Glengoyne 10 Year Old ‘Spring Blossoms at Glengoyne’ Limited Edition tin

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Jolomo with the “Spring Blossoms” painting and the limited edition Glengoyne 10 year old tin. Source: supplied

The Glengoyne distillery has recently collaborated with Glasgow School of Art graduate John Lowrie Morrison OBE (otherwise known as “Jolomo”) to produce the third release in a series of specially commissioned seasonal paintings which are inspired by the distillery. This third release, “Spring Blossoms at Glengoyne”, are set to be printed on limited edition Glengoyne 10 Year Old gift tins just in time for Christmas.  Continue reading “Glengoyne 10 Year Old ‘Spring Blossoms at Glengoyne’ Limited Edition tin”

Borders Distillery, Scotland’s newest whisky distillery, to open its doors

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L-R: George Tait, Tony Roberts, John Fordyce and Tim Carton

Just north of Scotland’s border with England, near the River Teviot, sits the Scottish town Hawick. Hawick sits in the council area Scottish Borders. Many miles away from Scotland’s major whisky producing areas, notably the distillery dense whisky region Speyside, Scottish Borders’ last distillery is thought to have closed its doors in 1837.

In recent years, distilleries have begun sprouting in Scottish Borders. One is the Kelso Gin Company. The other, which is of more interest to whisky fans, is the Borders Distillery.

Fast forward to 6 March 2018. That day, at precisely 10.11am, new make spirit started to trickle out of a copper pot still under the watchful eye of staff at the Borders Distillery – this marked the first time in about 181 years that new make was produced in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland with a view to making it into whisky (well, legally at least!). Continue reading “Borders Distillery, Scotland’s newest whisky distillery, to open its doors”

Bruichladdich tasting – Jim McEwan’s visit to Melbourne, Kelvin Club

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Jim McEwan, telling a story

On Wednesday 8 October 2014 over one hundred people gathered within the walls of the iconic Kelvin Club in Melbourne to meet a man who has been involved in the production of whisky for half a century. That man, ladies and gentleman, is Jim McEwan. The vast majority of people may utter the words “Jim who?”, but anyone who enjoys a dram or two (or who knows what “dram” means) will know that the name “Jim McEwan” belongs to a man who is perhaps the world’s most famous whisky distiller. Starting his career at the Bowmore distillery at the age of 15, Jim went on to learn the craft of cooperage (making or assembling barrels) before becoming the Master Distiller at the Bruichladdich distillery in Scotland, where he now plies his trade. His career in whisky has spanned half a century, and while at Bruichladdich he has gained a reputation for producing whisky that is innovative, exciting and that tastes darn good!

Over the past week or so Jim has embarked on a much anticipated national tour of major Australian cities where he has conducted a tasting of whiskies from Bruichladdich, and the scene for his visit to Melbourne was the Kelvin Club. Malt Mileage was very fortunate to secure a ticket to Jim’s visit to Melbourne.

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Bruichladdich’s The Botanist Islay Gin

On arrival at the Kelvin Club guests were greeted with gin and tonic, made with Bruichladdich’s The Botanist Islay Dry Gin – a gin made using classic aromatics that tend to be used for gin such as orris root, cassia bark and coriander seed, and, 22 other botannicals hand picked on the isle of Islay in Scotland (where Bruichladdich is located). As the bottles of gin were slowly emptied, a progression of people began to eagerly make their way to the upstairs room where Jim would be conducting the whisky tasting. The room was large, and an energy filled the air as people looked around for anyone who even remotely resembled Jim. It soon became clear that Jim is not a man to enter a room unnoticed, and to the bellowing sound of bagpipes Jim entered the room marching proudly behind a bagpiper dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt. He had arrived, and the room fell silent. “Hello”, he said happily. “Hello!”, he repeated. With a gesture of his hands, not dissimilar to the one made by an old friend who wants a hug and not a handshake, the crowd realised its mistake and finally responded “Hello Jim!”. That set the tone for what was a hilarious evening. It was not the formidable legend Master Distiller McEwan up there, ready to teach everyone about whisky. It was Jim, ready to share half a dozen drams with us and talk whisky.  

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Tasting room
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Jim making about about “E150”

One of the first points Jim made was that the colour of a whisky is meaningless, because caramel (the oft-called “E150”) may be added to whisky and therefore its colour is not a reliable indicator of its age or the type of casks that were used to mature the whisky. This was demonstrated by Jim pouring cola into a glass of whisky, which darkened it, and with this altered colour he sarcastically observed whether the whisky – now dark in colour – was matured in Fino sherry casks for a number of years. This was a good point made by Jim, but it was also a confusing point given that Bruichladdich do not add caramel colouring to their whisky. The colour of Bruichladdich whisky therefore is a clue as to what casks were used to mature the whisky, though admittedly Jim is correct that a whisky’s colour reveals nothing about its age.  

