Background – Here at The Cask Connoisseur, even though we’re not subscribed to every potential newsletter or source of information, we receive around four hundred emails over the course of a month with various promotions, new release information, distillery newsletter, updates etc. Add on social media posts and that amounts to somewhere well over 1000 pieces of information being reviewed per month. The aim of this monthly round up is to provide a summary of the most interesting bits along with upcoming events that can be gleaned from them. The downside to a monthly review is a lot of “special offers” will have come and gone.
Summary of the Month
More good news from The Cask Connoisseur, for its distillery survey research from July, which despite the article only appearing in The Spirits Business two days before the end of July, was the second most read by their readers for the whole of July.
As usual there was a lot of discounting by retailers or “flash sales” and one wonders when might be the cheapest month to buy whisky? Usually January is a good month for getting good value in both the retail and secondary markets.
There were several “negative” news stories indicating that maybe the shine is coming off whisky as an investment. Only time will tell.
- Gordon & MacPhail release their Recollection Series 2. This annual release, this year includes bottles from 15 distilleries, many of them close. You will need deep pockets but there are some exceptional bottles here.
- Diageo reported preliminary results for the year ended 30th June. The press release and full report (61 pages) can be downloaded via the link. From a whisky perspective pages 19-20 are the most interesting. Scotch net sales grew 12%, with 2% volume growth. Growth was led by Johnnie Walker, with strong growth of 15%, and scotch malts also grew strongly at 16%. However, the whole report is interesting to peruse.
- Those who like Irish Whiskey may like to read the results in The Spirits Business, Irish Whiskey Masters 2023 competition. This is a blind tasting of bottles ranging from blends under £30 to ultra-premium malts (above £91). It might help you chose your next bottle.
- Milroys has shut its Spitalfields whisky bar. The focus will now be on its flagship Soho bar and e-commerce.
- The Balvenie (William Grant & Sons) announce the appointment of a new Malt Master. Kelsey McKechnie will take over from David Stewart MBE who was appointed Malt Master in 1974. Kelsey has worked at the distillery since 2014 and spent six years apprenticed under David Stewart.
- Balvenie have also launched the first release designed solely by Kelsey – A Revelation of Cask and Character – a 19 year old ex sherry cask at 47.5% ABV.
- The Spirits Business released the results of their World Whisky Masters 2023. Gaining a Masters Medal, White Peaks Distillery, Wire Works Whisky Alter Ego and several gold medals went to various The Spirit of Yorkshire , Filey Bay bottles. The most impressive expression award, The Taste Master, was awarded to Starwood Fortis available from several UK retailers for around £60.
- 8 Doors Distillery in John O’Groats, the UK’s most northerly distillery on the mainland, was officially opened by King Charles III. The distillery includes a visitor centre and first opened in September 2022. Tours are available daily at 11.30am and 2.30pm costing £24.
- Uile-bheist Distillery and craft Brewery in Inverness has filled its first casks with new make spirit. This is the first time whisky has been distilled in Inverness for nearly 40 years with the last Inverness distillery, Millburn, closing its doors in 1985, having been founded in 1807.
- Whiskystats monthly price update for July showed the value of Port Ellen bottles up and Japanese whisky continued down in the secondary market. There can be quite a variation between auction house prices achieved, so some research is necessary before sending your bottles to auction, if you want to try and maximise the return.
- Celtic Whiskey Shop won four industry awards during Belfast Whiskey Week. Distributor of the Year, Retailer of the Year, Wholesaler of the Year, Irish Whiskey Experience of the Year (Whiskey Live Dublin). All were voted for by the public.
- Glen Scotia released a 48 year old whisky 40.8% ABV, £11,000. One to dream about perhaps, but the packaging exudes craftsmanship and the tasting notes sound sublime. Roll on that lottery win.
- The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reported that rare whisky prices fell by 4% in the year to June. Although the increase in value over the past 10 years was 322%, more than double other collectables. It reports that Macallan bottles have seen an 11.7% loss in the last 12 months.
- Fuji Japanese Whisky arrives in the UK, three years after its launch in Japan. Available from The Whisky Exchange there is a single malt and single grain available.
- Glengoyne distillery was awarded Gold accreditation from the Green Tourism Awards. This recognises sustainability and is a worldwide recognition of environmentally friendly practices. One of the key aspects is the Glengoyne wetlands.
- The Scotch Whisky Association reports that exports dropped 20% by volume in the first half of 2023. The decrease in value was lower at 3.6%. Whilst yet another possible indication of a decline in the market, the figures need to be set against the exceptional results of 2022. So perhaps more of a “holds steady” market than anything else.
- Titanic Distillers in Belfast have started whiskey production, becoming the first working whiskey distillery located in Belfast after an 88 year gap.
