ANNANDALE DISTILLERY COMPANY LTD, Annan, Dumfriesshire
RASCALLY LIQUOR NEW MAKE MALT SPIRIT 63,5 %
Peaty As Hell…
RASCALLY LIQUOR NEW MAKE PEATY SPIRIT 63,5 %
Annandale’s two signature single malt whiskies won’t be mature until at least 2018, although fans can still pick up a cask in the meantime.
The modern Annandale distillery produces two types of single malt whisky, both matured in American oak barrels – an unpeated spirit that’s described as “smooth and sophisticated”, while a peated version is depicted as “strong and powerful”. The contrasting styles are a reflection of the Lowlands’ peated whisky past, and its modern reputation as a region that produces softer styles.
The original Annandale Distillery was built in 1830 by former Elgin-based excise officer George Donald, who named the site after the valley in which it is situated. Using water from the Middleby Burn for the whisky and the Guillielands Burn for cooling and power, the distillery produced single malt whisky for 90 years.
Donald ran the distillery until 1883 when it passed to John S. Gardner & Son, the namesake of which kept cows, pigs and horses on-site, feeding the animals on the draff and leftover grain from the distillery. Under Gardner’s tenure the distillery underwent a modest expansion, and at the height of its production was making 28,000 gallons of spirit annually.
Just 13 years later John Walker & Sons purchased the site, but the now renowned whisky group had grander ideas up its sleeve. Come 1919 the company decided to abandon Annandale to concentrate on developing its signature blended whisky, Johnnie Walker. By 1921 the distillery was closed, its fittings stripped for use elsewhere.
The site passed into the hands of the Robinson family, who were famous for producing Provost porridge oats. What was left of the distillery became a production line for the breakfast cereal brand, while the bonded warehouses were used to house cattle. The remainder of the buildings fell into a state of disrepair.
In 2007, the site was purchased by the Annandale Distillery Company, led by husband-and-wife owners David Thomson and Teresa Church, who also own market research operation, MMR Group. The duo set about painstakingly returning the site back to its former glory over a seven-year period that cost in the region of £10.5 million.
Production of two significant whisky styles began in November 2014, named Man O’ Words after the poet Robert Burns, and Man O’Sword after Scottish warrior Robert the Bruce. Casks of both are available to purchase before the spirit is mature enough to be called whisky. The Annandale Distillery Company put a price tag of £1 million on the first cask filled on 15 November 2014.
George Donald, a former excise officer, builds the original Annandale distillery
The distillery is sold to John S. Gardner & Son
Annandale Distillery is rebuilt and extended
John Walker & Sons buy the distillery for £2,000
John Walker & Sons mothballed the distillery after making the decision to focus on its new blend, Johnnie Walker
The site is officially closed and stripped of its equipment
The distillery is purchased by the Robinson family for the production of Provost porridge oats
Annandale Distillery Company purchases the site with a view to returning the distillery to its former glory
The distillery begins operation for the first time in 95 years
CAPACITY (MLPA) i
CONDENSER TYPE i
Copper shell and tube
FERMENTATION TIME i
FILLING STRENGTH i
GRIST WEIGHT (T) i
HEAT SOURCE i
MALT SPECIFICATION i
Peated (45ppm) and unpeated
MALT SUPPLIER i
Bairds and Pencaitland
MASH TUN MATERIAL i
MASH TUN TYPE i
NEW-MAKE PHENOL LEVEL i
NEW-MAKE STRENGTH i
SINGLE MALT PERCENTAGE i
SPIRIT STILL CHARGE (L) i
SPIRIT STILL SHAPE i
Tall, slim necked, boil ball
SPIRIT STILL SIZE (L) i
One wash, 2 spirit
Dunnage in two-level sandstone warehouse
WASH STILL CHARGE (L) i
WASH STILL SHAPE i
WASH STILL SIZE (L) i
WASHBACK CHARGE (L) i
WASHBACK SIZE (L) i
WASHBACK TYPE i
WATER SOURCE i
WORT CLARITY i
YEAST TYPE i
Unpeated malt uses Fermentis Safwhisky M-1 and Mauri Distillers; unpeated uses Mauri Distillers
Annandale Distillery Company
2014 - present
John Walker & Sons
1896 - 1921
John S Gardner
1883 - 1896
George Donald & Co
1830 - 1883
ANNANDALE’S WHISKY REVIVED AFTER 99 YEARS
16 November 2017
The first single malt whisky from Annandale distillery for 99 years is on its way to being released.
Annandale whisky Man o'Words
Momentous occasion: David Thomson and wife Theresa Church hold the first two bottles of Annandale single malt whisky
The Lowlands distillery, which last operated in December 1918, became operational once more in 2014.