SONY DSCOn tasting were whiskies in the Bruichladdich range – the Laddie Classic, Islay Barley 2006, Black Art v3, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and Octomore 6.1. All whiskies were impressive and thoroughly enjoyable, and my picks of the evening would be the Islay Barley 2006 and Black Art v3 (curiously both of which are – despite Islay being the heartland of peat – made without peat) and the Octomore 6.1 which, despite having a terrifying 300ppm as the world’s most heavily peated whisky, is surprisingly well balanced and complex.

With wobbly knees from all the whisky and a measure of gin, we were made to stand with one foot on the table and one foot on our chairs while yelling out a Scottish toast which lasted several minutes (and almost saw me fall face first into some leftover Octomore – yes please!). The evening then ended, and the mood soon deflated. Everybody had to go home, but I get the feeling no one really wanted to – there was still plenty of whisky, and Jim’s jokes and humour left us all in a state of constant laughter (it was either Jim, or the whisky).   SONY DSCSONY DSC

Overall, Jim’s visit to Melbourne was a fun-filled journey through the Bruichladdich range that was filled with laughter, jokes and some whisky education in between. If you see Jim, tell him Gunta is at the door – he’ll know what I mean! 

The Whisky Show, Melbourne

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The owners of World of Whisky in Sydney have been running The Whisky Show for some years now, but this year they decided to give us Melbournians a bit of whisky loving and in 2014 The Whisky Show ($70 per ticket) came to Melbourne. Until now Whisky Live has had what I would describe as a monopoly on the whisky fair market in Melbourne. Now it has some much needed competition from The Whisky Show for the whisky fair dollar. The gloves are off. *ding* *ding*

On 30 August 2014 The Whisky Show Melbourne was held at the Stamford Plaza at 111 Little Collins Street Melbourne. On entering the venue we were ushered up the stairs to the reception area of The Whisky Show where we each received a “show bag” with a crystal Glencairn glass and a food pack containing a sandwich, red rock deli chips (or crisps, for my friends in the northern hemisphere), a bottle of water and some other nibbles. We then we made our way to taste some whisky!

There was a great selection of whiskies on offer that I felt pushed the boundaries, because on tasting were some highly sought-after expressions that are not easily found on the corner bottle shop – the Springbank and Kavalan range, and, Glenfarclas 30 year old, Sullivan’s Cove French Oak and a Benromach 1968 vintage come to mind. The number of brands on offer was not huge (a full list is produced below), but when tasting those on offer I had the opportunity to taste some elusive and delicious drams while chatting with extremely knowledgeable brand ambassadors and staff. That made for a very enjoyable night.

While the whisky on offer and staff knowledge about those whiskies was impressive, there a few issues I think The Whisky Show needs to address for future events. The venue became a little claustrophobic and hot after an hour or two, possibly because of its low ceilings and the fact it was split into two rooms, which made it a little uncomfortable and impacted negatively the aesthetics of the event. It also “seemed” crowded, but I tasted the whiskies I wanted to taste without much hassles by returning to the popular stands later in the evening. The “show bags” provided were a nice touch, but they had to be carried by hand and did not have loops long enough to be carried over the shoulder – this meant that our hands were occupied carrying bags rather than tasting whisky. On reflection, I think the food packs were good in the sense that everyone got an equal amount of food but they were bad in the sense that finger foods and catering seems like a much more enjoyable and convenient way to eat at a whisky fair (besides, I really felt like a hot pie to go with that free flow of booze!).

Talking about things to go with booze, there was the opportunity to buy cigars and taste liqueur ice cream topped with Hellyer’s Road Cream Liqueur, and, Arran Gold Liqueur cheesecake. The ice cream and cheesecake were absolutely delicious, but the cigar stand left me a shaking my head at what I felt was a shameless display of profiteering at the expense of many people who were none the wiser – the person selling cigars was alleging that her cigars were a bargain at their price and much cheaper than the “shops” (she even quoted the prices these “shops” sold her cigars at). No they weren’t. They were a rip off, and a simple search on the website of a trusted Melbourne cigar supplier (and an online Australian supplier) confirmed it. I could get the same cigars for cheaper down the road or even better online from an Australian supplier. It all just makes me want to passionately swear in Spanish and smoke a Cuban, dammit.

