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Wednesday 30 December 2020



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 1855. 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*. Moreover, blending of malt and grain whisky was permitted only in 1860 for distillers; other traders, like grocers, were permitted such blending in 1863. The term Scotch came from 'Scottish' and was first used in the mid-18th century (1855, Gavin Smith).


It came out as a 12 YO Premium Whisky thereafter, not an 8 YO. Bon Accord distillery, renamed to North of Scotland distillery in 1898, was taken over by the Longmorn Distillery Company in 1893, and the whisky was bottled soon thereafter as a Grant's Distilleries' product. 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 visible 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 a 12 YO at very good prices [$12 for a 75 proof 43% ABV 750 ml decanter(86 proof in the USA)]. The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. was then purchased by Canadian drinks and media company Seagram in 1977. 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 part lie, as Something Special™ was freely available across India, even in its Military Canteens in the 70s. I bought my first bottle in 1982 in Bhuj, a back-of-beyond city in Northwest Gujarat.

Seagram's was owned by a Canadian Jew, Samuel Bronfman, and his company was barred from using the Islamic middle-east gateway to the liquor demanding market of South-central Asia. He was unable to get his personal baby, Chivas Regal, going in a huge and lucrative market. He then routed his supplies via Singapore. But Something Special, strikingly similar to Chivas Regal 12 YO, didn't cede its market share to Chivas Regal. Phipson's Black Dog and Johnnie Walker Red and Black labels were making rapid inroads into this market. This is why Something Special was withdrawn from the Indian and Asian market, to make way for Chivas Regal. Once sale in India and most of Asia was stopped, its primary market became Latin America and Italy. A bottle or two is often found in odd locations.  Seagram's was taken over by Pernod Ricard in 2000 and a fresh market analysis led to the release of their 15 YO in 2006, focussed on in Latin America with a few bottles trickling over to Asia as rarities. All barriers to trade via the Middle East were lifted.

The archives paint a very different story. In 1709 Andrew Thomson inherited the business of his father–in–law, Mr Brown, a brewer and vintner in Grassmarket, 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 Thomson in 1785 at the Vaults to supply goods like whisky, brandy and wines. James Gibson Thomson Jr, 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, both imported and local. The company’s wholesale business was carried out under the name of J G Thomson & Co and all private trade under the name Thomson Lauder & Co.

Two rare Blended Scotch whiskies bore the name Lauder's. These were The Lauder's Finest and Lauder's Queen Mary Special Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky named after the schooner that docked regularly at Glasgow. 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.

By 1972, Lauder's had been acquired by Macduff Distillery and its portfolio expanded by three additions. These were Lauder's Oloroso Cask Blended Scotch Whisky, Lauder's Ruby Cask Blended Scotch Whisky and Lauder's 15 Year Blended Scotch Whisky.



Something Special is still a premium Blended Scotch whisky, the no. 1 Scotch whisky in the Dominican Republic, the no 2. in Colombia and overall no. 3 premium Scotch whisky brand in South America. It’s considered an outgoing and sociable whisky that celebrates life, an optimistic attitude and everyday success. As may be seen in the photos at the top, it is an NAS expression today and the decanter, while retaining its diamond cut, has been slimmed down a mite. The decanter of its newest release, the Something Special LEGACY, is unique and quite a collector's item.  

Surprisingly, Something Special made its debut in Latin America in 2004 as a 12 YO Blended Scotch whisky. The award-winning 12 YO blend contains fine Speyside malt whiskies and is sculptured around the outstanding Longmorn single malts, embellished by classy single malts from the Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Laphroaig and Allt A Bhainne distilleries, among others, which are melded together in Strathclyde Single Grain whisky to give it its unmistakably smoky sweetness. The hint of peaty character is imbued from a single malt produced at the Allt À Bhainne distillery in Keith, Speyside. The Islay contribution is made by an unpeated whisky from, surprisingly, Laphroaig, a distillery well-known for its unmistakable pungent, medicinal and smoky spirit. This expression is said to age in Bourbon and Sherry casks but the Sherry influence in this blend seems minimal. With Longmorn stock running low, Something Special turned both slim and NAS in 2010. It is now carried by Allt A Bhaine, Glen Grant, Strathisla, Aberlour and The Glenlivet.

It is deep gold in colour with E150A caramel additive, chill filtered and blended in Scotland. It is bottled in both Scotland and India. The Scottish version is at 40% ABV in a 70cl bottle; it is at 43% ABV in a 75cl bottle in India.

Nose: When you pour this blend in your glass you immediately get peat and light smoke that remind you of a light Islay whisky. However, on inhalation, the peat and smoke prove evanescent and are driven back quickly to the back of the glass and grain, wood, sundry dried fruit and malt come into play. After a while in the glass, earth and wood tones begin to dominate. There isn’t much sharp alcohol, which is good but this blend would benefit from some more fruity tones.

