Whisky brands making their mark

95EE2E71-9142-4ECC-8CF0-5B168F5F82A4The ad on the left from The Borders Distillery really says it all – there’s more happening in the world of whisky than in any other category. And companies like Borders are pushing the boundaries.

Whisky is one of the most dynamic drinks sectors of all – distillers take risks, blenders invent new liquids and marketeers help tell the story. Then the sales team get on the road, which must be difficult when there are so many great brands on the market to get space on your shelves.

But once the liquid is on your shelves you want to be able to sell it – and that can only be done if the consumer has an inkling or knows the brand.

Hence the importance of whisky knowledge… it is very much a collaborative effort all round. I could fill this whole magazine with just whisky news… so I’ve selected some recent news, which I think gives your team a back story and which should encourage them to get the whisky off the shelf and into your customers glass.

WS02: The Long and Short of it Blended Scotch Whisky

First up, let’s take a look at The Borders Distillery. Last year they released an experimental line with the launch of their Workshop Series. Co-Founder and Managing Director, John Fordyce, said at the time, “The Workshop Series is about respecting the rules but challenging the status quo.”

First out of the blocks was the WS:01 Borders Malt & Rye (40% ABV) a marriage of Grain Rye spirit with Borders malt. Only 6,000 bottles of this blended Scotch whisky, distilled in Hawick, were released for sale in the UK (a further 3,000 globally), and each bottle in the Limited Edition was numbered.

Now we are waiting with baited breath for release of blend number two, WS:02 The Long & Short of it, which is due out at the end of this month. Kirsten Blackburn, Head of Marketing, told me, “Our Workshop Series has given the Borders Distillery a platform to show off what we are up to and what we want to do ahead of the launch of our single malt. With this blend we played with the fermentation time, blending a short fermentation (55 hours) with a long fermentation (150 hours) and added a wee splash of grain all entirely distilled at The Borders Distillery.

“Whether you prefer your whisky long or short it doesn’t matter as this blend makes a great serve either way. The Borders Distillery is only five years old, so I think of us as the new kids on the block and it seems to make sense that as a company we can have fun and experiment. We allow our distillers to be creative and we want to encourage people to think of whisky in a different way. There is a new wave of consumers, and we are targeting our whisky towards people who want to have fun and try something new.”

The Woodsman

E2D5DA11-D56B-4D4E-A853-57566DE0AC2CThe Woodsman is described as a contemporary Scotch for mixing and was launched in 2018 by Whyte & Mackay. However it was relaunched earlier this year with a new advertising campaign featuring beavers in a hot tub with specially created Beaver puppets having a starring role.

The ad went on to earn the accolade “Word’s Best Whisky ad’ according to research agency System1. The marketeers wanted to position The Woodsman Whisky as a drink that is ‘well earned’ and the ad also celebrates the woodcraft at the heart of the product.

It was matured using a mix of freshly built oak casks and ex-Bourbon barrels double-scorched for extra depth. Its Agency, Mr President, showed the puppet beavers working to build a riverside hot tub, before rewarding themselves with a dram in the tub.

Steven Pearson, marketing director for Whyte & Mackay said at the time, “The Woodsman has experienced strong growth since its launch in the UK and with a strong growth ambition we needed an impactful campaign that stands out in a category full of craft cliches and authenticity tropes. We’re incredibly proud of this distinctive creative and look forward to seeing the beavers out in the wild.”

Black Bottle Captain’s Cask

CD2F03EA-B0F7-4DB4-99CF-04A9DAF3A410Black Bottle, one of my favourite blends, likes to bend the rules. It’s new offering is Captain’s Cask which is the latest ‘experiment’ in its award-winning Alchemy Series range.

This whisky has been finished in rum casks, which they say offers deliciously tropical flavours and notes of the Caribbean. Captain’s Cask can be drunk neat or if you like to add a twist to your cocktails why not use this Black Bottle in a Dark & Stormy or a Mojito.

The Alchemy Series pays tribute to the relentless experimentation of founders Gordon Graham and his brothers, who created the original Black Bottle blend.

Master Blender Julieann Fernandez says of the new expression, “The Alchemy Series is all about experimentation and finding flavour combinations in unlikely places.”

The Macallan Harmony III

760FF32E-9106-4B50-89F0-1389CC274D44The Macallan Harmony III is the third edition of The Harmony Collection – a brand new liquid which has just hit the shelves. It forms part of The Macallan’s latest collaboration with Stella and Mary McCartney.

Taking inspiration from natural Scottish grasslands, The Macallan Harmony III presentation boxes and bottle labels have been made using discarded meadow cuttings, and the packaging of each release features photography of The Macallan Estate shot by Mary McCartney herself.

Created by The Macallan’s Whisky Maker, Steven Bremner, The Macallan Harmony III draws inspiration from the sisters’ shared memories of the Scottish countryside. It comes in at £160 and is available from the Whisky Exchange. Alongside the new liquid, The Macallan will also introduce a new limited-edition collection of 11 lifestyle pieces designed by the sisters.

