Archive for October, 2012

Wild New Whiskies at the Park Avenue Liquor Shop – Whisky News

Wild New Whiskies at the Park Avenue Liquor Shop

WhiskyFest is upon us, so we thought we should update you on some new and interesting whiskies that have found their way into our store.

This is just a sample of what has hit our shelves, so feel free to ask us about any product you might be looking for.

Take a look below. We’re sure you’ll find something to your liking. And if you live in the Northeastern US we hope you stay safe as “Sandy” approaches.


Jonathan & Eric

Park Avenue Liquor Shop

292 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10017


Black Dirt Bourbon

Three year old Black Dirt Bourbon takes its name from the dark, fertile soil left by an ancient glacial lake that once covered Thousands of acres in upstate New York. Perfectly suited for growing crops such as corn, this Black Dirt has never been used for Bourbon production – until now. Hand-crafted in Warwick, NY. Our Price: $40

Brenne ~ French Single Malt Whisky

Brenne starts in new Limousin oak barrels before being finished in Cognac casks, giving Brenne a hint of perfumed fruit that sets it apart from other whiskies. Each bottle of Brenne comes from a single barrel selected at its peak. They don’t blend barrels. Using cool fermentation and small batch production, Brenne is twice distilled in copper alembic stills for a smoother finish. Brenne also uses 100% organic barley grown and harvested by their third generation distiller. Bottled at 40% abv (80 proof) Our Price: $56

Lost Spirits: Leviathan 1 Bourbon

Lost Spirits is a small distillery dedicated to making expressive whiskey – inspired by Islay. In making whiskey, they bottle at cask strength, release only single cask bottlings, and do not chill-filter. At 110 ppm, Leviathan I is by far the most heavily peated whiskey ever made outside Islay. The Late Harvest Cabernet casks used to mature Leviathan I came from a spectacular family winery located on the Silverado trail in Napa. The botrysed dessert wine was soaked into the walls of the French oak before they added the new make whiskey. The wine soaked wood intensifies the chocolate notes from the peat and sweetens the fruity/caramel opening of the distillate. The French oak adds just a touch of spice to the mix. Each release is bottled at cask strength so you can experience them as nature intended (usually between 54 – 57%). Our Price: $58

Hillrock: Solera-Aged Bourbon
(Estate Barrel #1)

Hillrock Estate Distillery is located in the heart of the historic Hudson Valley, two hours north of New York City, overlooking the distant Berkshire Mountains. Prime farmland, crystal clear water, and a favorable climate create a unique terroir which is profoundly expressed in Hillrock’s artisanal whiskey. Proud to be one of the few “field-to-glass” whiskey producers in the world, Hillrock is also the first U.S. distillery since before Prohibition to floor malt and hand craft whiskey on site from estate-grown grain. Led by Owner Jeffrey Baker and renowned Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, Hillrock’s commitment to quality embodies the rich history of craft distilling in the Hudson Valley. Tasting Notes for the world’s first Solera Aged Bourbon:

COLOR: Golden Amber

NOSE: Sweet caramel and vanilla, floral and fruity notes,
oak, spice (slight cinnamon notes)

TASTE: Sweet, yet slightly spicy. Full bodied. Warm with maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, rock candy and toffee. Spicy notes include clove and cinnamon. Well balanced with roasted corn, toast and raisin. The sherry nose and taste are in perfect balance.

FINISH : Medium to long warm finish with sweet caramel and butterscotch. Characteristic Oloroso sherry flavors of walnut, fig and candied fruit balance the spicy rye undertones.

Our Price: $82

John E Fitzgerald “Larceny”
~ Very Special Small Batch ~

The story goes like this~ “John E. Fitzgerald’s weakness was fine Bourbon and he faced temptation every day. As a treasury agent with the only set of keys to the rickhouses, taking from barrels was easy. But, he didn’t just take from any barrels, he took from the best barrels. Some say he was a thief. Others claim he was a man of great taste. This is the legend of Larceny. Unlock the smoothness and decide for yourself.” Bottled by Old Fitzgerald – from Heaven Hill Larceny Bourbon continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye as the third or “small” grain in the whiskey’s grain recipe, or mashbill as it is commonly known. The use of winter wheat replaces the spicier, fruitier flavor notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald & other “wheated” Bourbons such as Maker’s Mark & the Van Winkle line. Our Price: $35/Liter bottle

Hochstadter’s “Slow and Low”
~ Rock & Rye ~

Rock and Rye is almost as old as the country it was born in and its history is just as vast and curious. Its humble beginnings can be traced back to the saloons of the burgeoning nation, where stern-faced bar-keeps would pour a shot of rye and let the customers add their own rock candy, thereby creating a drink similar to the granddaddy of all cocktails: the Old Fashioned.  As a pharmaceutical drink, it was used to snuff coughs, colds, sore throats, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia and many other ailments. Later, as men reacquired a taste for it and began drinking it for pleasure again, it became an American standard, prepared and bottled by distillers and bootleggers alike as it migrated back from the pharmacy to the bar.
Slow and Low was inspired by the original Hochstadter’s Rock and Rye recipe and a few other 19th century recipes we happened to unearth. It’s made strong; using the best aged whiskey and matured slowly. Our exclusive 6 Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey is then macerated to perfection with three citrus peels: lemon, grapefruit and orange, pure cane rock candy, honey and a hint of horehound. (From the Hochstadter’s website.) Our Price: $31

Not responsible for typographical errors. Prices are subject to change. Due to ever-changing inventory, we cannot guarantee bottle availability. Please contact the store with any questions regarding shipping.