- Master of Malt have their 2023 Whisky Advent Calendars available to order. What caught our eye was the White Christmas packaging (where an option), the Peaty Whisky (£149.95), Single Cask Whisky (£249,95) and as ever the Very Old and Rare Whisky (£9999.95) with stunning packaging and whiskies.
- Continuing the Christmas theme with an interesting offering from The Whisky Exchange – 20 Whiskies that Changed the World (£185). This set includes 20 x 3cl drams, a tasting book providing information on the whiskies tasted and two tasting glasses. Something to maybe consider as a present for the whisky enthusiast in your life.
- Brave New Spirits have received planning permission for a distillery at Mahcrihanish Airbase, Campbeltown – Witchburn Distillery. They aim to produce two million litre of alcohol per year with the possibility to double it. The distillery will start production in 2024 and produce unpeated, lightly peated and heavily peated single malts.
- Royal Mile Whiskies announce the top 10 whiskies as voted for by the public during their Whisky Fringe. Glen Grant 21 year old came first (£274.95, 46% ABV). The most intriguing whisky came in at number six, an undisclosed lowland distillery (£74.95, 63.9% ABV) with tasting notes sounding more like a Speyside.
- The Advertising Standards Authority has banned two advertisements from two whisky cask investment companies for misleading consumers over possible financial returns. Other stories that have surfaced this month suggest the old maxim, “buyer beware”, from people finding out they do not own the casks they thought they did and issues over insurance claims. Some of these issues with buying casks are not new, but perhaps more relevant as buying a cask of whisky moves from being a “bit of fun” to a serious investment.
Upcoming Whisky Events
Those without full dates, have already occurred in 2023 without releasing 2024 dates at present.
2nd September – Whisky Indy Love Fest, Newcastle upon Tyne
2nd-9th September – The Hebridean Whisky Festival, held at distilleries along the Hebridean Whisky Trail
9th September – Scottish National Whisky Festival, Aberdeen
9th-10th September – Midlands Whisky Festival, Birmingham
15th-17th September – Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival
16th-17th September – The Whisky Lounge: Liverpool Whisky Festival, Liverpool
1st-2nd September – Spirit of Speyside: Distilled, Elgin
9th September – Scottish National Whisky festival, Aberdeen
22nd September – The Hearach, Isle of Harris Whisky Launch
22nd September – Cadenhead’s In the Courtyard, Campbeltown. An opportunity to try some special Cadenhead’s bottlings.
29th September – 1st October – Whisky Show, London
7th October – The Whisky Lounge: York Whisky Festival, York
14th October – Falkirk Whisky Social, Larbert
14th October – Edinburgh Whisky Festival
20th-21st October – Manchester Whisky Festival, Manchester
21st October – Wee Dram Fest, Bakewell
27th-29th October – The Dornoch Whisky Festival
28th October – Whisky Social Belfast, Belfast
4th November – National Whisky Festival, Newcastle
4th November – Stirling Whisky Festival, Stirling
11th November – Glasgow Whisky Festival, Hampden Park, Glasgow
18th November – English Whisky Festival, Birmingham
25th November – Drambusters Festival, Dumfries
25th November – The Whisky Affair, Reading
1st December – Kendal Whisky Festival, Kendal
3rd December – Inverkip Hotel Christmas Market, Inverkip
9th December – National Whisky Festival, Edinburgh
27th January 2024 – Scottish National Whisky Festival, Glasgow
24th February 2024 – The Whisky Lounge: Newcastle Whisky Festival
1st-3rd March 2024 – Fife Whisky Festival, various locations in Fife.
2nd March 2024 – Whisky Birmingham – Birmingham
6th April 2024 – Clackmannanshire’s Whisky Festival, Alloa
1st-6th May 2024 – Spirit of Speyside
21st-25th May 2024 – Campbeltown Whisky Festival
17/18th May 2024 – Whiskey Live Dublin
18th May 2024 – Bladnoch Waterfall release day. This is the last release of the series.
24th May – 1st June 2024 – Fèis Ìle, Islay
15th June 2024 – The Whisky Lounge: Edinburgh Whisky Festival
22nd June 2024 – Stoke Whisky Festival – Stoke on Trent
6th July 2024 – The Whisky Lounge: Bristol Whisky Festival
Southport Whisky Festival (Winter)
Harrow Whisky Festival
The Whiskey Affair: Haslemere
Leeds Whisky Festival
Croydon Whisky Festival (still to confirm but will be early April 2024)
Whisky Live London
Arran Whisky Festival, Arran
The Whisky Affair: Guildford, Guilford
National Whisky Festival, Inverness
Southport Summer Whisky Festival, Churchtown & Southport
Summer Fest, English Whisky Co, Norwich
Belfast Whisky Week, Belfast
The Dram Good Whisky Festival, Edinburgh
Whisky Fringe, Edinburgh
Spirit of Alba Festival, Kirkintilloch