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While we are waiting to see how Scotch performed at the end of 2019, it can be reasonably assumed that 2019 was a good year for Scotch despite hardships such as the US Tariff issue for single malts and various missed Brexit deadlines impacting the industry. As of August export volumes were up 5.4%, so on the back of relative success what will 2020 bring to the Scotch Whisky industry and where will Lady of the Glen fit into this?
It is possible to see that Scotch is slowly adapting to compete with other national spirit drinks through, more specifically, the laws that govern how Whisky is allowed to be matured. Changes to the SWA regulations now allow the maturation of Scotch to take place in such casks as ex-tequila which was previously not allowed so in 2020 there would be an expectation for greater emphasis on the cask and sources of differentiation through that. Admittedly, I have no plans to finish or mature any stock out of anything aside from Port, Sherry and certain wines but that’s not to say if a particularly interesting cask came along I wouldn’t want to try it.
It can be very challenging to be truly innovative in an industry where part of the definition for Scotch is for ‘traditional evidence’ of a practice taking place before. However, genuine sources of innovation that we can expect to see in 2020 and beyond will be mainly down to the production side, such as the use of alternative higher yield barley and yeast strains which produce specific flavours in the growing absence of traditional brewers yeast. In light of this, there has already been a greater amount of new spirit available for sale at retail level which is a trend I see continuing. Other sources of innovation, which have already been widely acknowledged, are in reduced energy production and recycling water supplies which although may not have an impact on spirit can reduce long term overheads and the carbon footprint. However, I would like to add that although re-racking and using different styles of casks is not innovative, it should still be acknowledged that Scotch is an incredibly diverse product with different regional flavours that can be further differentiated within distillery character and that cask management adds even further complexity and differentiation. Compared to other distilled products I believe Scotch is in an incredibly enviable position but that it shouldn’t be taken for granted or overly simplified.
In other industries, which are more flexible with their regulations, I believe we’ll see a greater reduction in the role of maturation. In light of the costs associated with holding stock for a prolonged period of time, the unpredictable nature of aspects of maturation and also the greater desire to get products into market more quickly there is now a growing need to shorten or skip maturation. There are already in existence well publicized products that are completely artificial and created in lab that are designed to bear as close a resemblance as possible to cask matured Whiskey and there are condensed wood liquids/supplements that can be added to new spirit to create a wood influence. Maturation is an incredibly valuable step in the production of high quality spirit and it shouldn’t be assumed to be a simple process where wood is infused in the Whisky, I wrote a blog on this in which you can learn more about the valuable role of wood. I would hope that Scotch never abandons the principles of the Rule of 3, one of which is the requirement for a minimum of 3 years maturation, which was originally devised to ensure quality across the industry.
Further ahead, I can see a growth in other forms of grain used for worldwide distillation and the increase costs of barley as demands for food increase with population growth worldwide and by countries attempting to replicate the Single Malt barley distillation process used in Scotland rather than using locally sourced grains.
For Lady of the Glen, our traditional cask selection and maturation process are not anticipated to change for the next 12 months. We still plan on having four outruns this year, the first of which will be released this month and include a first fill bourbon barrel of Lochindaal, a collection of first fill Pedro Ximenez Octave releases and some fantastic 2004 Glen Elgin and Teaninch that has been finished in our Tawny and Ruby Port. The labeling and packaging will be changing and I look forward to revealing this shortly and there will be new products launched among the second outrun of 2020 so please stay tuned.
One of the most interesting topics of discussion at festivals I've been at recently is the casks or bottles we wished we’d held on to; either because they are now more valuable or they meant something special to us.
Here's my list.
Lady of the Glen, Caperdonich. We released this in 2014 and it was the rarest thing I had sold at the time. The 19-year-old ex-bourbon cask release cost £86 back then. What I recall most about it was the colour, it was almost green! The Caperdonich distillery was, and is silent, so for Lady of the Glen it was a really big statement release which helped draw further distribution of our range into Europe and Asia.
Lady of the Glen, 21-year-old Littlemill. Another release from 2014, which looking back was a bountiful year for silent distillery releases. Littlemills were typically not well reviewed and this release sort of fell into my lap; the colour of pinot grigio, it was light, soft and fruity. At the time it was selling for around £91, but when I last checked it was much more expensive.