Speyburn Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has today (24th October) unveiled a luxurious new version of its 25 year old expression, featuring a premium silver design and a personal signature from the distillery manager to reflect the quality of this exceptional award-winning scotch.

Every aspect of the packaging has been redeveloped. The elongated proprietary bottle features an etched version of the Speyburn logo – a leaping Salmon, symbolic of the water at the heart of the whisky which is drawn from the Granty Burn, a tributary of the River Spey, famous for its purity and world-class salmon fishing.

A new metallic silver label gives enhances premium cues and shelf presence, with each bottle presented in a striking silver-toned wooden box – complete with two engraved tasting cups and the boxes are hand-signed by Distillery Manager Bobby Anderson.

The whisky is matured for a quarter of a century in American white oak Fino sherry and bourbon casks and the end result is a malt of rare depth, complexity and balance.

Light Sauternes in colour, Speyburn 25 Year Old delivers a vibrant aroma that is rich with lime honey and lemon peel notes, accentuated by fragrant tropical fruit. The taste is rounded and smooth, sweet to begin with then opening up with toffee, creamy vanilla and pink grapefruit flavours that drift gently towards a long and warming finish. It is un-chill filtered and bottled at natural colour at 46% ABV.

Pamela Stewart, Brand Manager for Speyburn is delighted to be revealing the new 25 Year Old to the market after many months of development. She commented: ‘We have always known that our 25 Year Old whisky was very special and that it needed an equally special presentation to reflect that quality and distinctive character. I am extremely pleased with the finished result of our redesign which uses our classic Speyburn motifs but in a fresh, modern and luxurious way. This will be a whisky that catches the eye as well as the taste buds of those who love fine whisky all over the world.’

Founded in 1897 and often described as the most photographed distillery in Scotland, Speyburn sits nestled in a glen on the northern edge of the town of Rothes. It remains much the same as it was 100 years ago with many of its original features still used in the whisky making process today.

The new Speyburn 25 Year Old joins the 10 Year Old and Bradan Orach expressions in the Speyburn portfolio. It will be available from November 2012, RRP £195.00


International Beverage Holdings
International Beverage Holdings Limited is one of the industry’s most dynamic global drinks businesses. Established in 2006 as the international arm of ThaiBev, the company specialises in developing distinctive, premium local brands for global growth, with a portfolio that is led by a range of high quality Scotch whiskies and includes some of the fastest growing and most prestigious beers, spirits and whiskies on the market today. These high quality brands are enjoyed by consumers in over 85 global markets and include:

• Chang, Thailand’s iconic global beer brand
• Single Malt Scotch Whiskies: Old Pulteney, Balblair, anCnoc, Speyburn
• Blended Scotch Whiskies: Hankey Bannister, Catto’s, MacArthur’s
• Caorunn, a super premium small batch distilled Scottish Gin infused with 5 Celtic botanicals
• Thai spirits: Phraya, Mekhong

International Beverage’s international operation is headquartered in Hong Kong, with two major bases in China and Scotland and a growing number of regional hubs around the world. The business is focused on the delivery of winning investment, sales and marketing strategies, International Beverage is committed to producing brands of character, representing the care and craftsmanship of the people that make them – from the brewers of Chang Beer in Thailand, to the distillers of the fine single malt Scotch whisky Old Pulteney in Scotland. Crucially, the global development of every brand continues to be rooted in its home territory, supporting the company’s mission to build authentic brands of outstanding character.

International Beverage is investing in ambitious growth across its global operation, employing over 850 highly skilled people across production, sales, marketing and finance, together forming an effective and expert international team. In 2011 the International Beverage portfolio outperformed the market with outstanding sales across all categories.

Speyburn (Portfolio: 10YO, Bradan Orach)
Often described as the most photographed distillery in Scotland, Speyburn Distillery sits nestled in a glen on the northern edge of the town of Rothes. The resulting whisky is perfectly-balanced single malt, created using fresh spring water from Speyside which gives our whisky its distinctive character and unique flavour. Gaelic for ‘Golden Salmon’, Bradan Orach is classic, easy drinking Speyside malt, matured exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. Speyburn’s focus market is the USA.

Old Pulteney (Portfolio: 12YO, 17YO, 21YO)
Old Pulteney – the Maritime Malt – is the company’s flagship whisky brand and holds the coveted title of ‘World Whisky of the Year’ for 2012 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible – one of the industry’s highest accolades. The Pulteney Distillery by Wick’s historic harbour is the most northerly on mainland Scotland, and since 1826 it has crafted a Single Malt Scotch Whisky that is the very essence of its remarkable location. Matured in hand-selected oak casks, Old Pulteney achieved top ten status in the UK single malt market in 2012 and is renowned for its long standing support of sailing and maritime adventure across the globe. Key markets are the UK, USA, France and Travel Retail.

