Last Drop Distillers

Old Whisky, New Management

Last Drop Distillers products
Last Drop Distillers’ current products

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.

Award winning Last Drop 50 year old
Award winning Last Drop 50 year old

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 commitment for sales and marketing. As a result, the management torch has been passed to two brilliant offspring of the founders.

Carolin (Beanie) Espey
Carolin (Beanie) Espey

Caroline (Beanie) Espey (daughter of James Espey) is Sales and Marketing Director and comes with a strong global background as well as expertise in very top shelf brands. Following a degree in modern languages at Oxford University, Beanie has worked for luxury brands Chanel and L’Oreal before starting her own business – a Marketing agency run jointly from London and Hong Kong.

Rebecca Jago

Rebecca Jago (daughter of Tom Jago) is Creative Director. Following a degree in Linguistics and time with some of London’s leading design agencies, Rebecca has been running her own small design agency for the last 25 years. Somewhat unusual for a creative director inasmuch as Rebecca’s creativity extends both to design and product.

What makes The Last Drop unique?

There are many very expensive whiskies on the market selling for four, five, even six figures. (Here is an interesting list.) The scotch whiskies on the list are mainly single malts and available in either glitzy or straightforward packaging. What I love about The Last Drop products is that it is about the liquid, not the packaging. If your motivation is ostentation, then you probably gravitate toward elaborate packaging that shows your “good taste” regardless of the quality of the scotch.

Also, the list consists mainly of single malts except for Last Drop Distillers 1960 Blend and Johnnie Walker Blue 200th Anniversary Blend. While I love single malts, there is nothing like a carefully blended scotch, particularly with ancient stocks. For me, that’s the epitome of the scotch maker’s craft.

Add to that a family run business consisting of old school/new school spirits industry connoisseurs and the results are products worth buying.

Of course, that’s only as long as the stock lasts. But, if I know the Espeys and Jagos, more discoveries are on the way.

The Last Drop team


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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 mixers the other half – do these play a role? Rum mixed with juices, sugar or cola can affect the impact. Maybe it’s the tonic in your G&T.

I think the culprit is the mood, occasion and situation you are in while drinking. If you’re planning to get hammered, or the situation calls for it, you will. If it’s been a tough day and you’re looking to unwind and mellow, what you choose to drink will have that result.

mixedSo, in effect, it’s in your mind rather than in your glass or bottle.

Here’s something that sums it up. I found it online at io9, a blog by Gawker media:

…The question of whether mixers or congeners affect our experiences with different alcohols seems almost inconsequential; if you wholeheartedly believe that a tequila is your one way ticket to Bedlam, there’s probably not a whole lot that can be said to convince you – or your body – otherwise.

What do you think?


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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 warp and reluctance to contemporize the category.

However, two recent news reports show that there are people out there looking to take new approaches to scotch. Wine and Spirits Daily reported last week a company “will start selling single grain and blended Scotch whisky aged 3 years, in a can.” I’m not sure if it is aged in the can or aged then packaged in a can. But don’t worry; the can will be recyclable aluminum. That will attract new scotch users who are environmentally conscience.

Or how about this one: According to the Daily Mail via the Buffalo Trace Newsletter, a company has developed the world’s first “halal whisky” made without alcohol designed to appeal to non-alcohol drinking consumers. The SWA is, not surprisingly, upset. The taste of scotch without the alcohol sounds to me like all pain, no benefit.

Scotch in a can and halal whisky do not fit my notion of innovativeness and contemporizing the category. Better off sticking to kilts.

By the way, that reminds me of something I heard while in Ireland at a distillery some time ago. One of the plant managers, over a few drinks, told me the following:

“You know, the Irish taught the Scots three things – how to make whiskey, how to play bagpipes and the wearing of kilts. But… we forgot to tell them that the last one was a joke.”


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