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HMWS and Mr. Scott Laing discuss on Ardnahoe Distillery

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Dear Mr. Laing.

On behalf of Hellenic Malt Whisky Society and Whiskyforum.gr, I would like to thank you for your kind interest to support our forum and contribute in our interview section.

We will try to make a blend of business plan, whisky making process and malt whisky related questions in order to understand not only your expectations from Ardnahoe but also your personal taste regarding malt whisky. We will also try not to make the same questions but to make questions that pop up during our reading of your interviews.

As always, we will divide questions in two main sections (plus our free section, which will make three overall categories).

Thank you for your time.

 

All content is covered by HMWS and Whiskyforum proprietary rules and conditions and cannot be disclosed without prior approval from all involved parties.

 

Section 1: Ardnahoe Distillery.

Question 1. I.Mallios: Brexit and whisky making. Many would expect a freeze in plans, following the Brexit. Despite the unknown economic environment, Ardnahoe not only freezes but it may be active sooner than Gartbreck. What is your opinion regarding Brexit and its influence on whisky industry.

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

My personal opinion is that Brexit will not have a negative effect on the Scotch Whisky Industry. Since the vote in June we have not seen any decrease in sales - in fact we have seen an increase in sales due to the weak pound. The only effect that we saw was within the borders of the UK, when some customers cancelled small orders of expensive whiskies due to the uncertainty of what would happen.  In my own view the fears were unfounded. Any potential for risk comes from “uncertainty” but touch wood everything is fine at the moment.  Obviously we started our plans for Ardnahoe long before the Brexit vote so at the moment we are just continuing exactly as before. Whisky is a very long term business, so there is no point reacting to short term troubles. Who knows what the world could be like in 5-6 years when we start selling our whisky.

 We sell a lot of whisky outside the EU, so in that respect it is business as usual. There are also quite a few countries where we do no business – India being a prime example. My hope is that Brexit will free us up to make some trade deals with the rest of the world, and help us expand into new territories.

Question 2. I.Mallios: Two new distilleries on Islay. Eight existing and possible in the next 3-5 years we will also have another. Is there room for all these distilleries, in terms of barley supply, water, peat but also market percentage?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

Islay is actually a very large island - although it is small on the map, it is large when you are on it, so there is certainly room for another distillery.  We have our own water supply from the Loch and we will be the only distillery drawing from it, and there is certainly no problem in terms of either peat or barley supplies. It terms of market percentage, as independent bottlers we see a tremendous demand for Islay whisky from all over the world so we are confident there is demand for it – particularly since new countries are discovering Single Malts all the time. There are dozens of Speyside distilleries but only eight on Islay, so we think there is room for one more.

Question 3 I.Mallios: We see that Ardnahoe is very well located near Ardnahoe Lake and water supply is guaranteed. Regarding barley? Will you use Port Ellen maltings or (like Laddie) you will import barley from other malting companies (e.g. Bairds?)

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

Regarding Maltings that is still under debate, and no firm decision has been made yet.

Question 4. I.Mallios: Following on the above, Ardnahoe will be introduced near / between Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain looking at Jura pipes. The scenery is magnificent and your neighbors are well established and appreciated. Is there going to be a competition, collaboration, how you expect relationship to be with other distilleries?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

 We have had a very warm reception so far from everybody on the island, not only Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain but also the other distilleries as well.  Everybody has been very welcoming towards us. I think people can see that something new on the island keeps people interested, which is good for everybody. There will be friendly competition I am sure, but as we will be the third Distillery on the North East side of the island there may be some opportunities for collaboration in term of tourism and infrastructure on the North East side.

Question 5. I. Mallios: Laing family are “bottlers and blenders”. Ardnahoe will produce malt whisky and based on your interview on HeraldScotland you mentioned “emphasised a bottled Islay single malt was the focus of the Ardnahoe distillery investment”. So, is this going to be only Ardnahoe Single Malt or you will also produce malt for blended whisky?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

Our aim with Ardnahoe is to create a strong Single Malt brand. Although we never say never, all our focus will be on that.

Question 6. I.Mallios : We see in all interview that we found on internet thatThe first stage would involve the establishment of distilling operations, warehousing, and a visitor centre including a cafe, tasting room, and shop” and “The second phase would entail an expansion of distilling operations and further warehousing”. Provided that you build Ardnahoe “from scratch” as you want it, why we do not see (even for a small part of production) a malting floor?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

 We have considered building a malting floor, and we have not ruled this out in the future at the Distillery. However at the moment we have to look at it from a business point of view and a malt flooring is a great additional expense. Watch this space, however. 