Balblair (Portfolio: 1965, 1975, 1978, 1989, 1995, 2001)
Balblair is the company’s premium malt brand: a Highland Single Malt whisky that has been carefully crafted in Dornoch since 1790 at one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries. Balblair whiskies are uniquely Vintage, named for the year they were made, not with an age statement. Every year, Balblair Distillery Manager John MacDonald, tastes, judges and selects straight from the cask, bottling at exactly the right moment, when the balance between the age and the character of the whisky is just right.

Mortlach 21yo 1989 (57.8%, SMWS, First–fill Sherry Butt, 76.84, +/-2012) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

Mortlach 21yo 1989 (57.8%, SMWS, First–fill Sherry Butt, 76.84, +/-2012)

On the nose there is some ‘sparkle’ or fizziness followed by a flash of ‘industrial’ or solvent quickly surpassed by crème brûlée and an intriguing slightly sour moment (think sour candies) but not unpleasantness like sour milk. Or a fizzy sour martini or such…in any case enough with the sour notes. There is scant sight of the sherry until a few minutes in when it makes a welcome appearance. Very good so far. The taste is very good and the sherry does show up nicely and everything pops into place with some good meatiness and the sherry working in sync to deliver a first rate taste experience. Lovely, lovely, lovely. All hands on deck this is really very good. The finish is more of the sherry and more of the meatiness with a little bit of the fizziness and then some leather and tobacco. The finish is not overly long but this can be resovled by simply having another sip.

Really very good, find one if you can.

$145 and 239 bottles for the US branch of the Society.

Score 90 points

Part 3 of 4 featuring the excellent single cask single malts of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. Samples kindly provided by the SMWS of A.

Please visit the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America at for further information on their single cask bottlings.

Scotch Whisky Auctions 19th Auction Now Well Under Way – Scotch Whisky News

Hi folks. The 19th auction is now live. There are 804 lots, so there’s bound to be something there you like!

Best wishes from Glasgow

Bill, Tam & Mick

The Whisky Shop “The Stunning Old Pulteney 40 Year Old Has Arrived” – Scotch Whisky News

The stunning Old Pulteney 40 year old is now available to order!

• Presented in a stunning gloss lacquered wooden gift box
• Silver etched with brand logo and iconic herring drifter
• Box contains hand-signed book written by whisky expert Charlie MacLean.

Simply Click Here To Buy

Bottled at natural strength and colour, non chill-filtered
Matured in ex American bourbon & Spanish sherry casks

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Rich amber with a red hue
Aroma:Fruity and floral with hints of oranges, green apples and butterscotch; slightly spicy
Taste:Sweet and spicy with traces of toffee and pears; full bodied with sherry notes and a long-lasting finish.

Old Pulteney Sails Into the Blue with Exquisite 40 Year Old Release – Scotch Whisky News

Old Pulteney Sails Into the Blue with Exquisite 40 Year Old Release

In a year that has seen Old Pulteney single malt Scotch whisky hailed as ‘World Whisky of the Year’, the Pulteney Distillery in Wick has unveiled a truly exceptional release for whisky lovers as 2012 draws to a close.

In celebration of the oldest Pulteney bottling to date and to reflect the quality and rarity of the whisky, every aspect of the Limited Edition 40 Year Old expression is exquisite and designed to embody the intrigue, craft and history of the ‘Maritime Malt’.

The expertise of Pulteney Distillery Manager, Malcolm Waring lies at the heart of each bottle, with Malcolm personally selecting and hand-filling each one individually from the ex American bourbon and Spanish sherry casks where this fine malt has been maturing over the decades.

The time-honoured skills of one of Britain’s finest glass producers, Tudor Crystal Design, have been deployed in the creation of the hand-blown Old Pulteney 40 Year Old bottle. Their craftsmen have fashioned a most striking and intricate design – retaining the original Old Pulteney bottle shape but deepest blue in colour with a shimmering silver ‘wave’ motif, created by blowing solid silver into the dark glass as it was crafted.

Each closure for the 40 Year Old bottle is unique, hewn by local Caithness stonemasons from a single Caithness flagstone, carefully whittled down into a series of unique pieces which were then individually polished and milled into the perfect stopper shape. A Scottish hallmarked solid silver roundel depicting the age of the whisky completes the bottle’s premium finish.

The luxurious design continues with a highest quality dark blue gloss lacquered wooden gift box, silver etched with the Old Pulteney logo and a classic herring drifter image. A hand-signed book written by whisky expert Charles MacLean, telling the fascinating tale of Old Pulteney’s history, completes the 40 Year Old’s presentation.

Inside each distinctive bottle lies the superb Old Pulteney 40 Year Old whisky itself. Rich amber in appearance with a red hue, it has a fruity and floral aroma, slightly spicy with hints of oranges, green apples and butterscotch. Sweet and spicy on the palate, it has traces of toffee and pears, leading to a full bodied and long-lasting finish with sherry notes.

Old Pulteney Senior Brand Manager Margaret Mary Clarke explains that the 40 Year Old has been a labour of love for all at Pulteney Distillery: ‘The release of this wonderful 40 Year Old whisky is a fitting way to conclude 2012, which has been an exceptional year for Old Pulteney around the world. Malcolm and his team at the distillery have shown real dedication in bottling a whisky of the highest calibre which embodies the finest elements of Old Pulteney with even deeper complexity and character in every bottle.’