Taste: Sweet (Sugar, Honey) and Spicy Oak. The sweetness becomes syrupy if swigged after a chillied momo.

Finish: Not overly long and quickly getting dry. Some Cocoa powder, nuts and wood.

If you add four or five drops of water, the peat on the nose withdraws to the background. Floral and mineral tones appear. The palate however just gets watered down. So you can nose this blend with and without a few drops of water but it is best sipped neat.

Eagerly awaiting the release of the SOMETHING SPECIAL LEGACY.





The whisky was probably The Cock O The North Malt whisky and the distillery The Union Glen.

Saturday 26 December 2020



The World Drinks Awards are global awards selecting the very best in all internationally recognised styles of drinks. Presented annually by, a leading online resource for drinks professionals, the World Drinks Awards select, reward and promote the world’s best drinks to consumers and trade across the globe.


From Suntory's mountain distillery, found deep within the forests of Mount Kaikomagatake, Hakushu is a single malt that takes liquid and from the pure waters of the Southern Japanese Alps. This gives it a terrific fresh flavour, many considering it as a uniquely liberating malt whisky. An extremely rare, highly sought-after and truly fabulous peated Japanese whisky from the Hakushu range, this 25 year-old is rated way above the rest and may be called "a malt which is impossible not to be blown away by". If you’d like to taste one of the hallmark Japanese whiskies, this Hakushu will be a sure delight! This 25 year old single malt has picked up oodles of awards over the years, including the much sought-after World's Best Single Malt title at the World Whiskies Awards in 2018. Hakushu is a herbal and gently smoky single malt. There is a sweet pear and kiwi fruit flavour with a subtle smoke finish hinting at green tea. It has been praised by lovers of gastronomy as an ideal accompaniment for Japanese food.


Scotch: Campbeltown

Glen Scotia Double Cask Single Malt NAS 46%

Glen Scotia is one of the three remaining Campbeltown distilleries in the Mull of Kintyre. It uses the town water supply of Crosshill Loch, and also has a private well from a borehole drilled deep into the rock beneath the town.

It only uses two stills, and is currently running at a fraction of its potential capacity in the hands of a tiny staff of three employees. Distilling is an ancient tradition, and even the modern industrialised distilleries have hundreds of years of history. It’s no surprise, then, that some distillery buildings are thought to be haunted. A lonely survivor of some of the most tumultuous times in the history of whisky production, Glen Scotia's walls have seen some sights. Indeed, the distillery is said to be haunted by the ghost of one of its previous owners, Duncan McCallum, who drowned himself in Crosshill Loch in 1930, and currently walks the halls of the aged distillery buildings.

Glen Scotia Double Cask is matured in the finest first fill bourbon barrels before being finished for up to twelve months in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks producing this outstanding single malt whisky that provides the perfect balance of rich spicy fruits, overlaid with the characteristic sea spray and vanilla oak finish for which the house of Glen Scotia is famous.

Scotch: Highlands

Glendronach Parliament 21 YO 48%

Big, bold and most commonly Sherried, Glendronach is an old-style whisky which echoes the substantial Victorian buildings in which it is made. Inside the distillery, there are a traditional rake and plough mash tun, wooden washbacks and four stills which were coal fired until 2005, the last in Scotland to be heated in this way. Today there is just a quiet susurration of steam in the stillhouse, but the oddly shaped wash still and the plain sides of the spirit still cut back on reflux, helping to build weight in the spirit. These days, ex-Sherry casks are the distillery’s signature style. Some is 100% Sherry matured, some is started in ex-Bourbon casks to pick up vanilla sweetness before being racked into ex-Sherry.

Matured in a combination of the finest Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry casks for a minimum of 21 years, the ‘Parliament’ continues the great GlenDronach tradition of offering fruit-laden intensity in its single malts. Interestingly enough, this whisky has no political associations. This rich expression has been named ‘Parliament’ after the colony, or ‘parliament’, of rooks that have been nesting in the trees that overlook the GlenDronach distillery for almost 200 years. Bottled at 48%, the ‘Parliament’ is non chill filtered and of natural colour. This 21 YO was released in 2011 to fill a gap in the rapidly expanding Glendronach range.

Scotch: Islands

Jura Time 21 YO 47.2%

Whyte & Mackay unveiled a pair of 21yo Jura whiskies at the May 2019 TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition.

Time and Tide’s launch marks a new chapter in the Scottish whisky brand’s refresh. As reported, Jura relaunched last year with a collection of new whiskies which included five travel retail exclusive expressions. Whyte & Mackay noted a ISWR rating which reveals Jura’s “exceptional” 274% sales growth in the Asia Pacific region in 2018.

Jura 21yo Tide was released for domestic markets while Jura Time, which is presented in a sand blasted bottle, is exclusive to travel retail. Located off the west coast of Scotland, the isle of Jura is home to a community of just over 200 islanders. It features one road, one pub and one distillery, which was established in 1810.

