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Diageo to reopen Port Ellen and Brora distilleries

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@Hewie
Hewie started a discussion

So, what do you make of this announcement? "Port Ellen Distillery on the famous whisky island of Islay, and Brora on the remote eastern coast of Sutherland, will both be reinstated to distil in carefully controlled quantities, with a meticulous attention to detail, replicating where possible the distillation regimes and spirit character of the original distilleries. Cask filling and traditional warehousing will also be included on the sites of both distilleries." I've not had the pleasure to sample the original products but this just seems like they want to cash in on the hallowed names of these two as whisky increases in popularity globally. diageo.com/en/news-and-media/…

9 days ago

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@MadSingleMalt

The discussion of this has been going on over at Reddit too, and someone there had a link or a quote or something about how the Port Ellen rebuild will be all-new equipment, but the Brora rebuild will be a refurbishment of the old equipment, at least the stills. I don't see that detail in the version we have here thanks to @Hewie's link.

So, leaving aside the ludicrous prices that we should probably expect, here's my take:

Port Ellen: I'll be as excited to try this as I will be to try Ardnahoe's stuff someday. An all-new Islay distillery! Woo!

Brora: If they can really create that old Brora magic that most of us have only heard about, then I will certainly be keen to try it. But I'm skeptical. If it fails to replicate that old magic to any significant degree, then "New New Brora" will just go on my list of newer and lower-tier distilleries that would be fun to try one day, like Wolfburn.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the big problem is that these will be practically brand-new distilleries selling young malt, while the benchmarks that everyone will compare them to are the legends built on decades of maturation since the early 1980s.

9 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Hewie
Hewie replied

@MadSingleMalt as you say - I too will be in no hurry to part with my hard earned cash to try what will inevitably be a new distilleries wares. I would need quite some convincing that these will be anything special - they may well be but I'm sure they will also come at a premium price.

9 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

It's no different than Bladnoch. New stills, new everything, tabula rasa as far as I'm concerned.

Just like in baseball, what are you doing for me now, not in the past?

It may even increase the price of the older, more authentic bottlings... and they will try to sell this new stuff at a premium because of the name.

I'll stick with what I know and like, and if the opportunity to try comes around, I'll d it, but I won't pay a premium over any other whisky of the same quality.

9 days ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt

I wonder what the rules will say about them batching 99% new stuff with 1% old stuff and calling it a "single malt." I think it comes down to some obscure taxing designation. A couple points of comparison:

•Maybe @Nozinan knows whether that's come up with the Bladnoch rebuild?

•I don't think Macallan expects any labeling difficulty in blending stuff from their all-new hobbit distillery with stuff from the longstanding "real" Macallan distillery.

Well, whom am I kidding? It's Diageo—the SWA won't tell them no. So we should expect NAS single malts the day after these new distilleries' third birthdays that are touted as containing some of the old 1980s malt.

9 days ago 1Who liked this?

@MadSingleMalt

This story is scrawled all across the whisky blogosphere today, but the best take on it comes, of course, from the Whisky Sponge:

whiskysponge.com/2017/10/…

Ha—"Pre-Clynelish Non-Brora Clynelish"!

9 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@MadSingleMalt Yup, we're bound to get some NASty “Port Ellen Revival” or some such nonsense at $300/bottle because age “doesn’t tell the whole story” or some similar DOCTOR Nick Morgan-esque bullshit.

8 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

Just another cynical cash grab by a company that can seemingly get away with whatever it wants in the current seller's market?

8 days ago 1Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound

@Nozinan I’m disinclined to acquiesce to the industry’s request that we all shut up about NAS and just buy it. In fact, I think I’m more insulted by their piss-poor logic when defending NAS than by the existence of the “ageless” juice itself. In fact, if my students weren’t under the legal drinking age, I might use the industry’s NAS marketing lines as textbook examples of several logical fallacies.

8 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@OdysseusUnbound

I really meant it in a sarcastic/ironic way. I know how you feel about the NAS issue (uigeadail aside) and I agree with you.

Sorry that didn't come across that way...

8 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@Nozinan Oh it did come across that way...There's always a 50/50 chance I'll rant about NAS when it's brought up (Oogie, Corry and a few others aside). The other 50% of the time, I can laugh it all off.

8 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@OdysseusUnbound Rant away, but I suggest you might like to join the discussion at Allthingswhisky.com - I think I had you pegged as possibly "Jeff" at some point.

I don't know if ATW can handle the both of you.... And if you teamed up vs the industry.... they wouldn't know what hit them.

8 days ago 0

@OdysseusUnbound

@Nozinan LOL !!! I've had exchanges with "Jeff" over on Scotch Noob's blog. He's far more militant than I am. I get riled up intellectually, if you will, but when it comes down to it, it's only whisky. If I could never drink scotch again, I'd be fine with Canadian whisky and bourbon. I'd be sad for awhile, wistful at times, but it wouldn't ruin my life. I'm just not hesitant to call bullshit when I see it. That shouldn't imply that I don't enjoy good marketing back stories about whirlpools, kelp-covered sea monsters, vikings and ancestors riding massive stags into battle. I do. But when whisky becomes more style than substance (cough Macallan) I tend to check out.