In a ceremony held at the distillery yesterday (15 November), the first two bottles of legal Annandale single malt for 99 years was drawn from Cask No 1.
While one bottle will be kept by the distillery, the second will be sold along with the first cask for £1 million.
Prof David Thomson, managing director of Annandale distillery, said: ‘It’s our ambition to make decent whisky here, I hope we’re doing that, and that in 100 years time we’ll still be making decent whisky and that we’ll be employing decent and honest people from Annan.
‘It’s definitely not the end of the story, it’s not even the beginning of the end of the story, but in Winston Churchill’s immortal words, it just might be the end of the beginning.’
Thomson and his wife Theresa Church acquired the former Annandale distillery in 2007 and set about rebuilding and fitting the site over a period of seven years.
The late Dr Jim Swan, whose family was in attendance, was instrumental in the set-up and Thomson paid tribute to him before the cask was drawn.
He said: ‘Jim Swan was at our elbow right the way onwards from word go. Jim’s knowledge of whisky was profound and his ability to translate his knowledge into a working distillery was even greater.
‘When he came here he entertained us royally… he just brought the place to life. He was a great loss to us, and a great loss to the industry and to his family. Hopefully this is a lasting memorial to what Jim’s done.’
Annandale will now focus on bottling its first general releases of single malt for two distinct brands: Man o’ Words and Man o’ Swords.
The two brands refer to two ‘locals’ who made it on the world stage: Robert Burns and Robert the Bruce.
Annandale Man o’ Words is an unpeated expression while Man o’ Swords is peated at 45ppm. Both will be matured in a mix of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry wood.
The first releases of both expressions will be from single casks filled from the distillery’s initial production runs.
Around 240 numbered bottles will be produced from each cask. Casks 2014/033 and 2014/037 will be unpeated Man o ‘Words, while casks 2014/066 and 2014/071 will be peated Man o’Sword.
Named ‘Early Release of First Production’, the first four casks will be released in early 2018, and will be on strict allocation to those registering interest via Annandale’s website.
The original Annandale distillery was built in 1830 by former Elgin-based excise officer George Donald, who named the site after the valley in which it is situated
Limited Early Release of Annandale’s Unpeated Single Cask, Single Malt
In 2014 Annandale produced 103 casks of unpeated Man O’Words. We’ve selected just 10 of these casks for bottling. Each of these very rare bottles is identified by cask number and a unique, sequential number. You can become one of very few Scotch Whisky lovers to own a bottle of Annandale Distillery’s first Single Malt for 100 years.
Limited Early Release of Annandale’s Peated Single Cask, Single Malt
In 2014 Annandale produced 85 casks of peated Man O’Sword. We’ve selected just 10 of these casks for bottling. Each of these very rare bottles is identified by cask number and a unique, sequential number. You can become one of very few Scotch Whisky lovers to own a bottle of Annandale Distillery’s first Single Malt for 100 years.
DAVID THOMSON, ANNANDALE
Professor David Thomson is co-founder of Annandale distillery in Dumfriesshire, and worked as a cereal chemist and university lecturer in sensory and consumer science before establishing Oxfordshire-based Mathematical Market Research (MMR) – claimed to be the largest privately-owned market/consumer research agency in the world. He spoke to Gavin D Smith.
Peaty man: David Thomson is a big fan of smoky whiskies, with Caol Ila a favourite
‘I was born in Dumfries in 1954 into a family of shopkeepers (jewellers, pharmacists and stationers), and my first encounter with whisky was somewhat ignominious.
‘It took place in a caravan in Sandgreen (near Gatehouse of Fleet in Kirkcudbrightshire) where, aged 16 (I think), I was mistakenly given whisky instead of Sherry. I immediately retched until I nearly vomited. I’ve got no idea what whisky it was, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered, as I hated the stuff.
‘I didn’t touch whisky again until I was 21 and working in Cambridge, where a fellow Scot “taught” me to like whisky. It was an arduous evening course that lasted about four weeks.
‘He started me off on Canadian Club, made very long with American Dry. He then reduced the American Dry until it was about 50:50. After that he switched me to a cheap Scotch blend (I can’t remember which), again made very long with American Dry.
‘Over the next couple of weeks, he reduced the American Dry and finally removed it completely. Somewhere, amidst all of this “training”, I heard Stairway to Heaven for the very first time. The trick (apparently) is never to get even mildly intoxicated during one of the training sessions. It worked. I’ve loved Scotch whisky (and Stairway to Heaven) ever since.
‘I got involved with Annandale after my wife, Teresa, bought me a book entitled Scotch Missed, which catalogues all the single malt distilleries in Scotland that have closed. This mentioned Annandale. Until that time, I hadn’t been aware that there had ever been a distillery at Annandale, even though I was born 15 miles away.