The Hearach

BCF0BF12-C442-4FC2-B5FF-D0595E76CFEB 4 5005 cOn Saturday 23 September, Isle of Harris Distillers launched its long-awaited single malt Scotch whisky, The Hearach, to record queues at the distillery in Tarbert and a queue of 25,000 online – where stock sold out in just four and a half hours. Local man, Murdo MacLeod, was the first in the queue, having camped out since 2am that morning and became the first Hearach to purchase The Hearach at the distillery. Those who missed out on purchasing The Hearach on launch weekend are however still in with a chance of becoming part of whisky history, with specialist retailers, bars and restaurants across the UK now having The Hearach on sale.

The Hearach is described by Isle of Harris Distillers blender Shona Macleod as an elegant, highly drinkable single malt, with fruit and floral notes and a long, slightly smoky, finish. The whisky, handcrafted by a team of locals from Harris, has been distilled, matured (in first-fill bourbon, oloroso and fino sherry casks), married, and bottled (at 46% ABV) on the island.

The launch of The Hearach follows the success of the Isle of Harris Gin, which is now available in 25 countries worldwide, and recently celebrated its one millionth bottle coming off the production line at the Tarbert distillery. Commenting on the success of the launch of The Hearach, Simon Erlanger, Managing Director of Isle of Harris Distillers Ltd, said, “For so long, we’ve been saying that our whisky would be ready when its ready, so it’s incredible to now be at a point where we’ve been able to release The Hearach out into the world, and to have received this fantastic reception has been absolutely wonderful.

“It has been a monumental moment for everyone involved. From Anderson ‘Burr’ Bakewell, who first came up with the concept, to our team, our partners, and the whole community here in Harris. I look forward to seeing The Hearach roll out across the UK and internationally in the coming weeks and raise a dram to all who have supported us to date.” The Hearach can be purchased at the Isle of Harris Distillery for an RRP of £65.


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Smokehead is always breaking the mould when it comes to marketing and last month it turned its attention to the glass we use to drink whisky. It unveiled its one-of-a-kind, limited edition whisky glass, which is designed to redefine how whisky is consumed. Nicknamed the Smokemask, it was designed by renowned glassblower, Elliot Walker, known for his appearance on Netflix’s hit show ‘Blown Away’. It aims to encourage whisky lovers to rethink the way they consume whisky.

Hand-blown from black glass and crafted into a distinctive edge shape, the Smokemask glass is finished with a twisted-silver base and skull seal. Covering both the nose and mouth, the Smokemask glass ensures the whisky’s aromas and flavours hit the nose simultaneously, offering a heightened sensory experience. The winning creation was decided by Smokehead’s very own rebellious audience via social media. It was ultimately Walker’s expertise and intricate, bespoke design that blew voters away with its innovative new ergonomic aesthetic.

Epitomising experimental glassblowing and technical artistry, as well as introducing a new wave of visionary creatives into the world of whisky, the Smokemask is redefining how whisky “should” and can be consumed. Smokehead’s Iain Weir, Brand Director, says, “Elliot’s winning glassware design is truly a work of art, and it’s been really exciting to watch this project unfold. Naturally, we had to make sure our Smokehead family were included in the process, so it was imperative to include them in the vote for the final design. This project enables us to stay true to our ethos that Smokehead never limits the ways its whisky can be enjoyed. We can’t wait for the glass to launch later this month and hope it will be so aspirational that drinkers of other malts will be enticed to use it too.” Smokehead’s exclusive glass is available to purchase RRP £120.00.



Bruichladdich is another disrupter in the world of whisky and this year it brought out a new Bruichladdich Classic Laddie bottle, its most progressive packaging to date. The new design reduces The Classic Laddie’s packaging CO2 emissions by 65% through eliminating its secondary tin and introducing a much lighter glass with more recycled content.

Sustainability is now a big part of every distiller’s journey and consumers are also paying much greater attention to green issues – also the fact that Bruichladdich comes from the Island of Islay – and getting waste off an island quickly focuses the mind on all things sustainable.

Certainly, the team at Bruichladdich have embraced the race to a greener future. Bruichladdich Distillery is committed to using less, not just finding alternatives, so after previously making tins optional, the aim with this change was to completely eliminate the need for them. Now the large type “Bruichladdich” and story-telling details have been moved off the tin onto the bottle instead. The new bottle uses less glass – it has a smaller, reduced footprint – which means less cardboard is required to ship it in.

It also uses organic ink for the iconic aqua bottle coating and has a new stopper made from bio-based polypropylene. Rather than being made from 100% petroleum sources, it’s made from other waste sources: essentially, food oils or forestry oils. The new bottle design uses around 60% recycled glass (up from around 15% in the previous Classic Laddie bottle), through a combination of reused glass within the glass factory and post-consumer recycled. The new optimised glass bottle for The Classic Laddie is also 32% lighter. The company promises it has hasn’t “compromised an inch on the quality of our Bruichladdich single malt.” Adding, “This is the new Classic Laddie – a symbol of our values, our progress and our commitment to the future.”