8 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@OdysseusUnbound I like a good story too. The Raymond Armstrong Bladnoch story got me interested, but the whisky itself held my attention.

I've always felt the story behind finding or getting the bottle was an important part of the experience. So my adventures with @Nosebleed in Calgary are as much fun as drinking the stuff we find, sometimes more. Finding Macallan CS at steal prices when it was selling at 125 GBB, stuff like that.

Asd for marketing stories, the more clever they are in creating them the less I am interested in hearing them...

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

The best story in whisky over the past few years is Springbank restarting Kilkerran, and hardly anybody tells that one—not even the Springbank guys, bless 'em.

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

@BlueNote , although I'm sure Diageo is doing this based 100% on profit motives, that's no reason to be so cynical. Every major distillery is run on profit motives.

If the press releases are to be believed, they're at least coming at this the right way: small-scale production and using some old-school equipment, including the original Brora stills and worm tubs and who knows what else. The proof will obviously be in the peaty pudding, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now. (Plus, Serge will be running the new Brora! wink )

After all, despite the fun we all have throwing tomatoes at the big corporate giant, they do right by most of their distilleries, especially the marquee ones like Clynelish, Talisker, and Lagavulin. Sure, you get chill-filtration and E150 up the wazoo, but you also get solid age statements, decent ABVs, and generally high quality.

8 days ago 1Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@MadSingleMalt Quite right. I really must get a grip. I have been incongruously cynical about Ardbeg and Diageo and their ilk while totally enjoying their products. I'm sure as the Sponge said in an uncharacteristic fit of seriousness, they are trying their best to give us the best products at the best price. And, hey, If I can finally taste some Brora and some Port Ellen without turning my credit card into a smoldering blob of plastic, I'm in.wink

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

@BlueNote, the folks who simply want to put another notch on their distillery bedpost will be able to do so for much less moolah, I'm sure.

(But I gotta say, I never really understood that. Unless you've already checked off all the distilleries that are reasonable to pay for, why shell out the big bucks for the ones that are unreasonable?)

8 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Frost
Frost replied

I'll check them out when they're bottled as 10 year olds in 2030 smirk

8 days ago 1Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

They’re obviously running out of old stock to sell at premium prices. As much as I’m hesitant to pay big money for young stock, Kilkerran and Kilchoman have produced some top notch drams with their burgeoning stocks. My bottle of Kilkerran 12yo is just fantastic. They will be a sweet spot in 10-12 years wherein they’ll release their first age statement drams that have a titch of the old stock (see: glendronach). Those will be the bottles to hunt down.

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

@nooch , I don't follow Glendronach too closely, but it sounds like you're referring to their age-statement releases (12, 15, 18) that initially had a lot of old whisky in the batches when they first came back onto the market a few years ago—yes?

Do you think we'd get "new" Port Ellen and Brora that are made similarly? I.e., a new Brora 10 (or whatever) that contains a significant portion of pre-1983 malt?

8 days ago 0

@plattvillepeat

@MadSingleMalt The age statement whisk(e)ys give only the age of the youngest whatever the percent abv is present. The age of anything older and the corresponding abv(s) are not stated. That means there remains a wide variety of compositions possible for a given age statement that lead to varying profile and quality. To me age statements and back label marketing are less valuable than a compendium of comprehensive reviews of a particular bottle on sites like Connosr. The more exhaustive the information about the bottle, the reviewer, and the conditions that matter, the more likely I can make a good decision about the bottle. Bottles often have laser etched numbers that a reviewer can provide for identification. Maybe that 95 rating is only good for a certain batch bottled on a certain day. Some day Connosr members might provide a standard "calibration" report to reveal their flavor preferences and their possible bias concerning a bottle they have reviewed and rated. Members could agree on a set of bottles that are available and consistent in profile. The member would rate and review this set, posting the result in their profile. Too much?

8 days ago 0

@nooch
nooch replied

@MadSingleMalt I think they’ll use old stock as a marketing tool, even if there’s only 1% in a bottle.

8 days ago 0

@MadSingleMalt

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh. I think I see now. @nooch , when you said this:

"They will be a sweet spot in 10-12 years wherein they’ll release their first age statement drams that have a titch of the old stock (see: glendronach). Those will be the bottles to hunt down."

You were talking about Kilkerran and Kilchoman, weren't you? I thought you were spitballing on what the "new" Brora and Port Ellen might release down the road. :)

OK, yeah, I'm with you: I completely expect the "new" Brora and Port Ellen to release new young whiskies that are teaspooned with old stuff. It works for Big Peat!

8 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@plattvillepeat Yes, I think it's too much. I think more onus should be on the producers.

8 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@plattvillepeat I always assumed that the stated ABV was for the final product not just the age stated youngest component. Do you know this to be a fact?

7 days ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@BlueNote it's what's in the bottle, not one of the components of what's in the bottle.

7 days ago 0

@BlueNote
BlueNote replied

@Nozinan Yes, that's what I thought. I understood @plattvillepeat to be saying that the stated ABV only applies to the youngest malt in the blend. I may be reading it wrong, but perhaps he could clarify.

7 days ago 0

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