought by Charrington United Breweries Ltd of London. Three years later Charrington acquired the Glasgow firm J & R Tennent Ltd and in 1966 J G Thomson became a subsidiary of Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd.


One of the best 15 YO Blends

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