Old Pulteney Single Malt Scotch Whisky is crafted at the most northerly distillery on the UK mainland in Wick. The distillery was founded in 1826 at the height of Wick’s herring boom and it’s this maritime heritage that gives the whisky its identity as the Maritime Malt.  Already a favourite tipple for whisky drinkers in the UK, Old Pulteney has developed global appeal and won a host of highly acclaimed international awards.

Old Pulteney 40 Year Old is bottled at natural strength and colour and is non chill-filtered. Its RSP is £1490 per bottle

Old Pulteney Single Malt Whisky

Old Pulteney Single Malt Whisky, is diligently crafted at Pulteney Distillery in Wick. It is the most northerly distillery on the UK Mainland and was founded in 1826 by James Henderson at the height of Wick’s herring boom.  The distillery lies in the heart of ‘Pulteneytown’, which was created for all the fishermen at the time, and is embedded in the deep rooting history of this coastal town, which used to be one of the most important and biggest herring fishing ports in Europe. In 2012, Old Pulteney 21 Year Old was awarded the coveted title of ‘World Whisky of the Year’ in the 2012 edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.

Old Pulteney 12 year old is also in the UK Top 10 Single Malt Whiskies and Top 20 in Global Travel Retail.

International Beverage Holdings ( was established in 2005 as the international arm of ThaiBev, one of South East Asia’s leading alcohol beverage companies. With a network of regional offices in Asia, Europe and North America, the company is responsible for the production, sales, marketing and distribution of a portfolio of premium global brands in over 80 countries and territories.

Inver House Distillers ( is globally integrated into International Beverage Holdings and drives the distillation and maturation of Scotch through its five distilleries.

International Beverage brands include:

➢  Chang Beer: Thailand’s iconic beer brand

➢  Single Malt Scotch Whiskies: Old Pulteney, Balblair, anCnoc, Speyburn

➢  Blended Whiskies: Hankey Bannister

➢  Mekhong: ‘The Spirit of Thailand’ since 1941

➢  Caorunn – a small batch distilled Scottish Gin infused with 5 Celtic botanicals

The company’s success is built on the combination of a strong understanding of local cultures and markets with the creation of a truly global operational network.  Brand building pays respect to heritage, provenance and craftsmanship whilst delivering innovative and highly effective strategies at global level. A skilled and dedicated team of people of more than 12 nationalities, speaking over 14 languages delivers the highest standards of customer service and attention to detail across all aspects of the business.

Whisky in Edinburgh by Mark Davidson – Edinburgh Whisky Sunday

Whisky in Edinburgh

For all its artful science whisky making can be condensed into three words: – mature distilled beer. Well actually if we return to the first spirit produced in Scotland, probably accidentally when the condensed vapour of some boiling alcoholic mix was discovered to be curiously tingling on the tongue and mysteriously uplifting to our protagonist’s mood, the concept of maturing out the rough edges was yet to come. So essentially the primitive distiller would recognise the sights, tastes and aromas in a modern stillroom but the wider picture of a global beverage produced on a gigantic scale and treated as serious industry with state of the art technology would be beyond our ancestor’s ken.

So it is that the story of brewing and distilling in Scotland’s capital has evolved from near alchemical research through the preserve of the royal apothecary, a private past-time, the development of a true industry, the run away boom of Victorian years, the near fatal blows of greed, war and recession, then the eventual recovery years up to most recent times with the industry’s rationalisation and current healthy state if not centred, as it once was in the board rooms and bonds of Edinburgh and Leith but not always distant from ‘Auld Reekie’.

Travelling back in time distilling would have been the preserve of those powerful centres of study and science – the monasteries. At this stage the elixir would be used for its tonic like properties and not for its pleasurable qualities. As the practitioners found themselves looking for a role in the open community their skills at the alembic saw the dark art of the water of life more commonly enjoyed by the masses.

However for the capital the right to distil was bequeathed exclusively to the surgeon-barbers in 1505 as they were given “an associated monopoly of making and selling within the city” under King James IV’s reign. In this formative period of surgical development whisky would have been valuable as an anaesthetic.

Being a seat of crown and court as well as a centre of population Edinburgh naturally had a market for all sorts of alcoholic restorations, be it low strength beer to sanitise the water (Edinburgh‘s hard water was ideal for brewing pale ales, the first IPA being made at the Holyrood brewery), imported French wine or Dutch genievre or uisge beatha. In the time of the enlightenment there was heavy drinking on the High street, conspicuously by those of ‘high rank and official dignity‘. Much business was attended to in the taverns and oyster cellars found down closes off the Royal Mile with a deal being sealed over a draft or dram. Indeed so significant was the brewing industry in Edinburgh that it turned from a small scale seasonal winter employer to an activity within large breweries all year round. By the early twentieth century Edinburgh employed nearly half of all people in the trade. In 1900 there was an incredible 14 breweries in the Canongate area alone with a further ten in other parts of the city. Thirty years earlier it was said that the South back of the Canongate was more famous for breweries than any other street in the UK.