The new Jura 21yo old pair, Time and Tide, amplify the island provenance story and capture the irresistible essence of what makes Jura so unique –  a place where it’s easy to lose track of time. The addition of the new Jura 21yo Time reinforces a commitment to offering customers prestige and limited whiskies of outstanding quality to drive penetration and spend in travel retail stores.

Jura Time is matured in American white oak ex-bourbon barrels and enhanced in ex-peated malt casks to offer a “seductive sweetness” with a salted peat smoke edge. It is produced in small batches with each whisky marked with the year of bottling to denote subtle variations in the batches.

Scotch: Islay

Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 YO 46.2%

In a rare occurrence for Ardbeg, this aged whisky will be released every year and each one of these exclusive, small batch bottlings will feature a unique batch code. This exceptionally rare and ever-changing 19 year old draws its inspiration from Islay’s Traigh Bhan beach, known locally as the Singing Sands.

Each batch of Traigh Bhan will be a slight variation on the last. This is due to minor changes in the cask selection. Ardbeg Traigh Bhan Batch 2 is the second release in this exclusive series. Following in the footsteps of the much lauded first batch, this whisky is a slight variation on the last. The main difference with Batch 2 is that it was created using a slightly higher proportion of 1st-fill Bourbon to refill casks, and a similar level of Sherry casks. These imbue it with an altogether more silky-smooth character. The first batch of Traigh Bhan certainly went down a storm, and that’s probably because it was bottled in one. But this year, Batch 2 was bottled in a haar*. With subtle changes in the batch recipe, this rare whisky is an opportunity not to be missed.

Labels submitted to the TTB have revealed Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old Batch Three, officially Batch No. TB/03-10.10.01/21.BL. As with prior releases, Ardbeg Traigh Bhan Batch Three has been matured in American oak and Oloroso sherry casks. Batch Three is described as having aromas of “wood smoke, fresh sea spray, and eucalyptus”, an “oily” mouthfeel with notes of “rich fudge, smoky peat, and aniseed”, and a “savory, smoky, long finish.” Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old Batch Three will bottled NCF (non-chill filtered) at 46.2% ABV and is expected to hit stores in fall 2021.


Every bottling of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan will have its own batch symbol. Inspired by various distinguishing features around the Distillery, batch codes will change with each release. For Ardbeggians who have made the pilgrimage to Islay, you may recognise where we got our inspiration...

*‘Haar’ is the Scots Gaelic word for ‘a thick coastal fog/mist   

Scotch: Lowlands

Kingsbarns Distillery Dream to Dram 46% NAS

All in all it took five years for Kingsbarns Distillery to grow from a brainwave of former golf caddie Douglas Clement into a working whisky distillery, but just 18 months to build. He then used a box full of business cards gathered from 13 years spent carrying bags for wealthy golfers at Kingsbarns Golf Links on the Fife coast, a few miles from St Andrews. Realising there was no nearby whisky distillery to satisfy the curiosity of the course’s visitors, and having come across a derelict 18th century farm steading on the Cambo Estate, situated just a short distance from Kingsbarns, Clement decided to build his own.

The initial £100,000 seed capital was raised from 32 investors, many of whom were golfers. Despite various grants and money from crowdfunding, Clement still fell short of his target. His efforts attracted the attention of the Wemyss family, owners of Wemyss Malts, who incidentally have a historical link with the site, as the seventh Earl of Wemyss owned part of the Cambo Estate between 1759 and 1783. In January 2013, Clement sold the business to the Wemyss family, staying on as Director.

The Dream to Dram single malt scotch whisky is the flagship single malt from Kingsbarns Distillery in the Lowlands, owned by the Wemyss family. Only barley grown locally, i.e. in the  vicinity of the distillery in the sun soaked Kingdom of Fife is used to create their light, fruity and delicate spirit. It is matured in the finest oak casks under the supervision of the legendary whisky expert Jim Swan. A carefully considered combination of 1st fill ex-Bourbon and 1st fill STR - that's Shaved, Toasted and Re-charred ex-Portuguese red wine casks- were used to mature their flagship whisky. It was distilled in 2015.

Scotch Speyside

The GlenAllachie 10 YO Cask Strength Batch 3 58.2%

GlenAllachie takes its name from the Gaelic for 'Valley of the Rocks' and was purchased by Billy Walker and his team in October 2017, following great success reviving the GlenDronach and BenRiach distilleries. Billy Walker spends endless amounts of time in the GlenAllachie warehouses in Banffshire, sampling across the range of casks with over 50,000 on site; it’s not a job for the faint hearted. However, it’s certainly time well spent when the results of his endeavours are tasted. After sampling this vast range of casks Billy was keen to showcase GlenAllachie bottled at natural strength, leading to the GlenAllachie 10 YO Cask Strength.

