William Grant & Sons introduce two new whisky expressions

Mr Kevin Abrook, global whisky specialist for innovation at William Grant & Sons, says the company's Ladyburn whisky cannot be re-created.
Mr Kevin Abrook, global whisky specialist for innovation at William Grant & Sons, says the company's Ladyburn whisky cannot be re-created.PHOTO: WILLIAM GRANT & SONS

Independent, family-owned distillers William Grant & Sons have introduced two new whisky expressions to the Singapore market, the Kininvie 23 Years Old single-malt Scotch whisky and a 40-year-old Ladyburn Single Malt, one of only nine Lowland Malts to be exported outside Scotland.

The Kininvie is the company's first Speyside single malt since the creation of The Balvenie in 1892.

"Part of the story of Kininvie is that it's a brand that's reclusive, which means we keep it quiet and we don't talk much about it," says 57-year-old Kevin Abrook, the global whisky specialist for innovation at William Grant & Sons.

The company also owns recognisable brands such as Glenfiddich, Grant's blended scotch, Girvan grain whisky, Hendrick's Gin, Sailor Jerry rum and Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whisky.

Kininvie 17 Years Old, for example, has been on the market since the end of 2014 , but only in global travel retail, including at Changi Airport.

"It's a discovery brand, so people can find it if they want to, but part of being reclusive is that we haven't distributed it everywhere," he tells The Sunday Times.

The Briton - who is from Kent, but is now based in Ireland - travels the globe as an ambassador to educate people on the brand's whisky innovations, some of which he has been involved with.

Kininvie 23, for instance - which is matured in a combination of both sherry and bourbon casks - comes in an atypical half bottle (350ml), with minimal branding and a clean design. The whisky delivers floral notes such as orange blossom and vanilla. Each bottle is also printed with the bottle and batch number.

Mr Abrook wanted to keep the design and packaging clean to focus on the whisky, joking that the company "doesn't have the same advertising budget as Diageo", referring to the world's largest producer of spirits.

The exclusivity extends to the way in which the bottles are distilled and released in small batches. The first of three batches of Kininvie 23 was released in 2013 in Taiwan. Mr Abrook says Taiwan is the second-biggest single-malt whisky market in the world, second only to the United States.

The second batch was released the year after in Britain, the US and mainland Europe.

Singapore is getting the third batch, which is available at $200 a bottle through William Grant & Sons. Those who want to buy it can e-mail Felle Lim at felle.lim@wgrant.com or call 6361-2301.

Another entrant to the Singapore market is the Ladyburn 1974, a "ghosted single malt" from a distillery on the same site as the company's Girvan grain distillery, which was demolished in 1976.

Ladyburn was the shortest-lived distillery in Scotland, at only nine years, and its malt whisky is considered one of the rarest in the world.

It has a hefty price tag of $2,000 and Mr Abrook describes it as having "a style all of its own that was of distilleries of that time, with leafy, fruity and some oily notes with a hint of tobacco and leather".

He adds that it is so rare that even if William Grant & Sons and its master blender wanted to try and re-create the blend, they could not.

"Ladyburn is like no other and made no more, and we want to keep it that way," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 03, 2016, with the headline 'Tipples New whisky expressions'. Print Edition | Subscribe