Anyway, back to The Whisky Show.  Overall, The Whisky Show’s first foray into Melbourne seemed to be a success – the whisky was flowing, there were expressions on tasting that are not easily found on a trip to the bottle shop, the people pouring the whisky were very knowledgeable about the whisky they were pouring, and, most importantly, it was great fun. In future I would love to see The Whisky Show occupy a more spacious venue with higher ceilings, and, I hope it considers complimenting the food packs with some hot finger food. Some more whiskies wouldn’t go astray, and some cigars that actually are good value!

Adios, amigos.

Brands World of Whisky says were exhibited at The Whisky Show in Melbourne included:

Aberfeldy – only saw one bottle 
Arran – a large range, impressive
BenRiach – a large range  
BenRomach – a large range was available, including a nip of a 1968 vintage
Big Peat – only saw the standard bottling
Caol Ila – did not see Caol Ila
Dunkeld
Athol Brose – only saw one bottle of the liqueur
Duthies  
Edradour 
Glen Garioch
Glen Grant – a good range was available, including V Decades and the 16 year old
Glenfarclas  – a big range was available, including the 30 year old  
Glenglassaugh  
Hazelburn  
Hellyers Road – only saw the cream liqueur  
Kavalan – a big impressive range was available, except the Fino
Longrow
Macallan – only saw the Sienna  
Scallywag   
Springbank – a nice range was available  
Sullivan’s Cove – only saw the French Oak.

Malt Mileage interviews Highland Park

HP distillery

How is life on Orkney Island?

The Orkney islands are a great place to live. A beautiful landscape, super clean air and very long summers. People have a great lifestyle on the northern isles.

Highland Park gives some of its products a Viking theme, naming a selection after famous historical figures from Viking history. Is this only because of the Nordic history of the Orkney islands, or is there something you particularly admire about the Vikings and the individuals after which you name some of your products?

It is both. We have a fascinating Nordic history on the islands. Our distillery was set up by a man called Magnus Eunson. He was a famous smuggler on Orkney. He does not have the typical whisky smugglers name. Even today, you are very likely to meet people with Nordic names.

Can you give us an idea of a typical day in the Highland Park distillery?

We run the largest floor malting’s in the malt whisky industry. This is a lot of work. We can shift 30 tonnes of barley in one day. We also fill our casks on-site and store in our 19 dunnage and 4 racked warehouses. This is a very hands on distillery, when you come over, you can see for yourself.

With so many whisky distilleries in Scotland, what do you think makes Highland Park stand out?

The finest Sherry seasoned casks, gentle smoke from our tree-less peat and of course The Orkney Islands. The balance of flavour is completely unique to Highland Park; gentle smoke and sherry cask sweetness.

Do you think that Highland Park has a distinctive taste and character? What do you think makes it distinctive? Do you think Highland Park has a signature style or character in its core range?

Yes, Highland Park has a distinctive character, the balance of smoke and sweetness is the key. On Orkney we have no trees due to high winds; 4000 years ago this was still the case. Our peat therefore contains very little wood. When we use this peat to fuel our kilns, we get a very gentle peat smoke.

Think of Highland Park like a good Jazz track. This smoke is the bass-line. It is always there in the background. Then we have the sherry casks…The flavours from the cask are the melody. Acheving the balance of these two will give you track you can never forget. Highland Park 18yo is perfection for us.

In addition to its core range, Highland Park offers a number of whisky expressions – the Warrior Series and other Travel Retail offerings, Orcadian Vintage Series, Valhalla Collection, Earl Magnus Editions, Ambassador Casks and a large number of special bottlings. Why does Highland Park offer so many whiskies? Can you name two or three that stand out as being most different to the theme or character of the core range? If so, which whiskies would you say are most different to the core range and why?

The Valhalla collection stands out the most for me. I love these whiskies. They have been created to reflect the character of the Norse gods. Thor was straight talking and powerful, 52.1%abv and not too complex. Loki was devious and very complex. This is the only Highland park you will taste that uses mainland peat. This gives a totally different smoke profile, very fitting for Loki. Freya is light and beautiful with a slightly dark smoky side. This range has been great to work on and has been a great way for us to celebrate our Nordic heritage.

Do you think whisky age statements are important? Why?

Not really, I think it’s a rough guide. It gives no indication of cask quality. If you age in a low quality cask for 50 years you will have a low quality 50 year old whisky. For me its all about flavour and story…that is the same when choosing a good Rum, Cognac or Tequila.

How does Highland Park select and prepare casks which will be used to mature whisky?  

Olorosso seasoned casks only. We dry the wood for 4 years, Our coopers create the casks in Spain and then season in sherry bodegas with Olorosso sherry. These are new sherry casks and not ‘Bodega casks’ This gives us our colour, flavour and aroma. It’s an amazing process.

Are you able to share some of Highland Park’s future plans with us? Do you have any new releases or series? Can you tell us more about this?

