Last Drop Distillers

Old Whisky, New Management

At the 21st Annual Whisky Advocate Awards, The Last Drop 50 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky was awarded the highly prestigious Whisky Advocate’s Blended Whisky of the Year 2014.

It’s a remarkable product from a unique and equally remarkable company. I’ve blogged about the company a number of times but only in reference to James Espey, one of the founders. I think you’ll find the full story very interesting, particularly since the day-to-day management of The Last Drop Distillers (LDD) has been handed over to the daughters of two of the founders.

How it began

In 2008, three partners with a proven track record of producing incredible spirits brands (Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, The Classic Malts, Malibu and Baileys Irish Cream) decided to pool their skills to create one last amazing brand. So, James Espey, Tom Jago and Peter Fleck founded the company whose single-minded goal was to find and bottle rare and exclusive spirits.

For instance, The Last Drop 50 year old (50.9% AbV, $4,000) is based on the discovery of three overlooked casks that had been distilled between the 1940s and 1950s and sold throughout the 1970s. But somehow these casks were ignored or forgotten about until Espey and Jago came along and further aged them.

The result was twofold. The whisky was extraordinary and described by reviewers as “epic.” Further, they realized they were on to something and have produced a 1960 Scotch and a 1950 Cognac. Other last drop variants are in the works.

New management

As you can imagine, precious and rare spirits, not to mention expensive, require a full time …

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Do different types of liquor have different effects on you?

liquor bottles 2Fact or fiction? Physiological or psychological?

What do you think?

I’ve been researching this topic lately and have been thinking about it ever since I got into the booze business.

When you talk to consumers, many have clear cut answers such as, “tequila makes me crazy,” “whiskey makes me angry,” “gin makes me sad, must be the junipers.” My favorite, that I found online, is… “I’m allergic to tequila. Last time I drank it, I broke out in handcuffs.”

Whether in focus groups or with friends, these beliefs are strongly held and generally tied back to a memorable occasion. Usually, it’s based on a particular episode of, ahem, being over-served or the maiden drinking voyage. But, misconceptions play a big role – there is nothing in juniper to lead to sadness and even if there were, the distillation process would eliminate it. Similarly, the agave plant from which mescal is distilled (tequila is a type of mescal) has nothing to do with mescaline.Alcohol is alcohol

Sorry folks, alcohol is alcohol. The differences one experiences from different types of liquor (and alcohol in general) have, in my opinion, little or nothing to do with the liquor itself. There are many other factors at work.

What about the congeners (the substance produced during fermentation of alcoholic beverages)? While red wine and dark spirits have the greatest amount, they are present to different degrees in white spirits. They also are more related to the morning after than getting you to slur, “I love you man” during an evening’s indulgence.

How about the mixers used as a possible explanation for the difference? Tequila is consumed as a shot half the time and with sugar laden margarita …

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Whither Whisky?

I was meeting with my favorite, most knowledgeable wine and spirits guy the other day and we got to talking about the state of the whisk(e)y market. We decided that the world is changing for brown spirits except for the products from Scotland.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, scotch grew in value and volume in the first half of 2011. But if you look closely at the data provided by Shanken News Daily, of the top brands, only Johnnie Walker and The Glenlivet showed growth.

When I look at other whiskies, I see real sustained growth. Jameson in particular, and the Irish whiskey category, in general, is on fire. I think it’s based on the imagery of the brand, the absence of the smoke/peat taste of blended scotch and, of course, its use in cocktails and as a shot.

Looking at American whiskies, the emergence of flavored products speaks to new users and new usage occasions. I think it will attract a new generation of consumers and contribute to growth in the long run.

To be fair, Scotch distillers have tried to innovate their products by increased aging and changes in barrel storage. While this may be of appeal to the current market, it is probably not likely to bring in a new cohort of drinkers. Although, what I like about Last Drop Distillers is that they have taken the age route to the ultimate with over-age products. Not just aged scotch and cognac but products that reflect category heritage.

If you go to an event or tasting involving scotch, you always see some distillers dressed in kilts. It’s like a metaphor for being trapped in a time …

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