The third batch of Glenallachie's limited-edition 10-year-old single malt has been matured for a decade, in a mix of 1st bourbon, virgin oak, PX and Oloroso sherry casks creating a rich, fruity character. Its is not chill filtered and is bottled with its natural colour. Batch 3 was released in 2019 and is limited to 3500 bottles.

The nose has big dark chocolate notes with raisins and heather honey, before a touch of sweet spice and orange peel. The palate brings more of that rich dark chocolate and raisin, adding treacle and a touch of cooling eucalyptus. The finish is long lasting and incredibly satisfying.


Paul John Brilliance 46% NAS

Located in Goa, John Distilleries have been producing huge volumes of blended whisky since 1992. The Distillery entered the single malt scene in 2008 as a ‘pet project’ and quickly gained worldwide attention. Distiller Michael John employs local ingredients, although, a peated release sources peated malt from Scotland. Paul John ‘Brilliance’ is the first in the range.

Brilliance is a non-chill-filtered unpeated whisky from Paul John Distillers, released in early 2013 to much acclaim. All the brilliance of Goa is bottled up in this Single Malt. Its sparkling hues are reminiscent of sun-kissed beaches. The six-row barley for this whisky comes from the foothills of the Himalayas. Brilliance is matured in bourbon casks, for absolute sensory delight.

Brilliance is matured in bourbon barrels for 3-5 years before bottling at cask strength. The tropical climate cause greater evaporation, around 12-13% a year, but in turn they show very well at younger ages.

Reviews and Tasting Notes

Appearance / Colour: Golden

Nose / Aroma / Smell: Fresh and juicy barley with hints of wheat. Scent of sweet lemons and oranges mixed with some vanilla and sweet butter.

Flavour / Taste / Palate: All about fruits here, from mango to apple and oranges. Tingles of honey and cinnamon are also present.

Finish: Long and smooth finish where vanilla intensifies and spices kick in.


Tamdhu Sandy McIntyre’s SC

In 1949, Tamdhu began to modernise the original floor maltings and took the innovative decision to introduce Saladin boxes, a French invention that mechanised the barley turning process. No more 'monkey shoulder' for distillery workers. As production in the distillery steadily increased over the next 15 years, it became necessary to increase the maltings output. At one stage, an impressive 10 Saladin boxes were required. The popularity of whisky reached record highs in the 1970s and Tamdhu expanded further to meet the growing demand. Four stills were added in as many years, allowing the distillery to increase production considerably without compromising the exceptional quality of their spirit.

Tamdhu downed shutters for two years starting 2010. In January 2012, the determination of Ian Macleod Distillers saw the Tamdhu Distillery doors open once more. Inspired by the founders’ commitment to creating the very best whisky, the family enterprise wanted to build upon the impressive Tamdhu legacy. Ian Macleod Distillers returned the distillery to its former glory, using the same processes and passion for sherry maturation as the founders had before them. Today, Tamdhu is proud to exclusively mature in the finest sherry oak casks. Nothing less.

This vintage was chosen from a 2003-bottled first-fill American oak oloroso Sherry butt. Bottled at 56.2% ABV without chill-filtration or caramel colouring, the whisky has been matured for 15 years to deliver aromas of raspberries, clotted cream, citrus, banana, mint, spice and ginger nuts. On the palate, the whisky is said to have a creamy mouthfeel with flavours of cinnamon, soft fruits and cocoa nibs, leading to a fruity finish with vanilla and brown sugar.

Only 595 bottles were available to buy from the distillery/online.


Ichiro's Malt & Grain (46%)

This is an example of something we will see more of: blended world whiskies. Actually, this has been going on for a long time – but rarely disclosed previously. There are often significant loopholes in various country labeling laws that allow makers to import whiskies from other countries and either bottle it as a local brand without modification, further age it and bottle it, or even blend it with their own distillate and then sell it as if it were their own product.

For example, American producers have long been known to acquire quality Canadian rye whisky on contract, and then brand under their own name (e.g. Masterson’s and Whistlepig both use Alberta rye, etc.). And a lot of cheap Canadian corn whisky finds its way into low cost blends in a number of countries. This might help to explain how Canada is ranked as the world’s third largest whisky producer after Scotland and the USA, despite its much smaller global bottle brand footprint.

With the increasing global conglomeration of drinks producers, we are seeing more and more cases where multiple distillers are now actually owned by the same parent company. This is facilitating the overt blending of expertise, materials, and actual whisky across the world. A definite trend with how often Canadian whisky is now increasingly coming up acknowledged in world blends is also apparent.

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain whisky is not actually a new release – and it has always been a “world blended” whisky (although that aspect has become more explicitly pronounced on the label in recent years). For those of you who are interested, I will cover the labelling history of this whisky in an addendum at the end of this review.

