Peter Ranscombe takes another irreverent look at all the latest whisky news.
IT’S been a week for splashing the cash in the world of whisky.
The Scotch Whisky Experience unveiled plans to spend £3 million upgrading its tourist attraction on the approach to Edinburgh Castle.
Susan Morrison, chief executive of The Scotch Whisky Experience, said: “We’ll be creating a theatrical and magical experience to tell the story of Scotch whisky production, blended with technologies [that] we believe have never before been used in a visitor experience.
“Our team [has] been nurturing this vision since well before the pandemic, and excitement is building.
“We can’t tell you more yet, but we promise that what we have in store will be breathtaking and truly unique.”
Jupiter Artland has applied for planning permission to build and whisky and vodka micro-distillery at its sculpture park on the outskirts of Edinburgh, along with an expanded art gallery.
“The new micro distillery is proposed for the production of a new single malt Scotch whisky brand and existing vodka brand X Muse,” explained the planning application.
“The income this distillery produces will be used in support of the economic sustainability of the important cultural work [that] Jupiter Artland carries out in communities across Scotland.”
The distillery was designed by Helensburgh-based Organic Architects, whose greatest hits include Ardnamurchan, Lindores Abbey, and Nc’Nean.
Collectors have also been splashing the cash, with a bottle of The Macallan selling for $250,000 (£210,000) at Sotheby’s auction house in New York.
“The Macallan Distil Your World New York Single Cask Edition” – now there’s a mouthful – is one of only two bottles of the whisky, with the other remaining at the distillery.
The bottle was accompanied by “a striking blue presentation box featuring an engraved aerial map of New York, a booklet about the bottle and Distil Your World New York series that is signed by the talent featured in the ‘Distil Your World New York’ documentary that aired with the release of the original bottle, and a dining experience at El Celler de Can Roca for the lucky collector and three guests”.
Cash from the sale will go to help ChaShaMa, a charity that turns unused buildings in New York into studios and galleries for artists.
In other Macallan news, the distillery has teamed up with Harrods to promote its “James Bond 60th Anniversary Release” at the London department store for four weeks beginning on Sunday.
The display will include the original “Little Nellie”, the “autogyro” used in You Only Live Twice – the one that looks like a miniature helicopter.
Money was also on the mind at Chivas Brothers, Scotland’s second-largest whisky distiller, as French parent company Pernod Ricard unveiled its half-year financial results.
Sales of Chivas Regal jumped by 34% in the six months to 31 December, boosted by a 24% rise in the volume sold, while Ballantine’s sales climbed by 17% and its volume by 1%, The Glenlivet’s sales increased by 12% on the back of a 6% rise in volume, and Royal Salute soared by 37% in sales and 22% in volumes.
All four major brands were boosted by travel retail – or “duty free” as we used to call it – bouncing back after pandemic lockdowns eased, with Chivas Regal toasting growth across a broad range of markets, while Ballantine’s did well in Asia, Brazil, and Spain, The Glenlivet grew in China and the United States, and Royal Salute accelerated across China, India, and Asia.
“It’s a testament to the resilience of Scotch, its bright future, and our continued drive to open up the category to new audiences,” said Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chairman and chief executive at Chivas Brothers.
It’s not all about the money though – fans of Glengoyne are being asked to donate their time instead of paying cash to get their hands on a bottle of its 15 year old.
Aficionados will be selected to volunteer with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) for a day and, in return for their efforts, they’ll receive a bottle of the distillery’s new whisky.
The volunteers will be “coppicing trees, clearing vegetation, and removing invasive plant species” at the WWT’s wildlife reserves throughout the country.
Georgie Cox, corporate partnerships manager at the WWT, said: “Glengoyne constantly [shows] such vocal support for the importance of wetlands, and, thanks to this support, we’ve been able to show how much these green spaces can do for people and the planet in our fight against climate change.
“We’re excited to turn whisky enthusiasts into wetland enthusiasts as well.”
Fans from 13 countries gathered at The Vaults in Leith to mark the 40th anniversary of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
The 17 members of the society won a competition to the whiskies that will be released as part of its “Gathering” in September.
They also met with the club’s founder, Pip Hills.
Among this week’s releases, the resurgence in blended malts – or “vatted malts” for those of us of a certain vintage – continues apace, with Loch Lomond Group releasing its “Noble Rebel” trio – “Hazelnut Harmony”, “Orchard Outburst”, and “Smoke Symphony”.
Bruichladdich Distillery unveiled “Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2014”, the latest in its series of heavily-peated single malts.
And finally, Port of Leith Distillery has released “Perpetuity”, its first blended whisky, through its sister business, The Leith Export Company, which is already home to a Champagne, a port and a pair of sherries, as well as Lind & Lime gin.
Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages, in association with Cask & Still magazine.