We have lots coming up. We have the next Valhalla whisky being released in 2015. We have collaborated with Linn audio recently and paired whiskies with music. That was a lot of fun. We have also played with cocktails recently too. I have attached a couple of links for you to have a look at. Its me making the drinks.

Do you have anything else you would like to share with our readers? 

Please keep in touch with us. FB @highlandparkwhisky and Twitter @highlandpark . You should also get your face in our distillery…should you visit us, you will find yourself on our walls! J

http://highlandpark.co.uk/about/inner-circle/

Thank you very much for Daryl Haldane, Global Brand Ambassador for Highland Park, for his time in answering these questions!  

The House of Suntory – Exclusive Takeover Event (Melbourne, Australia)

The Suntory Range
The Suntory Range

If a trip to Daiso or the bento box at your local Sushi Sushi no longer excites your waning case of Japanophilia, then this range of Japanese whiskies by Suntory might just be the jolt your system needs to get back into exploring flavours of Japan and haphazardly singing “I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so”! That jolt is exactly what happened when I attended Suntory’s Exclusive Takeover Event at the Hihou bar in Melbourne on 21 May 2014, though I waited until my trip hope until I started singing.

The evening commenced at 5:30pm with a private tasting led by Mike Miyamoto, the Global Brand Ambassador for Suntory. Mike was the opposite of what you would expect of a brand ambassador, because he spoke with a refreshing honesty that relied on the science of whisky production rather than marketing spin. This reliance on whisky science was a theme throughout his discussion of the Suntory whiskies on tasting (tasting notes of which are below). Equally interesting as his discussion of the history of Suntory and its beginnings in 1923 was his elucidation of the influence of the environment on Suntory’s two major brands, Yamazaki and Hakushu.

The Yamazaki distillery sits near the location where three rivers merge and the resulting “fog” helps reduce angel’s share (the evapouration of whisky) among the ageing casks and ensure those casks remain in a good environment that is not overly dry while ageing. Hakushu is a forest mountainside distillery and this seems to impart “green” or minty notes into the whisky, because oak breathes and the whisky within the casks appears to absorb some of the aromas and flavours surrounding the warehouse as it sits ageing.

The main difference in themes between the Yamazaki and Hakushu is that Yamazaki whisky is made with slightly harder water than Hakushu and Yamazaki (at least the 12 year old and Distiller’s Reserve) has a more pronounced Mizunara oak (Japanese oak) influence, which gives the whisky a distinct spicy kick similar to cinnamon. Hakushu, on the other hand, is made with softer water than Yamazaki, and a theme in the whisky is a gentle campfire smoke that wafts amid layers of green leafy notes, soft fruit and a light creaminess. Put simply, Yamazaki tends to be bolder, zestier and spicier with more expressive Mizunara than its cousin Hakushu which tends to be softer and leafy with hints of smoke. Of course, Yamazaki and Hakushu have different expressions but this seemed to be the distinctiveness of the brands as tasted on the night.

With this in mind, the event showcased the Suntory range available in Australia and paired these whiskies with a selection of delicious Japanese foods from Hihou – oysters, spicy tuna cigars, caviar temaki rolls, sesame brioche with arabiki sausage, grilled wagyu and kingfish ceviche. A particularly enlightening feature of the night was the popularly of highballs, which I am told are very popular in Japan and are simply a measure of whisky with soda water, ice and some mint. It may sound simple, but they are absolutely delicious and remain true to what makes Japanese cuisine great – freshness, simplicity and high quality ingredients (if you use a good whisky!).

Throughout the evening I had the opportunity to taste all six expressions available. Below are my thoughts of each whisky offered on the night, starting with my favourite and ending with my least favourite:

  • Yamazaki Distillers’ Reserve: The highlight of the evening in my opinion, Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve is a marriage of whiskies that have been aged in Mizunara oak, Sherry oak and Bordeaux wine barrels. The result is a robust whisky with rich and slightly drying sherry notes that meld nicely with mixed red berries, stone fruit, vanilla and the nip of cinnamon – a delightful introduction into the flavour of Mizunara (Japanese oak).
  • Hibiki 17 Year Old: This whisky had that discernable factor that made me want to have another dram, it is first harmonious with no obvious flavour descriptors leaping out. After a while the flavours unfurl with lots of fruit, cereal, vanilla custard, wood, mild hazelnut, cherries, raisin and a drying citrus theme with chocolate.
  • Hakushu 12 Year Old: This is a whisky made from very soft water, and it is intended to be quite a gentle dram as a result and perfect for a highball, with its gentle signature campfire smoky character that underpins fruit, citrus, barley and floral notes that shine with hints of mint and a delectable layer of creaminess.
  • Yamazaki 12 Year Old: A lovely crisp smoothness fills the palate with candied fruit, soft layers of vanilla and hints of cinnamon that cut through the tang of citrus with apple softening that spicy Mizunara. 
  • Hakushu Distillers’ Reserve: Heavy raisin and bourbon notes intermingle with cooked apple, mint, blood orange with lemon rind and the classic, but much gentler, Hakushu smoke and the mossy herbal undertones common to this forest distillery.
  • Hibiki 12 Year Old: A delightfully smooth blend with a great balance, but lacking in that discernible factor that made me want to have another dram. There was tropical fruit, vanillas and hints of spice but this seemed to be interrupted by a bitter twang.