This whisky is from one of the leading independent Japanese distillers, Ichiro Akuto, founder and master distiller of Chichibu (and heir to the Hanyu family of distillers). He has been making malt whiskies at his Chichibu distillery for a number of years now, sometimes blended with older Hanyu stock. This Ichiro’s Malt & Grain whisky has been around for the better part of a decade, and has always included malt whisky from Chichibu (and potentially Hanyu originally, but not any longer), blended with whiskies from unidentified distilleries in the USA, Canada, Scotland and Ireland.

Note that that there are other variants of this whisky out there – including various Limited Editions, single cask-strength bottlings, and premium Japanese-only blends. But it is the standard “white label” Ichiro’s Malt & Grain World Blended Whisky that is being reviewed here. Online, Ichiro describes this blend rather poetically as consisting of the “heart of Japanese whisky complimented by the major whiskies of the world.”

Those foreign whiskies are aged in their countries of origin for three to five years and aged for another one to three years in Chichibu.

Ichiro Akuto eventually began selling it, most notably the highly collectible and highly sought-after Ichiro’s Malt Card Series, a 54-part collection that includes a whisky named for and adorned with each of the cards in a standard deck (including the two jokers). A full set was on sale at one point in 2015 for nearly $500,000, and even a collection of 13 bottles in the series was going for nearly $44,000 in 2016.

Appearance: Brighter than the average whisky with a pale gold hue.

Nose: Starts like a sweet but delicate vanilla that then quickly develops into a tart bouquet of orange and apple with the alcohol manifesting a bit like a sauvignon blanc. That eventually tones down to a more subdued combination of toffee, pear and plums – again with a twinge of alcohol that’s like white wine, only this time a bit like pinot gris.

Palate: Very similarly to the nose, the first sip starts off like a very delicate vanilla with just the faintest hints of sweet tropical fruit and flowers. That gradually transitions to more of a hazelnut-like vanilla with a flare of ginger to it, gradually building in spiciness as a notes of pepper and peat develop. Swallowing takes an interesting turn as it leads to a wave of a nutty, pepper in the back the mouth, which then quickly ebbs away. That leads to a brief pause before another wave gently rolls tasting first of honey, then of a firm but gentle surge of pepper. That finally fades into a honey-like coating on the tongue with a very faint tickle of ginger.


Tuesday 22 December 2020




Glass bottles began to be used for holding wines and spirits in the mid-17th century, but they were very expensive, so only the wealthy could afford them. They were mainly used as ‘serving bottles’ or decanters, rather than ‘binning bottles’ for storing wine in the cellar.

Glass pads, impressed with the owner’s mark or coat of arms, were attached to each bottle, and the bottles themselves were taken to be filled by the wine merchant, or filled in their owners’ cellar by the butler (i.e. ‘bottler’). Within only a decade or so, the middle classes were also able to afford glass bottles: Samuel Pepys records in his diary of 1663 that he ‘went to the  Mitre’ to see wine put into his ‘crested bottles’.

The earliest glass bottles had spherical bodies and long, parallel necks, with a rim at the top to hold down the string which kept the stopper in place. They are known as ‘shaft and globe bottles’. By 1700 the neck had begun to taper and the body to become compressed - these are ‘onion bottles’. They continued to be treasured, and in Scotland were commonly used as decanters for whisky in public houses. In the Highlands, it was traditional to give them as marriage gifts, crudely engraved with the names of the bride and groom, the date of the nuptials and even with an illustration of the event.

Between 1700 and 1720, the onion shape was sometimes exaggerated, so the body became wider than the height, then about 1720 the sides began to be flattened by rolling on a steel plate while the glass was cooling  - a process called ‘marvering’ – in order to rack them in the ‘bins’ of the cellar.

Early marvered bottles were ‘mallet’ shaped, where the straight sides tapered away from the base, but over the next twenty years, they became taller and more cylindrical, particularly after 1740, by which time the value of maturing wine in the bottle was becoming generally recognised. By the mid-century, many wine and spirits merchants had their own bottles, with their name or trademark pressed into the glass pad, to be returned for refilling with whatever liquor was available.

The classic French wine bottle shapes familiar to us today had evolved by about 1800 – there was a huge growth in the number of glass factories in Bordeaux, particularly, which was producing around two million bottles a year by 1790. Bottles from this period can often be identified by a slight swelling around the base, caused by the glass ‘sagging’ while the bottle cooled in an upright position.

Until 1821 bottles were free-blown, which meant that capacities and dimensions were not standardised. So when one reads of hearty drinkers of the late 18th century downing three or four or even six bottles of wine at a sitting – this seems to have been especially common among Scottish judges of the period, who habitually drank claret while sitting in judgement – it might be supposed that the bottles of their time were smaller than those of today. Not so. Research done in the Ashmolean Museum in Cambridge shows that the average bottle size was if anything slightly larger than today.