Question 7. I.Mallios. You mention in HeraldScotland:One of our personal favourite styles is the traditional Islay style. I think it is always a good starting point, if you are going to make whisky…to [produce] what you like yourself. We like peaty Islay whisky”. What are you plans to “debate” with traditional peat market makers such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg and of course Laddie’s Port Charlotte and Octomore, or even the marine / harbor character of Bowmore?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

This is still under debate, however we do intend to create several different styles – including an unpeated version. It is too early to be more specific but we are in the early stages of assembling a team who will no doubt have their own views that they will contribute.

Question 8. I.Mallios: You mention that “The new facility is being designed to create a particular style of spirit that we know from our experience of selling whisky in 65 countries around the world will appeal to the Islay whisky lover” and that (regarding 3 years maturation) “We would probably wait a bit longer to make sure the spirit is something we are happy to put our name to”. The questions is, what will contribute to this particular style of Islay peated whisky? What will be your difference and how you plan to achieve this (long stills? peated level? longer / shorter fermentation?  Casks?  Other?)

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

 Again I think it is too early to be very specific, however we have great confidence in the ability and experience of the team we’re putting together with regard to producing excellent whiskies. We will be making every effort to ensure that the whisky is amongst the finest produced on Islay.

 

Section 2: Generic Whisky Questions

Question 1. I.Mallios: Please provide us an overview of Hunter Laing & Company. Old Malt Cask, Old & Rare and Sovereign.

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

Hunter Laing has been in operation since 2013.  My Father Stewart is the Managing Director and my brother Andrew and myself are also working in the company.  Although the company has only been operation since 2013 my Father has worked in Industry for many decades as a blender and bottle with his original family company. Following the decision to split the company, in the separation agreement as well as 50% of the maturing whisky we received the brands OLD MALT CASK, OLD & RARE and SOVEREIGN. Since then we have added to our range with a number of different brands such as HEPBURN’S CHOICE ( an introductory range of younger single casks) and FIRST EDITIONS.

Question 2. I. Mallios: Moreover, we can see that this is a “more three generations” company. The rule of thumb is that it is difficult to continue above three generations, but what we see is that not only you continue but you also significantly increase your offering by adding a Distillery. What makes the “Laings” lasting, maintain quality and increase offering?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

We are the third generation of the family to be working in the Scotch Whisky Industry – we are very proud of that fact.  I think what makes us different is that we are always trying to keep an eye on the future.  As a small family business we do not always have to be concerned about what our shareholders will think and what their expectations are.  We can take long term decisions such as Ardnahoe and not be concerned about what will be the short term effect. We are also making every effort to plan for the future and for the continuity of the business.

Question 3. I. Mallios: Now, with your plans to open a new distillery what, according to your opinion, what is actually making a good distillery? Which distillery you consider that is a good one and how you rank them.

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

The main aspect of a good distillery is its output and how good the whisky is that comes from it.  We are not distillers ourselves yet – I do not feel able to rank distilleries however I think a good distillery is one that takes pride in the spirit it produces.

 

Question 4. I.Mallios: You are both a blender and a bottler. How do you select your casks, how do you find which malt or grain whisky is good enough to put your name on? When you found yourself rejecting a cask, what was the main reason and made you decide that this cask will not become a representative Laing bolting?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

We have a continuous filling programme at Hunter Laing and every year we purchase new fill spirit from a number of different distilleries. What happens after that is really up to us. What we have to do is make sure that we secure the best wood that we possibly can to put the spirit in to – obviously the casks have a tremendous effect on the spirit that they contain.  When we are thinking about bottling a specific cask a tasting panel within the company will taste a sample to ensure it meets our quality standards. If we feel the whisky is not quite right for bottling at that time then we can do a number of different things, such as leave it in the cask if we feel it is too immature or refill it into a different cask to contribute to the flavour development, or alternatively we can use the cask in one of our blends mixing it with a number of other different casks.  We always make sure that we select the best possible whiskies for our Single Cask ranges.  

Question 5. I. Mallios: Should this be possible, please provide us with your top 5 malts internally (Laing bottling) and externally (other distilleries – independent bottlers).

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

Although the distilleries might have a price and the price stands wherever the whisky comes from therefore we would not like to rank any different malts for quality because as we are in the Single cask business we are well aware that each cask can be different and a cask from a less well known distillery can sometimes be better than one from a more well known one – every cask must be on viewed on its own individual merit. 

Question 6. I.Mallios: What is your opinion for NAS and the overall NAS trend? Are we approaching to an end now that aged whiskies are available on stocks or NAS will continue to play a significant role, perhaps be the new Standard?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

We have very little role in the no age statement debate simply because we are single cask bottlers, we identify exactly how old our whiskies are, and we are not concerned about continuity of age.  Having said that I understand why distilleries need to create no age statements - if they have continuous offerings, then NAS bottlings may well be a necessity.  Care and attention must be paid from the distilleries to ensure they select appropriate casks for these bottlings. I have great confidence that all of our colleagues in the Scotch Whisky industry do exactly that and make sure that it is the finest possible whiskies that goes into the no age statement bottlings. 