Overall, the night was very enjoyable but perhaps the most exciting thing to come of it was a confirmation on the evening from a Suntory rep that this is only the tip of the iceberg and there will be more Japanese whisky heading for Australian shores. Now that is something to look forward to, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy Mike’s below video on Suntory!

Malt Mileage interviews Sullivan’s Cove about its whisky


Sullivan’s Cove is a brand of Australian whisky produced by the Tasmania Distillery in Hobart, Australia. Once the whisky has served its time after being “distilled with conviction”, it is released from the confines of its oak cask and bottled for us incredibly thirsty mainland Australians. Some of it escapes our clutches and it finds its way to the United Kingdom, Europe, US and Canada but, the truth is, we don’t let much escape. We know a good thing when we taste it, and Sullivan’s Cove make some spectacular whisky – my favourite Sullivan’s Cove (and Australian whisky!) is the French Oak HH0423

With this most recent taste of liquid heaven, Malt Mileage set out to ask the distillers at Sullivan’s Cove a few questions about its whisky. Thanks very much to Bert at Sullivan’s Cove for taking the time to answer our questions. 

1.    Why did you start production? Did you see a gap in the market or was it to fulfill some passion? Bit of both. 

The market was growing and making whisky in Tasmania seemed like a hell of a good idea at the time!

2.    How long has Sullivan’s Cove been producing whisky? 

Since 1994

3.    Do you think that your product is distinctive? If so, what makes it distinctive from other whiskies on the market? 

As a Tassie malt it is already different from any other malts on the market, given that it is made in Tasmania from Tasmanian ingredients including Tasmanian barley and water. It is different from the other Tasmanian malts in that Sullivans Cove has the oldest whiskies on the market due to using 200 and 300 litre barrels. Most 2014 bottling will be between 12 and 14 year old with the odd 15 and 11 year old.

4.    Sullivan’s Cove has won a number of prestigious awards for some of its expressions, including Jim Murray’s Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year in the 2013 Whisky Bible. What processes do you follow to ensure that your whisky is high quality?

Cascade and Moo Brew are highly experienced breweries that make our wash to a specified recipe and this ensures consistence of the wash. In the distillery, the run is cut very short to ensure that we only keep the cleanest and sweetest ethanols in the heart of the run. We make sure that our barrels are of high quality and finally, we taste every single barrel that gets bottled and nothing makes it into a bottle if we believe that it is not of the right quality.

5.    Is there a flavour profile that you aim to achieve when distilling? Do you select casks to achieve this flavour profile? Do you tailor different products for different palates?

Not really, we simply aim to keep the cleanest part of the run and make sure that the wash from the brewery is of the correct standard. This translates into the typical sweet, complex, malty Sullivans Cove flavour.

6.    Why do you bottle the American Oak and French Oak expressions at 47.5%? 

Over many months of testing, we found that this strength was the best over all for enjoying our single casks neat.

7.    What do you look for when “hand selecting” (as noted on your bottles) oak casks? Can you let us know where you source your French and American Oak casks? 

For French oak we look for the following: 200-300 litre barrels, emptied most recently to avoid mould build up. French or European Oak, we look at the general quality of the build, no leaks etc. and importantly we look at the smell, no off notes to the nose etc. American Oak: 200-225 litre, well built, ex-bourbon, and again no off notes, good smelling. French oak we get from McWilliams in NSW and American oak from a variety of distillers. The current AO barrels are from Jim Beam and we have some Jack Daniels and Heaven Hill in the background, waiting.

8.    Sullivan’s Cove is known for offering whiskies from single casks, which in turn means that the character of your whisky depends on the cask from which it is taken. Why not blend casks for a (more) consistent product?

It is more interesting to have a different whisky every time. The FO and AO both have a distinct flavour profile, and the single casks allow us to have a breadth within that.

9.    Why do you think people choose to buy Tasmanian whisky, including Sullivan’s Cove? 

Because it tastes damn good.

