ONE of the oldest brand names in Scotch whisky is to release what has been heralded as the first new single malt to be produced in Edinburgh in nearly a century.
John Crabbie & Co, which can trace its whisky lineage back to the 19th century, has released a limited-edition malt that was made at a pilot distillery in Granton.
Just 234 bottles of Chain Pier Single Malt, produced at the already-mothballed distillery of the same name, will be released to the market.
The micro-distillery was set up by Halewood Artisanal Spirits to allow its whisky makers to experiment with production techniques while the company built a permanent facility for its John Crabbie brand in Leith, plans for which were unveiled in 2017.
The Chain Pier Distillery was operational for just a year, between 2018 and 2019, and produced a total of 39 casks from a 500-litre copper pot still. The 234 bottles of the Chain Pier Single Malt now entering the market were matured in heavily charred virgin oak casks and bottled at a strength of 57 per cent alcohol by volume.
With a recommended retail price of £65 per bottle, the malt is described as “light and fruity on the nose with hints of berries, forest fruits and green apples, boasting rich caramel and sweet malt and ginger spice on the palate, rounded off with a long, sweet and spicy finish”.
More of the single malt made at Chain Pier may yet be released.
John Kennedy, UK finance director at Halewood, said the first of the Chain Pier malts “came of age” in January; a spirit can only legally be sold as Scotch whisky if it has been distilled in Scotland and matured for at least three years in oak casks.
“Effectively, it’s from a micro-distillery that now no longer exists,” Mr Kennedy said. “I think it is quite a unique story. I don’t know of anyone else that has released a whisky
from an already-mothballed distillery. We did it with the thought process of being ready to go with our main site in Bonnington as soon as it was operational. We got lucky a little bit in that the new-make spirit and the cask profile we have used have been of a very high quality.”
He added: “What it has enabled us to do is be the first single malt whisky from Edinburgh in nearly 100 years.”
Halewood was now shifted all its whisky making in Edinburgh to the Bonnington Distillery in Leith, which has the capacity to produce half a million litres of alcohol per year. The distillery, which Halewood began building in 2017, became operational in 2019, before casks began to be laid down in 2020. It is on track to launch a three-year-old single malt under the John Crabbie name in 2023.
Mr Kennedy said Bonnington has been built to “satisfy our global demand for single-malt whisky” that it currently serves through Yardhead, a non-age declared single malt. The entry-level whisky, which is distilled in the Highlands, matured in ex-bourbon casks and bought in from a third party, is effectively an “independent bottling”, he explained, and sells around 75,000 cases around the world. Some 60,000 of those cases are sold in the UK and Russia.
Mr Kennedy added: “That is one of reasons why we built the Bonnington Distillery– we have a global demand for single malt whisky. We are part of the wider Halewood business which has routes to market globally.”
John Crabbie was one of the “original whisky barons” who built up a blending business in Leith in the 19th century, selecting casks from more than 70 distilleries around Scotland and selling them under his own brand. He established the North British Distillery in Edinburgh, which still operates today, with fellow pioneer Andrew Usher.
James Stocker, marketing director at Halewood Artisanal Spirits, said: “The Chain Pier distillery was operational for just a year (between 2018 and 19), yet it gave our team a great opportunity to continue John Crabbie’s legacy of innovation – handcrafting unique distillations and trialling everything from malt types to custom casks.
“The launch of the Chain Pier Single Malt is an incredibly exciting step in the John Crabbie & Co journey, as the malt whisky that we have crafted from start to finish at a site of our own. The quality of the liquid is really testament our distilling team and Master Blender Dr Kirstie McCallum, and a great preview of what’s to come from the Crabbie whisky brand.”