‘For some reason, I misread the entry and thought it had been demolished. On reading the entry, my late uncle suggested to the contrary. He contacted his wife’s family (farmers in Annandale) and they confirmed that some of the buildings still existed.
‘We eventually tracked down the owner and convinced him to sell. He’d already applied for planning consent to convert the buildings into residences, and Historic Scotland had reluctantly agreed, because they saw it as the only hope for survival.
‘I doubt that I’d have taken the plunge if Teresa hadn’t pushed me. Working with Teresa throughout the Annandale project, and experiencing her enthusiasm, commitment and sacrifice has made me very proud of her (especially since she’s teetotal). Without her, there would have been no Annandale.
‘The biggest hurdle for me was finding enough time to devote to the project. It was (and still is) important that our other business interests should remain profitable, as these have been principal sources of finance (beyond our own private resources).
‘Rebuilding a dilapidated, historic distillery is very expensive. It also requires a huge investment in working capital before the distillery becomes cash-positive. We started spending money in 2007 and I doubt that we’ll break even until 2020/21. However, the worst is over (or so I hope), since we now have whisky to sell.
‘Seeing the final product in bottle and box was a very proud moment, and tasting the first spirit with the late Dr Jim Swan on Sunday, 9 November 2014 was huge. Filling the first cask a few days later was also very memorable.
‘On 1 December 2017, we had [Scottish rugby stars] Doddie Weir, Gary Armstrong and Finlay Calder hand-fill our first peated whisky into specially commissioned ‘Doddie Weir’5 a Man O’Sword’-branded bottles, to support Doddie’s Motor Neurone Disease (MND) charit
‘I’m a huge Scotland rugby fan, so it was fantastic to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these rugby greats on such a momentous day. The climax for me was singing Flower of Scotland in the kiln at Annandale with Doddie et al, my family and friends. The hairs on the back of my neck felt like red-hot needles.
‘Facing the world without Jim Swan was a huge emotional challenge for me. He was brilliant and one helluva character. Jim didn’t “consult” at Annandale, he “held court”! He made great whisky and he made us laugh. We loved Jim. I’d known him for 35 years, so I felt his death very keenly.
‘Luckily, the production team had really evolved under Jim’s tutelage so, by the time of his passing, they were ready to step up to the mark. They’re a great bunch of guys. Since then, we’ve been privileged to team up with Dr Gordon Steele. His knowledge is positively encyclopaedic, he’s incredibly helpful and he’s really good to work with.
‘When it comes to drinking whisky, I only ever drink Scotch. It’s not that the others aren’t any good, but Scotch has so much variety to offer. I’m definitely a “peaty” man. Caol Ila is amongst my favourites (although I was devastated to learn that it wasn’t matured on Islay). I firmly believe that single malt Scotch whisky should be matured in the microclimate of the distillery, as climate can have a big effect on maturation.
‘The climate in Annandale is never very hot or very cold, and usually very damp. Annandale distillery also sits in a hollow. Jim Swan always said that the environment at Annandale was close to perfect for maturing whisky.
Annandale is unlikely to begin vatting malts before 2021 at the earliest
‘This may be one of the reasons why Man O’Sword and Man O’Words, our peated and unpeated single malts respectively, are very drinkable at three-and-a-half years old.
‘I don’t enjoy heavily “Bourboned” or heavily Sherried single malts. Oban is an intriguing whisky. It has bags of flavour, but it’s actually quite hard to define it.
‘I’m not a “malt snob”. I enjoy decent blends, most especially Johnnie Walker Black Label or, if I’m feeling mellower, Chivas Regal (I think there’s a huge link between emotion and choice of whisky). I also enjoy Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but only if someone else is buying. Jim Swan designed Man O’Sword and Man O’Words with great care, and I really enjoy both (and I’m not just saying that).
‘So far, we only have our “early release of first production”: 10 casks each of Man O’Words and Man O’Sword, drawn from the 188 casks of 2014 production. These are expensive because they’re rare. I’d obviously wish people to sample them, but I’m fairly sure that some aficionados will keep them.
‘The next release will be 160 bottles drawn from our very first cask of peated spirit, filled by Doddie Weir on 1 December 2014. These will definitely be collectors’ items.
‘We may release some of our 2015 production towards the end of 2018. These will also be single cask single malts, presented in sequentially-numbered bottles, but at a lower price-point. I doubt that we’ll have enough mature stock to consider vatting for another three to four years at least.
‘Jim Swan designed both Annandale spirits to have a central core of fruitiness. Although our peated and unpeated whiskies are very obviously different, there’s a central “Annandale theme” running through the two, which I think is very important.’