For my next ‘newbie’ focus, we are heading to Scotland’s industrial heartland - Glasgow and the Glasgow Distillery Company Limited (not to be confused with the Glasgow Distillery project by Morrisons Glasgow Distillers Ltd, which as far as I am aware is still in the early planning stages).
While Glasgow sometimes gets a bit of an unfair reputation from those that don’t know it, personally I love the place - I lived there for many years as a student so have a fairly in depth knowledge of the consumption of alcohol there, if not the making of it!
As Scotland’s largest city, and industrial and trading hub, Glasgow has a long history of blending and bottling whisky and many of the big names (Chivas, Diageo, Whyte & Mackay, Dewars, Edrington) still have some kind of presence there. According to Brian Townsend, in his book Scotch Missed, historically Glasgow “was a city of many distilleries with colourful names” but the last malt distilleries closed down in the early 1900s (apart from the short-lived Kinclaith distillery, within Strathclyde Grain Distillery, which ran from 1958 to around 1975).
In terms of modern day distilleries though, there are now only two; Strathclyde Grain Distillery (established in 1927, now owned by Chivas Brothers) and the new Glasgow Distillery, opened in 2014 and owned by Liam Hughes, Ian McDougall & Mike Hayward. The distillery is in Hillington in the South-West of the City, not perhaps the most attractive area (however, in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I worked in call centre there during my student days so this may, understandably, have put me off!) but looks aren’t everything!
The CEO of Glasgow Distillery Company Ltd, Liam Hughes, very kindly took the time to answer my questions (yep, same ones as last time - that was the plan remember?) before heading off on holiday. Here’s what he had to say;
Q. Where is your distillery located, and why in that specific location?
Glasgow Distillery is the only Single Malt Distillery in a city in Scotland and was chosen because we wanted to build a distillery on the basis of its city location and logistical practicality after visiting the Brooklyn Distillery who had done something similar.
Q. Why did you decide to start producing whisky? And why now?
We were always going to make Whisky – Glasgow hasn’t had a Single Malt Distillery since 1902 so it seemed a gap that needed filling.
Q. Do you have a specific style of whisky in mind and how are you going to achieve that?
Our style is more Speyside than anything else and with our consultant being an ex Macallan Master Distiller that probably isn’t a great surprise
Q. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in setting up a new distillery? What do you envisage as the biggest challenges going forward?
The challenges have been a never ending list and this isn’t for the faint hearted !! There are as many opportunities going forward as there are challenges but as with all new Whisky Distilleries you have a big gap between making New Make and being able to put a product in a bottle.
Q. Who do you see as your target market?
Our target market is not narrow – we believe that by making great products people will grow to be fans of what we are doing and that we can and would love to be able to attract a wide range of people
Q. When do you plan to release your first whisky? Will you be producing any other products in the meantime?
Our first Whisky will be released in 2018. In the meantime we have already released Makar Glasgow Gin and Prometheus 26 & 27 an Independent Bottling with more in the pipeline
Q. What’s your long term goal? Where do you see yourself and your distillery in 20 years time?
That is a question I really haven’t even thought about I can just about see as far as 2018 !!!
Q. If you were to compare your distillery to any other existing or closed one, which would you most aspire to be like and why?
I think one of the most enjoyable things for me is we have no baggage as the original Glasgow Distillery [Dundashill Distillery, described by Barnard as one of the very first distilleries established in Glasgow - ed.] shut in 1902 and there is as far as I know no surviving Whisky from it so we are relying on historical records so we are just doing a whole range of things with great New Make and great casks and are already so excited about what is in the casks and the what will be whisky in a few short years
Q. Are you open to visitors? Can we buy your product, either in bottles or cask? If not now, then when? We aren’t currently open to the public though we hope to be in 2017, we sell a limited amount of casks via our 1770 Club and our Makar & Prometheus are widely available via the Internet
Whisky Impressions is run by Kate Watt. Previously at Springbank and then Glenfarclas, I now design some whisky related stuff and write about it, and anything else that takes my fancy, on this blog.