Due to the sale of alcohol on our site, we are required to ensure our customers are of legal age to purchase whisky sold in Scotland.
Persons who wish to purchase our whisky must be 18 or older. By entering our site, you agree to this condition.
If you are not over the age of 18, we are sorry but you'll have to wait a little bit longer to taste our exquisite scotch.
“Come in! And know me better, man!” For now, it is the time to learn about cask strength whisky!
Definition of cask strength: when a producer has not diluted the whisky after maturation.
Over the second weekend of November, Lady of the Glen was showcased simultaneously at the Glasgow Whisky Festival and at the Aschaffenburg Whisky festival; two thoroughly enjoyable events. Part of the delight of attending these festivals are the questions that visitors ask us. Here are two questions that are both linked to our main theme today of cask strength.
“This can't be cask strength, it's too low, it's 43.2% ABV” This was in reference to the Girvan vintage 1991 (which is now sold out).
“64.9% ABV for a 16-year-old whisky seems a bit too high!?” This was in reference to the Port Charlotte vintage 2002 (which is now sold out. For a full list of the Lady of the Glen range of whiskies take a look at the shop.)
I also had someone recently pontificate why I hadn't kept a whisky longer in the cask and this can also be answered by understanding cask strength and bottling.
Why do it?
Bottling at cask strength doesn't make a whole lot of business sense. If you were to bottle a cask and then reduce it's ABV (alcohol by volume) down to say 46% or even 43% by adding water you could increase the yield of the cask. This would allow you to sell more bottles and with that increase the profit overall, the customer would get a cheaper bottle too because they would save money on the duty tax! However, in independent bottling there is a desire for transparency and authenticity; people want to taste the cask in all of its undiluted glory, in its most natural state.
By contrast, adding water prior to maturation doesn't impact the definition at all. In fact, most of Scotland's distilleries reduce their new spirit by adding water prior to filling them into casks and right after they have been distilled. All the distillery's casks will be filled to the same strength because if it's too high it can damage the oak and they can fill more casks by reducing alcohol while increasing the bulk spirit. Interestingly if you fill a cask at a relatively high strength, based on experience, it retains a higher strength in comparison to filling at a lower strength which lowers quicker. The wood will also have an impact, so smaller sized casks increase evaporation and the ABV drops quicker. While cooler climates, such as Scotland's, cause ABV to drop more slowly.
In answer to the question “64.9% ABV for a 16-year-old whisky seems a bit too high!”, this is because some distilleries fill their casks at 71-73%. When this Port Charlotte was distilled, Bruichladdich filled at roughly 71%-73% - big thanks to Jim McEwan!
In response to “This can't be cask strength, it's too low, it's 43.2% ABV” - it is still cask strength! Even though Wikipedia can dismissively say that cask strength is typically in the range of 58-66% this is not a fair, accurate or true; cask strength is what the strength is after the spirit has left the oak cask and goes into the glass bottle, no matter how low it is. In this particular case, the reason that the ABV was low was because the whisky was 26 years old! In conjunction with this, the majority of the cask had already been bottled for another purpose, so another reason ABV drops is when there is only a small amount of spirit in the cask or the cask is only half full, the ABV drops quicker.
This, in turn, answers the last question “why hadn't I (Lady of the Glen) kept a whisky longer in the cask?” So as the cask was already half empty and at 43.2% that means the spirit can be unpredictable and drop below 40% sharply. If the spirit drops below 40%, it's like a trap door, it cannot be called whisky any more so the value of it practically disappears. Another interesting note of experience in regards bottling of older spirit is that it can be very vulnerable. Actual bottling of low ABV spirit can be dangerous as it can sometimes drop below 40% during bottling, as I found out with a 1963 Carsebridge. In regard to the 43.2% whisky, I bottled it because I liked it and I thought it tasted good. If I didn’t bottle it, I could have sold it for blending.
The vulnerability of older spirit can be best illustrated through the testing of ABV. When a warehouse reads the ABV for a whisky they will read the 'apparent' ABV using a little machine in the warehouse. While a scientific assessment of ABV will read 'actual' ABV – most of the time with older whiskies, or whiskies that have used colouring, these are different as the scientific assessment measures through spirit thickness and solids in the spirit. Where there are differences, the warehouse will take a scientific assessment as it will be necessary for the export documents. This is another reason why independent bottlers don't fiddle about with colouring and cask strength because the scientific assessments are somewhat pricey!
Outrun for QTR3 Confirmed
It is with great pleasure that we can reveal the outrun for QTR3 2018. Admittedly, due to the availability of certain of casks we have displaced what was originally going to be released in favour of a range of older casks that are more suitable for release now because the ABV of the original stock is high enough to merit further maturation.