The common view of the smuggler being the reserve of highland hideaways can be contrasted with the urban scene. In 1777 there were 200 convictions for illicit distilling while an estimated 400 illegal operations compared to 8 licences. With ease of access to market through he warren of streets and closes and the tell tale smoke plumes being indistinguishable in the reek from a thousand lums Edinburgh truly was a hotbed of distilling dissent. For example in 1815 a still was discovered in and arch of South Bridge while another was discovered in the cellar of the Free Tron church. An earlier incident illustrates the popular feelings for smugglers. In 1736 two Fife smugglers were to be executed for stealing money from a Collector of Customs. Despite a near successful assisted break out from Edinburgh’s Tolbooth one of the pair eventually fled but his colleague had no such luck. The town magistrates ordered the City Guard under the command of one Captain Porteous to ensure the culprit was publicly hanged as an example of their attitude to disobedience. After the hanging in the Grassmarket the gathered crowd showed their dissatisfaction with such justice by stoning the soldiers, their Captain duly himself fired into the crowd and command his men to follow. Several in the crowd died as a result. However after trial Porteous himself was sentenced to death for his actions. At the final hour it was announced the execution was to be delayed, fearing a reprieval the mob saw to it that Porteous would not live, armed they overpowered the city guard and broke into the Tolbooth before carrying out their will. This was not the end of the matter as concerned by possible a Jacobite insurgence the parliament of London fined the city of Edinburgh and expelled its Lord Provost.

At all times the port of Leith (incorporated within the city of Edinburgh in 1929) played a critical role, contributing its worth as a centre of expertise in shipping, engineering, storage, bottling and latterly blending (not just of whisky but tea and coffee). During the 1880s Leith was Scotland’s premier port for handling grain. While earlier in 1822 six ports, including Leith, were allowed to store whisky under bond thanks to a shake up in the rules and regulations governing the strict control of production and excise. Some of the other ports – Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee also went on to become significant bases for blending. The relaxation of the monitoring of warehousing came at a time when changes in legislation sought to promote the legal trade and discourage illicit production. In the 1850s the rapidly expanding rail network saw shipment by sea and canal being replaced with this cheaper and quicker mode. It is no accident that the two greatest Edinburgh distilleries share their names with rail lines- North British and Caledonian. Leith station and the various goods yards were instrumental in the blossoming of the area as a storage and blending centre. At this time Lowland distillers greatly benefited from the ease and low cost at which locally sourced coal could be brought to them. The building of warehouses in Leith would secure the future development in related services such as administration, coopering and the transport infrastructure. Dilution and bottling under bond was permitted first in 1864 for export then for the domestic market in 1867. Having enjoyed customs free trade with France many Leith importers handled chateau bottled wines and cognacs. The familiarity and experience in dealing with the concept of a ‘brand’ was to be useful when blending became significant. Subsequently many merchants expanded their businesses to include this activity all the time underlining Leith’s role as the premier location for the industry and whisky’s significance as an employer. Further progress was made in 1863 when changes in the licensing laws allowed merchants to sell directly to the public. Ultimately however the problems associated with overcrowding and the dangers of such vast stores of flammable stock were eventually to persuade companies to withdraw their stores and related businesses to alternative sites purpose built on cheap land outside the city in modern facilities.

Further advances came in 1853 with Forbes-Mackenzie act which allowed the of vatting of duty unpaid stock, this meant casks from different vintages from a particular distillery could be combined. Early pioneers of the art of mixing, particularly Andrew Usher Jr. (b. 1.5.1826, d. 11.1898) of O.V.G. (Old Vatted Glenlivet) and James Sanderson (later to create VAT 69), developed skills of ironing out variations in the character of individual casks while augmenting quality through judicious use of stocks and created a consistent product. Being allowed to blend without first having to pay duty removed a great financial burden and permitted a more conducive flow of stock and cash from bond to market. One of twelve children Andrew Usher was born into an Edinburgh family of wine and spirit merchants and joined the company with his brother in 1845. His father, A. Usher Sr., had moved from the Borders to Edinburgh in 1813 and eventually became the agent for the Glenlivet distillery. He has been credited with the inaugural blend in 1860 although this is difficult to prove. It is from this date, thanks to William Gladstone’s Spirits Act, that the mixing of spirit from different distilleries was permitted under bond for the domestic market. Now the balancing of the traditional, expensive, variable and flavoursome malt whisky with the modern, light, cheap and consistent grain was possible. A year before the passing of the Spirits Act Andrew Jr. purchased the Sciennes distillery in order to guarantee stocks of malt for blending and swapping within the trade. His success was apparent: his warehousing of the 1870s and 1880s were amongst the largest maturation stores in the world. It was around this period when Ushers pioneered whisky exports to Japan. Another of his legacies is the Usher Hall on Lothian Road. He left £100,000 (approximately £30M today) to build a music hall for the citizens of Edinburgh. Work started in July of 1911 on the hall which could accommodate an audience of 3000. Another of his accomplishments was the co-founding with John Crabbie and William sanderson of the North British grain distillery in the 1880s and was indeed its first chairman. Continuing the family involvement in the drinks industry his sons became brewers in the city’s Merchant Street. The philanthropic ideal was also a trait- Edinburgh university’s John Usher Institute of Public Health was initiated in 1902 thanks to the Andrew Jr.‘s brother generosity.