10. What is your biggest export market? Can you give us an idea how much whisky you export and to where? 

Mainland Australia gets about 90% of our product and about 7% goes to the rest of the world. Mainly to Europe and the UK, then USA and Canada.

11. Can you give us an idea of how much whisky you produce per year at Sullivan’s Cove? 

Currently enough for about 20’000 bottles per year

12. Are there any plans for any new expressions in the pipeline? 

Yes, very limited release full cask strength called the Ballbreaker.

13. Do you have any other comments for our readers? 

Thanks for the support and drink Tassie whisky, doesn’t matter which one, just support the locals. All of your support has meant we now have a proper industry with a tourism trail.

14. Do you have an official AFL team down there in Tasmania? (is it still the Hawks?)

The Tasmanian Government sponsors the Hawks, but people down here support a variety, mainly Hawks, Collingwood and Carlton.

Malt Mileage interviews Hine Cognac


The house of Hine sits on the banks of the Charente river in Jarnac, France. Celebrating its 250th Anniversary this year, it is the only cognac house to hold a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II. We chat with Hine to find out more about its cognac.  

  1. In what year did Hine start producing Cognac? Do you know why the founder of Hine began producing brandy? 
Our company, founded in 1763, celebrates its 250th Anniversary this year. At that time, cognac was just starting to expand tremendously and this is why British merchants got involved in this new flourishing trade.

  1. It is a beautiful thing that the great great great great grandsons of Thomas Hine, Bernard and Jacques, created a brandy in honour Thomas Hine. Do any family traditions survive at the House of Hine? 
The most important tradition is to keep the quality at the highest level and this has been passed on from generation to generation.

  1. Do you think that Hine is distinctive? If so, what do you think makes it distinctive from other brandy and Cognac on the market? What in your opinion is the signature taste of Hine when compared to other Cognac houses of France?
Hine is small but beautiful.  It is distinctive due to its savoir-faire, in particular for single vintages, hence an international recognition amongst connoisseurs. It is also the only Cognac House to hold the Royal Warrant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Hine is a wine lover’s cognac with a focus on the quality of the raw material. We have a tendency to produce cognac where the wood element is kept at a minimum level, enhancing the fruit.

  1. Is there a flavour profile that Hine aims to achieve? Do you select particular grape varieties, casks and eaux-de-vie from particular appellations to achieve this flavour profile? If so, which grape varieties and casks achieve the desired characteristics in particular products? 
For most of the region, Ugni Blanc is the only grape varietal in use.  The difference comes from the terroir and where the grapes are sourced from. For Hine, they come exclusively from Grande and Petite Champagne, which is the key to the delicate elegant style of our cognacs. In order to retain all the characteristics, we tend to use as already mentioned as little wood as possible and this means fine grained, lightly toasted French oak casks (Tronçais rather than Limousin).

  1. Why did you decide to change the eaux-de-vie used in the assemblage for Hine XO from Fine Champagne to Grande Champagne? Did you notice any differences between eaux-de-vie? 
Hine Antique XO was already a Fine Champagne with a great majority of Grande Champagne.  We simply decided to upgrade to Grande Champagne which brought even more complexity and depth to this iconic blend.

  1. Can you give our readers a glimpse into what an average day at the House of Hine is like? What processes are in place to produce your Cognac?
The average day at Hine is very different between winter and summer  as right now for instance, in winter it is the distillation period whereas the rest of the year is about vine culture.  Otherwise, the quality control of all the casks happens all year round as well as the blending, bottling and shipping to the different markets around the world.  Our days are quite varied!  Starting with grape production, wine vinification, distillation, ageing after choosing the right type of cask, blending at the  end of the process before bottling.

  1. What is the oldest eau-de-vie currently at the House of Hine?
We still have some Grande Champagne from the mid 1800’s.

  1. What is the oldest Cognac offered on the market by Hine?
This would be Talent, a blend including late 1800’s cognacs.

  1. Why do you think people buy Cognac, and in particular Hine? Is it more than just a drink? 
The key of success for cognac is probably due to the nature of the product itself: it is directly linked to the vine and grapes are an important part of our culture.  Cognac is seen in many countries as being the noblest spirit with a fascinating time perspective: a single cognac bottle can contain the work of several generations of Cellar Masters.  A blend of tradition, terroir and artisanal craftsmanship – this is what people probably value in cognac in general. For all the above mentioned reasons, Hine is no exception to this.

  1. What is your biggest export market? Do you tailor your Cognac, or any particular products, to suit a specific palate? 
Historically, Great Britain is the most important market for Hine probably due to our British roots. However, for the last 10 years, the market that has been showing the highest growth rate and which represents today one of our major markets is Russia.