In 1821 Henry Ricketts, a glass manufacturer in Bristol, patented a method of blowing bottles into three-piece moulds, which made it possible to standardise capacity and dimensions. Such moulds left seam marks – the way in which collectors identify them today – but during the 1850s a process was developed to remove these by lining the mould with beeswax and sawdust, and turning the bottle as it was cooling.

Until about 1850 all wine and spirits bottles were made from ‘black’ glass – in fact, it was very dark green or dark brown – owing to particles of iron in the sand used in their manufacture. Clear glass bottles and decanters were made, but they were taxed at eleven times the rate of black glass.

Indeed, owing to the Glass Tax, bottles remained expensive and continued to be hoarded and re-used until after 1845, when the duty on glass was abolished. The earliest known ‘whisky bottles’, such as a Macallan bottled by the local grocer in Craigellachie in 1841 (and reproduced in facsimile in 2003), were reused wine bottles. Even after the duty had been lifted and clear glass began to be used more, whisky makers continued to favour green glass bottles, often with glass seals on their shoulders. VAT 69 continues this style of bottle. 

Many whisky companies continued to fill into small casks and stoneware jars and offered their goods in bulk. It was not until 1887 that Josiah Arnall and Howard Ashley patented the first mechanical bottle-blowing machine, allowing bottled whisky to really take off. In the trade bottled whisky was termed ‘cased goods’, since it was sold by the twelve-bottle lot packed into stout wooden cases, like top-quality wine today.

Bottled whisky, properly stoppered and sealed, was less liable to adulteration or dilution by unscrupulous publicans and spirits merchants than whisky sold in bulk, and during the 1890s cased goods became the commonest way for whisky to be sold, particularly in the off-trade.

The use of plastic (polyethene) bottles, developed during the 1960s and adopted by soft drinks manufacturers, has largely been eschewed by the whisky industry, except for miniatures supplied to airlines. These bottles are called PETs – not a reference to their diminutive size, but to the material they are made from: Polyethylene Terephthalate. Their clear advantage is weight, and they began to become commonplace in the 1990s. Concerns about shelf-life and contamination by oxygen or carbon dioxide have been addressed since 1999 by coating the outside of the bottle with an epoxy-amine-based inhibiting barrier.


As mentioned in relation to William Younger’s examination of bottles from between 1660 – 1817 in the Ashmolean Museum, the capacity of wine (and therefore whisky) bottles remained relatively constant at around 30 Fl.Oz (1 1/2 pints) during this period, in spite of bottles being free-blown. 

With the introduction of moulded bottles in the 1820s it became much easier to standardise capacity, and this was fixed at 26 2/3 Fl.Oz (or one-sixth of a gallon, which is also equal to four-fifths of a U.S. quart).

In 19xx this capacity was defined by law for a standard bottle - along with 40 Fl.Oz  (equal to an Imperial quart – 2 pints), 13 1/3 Fl.Oz (half bottle), 6 2/3 Fl.Oz (quarter bottle), 3 4/5 Fl. Oz (miniature) – and in 19yy it was required that the capacity be stated on the label, along with the strength of the whisky.

American capacities are slightly different. 1 U.S. liquid pint = .832 Imperial pint (12 Fl.Oz.). Whisky was commonly sold by the Imperial quart (40 Fl.Oz) or by the ‘reputed quart’, 4/5th U.S. quart or 26 2/3 Fl.Oz.

From January 1980 capacities have been expressed metrically on bottle labels, in line with the Système International d’Unités, when 26 2/3 Fl.Oz became 75 cl, half bottles  37.5cl, quarter bottles 18.75cl and miniatures 5cl. 

In 1992 the standard bottle size throughout the European Community was lowered to 70cl.

The United States retains fluid ounces, with the ‘reputed quart’ remaining the standard bottle size (75cl).

In Japan, both 75cl and 70cl bottles are acceptable.

BOTTLE NUMBERS  January 1884 – December 1909

During this period, some bottle-makers embossed a number in the base of their bottles. This is useful for dating bottles during the ‘Whisky Boom’. This list came from, an invaluable site for bottle collectors.

1884:   ****1 – 19753            1891:   163767 –                     1901:   368154 –

1885:   19754 –                       1892:   185713 –                     1902:   385088 –

1886:   40480 –                       1893:   205240 –                     1903:   402913 –

1887:  64520 –                        1894:   224720 –                     1904:   425017 –

1888:   90483 –                       1895:   246975 –                     1905:   447548 –

1889:   116648 –                     1896:   268392 –                     1906:   471486 –

1890:   141273 –                     1897:   291240 –                     1907:   493487 –

                                              1898:   311658 –                     1908:   518415 –

                                              1899:   331707 –                     1909:   534963 –

                                              1900:   351202 –


Age           - free-blown and moulded (pre-1870) bottles have ‘pontil     marks’ on their bases, created by the iron rod, called a pontil,   used to manipulate the molten glass.