One of the darkest hour for both Scotch whisky and Leith came in 1898 with the collapse of Pattison company. The 1890s whisky boom can be put in perspective quite simply: in 1991/92 there were 2 million gallons of warehoused whisky, by 98/99 that figure had swollen to 13.5 million. So great was the demand for blended whisky production and investment continued to rise year after year. The public bought shares in new and expanding companies as the drink soared in popularity. Unfortunately buoyed by seemingly endless optimism some companies over stretched sound business principles and the temptation to keep increasing stocks ultimately led to over provision. The worst case was that of the Pattison brothers. Thanks to the company’s value being based on a fraudulent balance sheet and much credit being raised on over-valued assets the publicly limited business (Pattison’s Ltd.) was found to have assets only worth half of liabilities. The brothers were found guilty of fraud and imprisoned. The effect was to ruin many investors and undermine many more’s confidence in the industry. Many companies felt serious financial repercussions and some distilleries were forced to close. The speculator’s bubble was burst and the industry would not return to the pre-bust levels for fifty years. Pattison’s opulent offices can still be seen on Commercial street in Leith and are currently used as a restaurant.

Historically there were very many companies involved in the whisky industry which could call Edinburgh home. Mostly small businesses as time passed most either folded or were consumed by larger concerns. Of the more significant examples are names still familiar today like Ballantines. George Ballantine’s first premises was in the Cowgate although his business moved to Candle Maker Row in 1831 when he was 23 years old before shifting five years later to an address on South Bridge. The company owned a retail outlet on Princes street between 1895 and 1938. However not all companies chose Edinburgh as their base. For example the significant businesses of Buchanan-Dewar and John Walker decided registering their offices in London was a move more likely to impress investors.

However the most significant address of all was 14 Torphicen Street home to the ‘Leviathan’ that was Distillers Company Limited, (DCL). Starting trading on the first of May 1877 the company had its roots in a various initial attempts by grain whisky producers to share production and sales in such a way as to avoid unhealthy competition. The business was to grow in influence to the point it became the fourth largest firm in the country. The merger between six of the most significant Lowland grain distillers was eventually to include the major blending firms: Haig, Dewars, Buchanans, Johhnie Walker and latterly White Horse whose ancestry dates from 1650 – the Burgess of the Canongate owned a house which stayed in the Mackie family until 1919 and gives its name to the famous brand. By 1930 the company owned one third of all working distilleries in Scotland as well as most of the major brands. The business expanded and diversified to become the biggest in the industry. Chairman Henry Ross was a strong influence as he guided the company and acted as a pilot through good times and bad. He donated the Ross bandstand in the Princes street gardens to the city and it is with some irony that the stage has been used to host temperance meetings. Today the company has evolved into what is the world’s biggest drinks company- Diageo.

Other businesses in Edinburgh associated with whisky include: The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), currently (2012) celebrating its centenary the organisation represents the majority of companies within the industry and represents the interest of its members at home and overseas. Originally The Edinburgh and Leith Wholesale and Spirit Association the group evolved first into the Scottish section of the Whisky Association then finally the SWA in 1942. The Scotch Whisky Research Institute at Riccarton takes a scientific approach to the understanding of how whisky is made. Close by Heriot Watt University offers a world renowned degree course in Brewing and distilling. Amongst the many retail outlets both on and off licensed are Scotland’s oldest independent bottler – Cadenheads, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and The Scotch Whisky Experience visitor centre.


Caledonian (originally and briefly called ‘Edinburgh) 1855 – 1988. Commissioned by three partners as a grain distillery malt whisky was also produced here in the 1890s. Graham Menzies left his Sunbury distillery when it proved too small for his needs. Buying out his two business associates he became sole owner in 1880. In 1884 the company merged with DCL. Nearly 6M litres of spirit was lost in 1940 after being hit by a bomb. Today the distinctively tall still house (it housed the largest Coffey still in Europe) remains as private housing as well as several other buildings such as warehousing facades, malting floors and a probable boiler house. Most obvious is the listed chimney stack. Across from the Haymarket station the site was substantial being as it was the second biggest facility of its day. The distillery was finally closed in 1988 and was partially demolished in 1997.

Canonmills 1780 – 1840 Built by James Haig who was sequestrated in 1788 after trade restrictions virtually cut off the main (English) market for the product which would likely have been rectified into gin in London. It was subsequently, in 1790, taken over by one of the great distilling families- the Steins. Relations between the Steins and Haigs were good and so in 1825 the distillery returned to the original fold but was finally closed in 1840. Latterly the maltings were used by a brewery. Demolished in the 1970 to allow building of contemporary housing the site is at Glenogle road by the Water of Leith adjacent to the Colonies district. In June 1784 at a time of widespread famine in Scotland Canonmills was mobbed by hungry crowds hoping to liberate an imagined store of grain and vegetables. Soldiers were required to defend the distillery, two ringleaders were punished by public whipping and transportation. Distillers were subsequently praised for their contribution to farming, the nation’s revenue and the general welfare of the populace in an attempt to enlighten the masses to the contribution to the greater good of the trade and the protection of their business.

Craigentinny distillery became bankrupt in 1794.