Hine has a tradition for producing cognac according to specific market demand – Early Landed Vintages is a good example.  However all the cognacs produced by Hine follow the same strict quality charter and bears the same distinctive style.

  1. What three words do you want people to associate with Hine?
Delicate, complex, elegant

Thank you to Hine for its time! 

Malt Mileage interviews Bruichladdich about its whisky

1.    Do you think that your products are distinctive? If so, what makes them distinctive from other Scotch and Islay whiskies on the market?
I would suggest that Bruichladdich is distinctive in a number of different ways.  We make a very wide range of whiskies.  These are presented under three different brand names, unpeated Bruichladdich, heavily peated Port Charlotte, and the super-heavily peated Octomore.  We have a history of celebrating the extremely diverse range of styles possible within the single malt genre rather than homogenizing.
We do not make whisky for blending.  Everything we do goes into single malts. 
We have developed a style of presentation which is considered to be quite radical with our aqua coloured bottles and minimalist, modernist styling.    Our aim is to make the most thought-provoking whiskies possible.
2.    From what I have read, Jim McEwan (Bruichladdich’s Master Distiller), worked at Bowmore since he was 15! Does Jim remember the first whisky he bottled as a distiller? How did it turn out? 
Jim was apprenticed as a cooper at Bowmore from the age of 15, steadily developing his skills in all different areas of the business.  This included invaluable experience at the Roseburn Bonding Co in Glasgow’s Bridgeton as a trainee Blender and his subsequent promotion to  manager of The Tannochside Bonding Co in January 1978, a large blending facility owned by Bowmore.  Jim has a great admiration for Bowmore whiskies.
The first new spirit Jim distilled was at Bowmore in 1968.  His first blend was one that was designed for South Africa in c1978.  It is called Three Ships and the brand is still available, although Jim does not know whether the style remains the same.
Jim still has a bottle of Three Ships in his house – and recalls it as being a good quality Speyside-style blend of comprising around 75% grain and 25% malts.  He describes it as medium bodied with a fair amount of age to it.
3.    Bruichladdich regards itself as “progressive hebridean distillers”. Why is there a need to be “progressive”? What progress are you trying to make?
This is a précis of our company philosophy….  It has been published before in various forms, but I cannot really improve on it…
We are proudly non-conformist.  We believe the whisky industry has been stifled by industrialisation and self-interest – huge organisations have developed that require a stable status quo to ensure that their industrial processes can run to maximum efficiency, producing the maximum “product” with the minimum input and variation, all to the lowest unit price.
We reject this.  We believe that whisky should have character; an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and the philosophies of those who distil it – a sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, of the raw ingredients from which it was made.
We believe in variety.  We believe the world needs an antidote to homogeneity and blandness.
Our raw ingredients are paramount. We use 100% Scottish barley – we believe it’s called “Scotch” for a reason. We are the major distiller of organic barley in Scotland and have been instrumental in support for organic farming in the single malt category.  In 2010 we released the first single malt whisky to be made purely from Islay Barley, probably the first in the island’s history.
We believe our spirit should speak of where it comes from and where it is matured – Bruichladdich is the only major distiller to distil, mature and bottle all its whisky on Islay.
We passionately believe in terroir – in authenticity, place and provenance, in ultimate traceability. We seek to produce the most natural, thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating & enjoyable spirit possible. Obsessive? Probably – but if all you want is a whisky, the world is awash with the stuff.
4.    What do you think of age statements?
We do not reject age statements, but feel they have made the industry a bit lazy.  A 10 year old must be better than a five, but not as good as a fifteen etc. etc.   This is not necessarily the case.  We accept that age is important – but we don’t’ believe that it is necessarily as important as the quality of ingredients or the cask or the method of distillation.   Age is just one of the myriad variables that are brought into play when creating a whisky, and it is not necessarily a reliable indicator of quality. Leaving whisky in old tired wood will result in old tired whisky.
5.    Bruichladdich make it clear that 100% of the barley you use is from Scotland. Why is it important to use barley from Scotland and Islay?
Essentially, we are fascinated by the qualities and variety imparted by provenance.  We start with the premise that Scotch whisky should be made from Scottish ingredients.  We believe it is called Scotch for a reason.    As a reasonable analogy, we would also suggest that a product calling itself “Australian wine” ought to be made from grapes grown in Australia.
There are also good technical reasons as to why Scottish barley is particularly appropriate for distilling, relating to the growing season and soil types. 
And then we have set out to explore the variety possible under the Scottish barley umbrella.  We are fascinated by the qualitative differences extant between barley crops from different places.  The analogy with wine is strong here. Wine has developed a hierarchical classification based on perceived quality that has developed over centuries.  The exploration of terroir in wine can be extremely complex and challenging to appreciate.
We  are not there yet – we have only been doing this for twelve years and that is nowhere near long enough but it is a fascinating journey.  We are excited by our demonstrating that different barley varieties  produce demonstrably different new make spirit.  And also by the demonstrable fact that the same barley varieties, planted in different places, also produce subtle variations.  Exactly as you would expect with fine wines.
We are a long way from being able to quantify these differences, or grade them, but we have literally set out on a journey of discovery and an absolutely fascinating portfolio is emerging.
6.    Bruichladdich offers organic Scotch whisky which is made from organic barley. What exactly is meant by “organic whisky”? Do you think that organic whisky offers anything different in terms of aroma, taste and finish?
In the UK, organic certification is regulated by Government, [sic]  The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and our suppliers and farmers have to meet the criteria set.    As do we. 
Does whisky made from organically grown barley taste different to that distilled from conventionally grown barley?  Yes, but we have never conducted a properly controlled experiment to test the hypothesis.  Our central belief is that barley varies from place to place, so we would need to grow barley conventionally alongside an organic crop (on the same farm in exactly similar terroir)  and treat it in the same way.  We have never done that, and are unlikely to do so.  It is very easy to demonstrate the difference between our organic spirit and conventional spirit, but we do not know what causes those differences.  Is it the farm, or the way the grain is grown?  Or the climate?
We are also interested in the ethical/environmental implications of organic farming, and do what we can to support the principles it enshrines.
7.    How do you select your oak casks? How do you prepare them before maturing whisky?
All our warehouses sit on or above the shores of Lochindaal – the sea loch that defines the westerly Rhinns of Islay.  The effect of this Islay-maritime environment on our suite of casks is very significant.  To Bruichladdich, this is fundamental and non-negotiable.  We will not mature our casks of whisky anywhere else.
Combining extensive wine experience, hands-on barrel coopering, and decades of whisky knowledge, we have a unique understanding of the complex interaction of wood, air and spirit – and cwe ontinue to explore it keenly.
We are intrigued by the effects of oak from America and Europe’s greatest forests on the flavour of Bruichladdich malt; over the years American white oak (Quercus Alba) imparts lush, vanillin flavours, whereas the influence of French oak (Quercus Robur, Quercus Petraea) is more subtle and fine.