Rarity        - the fewer known examples, the more valuable the bottle will   be.

Texture     - variations in glass surface, number of bubbles in the glass,   stretch marks, changes in colour.

Colour       - unusual, dark or strong colours, or a colour which is rare for      that kind of bottle.

Embossed  - where bottles are embossed (uncommon in early whisky       bottles), clarity of the embossing, its heaviness (heavier the   better), its intricacy, and the interest of the design or words.

Shape        - the aesthetic quality of some bottles.

Labels        - any item with its original label, contents, carton or box is of      more interest than an ‘empty’.


Whisky was first distilled as a medicinal tonic, but by the end of the 17th century its popularity began to boom across the UK. Glass is inert and impermeable and so it was the perfect solution when the first distillers were looking for a way to effectively preserve and distribute their spirit to its ever-growing audience.

Glass whisky bottles were made by specialised glass blowers and were expensive to produce. A hand-blown bottle was typically between 600-800ml (60-80cl) because that was the average lung capacity of the glass blowers of the time. Due to the expense and luxury of the glass, the whisky connoisseurs of the 17th century would have taken their own bottles to be filled.

CERAMIC POTS: 1707-1850

Incessant taxation put serious strains on the whisky industry with many distilleries shutting down and some choosing to go underground and produced whisky illegally. To compound matters there was also a heavy tax on glass introduced in 1746. The taxes meant that whisky distillers and drinkers started to look for alternative and discreet ways to store their whisky.

Stone and ceramic pots and bottles became widely used as they provided a vessel that was both cheap and durable. Ceramic pots were also discreet, especially important if a distillery wanted to avoid paying their taxes.

The durability of ceramic and stone became an increasingly important consideration as sea trade began to boom in the 18th century.

The taxes and booming sea trade are also linked to the dawning rise in popularity of miniatures. Miniatures provided a practical solution for sailors as they were cheaper than full bottles but the other cheap alternatives – beer and wine, which had been favourites at the time – did not fare well at sea.  Miniature spirits mixed with sours became sailors’ tipple of choice.

In the early 1900s, bottle sizes became standardised in UK law


At the turn of the 20th century, as taxes on alcohol continued to soar and two World Wars took their toll, miniatures became increasingly popular on land due to their affordability. Throughout the first and second World Wars buying a standard size bottle was considered frivolous spending. A miniature on the other hand provided a more economical option, allowing an occasional indulgence without having to splash out on a whole bottle.


When was bottle size first standardised in the UK?

In the early 1900s, bottle sizes became standardised in UK law. The standard was set as 26 2/3 fluid ounces, which was simply the average size of the traditional bottles produced by glass blowers in the 17th century.

This standard was used until the start of 1980 when metric volume was introduced.

The standard size for Scotch whisky bottles changed to 70cl in 1990

When was metric bottle size introduced for whisky bottles?

On the 1st January 1980 the global standard for wine, spirit and liqueur bottles came into force converting liquid ounces to metric volume. Standard whisky bottle size was set at 750 ml, also commonly denoted as 75cl. This is the standard still used in much of the world today, including the USA.

What is the standard bottle size for Scotch whisky?

On the 1st of January 1990, the European union updated their standard bottle size for spirits to 70cl or 700ml. This was because a 700ml bottle is an ideal volume for pubs, clubs, and bars, which have the option of selling 25ml or 35ml measures.

Since the 1st of January 1990, the standard bottle size used by the Scotch whisky industry has been 70cl.

Can I use standard bottle sizes to date my whisky bottle?

The set dates mentioned above mean that for Scotch whisky, bottle size can be used as an indicator of the bottling era. That being said, care must still be taken as bottles designed for export for example to the USA are still 75cl, and so other factors must be considered also.

As well as a variation in the size of miniature bottles, half bottles – whether 13 1/3 Fl oz, 37.5cl or 35cl – have been popular throughout the last century of whisky drinking. Even quarter bottles can occasionally be found for curious collectors so bottle size should always be used with other indicators for accurate dating.


While the official bottle size for whisky and other spirits is set across most of the world and has been set for many years, as mentioned above, you still will find a large variation in bottle sizes. And one that is only increasing.

As whisky increases in value bottlers look at different ways to appeal to and provide value for their drinkers. Many Japanese whiskies for example are bottled at 50cl and this trend for smaller-than-standard bottle sizes is one that is expanding in the modern single malt Scotch whisky market too.

Smaller bottles, such as 50cl offerings, are becoming increasingly common. Similar to the appeal of miniatures at the start of the last century, 50cl bottles offer a more accessible way to indulge in your favourite tipple. As well as reducing the volume and therefore cost of the whisky, smaller bottle sizes reduce the VAT and duty due on the bottle, again offering a more attractive proposition for drinkers – and a more accessible entry point to appeal to new drinkers – while allowing bottlers to maintain their own margins on more expensive casks.