Croftanrigh (Also Abbeyhill) 1820 – 1852. The original owner went bust in 1823. Distilling to not recommence until 1846 after a continuous still was installed. The buildings were later used by St Ann’s brewery and are currently employed by Historic Scotland as a works facility for Edinburgh castle. The malting floors and pagoda topped kiln are externally perfectly preserved. Originally the name was ‘Croftangry’ but was spuriously changes to ‘Croftanrigh’ (‘house of the king’) to suit the regal neighbourhood.

Dean 1881 – 1922. Converted from a flour mill the distillery occupied a cramped location on the Water of Leith barely 100 yards downstream from the Sunbury distillery. After several changes of ownership the distillery suffered a common fate in that it was acquired and shut down by SMD (DCL) in the post WW1 era. Today on the north bank of the river two very early 19th century mill buildings are now converted into residences. These buildings were employed probably as malting floors and grain stores when Dean was operational. Across from these elegant solid structures the remaining parts of the facility are used as offices and as such their original purpose is difficult to identify.

Edinburgh distillery (also known as ‘Newington’, ‘West Sciennes’ and ‘Glen Sciennes’) was converted from a brewery in 1849 by Alexander Pearson. He was sequestered in 1850 and the distillery was acquired by Thomas Duncanson & Co. in 1851 who also failed 5 years later. Come 1859 it was purchased by A. Usher & Co. Usher sold to Scotch Malt Distillers (SMD) in 1919 via the DCL subsidiary J. & G. Stewart, from this point the brand O.V.G. featured ‘J. & G. Stewart’ on the bottle label. The distilleries final closure came in 1925. The granaries, maltings and warehousing were at the colossal St. Leonard’s complex adjacent to the North British railway. Little if anything is now left of Sciennes the buildings being demolished in the 1980s and replaced with flats. The distillery was located at the very end of the meadows towards West Preston street.

Edinburgh distillery (formerly known as Sunbury until 1851) Est. circa 1813 by James Haig was probably the biggest distillery of its day utilising 6 stills. A Coffey still was licensed 4.1.1849 by Graham Menzies & Co. whom took a share in the business in the mid 1830s. After building the nearby and vast Caledonian distillery in 1855 Menzies, who had bought out the Haigs, passed the distillery on to the Steins The company was dissolved in the late 1850s. Visiting the site today there remains a warehouse once again converted to homes as well as a mews of similarly red brick buildings perhaps previously stores work houses and offices associated with the distillery. The location of the site is downstream in the lee of Belford bridge by the Water of Leith very close to the remains of Dean distillery.

Leith distillery (AKA Bonnington) 1798 – 1853 purchased by John Haig in 1804. Converted from malt production in 1835 Bonnington was one of the first distilleries to house a Coffey still. The substantial works occupied an area between the Water of Leith and Bonnington road. Perhaps latterly employed as a sugar refinery there remains a substantial brick built bond converted to offices and flats.

Lochrin 1780 – 1860 was set up by John Haig thanks to financial assistance from his uncle James Stein the owner of Kilbagie distillery, the largest of its day. After two occasions of bankruptcy (1788 and 1810) the distillery finally left the family fold when sold to the owner of Glasgow’s Loch Katrine Adelphi distillery in 1848 and was eventually closed in 1860. The site was at the Lochrin basin at the end of the Union canal.

North British. Commissioned in 1885 by a consortium of merchants in a co-operative format the distillery is the last in Edinburgh and is still, uniquely, joint owned. It is located behind the Heart of Midlothian football stadium in the Gorgie area of town and first produced spirit in September 1887.

Yardheads, (AKA Lochend and Leith) Est. by Alexander Law in 1824, failed in 1829 due to financial strain related to credit difficulties, all told the distillery had six different owners in its 60 year history. Closed in 1884 it occupied a site now home to Leith’s ‘Banana flats’. On Great Junction street former warehouses of Crabbies still stand and are currently residences.

Other distilleries appear to have existed on the outskirts of Edinburgh including: at Balerno, Musselburgh (Fisherrow), Dalkeith, South Queensferry (Dundas Castle/Glen Forth). Within the city Canongate and Coltbridge distilleries require further research to properly include on a definitive list. And of course Glen Kinchie near Pencaitland in East Lothian.

Further reading:- The Scottish Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo, Scotch Missed – The Lost Distilleries of Scotland by Brian Townsend, The Whisky Distilleries of The United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard

“All the cold restraints of sobriety being gradually thawed by the sun of festive cheer”

“Intemperance was the rule to such a degree that exception could hardy be said to exist”

“Unrestrained scope was given to the delights of the table”

“And thou, great god of Aqua Vitae!

Wha sways the empire of this city,

When fou we’re sometimes capernoity,

Be thou prepar’d

To hedge us frae that black banditti,

The city-Guard.

‘capernoity’ – bad tempered

“Let mirth abound, let social cheer invest the dawning of the year” Robert Fergusson 1750-74

Of the women of the Canon gate :- “sly drinkers, taking on debt, dressing by instalments, deceiving their husbands and many of their offspring are rickety ill bred brats”

Mark Davidson…

Of a distinguished Banff 1968 vintage Mark Davidson has a short but full body and so marries well (& subsequently producing two limited editions), frequently seen at whisky fairs in Scotland yet curiously difficult to find outside his domestic market it is hoped his inaugural launch on the Canadian scene will be well received. He is at home in independant bottling circles being most commonly found in the William Cadenhead livery where he has enjoyed a 13 year finishing period, however as a stand alone single expression under the Jolly Toper brand he can come into his own while being a fine mixer.

