This Inaugural Whisky Blog Post! Announces that this Whisky Blog is hereby called ⬆️ what the image says.
Inaugural bottle releases seem to be a thing.
A deep hunger sweeps over you.
YOU need to get that the first bottle released from 'X' distillery
NO! ITS MORE THAN THAT! YOU NEED, MY PRECIOUS, NOW! Fear of missing out sweeps over you.
At this point we need to take a step back and return to the beginning of the story, except there is no DeLorean or 88mph required...
A group of Friends / Acquaintances / Investors / Family Members / Whoever have a business meeting and discuss their love of whisky / making money / bringing back a lost heritage / whatever the reason.
Their talk turns to
'Hey, why can't we build our own distillery'.
They discuss where it should be - The lost heritage could be the initial idea spark, maybe a disused industrial site or piece of wasteland.
Later on they approach specialists in the industry, discuss the style of whisky they want, draw up an idea.
The idea becomes a proposal, the proposal becomes a business plan, the plan becomes an official application to HMRC, the local authority, Fire, Police, Highways etc
Eventually a distillery is announced, once every thing has been dotted and crossed, planning is granted.
A building constructed, a still, mashtun & all other manner of equipment fitted, a visitor centre created, a website designed promoting the new gleaming producer of our favourite drink. Then it stops (not for the staff, they are still extremely busy and will be for sometime). It stops for the Whisky Enthusiast.
The first wave of excitement was chatter in the air, the rumours of a new distillery.
Then the rumours become fact. You keep track of every milepost phase of the distilleries birth.
The distillery is operational and open for visits.
You visit the new distillery for the first time. Possibly try the first example of the character the distillery is trying to create, by means of an official blended whisky or possibly a single malt from an unknown distillery. If you are really lucky you get to try some of the new make spirit. But alas, the excitement wains, you now know it's a waiting game.
It's not until the Inaugural bottle is released does the full clamour and frenzy of the whisky enthusiast get up to its full potential. The inaugural bottle is something special, it's the cumulation of at least three years of patience and effort by the distillery team who produce the whisky. They have designed a distillery to produce a specific character, used their expertise to identify the correct cut points and placed the new make into carefully selected barrels nurturing the spirit and allowing it to shine when its ready, while also, gently enhancing its potential with cask influence. Getting hold of the the first official release from the new distillery is the ultimate aim, one that can not under any circumstance be missed.
Once the inaugural release has passed, the distillery will have its hardcore followers who will (Try) buy everything that is released, it will have its flippers who will (try) want to make a quick profit and it will have whisky enthusiasts who will happen upon a bottle, eventually, and realise what a sleeping giant they have discovered.
During the early years a new distillery is growing, trying to re-coup its development costs, they may release Gin, Vodka even Rum. Trying to remain competitive in the marketplace while making as much margin as they can.
So it is a little surprising that many new distilleries haven't yet had many, if any, independent bottles released.
But they are still establishing themselves, stock is low and investment is key, they can't afford to have one of their casks mismanaged and result in a poor bottle and have their name on it. It's a fine balancing act.
But once an independent bottle is released, once again, the whisky enthusiast becomes excited and the flippers do somersaults (and hopefully break a bone or all).
So it's less of a surprise that no SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) code has been allocated to the shiny new distillery. After all, SMWS will only publicly issue a code once a barrel is ready to be bottled. If they don't have a barrel they won't have a potential code.
Such 'New' Distilleries that don't yet have an SMWS code are:
Isle of Raasay
and the numerous distilleries being built or going online right now.
But how "OLD', is still too new, to not have an SMWS Code?
A little older and possibly surprising are:
Ailsa Bay - William Grant & Son Officially opened in 2009
Daftmill - Family Owned & first distillation was December 2005
Kilkerran - Glengyle Distillery owned by Mitchell's Glengyle Ltd think Springbank, it went online in 2004.
Kininivie - Another Willian Grant & Son Went online in 1990
Wolfburn - Went online 2013
However, the biggest surprise for me was The Speyside Distillery, behind the Spey brand, do not have a SMWS code, when I released this, I searched around the internet looking at all the different sites that provide an SMWS code and sure enough The Speyside Distillery which went operational in 1990 has not had an SMWS bottle released.
Im certain there will be some excitement and fury to get hold of the inaugural SMWS bottle, if it's ever released.
SMWS may well have casks already, of Spey and some of the other distilleries mentioned, only time will tell.
There are other instances where a 'Brand' doesn't have its own code and maybe it should because of precedence.
For example, The Loch Lomond Distillery, possibly the most diverse distillery in Scotland, producing varying styles of whisky from Malt & Grain has several codes for its varying styles:
Croftengea SMWS Code 122
Inchmurrin SMWS Code 112
Inchmoan SMWS Code 135
Loch Lomond Grain SMWS Code G9
Loch Lomond Rhosdhu Grain SMWS Code G15
Loch Lomond aren't alone with this code allocation by SMWS, all coming out of the same distillery we have:
Springbank SMWS Code 27
Hazelburn SMWS Code 126
Longrow SMWS Code 114
However, the following brands appear not to have independent codes:
Ballechin - Edradours Peated Brand. Edradour is code 32, we assume a Peated SMWS Edradour would be code 32.
Cu Bocan.- Tomatins Peated Brand. Tomatin is code 11
Inchfad - Loch Lomond Peated Brand.
Ledaig - Tobermorys Peated Brand. Tobermory is code 42.
Old Ballantruan - Tomintouls Peated Brand. Tomintoul is code 89
It would be great to hear more about how the SMWS decide when to have a cask code or is the decision up to the distillery themselves? Given the code is supposed to be secret, a way for whisky enthusiasts to explore whisky simply based on flavour profiles and whisky styles, maybe we may never know.
The full list of Whisky Brands and their codes or lack thereof can be found by the link below.
Scottish Distilleries and SMWS Codes (or Not)