Whatever your feelings on whisky bottle sizes and the reasons behind why they change, the history of the whisky bottle has shown us that preferences change regularly and for a myriad of reasons.

These days you can even get whisky in a pouch, so who knows what will be next.

Why a Pint is Bigger in the UK Than in the US

An American will find a pint of beer in London looking similar to his customary pint back home, but, given the amount of the golden-brown, oddly warm liquid sloshing around in the glass vessel, it will seem to be much larger!

How Big Is a Pint?

This is because a pint in the United Kingdom is bigger than a pint in the United States. The UK pint is 20 fluid ounces, while the US pint fills up 16 fl oz. However, this translation is not that simple, as fluid ounces do not equal one another across the Atlantic. Here is the breakdown of volume between the two countries:

  • The British Imperial fluid ounce is equal to 28.413 millilitres, while the US Customary fluid ounce is 29.573 ml.
  • The British Imperial pint is 568.261 ml (20 fluid ounces), while the US Customary pint is 473.176 ml (16 fl oz).
  • The British Imperial quart is 1.13 litres (40 fl oz), while the US Customary quart is 0.94 L (32 fl oz).
  • The British Imperial gallon is 4.54 L (160 fl oz), while the US Customary gallon is 3.78 L (128 fl oz). 


At the root of this divide is the difference in measurement systems. While the American system of measurement often is referred to as the Imperial System, this usage is erroneous. The US, ever since the formative years of the New World nation, has used the US Customary System. The Imperial System, alternatively, was established in 1824 for Great Britain and its colonies. Even today, decades after officially switching to SI (metric) units, volume in the UK is measured in British Imperial units. Both these systems, however, are derived from English units. English units were in use until the early 1800s, and they saw a vast range of influences due to the frenzied history of the British Isles. This historical precedence spanned a millennium, so, to keep things short: the Celtic Britons lived in modern-day Britain, and they were at war with Roman invaders for the first few centuries AD. After the Romans left, the Celts were invaded and displaced by the Anglo-Saxons, who were dominated by the Normans.

This resulted in a plethora of units of measurement. Many Anglo-Saxon units had some basis in the people’s agricultural past. For example, 3 barleycorns equalled 1 ynce (inch), and an acre was considered a field the size a farmer could plough in a single day. The foot, obviously having a connection to the length of the human appendage, was in use, but it had various conflicting specifications.

This resulted in a plethora of units of measurement. Many Anglo-Saxon units had some basis in the people’s agricultural past. For example, 3 barleycorns equalled 1 ynce (inch), and an acre was considered a field the size a farmer could plough in a single day. The foot, obviously having a connection to the length of the human appendage, was in use, but it had various conflicting specifications.

The Norman kings brought Roman measurements to Britain, specifically the 12-inch foot and the mile, which was defined originally as the length of 1000 paces of a Roman legion. If you’d like to read more about this background, please refer to my post on the simple peg measure in Whisky vs the non-conformal Whiskey.

The metric tonne is 1000 Kg. Since 1 Kg=2.2046 lbs, one metric tonne = 2204.6 lbs.

We have left the SI or Metric System out since our discussion is on volumetric measures, but that doesn’t hide the fact that both countries have not fully adjusted to global measures. How long will they bask in lost memories of deluded grandeur? 

The article on the UK pint vs the US pint has been taken from an Blog post of 22/6/2018.




The French company Moet Hennessy, which is the ‘premium wines and spirits’ branch of LVMH, has announced partnership with the Canadian whisky distillery WhistlePig. Moet Hennessy will start distribution of WhistlePig in selected markets in Europe and Asia and has also acquired a minority stake in the Canadian company.

Moët Hennessy, the wines and spirits business of LVMH, the world’s leading luxury products Group, had first bought Glenmorangie PLC, owner of some of the world’s most acclaimed malt whisky brands, for £300 million in November 2004. The Glenmorangie Group also owns two other celebrated malt whisky brands: Glen Moray and Ardbeg, known for their high quality products. 

The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for WhistlePig as it aligns their brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and should move into the international market.

WhistlePig evidently fits very well with the rest of Moët Hennessy's portfolio. This high quality and top-rated whisky brand has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning. WhistlePig will be launched in various markets in Europe and Asia early next year.

WhistlePig was founded in 2007 by the American entrepreneur and politician Raj Peter Bhakta, who had to leave the company in 2016. Famous Master Distiller David Pickerell, who died in 2018, joined the team from the beginning to build up the brand, blend the whisky and develop the own WhistlePig Distillery.

WhistlePig is located on an old 500 acres farm. The rye grown here is processed in the own distillery, which opened in 2015. Previously, the company had built the WhistlePig label with purchased Canadian whiskey that was matured for finishing here on site.