The finest oak is a raw material just as important as barley or spring water. We are uncompromising in our choice of cask; we can work with the best, so we do. The proportion of ex-American bourbon casks to casks from other sources that we use varies over time, although we always use a significant majority of bourbon, again from a wide range of sources.  We are privileged to have relationships with some of Europe’s greatest wine-makers and their estates; from Rioja and Jerez in Spain, to Bordeaux, the Languedoc, the Loire and Alsace in France, to the Neusiedler See in Austria we have access to the finest oak casks that have previously contained the world’s greatest wines. The complexity and subtlety of the effect these casks have on maturing whisky are fascinating, and for us when our single malt is put into cask this is the start of a journey of discovery, not a final resting place.
No two casks of spirit are the same or mature at the same rate or in the same way. So it is essential that we are here, on the ground, watching our maturing malt with a hawk’s eye. Not only is that required for quality, but every now and then the whisky gods surprise us and give us something rare, capricious and unexpected – the difference between artisanal craft and commercial production.
The maintenance of cask quality involves continual monitoring, tasting, and the ruthless rejection of casks which are not performing as expected.  The best indicator of this is the huge piles of reject casks that build up!
8.     Is there a flavour profile that you aim to achieve when malting, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturing?
Yes, very much so, but it is impossible to write down.  It is very carefully and constantly monitored by all the stillmen, and by our master distiller Jim McEwan, distillery manager Allan Logan and his assistant Adam Hannett.
9.    Why did you offer an unpeated whisky from Islay? Do you think maturing this whisky on Islay allows it to develop a different character to whiskies that have matured elsewhere in Scotland?
I believe that Bruichladdich was designed and built in 1881 by the Harvey Brothers to produce unpeated spirit.  The best evidence for this is contained within one of the best respected whisky books ever written, Alfred Barnard’s ‘The Whisky Distilleries of the UK” which specifically describes the malt drying process of every distillery on Islay.  He says that every distillery uses peat – but does not mention peat at Bruichladdich.
10. Why do you think people choose to buy Bruichladdich?
Because they are interested, inspired, curious and like to be challenged.
11. What three words do you want people to associate with Bruichladdich?
Progressive, Terroir, Challenging
12. What is a typical day like at Bruichladdich?
Not long enough.  Extremely varied.  Interesting.  Stimulating.  Challenging.  Spectacular.  Beautiful. 
13. Do you have a favourite whisky? 
Black Art 4

Thank you very much for your time.