Lady of the Glen, Sherry Hogshead Port Charlotte. This was a cask we released last year but it was so sherried and so popular that I wish I still had at least a case of it left. This fantastic bacon and maple syrup dram was acquired from a private seller and the majority of it when to East Asia. I’ve had regular requests from all over for more bottles but there’s genuinely none left. Matured in a first-fill sherry hogshead in 2002 and bottled in 2018, it was the definitive Islay ‘sherry bomb’.
Lady of the Glen, 2008 Sherry Tobermory. Released in 2017, on the face of it this Tobermory wasn’t that interesting, I bought it as part of a parcel with other Bourbon hogsheads of Tobermory and I’d not even tried a sample. What made this release different was that its ABV of 68.2% was very high. Tasting of dark chocolate, spice and treacle, this was another sherry bomb. Explosive in the sense that it gave me heartburn at each sip, but it was special stuff! This sold for around £65 at the time but I wish I kept a case of it because it was smooth and fruit
Probably the bottle that has risen in value the fastest is the Lady of the Glen Macallan release from 2017. Originally finished in an octave, it was small outrun of only 20 bottles. This 1990 vintage was bottled at 27 years old. I had wooden boxes especially made and it came with an initial price tag of around £1,000 before it rose as demand increased. What made this release particularly interesting was the way it sold, it sat idle on the site for months because it was a UK exclusive and then all the bottles sold in a few hours. It was actually a worrying moment because I thought there was a glitch in my system. But after speaking to one of the buyers, I discovered that a group of friends who bought whisky had picked up on it. I do have one bottle of this left and the last time I checked it had doubled in value and is still going strong.
Take a scroll through our archive to discover more of our past releases. Do you have Lady of the Glen or other whiskies you wish you’d kept or acquired?
This year we are proud to be at the Glasgow Whisky Festival for the 2nd time.
We will have the below releases available on the day for sampling.
Glenlossie 8 Year Old 2010 cask #8645 Ex-Ruby Port Cask finish Lady of the Glen. 56.8?V
On the palate, expect nutty, fudge treacle and dried fig flavours.
Glenlossie 8 Year Old 2010 cask #8643 Ex-Tawny Port Cask finish. Lady of the Glen. 54.6?V
On the palate, expect flavours of honeycomb, tobacco and red fruits. (Only available for sale at the festival)
Glenallachie 13 Year Old 2005 Bourbon Hogshead with Ex-Marsala wine cask finish. Cask #901062. 65.1%. ABV
On the palate, expect stewed apricot, vanilla and butter flavours.
Strathmill 11 Year Old 2007 Bourbon Hogshead with Ex-Tawny Port Cask finish. #807834. 56.8?V
On the palate, expect crème caramel, ginger and walnut flavours.
Tamdhu 11 Year Old 2007 cask #6833 – Bourbon Hogshead. 61.6?V
On the palate Vanilla ice cream, toffee and baked bread
Under the table we'll have:
ARDMORE VINTAGE 2009
GLEN ELGIN VINTAGE 2008 EX-TAWNY PORT CASK FINISH
BOWMORE VINTAGE 2002
By Gregor Hannah, founder of Lady of the Glen
I was delighted that Lady of the Glen was named ‘Best Scottish Spirit’ at the recent Scotsman Food and Drink Awards 2019. The ceremony, held at Brewhemia in Edinburgh, celebrated the success of Scotland’s vibrant food and drink scene by producers across the country.
Lee MacGregor and Isabella McNamara, of Mitchel MacGregor Public Relations, accepted the award on my behalf as I was in New York. Winning this award was initially met with muted surprise as I had just checked into my hotel after a long-haul flight and lengthy transfer, however, the next day when I had a chance to take it in, I was over the moon.
I would like to thank Scotland’s distillers and the cask makers from Europe and the US who produce the exceptional stock that I use to create my products. I acquire rare casks from Scotland’s best distilleries to mature and release under the brand. I do not distil Scotch, I just manage it. I do not build casks, I just select them, so without their craftsmanship, I couldn’t produce the releases that have put Lady of the Glen in a position to win awards.
Every Lady of the Glen release is bottled at cask strength, with no colourings or chill filtering, keeping the process as natural as possible, paying respect to the distiller’s spirit craftsmanship. Careful cask management is key and we only release casks when they are ready, offering bottles of exceptional flavour that are unique, drinkable, and collectable. Often, casks of the same spirit will be finished in different ways to create different releases from the same source. This makes Lady of the Glen whisky totally unique. To ensure quality, I taste-test all the whisky and will only bottle it if I am 100% happy with the outcome.
