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
This month saw the start of the autumn and Christmas releases. Around 20,000 expressions of scotch whisky are bottled each year, out of 20 million casks maturing so you should never be spoilt for choice. For English whisky it is estimated there are now over 50,000 casks laid down, still some way to go to catch up with Scotland!
There seemed to be more “free delivery” being offered by online stores than in previous months along with more offers aimed at sellers at auction sites. This seemed to be confirmed by some of the highlights below. More possible indications that the shine is coming off whisky.
September is Diageo Special Releases month. Each year Diageo release a range of eight “exceptional” bottles characterising the best of their distilleries. This year included a rare release from Roseisle distillery.
Laphroaig released their 2023 edition of the 25 year old (47.3% ABV, £420) and the final edition of the Ian Hunter Story – Book 5: Enduring Spirit (34 year old, 45.5% ABV, , £1299.99) available from various retailers.
Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard’s scotch whisky arm) will invest £60 million to reach its carbon neutral goal by 2026.
Glen Grant released seven decanters of a 70 year old (filled in 1953) at 55.5%ABV. Expect to pay around £100,000 if you can get hold of one.
Continuing what seems to be a trend amongst distilleries, several of whom have now partnered with various clothing manufacturers, Waterford partner with menswear brand Lestrange, to create a limited fashion collection inspired by the distillery’s terroir methodology.
A survey of 600 women working in the whisky industry revealed that 70% had experienced sexual harassment.
Cadenheads introduce their Enigma collection – a collection of single malts and blends that are unusual. A recording of an online tasting session can be seen on You Tube as one of Cadenheads podcasts.
The autumn release from Lady of the Glen, who have been releasing whisky since 2012, included eight new single casks.
Bladnoch hires ex-Macallan Marketing Director, Glen Gribbon, as new CEO.
Macallan (Edrington) buy Spanish sherry cask supplier Vasyma who have supplied Macallan with sherry casks for the past 30 years.
Bruichladdich released its latest Octomore series which was first released in 2008.
Holyrood distillery released their first whisky, Arrival (47.1% ABV, ~£67). The whisky was matured in a mixture of sherry, bourbon and rum casks.
The WhiskyStats Whisky Index which follows the 500 most traded whiskies on the secondary market registered another overall fall of 4.7%. Springbank and Macallan have now registered 35% falls since their peak last year. As with all indices, there are winners and losers, its just picking a winner would seem to be getting harder, although bottles that are genuinely scarce still seem to be fairing well.
Tullibardine launch a new 18 year old (£90, 43% ABV) matured in a combination of first fill sherry and bourbon casks. The new packaging reflects the outstanding quality and craftmanship in their whiskies.
Two million people visited scotch whisky distilleries in 2022.
The Lakes distillery releases Whiskymaker’s Reserve No 7 (£85, 52%ABV), the last in the series and probably one of the last releases to have been mostly overseen by Dhavall Gandhi as their new whiskymaker, Sarah Burgess, took over in January2023.
Infrequent flyers (Alistair Walker Whisky Company) release Batch 13, with seven new casks selected. Perhaps the pick of the bunch is a Linkwood 30 year old (£360, 46.8% ABV) distilled in 1992 and matured in a Chinquapin Oak Barrel.
Fans of Tolkien or Phillip Pullman and of rye whisky might want to look at this release from The Oxford Artisan Distillery. A joint collaboration with the Oxford Botanic Garden celebrating their 400th anniversary. The presentation box includes a coaster from the legendary Black Pine.
The British Standards Institute (BSI) release their new standards for whisky production. Whilst not a legal requirement, the new standard is said to, “effectively bottles the historic tradition of whisky distilling for the benefit of consumers and the industry”.
Brave New Spirits release the latest bottles in their Cask Noir Series. The 12 new releases with an RRP of £67-£100 feature a custom designed label taking inspiration from vintage cinema posters.
Independent bottlers Tri Carragh announce their third release. The three bottles are said to show how diverse sherry matured whisky can be.
Whisky exports from the UK declined by 19.7% by volume and 2.7% by value to £2.7 billion in the first half of 2023 according to the Food and Drink Federation.
Ad Gefrin, Tácnbora Batch 01, the first expression from England’s northernmost distillery is a blend of scotch and Irish whisky which is said to set the foundations for the distillery’s first malt whisky with an expected release date of 2026. Tácnbora (£42.50, 42.7% ABV) is available from the distillery shop. The tasting notes sound pretty good.
The Cask Whisky Association launches with the aim to make a safe environment for whisky enthusiasts to buy and sell casks. The launch received mixed opinions to say the least. Perhaps the most obvious contradiction is how a trade association can support consumers? Time will tell, with the best advice to be cautious when buying whisky casks, and ensure you do your homework first. There are stories circulating at present that even if you purchase directly from a distillery, casks can “disappear” with no compensation.
The Distillers One of One Auction raised £2.5 million for charity. You can review the lots here. You can also see what each lot made if you create an account with Sotherbys. Examples of some of the eye watering prices was the first ever bottle of Arrival from Holyrood Distillery sold for £10,000 plus commission, a Glen Scotia 49 Year Old Alice Angus 1973 sold for £33,750 plus commission, and a four bottle set from Glenturret, The Glenturret Enduring Spirit, sold for £125,000 plus commission.
Upcoming Whisky Events
Those without full dates, have already occurred in 2023 without releasing 2024 dates at present.
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
21st October – The Whisky Affair, Alton
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
12th-13th January 2024 Harrow Whisky Festival
19th – 20th January 2024 – Southport Whisky Festival (Winter)
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
16th March 2024 – Croydon Whisky Festival
22nd-23rd March 2024 – Whisky Live London
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
19th– 27th July 2024 – Belfast Whisky Week, Belfast
The Whiskey Affair: Haslemere
Leeds Whisky Festival
Arran Whisky Festival, Arran
The Whisky Affair: Guildford
National Whisky Festival, Inverness
Southport Summer Whisky Festival, Churchtown & Southport
Summer Fest, English Whisky Co, Norwich
The Dram Good Whisky Festival, Edinburgh
Whisky Fringe, Edinburgh
Spirit of Alba Festival, Kirkintilloch
Spirit of Speyside: Distilled, Elgin
Whisky Indy Love Fest, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Hebridean Whisky Festival, held at distilleries along the Hebridean Whisky Trail
Scottish National Whisky Festival, Aberdeen
Midlands Whisky Festival, Birmingham
Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival
The Whisky Lounge: Liverpool Whisky Festival, Liverpool
Cadenhead’s In the Courtyard, Campbeltown. An opportunity to try some special Cadenhead’s bottlings.