Whisky Advocate

Guest blogger: Stuart Nickerson, Glenglassaugh Distillery

June 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.

An Opportunity
stuartlowrezWhen 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.

glenglassaughnewmakeWe 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.

glenglassaughlowresWe 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 stuart.nickerson@glenglassaugh.com

7 Responses to “Guest blogger: Stuart Nickerson, Glenglassaugh Distillery”

  1. Harvey Fry says:

    i’m a big NEW MAKE enthusiast who has for years been advocating the bottling/sale of the stuff as a regular & ongoing product line of as many long established, start-up or reopened distilleries as might have the
    cojones to risk taking on the conventional
    wisdom that it is by nature an inferior &
    vaguely suspicious substance. even though
    its fairly recent proliferation in various
    forms seems to be driven almost entirely by the considerations of cash flow common
    to new outfits (Kilchoman, Tullibardine &
    Glenglassaugh, among others), i take great
    pleasure in the outbreak! [please see the recent threads on Kilchoman + youth vs.
    age, right here on WDJK]

    &, though i’ll have to wait a while for
    your li’l’ [available both at RMW & TWE]
    bottle to get here, i’m already looking
    forward to a larger (hopefully a 70cl) &
    thus more reasonably priced conveyance.
    is the 6 month old scheduled for a general commercial release, what size bottle(s)’ll
    it come in & dare i hope that you might
    consider a continuing market presence for
    the very young make, even after you’ve an
    ever increasing supply of the 3 or more year(s)old stuff= after it magically turns into whisky?

    BTW, if my memory serves me, both Kilchoman
    & Tullibardine have made their pitch in a
    far more colorful language than your own.
    i think the average consumer is a bit more likely to go for a better description of
    what may actually be awaiting him in the
    bottle than an extended playing up of the
    history of the distillery & all the rigors
    of returning it to production. consider,
    if you will, if even some of us old hands
    are growing a wee weary of the established
    practice of selling by myth, travelogue,
    play by play of what has long since become
    standard production procedure & EVERY
    OTHER SCOOBYDOOBYDONE PROJECTION of all that stale-dated-jazz, AS DISTINCT FROM A
    SIMPLE STRAIGHTFORWARD ATTEMPT TO TELL US
    SOMETHING OF THE PECULIAR NATURE OF YOUR VERY OWN UNIQUE ELIXIR…..if we ancient coots can’t take it anymore, think how far past OFF it’s gonna turn the THIRSTY YOUNG & EAGER TO BE RELIEVED OF HIS COIN CONSUMER
    who, because it’s what he gets everywhere else in life, expects AT VERY MINIMUM, to
    be bombarded by something in rhythm & tune with his whirlaway lifestyle! hey, if he even gives you a sideways first PEEKTIMES HAVE CHANGED^, you gotta GO WITH
    THE FLOW>

    & John, i hope you won’t mind me reminding
    everyone who TOUCHES DOWN HERE that the previous thread (D & M Scapa + some stuff
    about our various whisky clubs) IS STILL
    GOING ON AT A BRISK PACE> for that matter,
    some of the other MORE MEATY (what do you think of reviewers & the ratings) threads
    could stand an occasional RE-VISIT & maybe
    even a li’l’ additional stirring^

  2. […] Stewart Nickerson of Glenglassaugh distillery is guest-blogging at Malt Advocate. […]

  3. B.J. Reed says:

    Thanks Stuart and please give Graham our best – I wonder when Graham left Glenmorangie for Glenglassaugh if we mights see some experimentation with wood influence on the whisky – I have the 30 YO bottled in 1975 at 45.6 Old Malt Cask and its a very nice dram so will be fun to see what comes about in the next 10 years.

    I to am a fan of new make spirit but its very hard to find. I also had fun collecting the Ardbeg’s as they matured up to their 10 YO so that might be something to explore – Come, bring us along with you as you develop the single malt over the years.

    Maybe our Omaha based group can stop by when we are in Scotland for our next trip in March of 2010!

  4. […] Check out the full entry here. […]

  5. John Hansell says:

    Stuart, there are some great importers here in the U.S. and I am sure most of them would love to sell your whisky. And we would love to be able to purchase them here too!

    Hopefully some of them will contact you after reading this blog posting. We wish you all the best with that.

  6. Todd says:

    Stuart, I was very pleased when I heard that Glenglassaugh was being resurrected. I have enjoyed many older Glenglassaugh expressions, but I have tried only one younger expression, a 12 year old OB bottling that was in the extensive collection at Keene’s steakhouse in NYC. So I am keen to try younger expressions of your whisky as they emerge. And what are your plans for distributing older stocks. Do you have a good selection of these? Good luck on finding a good distributor for the US. You will need to find the balance of a good distribution network and factors that prevent your product from being priced so high for the initial offering that buyers are immediately conditioned to ignore it (Compare and contrast the US launches of Bruichladdich and Glencadam).

    Todd

  7. We have a lot more information on our new make spirit on the neck tag on the bottle but so far not in colourful language. But this week our 6 month old product will make an appearance and I hope the result will be worth waiting for. Again the information is on the bottle and the neck tag and tells you a bit about the casks used for this maturation.
    We have high hopes for this product and would like to see it develop into a brand that is not limited edition, which all of our other products are. However that depends on how well it is received by customers.
    Our prices are dictated to a great extent by the limited stock available, the cost which we had to pay for them and the fact that everything is hand bottled on site.
    In fact even our new spirit is hand bottled on site as we would prefer to keep the quality under our own control and to create and maintain employment in the area.

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