My plan is to build and develop relationships with bodegas in Portugal, France and Spain amongst others in Europe in the hope that the good work continues and I can source the exceptional casks that make Lady of the Glen so special. I seek out these casks based on their quality, rarity, flavour and flavour potential. Each cask has its own spirit and story to tell. To all those distillers in Scotland, all I can say is thank you, you’re the best at what you do and I’ll always be in your debt.
I’d like to thank the judges and panel at The Scotsman Food and Drink for selecting Lady of the Glen. Lee and Isabella who have helped with my strategy and to polish Lady of the Glen into a better brand.
The Prince’s Trust and specifically Richard Gibson who helped me to develop my business plan when I first started and to get my initial application for funding support.
My distributors and customers who buy the stock and who have proved so loyal and generous with their feedback. I will continue to source the best casks available and endeavour to release casks that you continue to enjoy.
I’m delighted that the processes we have in place at Lady of the Glen to create unique, rare single cask, single malt whisky has been recognised with this best Scottish Spirit Award.
Sourcing casks is an important part of my role as an independent bottler. By judging the spirit I have and assessing it based on its body, sweetness and character I’ll decide what casks I feel will either enhance the flavour traits, provide greater balance or take the spirit into a different flavour profile which I find more desirable.
Our previous outruns have seen us using casks sourced from a Bodega in Portugal. This time, my search for new casks took me to France where I enjoyed 30-degree weather in the lovely surroundings of Bordeaux. Set within a context of 17th-century architecture, Bordeaux is a beautiful city located on the banks of Garonne. The city is renowned as the hub for wines and fortified spirit, which is produced in the region and was historically exported worldwide from Bordeaux’s dockside. Nowadays, the majority of these food and drinks are taken much further along the Garonne to be exported directly. It was through Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Henry II of England that the export of wine transformed Bordeaux into an export hub since then the US is now the largest market for Bordeaux wine.
As a hub, Bordeaux has access to a vast array of incredible sweet wines, fortified wines not just from Bordeaux in France but right across Europe. It was with that in mind that I visited a barrel warehouse near Cognac to learn more about the casks that I will be sourcing for Lady of the Glen.
Very much like a sweet shop, the warehouse was filled with an array of incredible casks which contained everything from vintage Armagnac to varieties of casks used for the full maturation of Calvados, Cognac, Moscatel and fortified sweet wines from various Mediterranean islands. Nosing all these casks was incredible and speaking with the owners about the flavours I was looking for based on the spirit that I have was great fun as this is the creative part of this process where we can try to anticipate what flavours we can produce. It’s not an exact science but the whole point of this process is to source authentic casks to create unique flavours and make the whisky I have the best it can possibly be.
Meeting the owners of a bodega or barrel warehouse is crucial to the way I do business now. I like to have a degree of familiarity with who I’m dealing with and I like them to buy into what I’m trying to achieve so they can provide genuine guidance or instruction as to how the cask should be used. It is also essential I visit the warehouse to make sure the casks are good because they are expensive and it will be years before I see the final results.
The final results of the acquisitions made from this trip will not be seen for at least 3 years although I’ll monitor the casks and send samples to the warehouse to ensure everyone is aware of how the casks are performing each year.
To see all the whiskies in our latest outrun, check out our online shop. The latest outrun includes the following bottles:
Caol Ila - Bourbon cask matured for 8 years and finished in an Amarone wine cask from Veneta Botti, Veneto. Tasting notes revealed, Mossy, pineapple and brown sugar.
Strathmill - Matured in a Bourbon cask for 11 years and finished in an ex-Tawny Port cask from Tanoaria Josafer, Portugal. Tasting notes revealed, crème caramel, ginger and walnut.
Glenallachie - Matured in a Bourbon cask for 13 years and finished in a Marsala wine cask from Marsal Botti in Siciliy. Tasting notes Stewed apricot, vanilla and butter.
2005 Blair Athol with a Pedro Ximenez Octave finish. This first-fill octave contained Blair Athol for over 3 months so the cask character has been highly influential, the strong PX influence provides flavours such as cloves, star anise and ginger.