Guest blogger: Stuart Nickerson, Glenglassaugh DistilleryJune 22nd, 2009
Every month or so, I invite a guest blogger (usually from inside the industry) just to keep things fresh and exciting. We’ve had some great guest bloggers (John Glaser of Compass Box Whisky, Willie Tait from Isle of Jura, Jim Rutledge from Four Roses Distillery).
Today we are fortunate enough to hear from Stuart Nickerson, Managing Director of Glenglassaugh. I’d like to thank Stuart for taking the time to participate here.
If anyone has any questions about Glenglassaugh, here’s your chance to get them answers.
When John offered me the chance to be a guest blogger, I thought great here is a real chance to say what we are doing to an appreciative audience which is mainly USA based but then I started to think well what does he want me to say – there was a very good article by David Wishart which appeared in Malt Advocate last year and to which I couldn’t add much. I decided to approach John and ask him for his thoughts but he just said “take us behind the scenes and tell us what is happening” but he also stressed he did not want a sales pitch.
Well that last one is easy because so far we don’t have a distributor for our products in the USA, so despite the warning here goes for the one, sorry John, sales pitch – if there is an importer out there who is looking to develop limited edition single malt scotch whiskies all of which are aged for more than 20 years then get in contact with me.
The last, almost 16 months, has been an exciting roller-coaster ride as the distillery was bought, people were recruited, the distillery was re-furbished and production re-started at Glenglassaugh and the whiskies were bottled and brought to market.
Glenglassaugh was shut in 1986 because Highland Distilleries wanted more Speyside malt for their blends and Glenglassaugh being a highland malt produced a slightly different style of whisky. As Highland had no plans to re-open the distillery they readily agreed to sell it to us, following my approach. However in the intervening 22 years very little maintenance had been carried out on the buildings and plant and even though the mash tun, washbacks and stills were in reasonable condition, £1.0m was required to re-furbish the distillery before we started production again in November 2008.
We were lucky to have the production records used in the 1980’s and so we could run the process using the same mass, volumes, temperatures, flowrates and cut-points as those used previously. This gave us confidence that we had a good opportunity that we would produce a good quality new make spirit, although I will admit to being nervous on 4th December 2008 when the first spirit ran from the stills but Graham Eunson and myself were very pleased with the results.
We hadn’t planned to sell our new make spirit but were requested to consider doing so by customers in Europe. The fact that we were producing a spirit that both Graham and I felt was better than any other which we had come across made the decision to release the spirit in a bottle relatively easy. However we wanted to make it a bit different and so we decided to capture all the spirit from a single mash making this a limited edition individually numbered product, different from other new makes which are available. We were also careful to ensure that they labelling complied with all Scotch Whisky legislation and so have been very careful to stress that it is not whisky on the label and to further underline the fact we have called it “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name” and finally we have disguised the distilleries name Glen____gh to ensure that the consumer could not be confused into thinking that it was whisky.
We had always intended to release a 6 month old product to celebrate the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival which takes place in Portsoy in at the start of July. We are currently bottling this spirit, which we still can’t call whisky and will be in a position to start selling on the 3rd of July and all I can say at the moment is that this is a distinctly different drink which has been well received by the few people who have tried it so far and is liable to take everyone by surprise.
We are very interested in investigating the effects of maturing in Glenglassaugh in different cask types, so this year we have decided not to vary the new make spirit but we have bought several different types of casks. We have various ex-fortified wine casks, Sherry, Madeira and Port as well as some ex-wine casks, dechar/rechar casks and scotch re-fill casks. We also have a significant number of ex-bourbon casks which we purchased direct from Kentucky and which we believe will allow the fruit characteristic of the spirit to be enhanced. We have also started to mature in smaller casks so that we can evaluate the effect of maturation in these casks and we hope to see them mature the spirit faster and so it should be ready for bottling sooner.
We decided to try and sell some of these smaller casks to people who followed my blog and we were very surprised by the high level of interest, mainly from the northern European countries. The casks, octaves, hold only 50 litres and we expect that the whisky will be ready for bottling within 3 to 7 years and as we bottle all of our products on site then the cask owner can have the whole process carried out here. With the high level of initial interest we decided to open this up to other interested people and have had a continuing very good response.
We have plans to introduce another cask purchase offer, this time for larger casks, but we have still to finalise details on this one and should be ready to announce the details in September.
We also have plans to build a visitor centre at the distillery and although we have completed the feasibility study there detail plans to be developed, cost and agreed and hopefully we can have this operating by the middle of next year.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the distillery or what we are doing then please visit the web site www.glenglassaugh.com or look at my blog http://blog.glenglassaugh.com and add any comments or just drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org