Top 10 whiskies with strange backstoriesBy Annie Hayes
Mythical beasts, beloved pets and bacon-flavoured cocktails are just a few of the strange situations which have inspired whiskies of the world – SB reveals 10 top whisky narratives.
From fantasy and folklore to cherished family members, a plethora of spirits on the market were born from unusual scenarios – and in no category is this truer than whisk(e)y.
Serving as a USP, the brand story is key to almost every marketing campaign, and often determines the success of the liquid before it even hits the shelf.
Take a peek through our rundown – which includes a four-strong Norse-inspired collection, a blended Scotch inspired by a long line of Fox Terriers, and a dalliance with the devil in the village of Bowmore.
Click through the following pages to discover our pick of the top 10 whiskies with strange backstories.
House of Hazlewood
This William Grant & Sons art deco-style blended Scotch whisky brand is inspired by the “vibrant” life of William Grant’s granddaughter, Janet Sheed Roberts. Known as ‘the wee Janny’, Mrs Roberts – who passed away in 2012 at the age of 110 – was cherished by the Grant family for her “strength of character, passion and determination”. The brand is named in recognition of her lifetime residence at Hazelwood House, and pays homage to her varied adventures and extensive travels: an 18-year-old, inspired by Paris in the 1920s; a 21-year-old, referencing Mumbai; and a 25-year-old, with a focus on Shanghai.
Bowmore Devils Casks
First launched in 2013 for Halloween, The Devil’s Casks series pays homage to the Islay tale of how the devil himself was chased through the village of Bowmore and into the gates of its distillery before escaping in a cask of whisky bound for the mainland. Three total expressions make up the range. The most recent whisky, The Devil’s Casks III Double the Devil, was released in October last year.
Two Bitch Spirits
Not yet on the market, this new whiskey business by husband and wife team Joe and Lauren Luby marketed at dog-lovers. The self-confessed “lifelong lovers of whiskey and dogs” are hoping to raise US$100,000 through Indiegogo to launch their business, which is inspired by their two Doberman puppies, Scarlett and Sage. Upon launch, the brand will initiate a donation programme for dogs, partnering with rescue centres, shelters, therapy programmes.
Tomatin Cù Bòcan
The Cù Bòcan range, by Tomatin distillery, is named after a mythical highland hellhound. Legend has it after being stalked by the ghostly spectre, a Tomatin distillery worker reached out to touch the fur of Cù Bòcan, when the beast dissolved in front of his eyes and spirited away across the peat moorland. The range first launched in 2013, and is described as a “lightly peated alternative” to the traditional fruit flavours of Tomatin single malt.
This small batch blended Speyside malt whisky by Douglas Laing & Co inspired by the family’s long line of Fox Terriers. The vatting of several single malts from across Speyside’s distilleries – including Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes amongst others – uses a high proportion of liquid from Spanish Sherry Butts.
Ol’ Major Bacon Bourbon
Pipped as the “first” US bacon-flavoured Bourbon is the brainchild of Nick Chen, chief of staff at Branded Spirits USA, who was inspired to create the flavour after sampling a bacon Bourbon cocktail. Ol’ Major Bacon Bourbon is “gently” infused with bacon using the process of pressure infusion to combine the flavours of bacon and Bourbon together.
Blended at the Adelphi Distillery in collaboration with Edinburgh-based TBG & Co Ltd and created with input from whisky expert Charles MacLean, The Glover range pays homage to 19th century industrialist Thomas Blake Glover. Glover, known as the “Scottish Samurai”, was born on Fraserburgh, Scotland, in 1838 and went on to help lead Japan’s industrial development in the 19th century. He was the first foreigner to receive the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Emperor in recognition of his achievements.
Highland Park Valhalla Collection
Highland Park’s Norse-inspired Valhalla Collection comprises four expression named after Nordic gods: Thor, Loki, Freya and Odin. The creators attempted to reflect the characterisations of each Norse God in the whisky’s appearance and flavour, from the “fresh, golden and seductive” Freya – the Goddess of Love – to the “intense, powerful and complex” flavours of Odin.
Glenmorangie Legends Collection
The Glenmorangie’s travel retail exclusive Legends Collection comprises Glenmorangie Duthac, Glenmorangie Tayne and The Tarlogan. Duthac was inspired by Scottish King James IV’s annual pilgrimage in the late 15th century to Saint Duthac’s shrine in Tain, where the distillery has resided since 1843, while Tayne pays homage to a Spanish Galleon that it is said to have sunk in Dornoch Firth, formerly known as the Firth of Tayne, in 1588. The Tarlogan was developed in honour of the ancient Pictish King, the namesake of the woodland surrounding Glenmoragnie’s Tarlogie Spring water source.
High West, Utah’s first legal distillery since 1870, celebrated Repeal Day with the launch of Yippee Ki-Yay rye whisky. The expression was launched on Repeal Day to celebrate the significance of the historic date, as Utah was the critical 36th vote to repeal Prohibition. The limited edition expression was aged in vermouth and Syrah barrels, and offers cinnamon, herbal and blackberry notes.