Tony Singh

A week in whisky: Islay, islands and Ireland

Scottish Field drinks blogger Peter Ranscombe takes a look at what’s been happening in the world of whisky over the past seven days…

CLYDESIDE distillery in Glasgow will host Scottish band Skerryvore’s first live performance in six months on 5 September.

Fans will be able to “pay what you want” for the performance, which will be broadcast at

Clydeside will run a virtual tour of its site, with venue manager Alistair MacDonald guiding Skerryvore’s Daniel and Martin Gillespie around the distillery.

Red Hot Chilli Pipers founder and whisky industry veteran Stuart Cassells will host “Skerryvore: Live Across the World” from the tasting room at the distillery, where he will moderate a live questions and answers session with the band.

Daniel Gillespie, founding member and managing director of Skerryvore, said: “It’s been a real challenge putting it all together as it’s so different than any other gig we have done before, both musically and logistically, but we are so excited about the final product and we can’t wait to hear the feedback and see how it is received.”

Tony Singh matches food to whisky

Highland single malt brand Cù Bòcan has teamed up with television chef Tony Singh to create a dish to match each of the label’s three whiskies.

Singh matched Cù Bòcan Signature to a carpaccio of North Ronaldsay mutton, with sweet smoked paprika, spiced pickled shallots and croutons.

He paired Cù Bòcan Creation #1 with Ayrshire ham hough and miso broth, with gingerbread dumplings with west coast langoustine and black garlic.

And he created a tart of Valrhona Grand Cru de Macae to sit alongside Cù Bòcan Creation #2.

Singh added: “I love any opportunity to experiment in the kitchen, but when you add whisky into the mix it becomes a lot of fun.”

Visitors’ centre reopens at GlenDronach

GlenDronach distillery in Aberdeenshire reopens today.

Its visitors’ centre has been redesigned by Ross McNally from Glasgow-based design consultancy Scarinish Studio and by design firm 1751.

The distillery plans to launch a sherry masterclass on 11 September, giving visitors the chance to taste sherries alongside its whiskies.

Jennifer Proctor, GlenDronach’s “homeplace” manager, said: “We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the distillery and have been working hard to introduce important safety measures set to improve the overall visitor experience and keep the local community safe.”

The refit is the first since American spirits giant Brown-Forman – which owns brands including Jack Daniel’s – bought the distillery and its two siblings, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh, from Billy Walker and his South African business partners.

GlenAllachie gives pubs 116 whisky bottles

After selling those three distilleries to Brown-Forman, Billy Walker then bought GlenAllachie on Speyside, which has just launched a scheme to help pubs in Scotland.

The distillery is giving away 116 bottles of its 12-year-old single malt to pubs that were forced to close during the coronavirus lockdown.

David Keir, sales and marketing director at GlenAllachie, said: “The final outlets in Scotland were only granted permission to open from 15 July – that’s 116 days of lockdown with not a penny of income.

“Our friends may have reopened but it is with restricted capacity, reduced hours, extensive and expensive operating procedures in place and low footfall on the high street – it is a long road ahead for them and we want to do something to help.”

Pubs have until 31 August to apply for their free bottle.

Want to pick the barley used for your dram?

Holyrood distillery in Edinburgh is letting customers create their own cask whisky – by making choices all the way back to the start of the process.

Clients can pick the type of malted barley and yeast, before specifying the cut points and distillation rate.

They can then select their cask, right down to the species of oak, its size and whether it’s previously held bourbon, sherry or another liquid.

Distillery manager Jack Mayo said: “While other distilleries allow you to purchase casks with whisky based on their house style, this level of customisation is unique.

“For an inquisitive whisky fan, this is a chance to be a master distiller for a day, and a whisky maker across the decade as you watch the development of your fledgling spirit into a mature single malt and decide when the time is right for bottling.”

New distillery manager for Ardbeg

Ardbeg has named Colin Gordon as its next distillery manager.

Gordon joins from Diageo, where his roles have included managing Lagavulin distillery and running Port Ellen maltings, which supplied malted barley to eight of Islay’s ten distilleries.

He replaces Mickey Heads, who retires in October after 13 years as Ardbeg’s manager.

Heads might be stepping down, but he’s going to remain chair of the “Ardbeg Committee”, the fan club set up by the distillery.

Heads said: “I’ve known Colin for a long time and I can’t think of a more worthy successor.”

Kilchoman named ‘Best Islay Whisky’

Staying with Islay, and Kilchoman distillery has notched up a couple of awards.

Sanaig, its single malt named after one of the island’s inlets, scooped the “Best Islay Whisky” title at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

The whisky combines spirits aged in both sherry and bourbon barrels.

Anthony Wills, the distillery’s founder, said the prize “recognises the dedication and hard work of the team at the distillery”.

Kilchoman’s Machir Bay bottle was also a finalist in the same competition.

Couple want to create Irish version of Islay

Hopping across the Irish Sea, husband-and-wife team James and Moira Doherty will launch a crowdfunding initiative next week to raise €1.5 million (£1.4m) to build a whiskey distillery at Ardara in Donegal.

The couple founded Sliabh Liag Distillers with the aim of making “the Sliabh Liag peninsula to Irish whiskey what Islay is to Scotch.”

Moira said: “It’s been an interesting year to say the least – on one hand, we pivoted into making hand sanitiser for the community here in Donegal, while on the other we laid down the first barrel of smoky single malt Irish whiskey in the county since 1841.”

James added: “We are reclaiming the distilling heritage of Donegal and in doing so we have founded the first legal whiskey distillery in the county for over 175 years.

“Both my grandfathers were illicit poitín men; this is in my DNA.”

Read more whisky news and reviews on Scottish Field’s whisky pages.