A. Smith Bowman Distillery Releases Limited Edition Port-Finished Bourbon – American Whiskey News

A. Smith Bowman Distillery Releases Limited Edition Port-Finished Bourbon

Fredericksburg, VA. (Oct., 2012) – A. Smith Bowman Distillery, a micro-distillery located just outside of Washington, DC, is releasing a limited edition, port-finished bourbon called Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Whiskey Port-Finished Bourbon. The barrel this bourbon was aged in has some unusual history to it – it aged bourbon for four years at A. Smith Bowman, then was emptied, shipped to a winery in Potomac Point, Virginia, filled with port, aged for two years, emptied again, then sent back to Bowman where it was filled in January this year with a seven-year-old bourbon before being dumped again and bottled in September.

“This barrel for this bourbon has some miles on it,” said Truman Cox, master distiller, A. Smith Bowman Distillery. “But it’s yielded some amazing results. The taste of candied apples, dark fruits and figs all come together to produce an easy drinking, all around enjoyable bourbon.”

Official tasting notes for the new Port-Finished Bourbon state the first pour gives the nose a treat with overlapping bright aromas. The flavors are initially plums and figs with the whiskey grains coming through on the mid palate. The finish is an amalgam of sweet dark grapes and dry spicy whiskey that leaves an enigma on the tongue.

The Port-Finished Bourbon is part of a collection of limited-edition whiskies released periodically by A. Smith Bowman. There are plans to release more limited-edition whiskies in the future, according to Cox, who took over as Master Distiller last year, and is eager to start crafting his own experiments, “The Port-Finished Bourbon is our fourth release in our limited edition series, and we have plans to ramp that up a little bit each year as we move along.” Cox aspires for each release to be a distinct expression, and with their limited availability, to be valued as a unique collector’s item.

The Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Whisky Port-Finished Bourbon will be available in very limited quantities starting at the end of October. It is 100 proof, seven years old, and suggested retail pricing is $69.99.

About A. Smith Bowman
A. Smith Bowman’s distilling roots date back to the years before Prohibition when the Bowman family had a granary and dairy farm in Sunset Hills, Virginia. They used excess grain from the family estate to distill spirits. In 1934, after the Repeal of Prohibition, Abram Smith Bowman and his sons continued the family tradition and built a more modern distillery in Fairfax County, Virginia called Sunset Hills Farm. In response to the rapid rise of taxes in Northern Virginia, the Distillery was moved in 1988 and is now nestled in Spotsylvania County near the city of Fredericksburg, 60 miles away from the original location.

As a small and privately owned company, A. Smith Bowman Distillery continues the time-honored traditions on which it was founded. Considered a micro-distillery by today’s standards, A. Smith Bowman produces an assortment of hand-crafted spirits distilled from only the finest natural ingredients and using the latest technology. This micro-distillery focuses on the production of premium spirits honoring the legacy of Virginia’s first settlers. For more information on A. Smith Bowman, please visit

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Launch in British Columbia – Scotch Whisky News

You’ve heard the rumours,
You’ve hoped they were true,
So it’s time to announce,
Without further ado…


Please join us along with Victoria’s The Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants to celebrate the expansion of the Canadian branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

News this big deserves a party or two, so we’re going to open twelve fantastic bottles of single cask single malt whiskies, put out some good food, and invite you to come find out what all the fuss is about! And we’re going to throw you a curve ball or two, so be prepared to be curious!

Victoria Event:
Saturday, October 27/12
7pm – 9pm
Hotel Grand Pacific, Pender Island Ballroom
463 Belleville Street
To register contact The Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants at
919 Douglas Street, Victoria


Highland Park 11yo 1999 (58.6%, SMWS, First-fill barrel, 4.153, +/-2012) – Scotch Whisky Tasting Note

Highland Park 11yo 1999 (58.6%, SMWS, First-fill barrel, 4.153, +/-2012)

On the nose it’s a little closed at first but soon opens up to reveal a little welcome smoke (like the first hint of a distant home fire) and then citrus and warm marzipan; everything is really quite sensational when taken together. There are also vague hints of some earthiness and a little bit of heather; all very good. The taste is actually quite gentle at first despite the high alcohol and the smoke comes through really well. However it shortly demands some water which tames it somewhat to reveals more of the marzipan sweetness and a little woodiness which appears in the form of some spiciness & coffee grounds. The finish is more of the smoke and some good hard candy as well as the citrus (lemons and limes but not orange but perhaps a moment or two of grapefruit). The finish is medium long and some hints of 90% cocoa chocolate emerges in the later moments but then the smoked malt re emerges.

Complex but stays within the Highland Park descriptors and an interesting variant to the official bottlings.

$100 and 150 bottles for the US branch of the Society.

Score 86 points

Part 2 of 4 featuring the excellent single cask single malts of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. Samples kindly provided by the SMWS of A.

Please visit the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America at for further information on their single cask bottlings.

Powered by WordPress