Question 7. I.Mallios: Two week ago we had a major evolvement (to my opinion) regarding the transparency debate. For the time, this is put on hold and SWA considers that there is currently no need for a transparency change. What is your opinion on that?

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

Hunter Laing and Co are members of the Scotch Whisky Association and we support their position on the transparency topic. Scotch Whisky is respected around the world precisely because there is a body (the SWA) that keeps an eye on the industry and makes sure there is nothing misleading about the packaging, or the terminology used. I would be very cautious about tinkering with that in any way – simply because of the law of unintended consequences.

 

Section 3: Free topic.

We introduced free topic section to our interviews giving our guests an open field to discuss about a topic they consider “hot”, educational, and / or different. A topic that you would like to mention something that, according to your opinion, has to be mentioned regarding malt whisky. Please feel free to comment.

Reply Mr. Scott Laing:

This is my own personal view and not that of the company or even of the Scotch Whisky industry.  I personally would like to see the Scotch Whisky regions divided up a bit further as  I feel that this would help educate the consumer further on the different distilleries and regions of Scotland.

I feel that the Highland region in Scotch Whisky is far too large and the industry as a whole would benefit from a further division of the region - this would also be of assistance in terms of marketing, and potentially also tourism.

If you look at examples put forward by spirit producers in other countries such as France we see that they give a great deal of attention to the region the spirit or the distillery comes from and I feel Scotland would benefit from doing the same.   

 

Dear Scott (please allow me to use Scott).

I really thank you for you kind and immediate reply to my request for the interview. No need to say that I will do my best to have the opportunity to visit Ardnahoe and of course your offices in Glasgow, once my next trip to Scotland is planned.

Till then, on behalf of HMWS and Whiskyforum.gr I thank you for the time allocated to reply to our questions and I kindly ask you to consider an HMWS bottling for our members.

Yours Sincerely,

Ioannis Mallios

 

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Με το νέο skin του forum είναι εύκολο να χαθεί ένα post από την λίστα με τα πρόσφατα. Για όσους δεν το έχουν δει, η νέα μας αποκλειστικότητα.

Καλή ανάγνωση.

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Ως νεο μελος και ενω δεν εχω προλαβει να μελετησω αναλυτικα τη συνεντευξη, οφειλω να δωσω τα συγχαρητηρια μου για την προσπαθεια, το κοπο και το χρονο που διατεθηκε.

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Συγχαρητήρια κι απο μένα Mallios, θα τη διαβάσω αύριο στο χαλαρό...

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Ακομα μια επιτυχημενη συνεντευξη απο τον δεινο ρεπορτερ του φορουμ Mallios !!!

Αν και ο συνεντευξιαζομενος απεφυγε να τοποθετηθει και να απαντησει ουσιαστικα σε καμποσες απο τις  ερωτησεις που του εθεσε ο συμφορουμιτης μας, παραταυτα  πηραμε μια καλη  γευση απο τις πρωτες σκεψεις ενος επενδυτη της βιομηχανιας περι Brexit  καθως και των πεποιθησεων του για την μελλοντικη αναπτυξη και εμπορικη εκμεταλλευση/διαθεση του whisky  στην παγκοσμια αγορα.

Πολυ καλη δουλεια  !!!! :thumbsup:

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Good work Mallios?

Όσο για τις υπεκφυγες φυσικο είναι δεν είναι χαρτορικτρα ο άνθρωπος ??

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Μόλις τώρα κατάφερα να τη διαβάσω. Για άλλη μία φορά θερμά συγχαρητήρια mallios!

Η πρότασή του για περαιτέρω διαχωρισμό των περιοχών των αποστακτηρίων σε μικρότερες, κάτι που ήδη γίνεται ατύπως, προφανώς και με βρίσκει σύμφωνο.

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Και κάποιες φωτό από το αποστακτήριο (το project και η περιοχή).

Νομίζω ότι η θέα είναι όντως υπέροχη, ας ελπίσουμε να επηρεάσει και το malt που θα παράγουν.

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Αξίζει να διαβάσει κάποιος αυτή την συνέντευξη για να δει πόσες έτοιμες ερωτήσεις υπάρχουν (δεν υπονοώ κάτι, αλλά υπάρχουν ομοιότητες) από την συνέντευξή μας αλλά και πόσο καλή δουλειά γίνεται στην HMWS.

http://malt-review.com/2017/02/20/interview-with-with-scott-laing-of-hunter-laing-co/

 

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