1991 Bruichladdich matured in a Bourbon Hogshead
Located on Islay this cask could prove to be one Lady of the Glen's rarest cask acquisition's as at the point of distillation standard Bruichladdich would have been peated and this would be a classic example of this, now Bruichladdich releases peated stock under Port Charlotte and The Octomore brands. Three years after distillation of this cask the distillery would be closed only to be reawakened under new ownership 2000.
1989 Bunnahbhain matured in a Bourbon Hogshead
Acquired in light of a dropping ABV this cask if left any longer could have slipped into the non-Whisky world of below 40% at which point it could only be used in blends. However, the cask has been rescued and bottled to present a 29 year old Whisky.
2002 Port Charlotte Oloroso Hogshead
Another rare find, Oloroso is an intensely sweet sherry which infuses very dark colours with notes of dried fruits, raisins and dates. Typically sherry is seasoned in butts which are larger casks compared to hogshead casks (typically associated with bourbon) but when it is used in a hogshead the extra wood to Whisky contact increases the concentration of exposure meaning although there are less bottles than in a butt the flavour is more intense. The spirit of Port Charlotte is the name given to Bruichladdich's peated releases so this is a medium peated Islay Whisky.
1987 Invergordon Hogshead
This released had been planned since QTR1 but delays in movement of the cask meant that it could only be bottled now! Invergordon is a grain distillery but this very special cask has been released on it's own as a 31 year old single cask release. Coincidently, a 1987 Invergordon cask was our 2nd ever release and it proved to very, very popular.
There releases should be available in 6-8 weeks.
Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Porto for the purpose of visiting the bodega where I will be sourcing casks for the further development of the Lady of the Glen portfolio. Sourcing quality casks is an essential part of cask management as all Whisky needs to be matured in Oak casks and as the oak contributes over 50% of the final bottled Whisky's flavour there is no point in sourcing exceptional spirit if its going to be wasted in substandard casks – further to this point as an independent bottler it is important that my Whisky is different from distillery standard releases which will typically be matured in American oak casks.
The majority of Oak casks are second hand casks sourced from America whereas European Oak from European bodegas tend to be more expensive but provide the Sherry, sweet wines and Port seasonings that provide those more sought after flavours in Whisky.
Portugal hosts among the finest bodegas in Europe through their long history of coopering and their access to Port Wines, different styles sherry and sweet wines which allow them to season their casks with exceptional flavours ideal for influencing Whisky character.
In Portugal bodegas are referred to as Tanoaria and entire communities would be built around these thriving workshops with coopering skills being learned father to son. Coopers are essential for the production of good quality Whisky as without coopers casks cannot be created to mature the spirit that is created. However, changes in demand meant a lot of the workshops and communities were decimated. Similarly, Scotland has experienced this and as a result both countries endure a shortage of coopers; in 1980 there were approximately 1,017 coopers in Scotland, the low point was in 2005 when there was only 188 due to the closure of two cooperage sites, although as of 2017 this figure has risen to 250 coopers.
My first impression of the bodega was that it was similar to visiting a builders merchants with my Dad, with pallets of different types of wood being weathered outside while inside the warehouse was filled with pallets of empty casks and saw dust coating everything.
As can be illustrated in these photos, coopering is still a very manual process that enjoys an honest craftmanship.
This family business enjoys its quirks such as staff being able to enjoy vegetables from the owners vegetable garden next to the bodega and the cooking of lunch within the confines of the warehouse stoves used for charring.
In the months to come Lady of the Glen will be releasing heavily sherried Whisky which has been matured in Pedro Xemenz Octaves from the bodega and in the years to come there will be some wonderful Ruby Port, Tawny Port and Sherried influence Whiskies, allowing us to look forward to the finest that single Malt Whisky has to offer.
Scottish Field Whisky Challenge Winners
We're delighted to reveal that the Lady of the Glen Tobermory vintage 2008 cask has placed first in the £50 - £100 category as well as being the fifth highest placed whisky in the challenge.
As winner of the £50 - £100 category the release will go forward to the Grand Final tasting held later on this year.
You can see the full results of the challenge here https://emagcreator.com/specialpublications/SF_117_Whisky_Summer_Challenge_2018/
In addition, the Lady of the Glen 8yo Secret Islay has placed as the ninth highest scoring whisky. Although this release sold out, we used some of the contents from this award winning barrel and finished it in a PX Octave, bottles of which are still available here for £90.00
Cask yield 183
Cask yield 221
Cask yield 173
Cask yield 58