Backstage view: the new Whisky Imperium of Mossburn Distillers and Blenders Company
One of the most exciting projects currently taking place in Scotland are the activities of Mossburn Distillers. What at first glance might look like a small fish in the big pond of independent bottlers, is in fact an impressive whisky cosmos and very likely tomorrow’s shooting star. Two shiny planets in this cosmos will be the new Torabhaig Distillery on Skye and the new Kaikyo Whisky Distillery in Japan. At the Interwhisky in Frankfurt, I had the opportunity to talk to Bruce Perry, Sales Manager of Torabhaig.
I have to admit, when I first heard about Mossburn Distillers, I was not particularly impressed. A new company that wants to build a distillery and brings out a few barrels as an independent bottler to financially bridge the three-year waiting period, is not the reinvention of the wheel. But I am curious by nature, and the more I learned about Mossburn Distillers, the bigger my eyes have become.
Because Mossburn Distillers are anything but a small fish.
I was very pleased to meet Bruce Perry, Mossburn Distillers Sales Manager, at the Interwhisky in Frankfurt. Let's start where Bruce likes to start when he talks to customers: with a look at the front stage activities.
Front Stage activities:
Two blended malt bottlings have been launched earlier this year, maturing in special "hybrid barrels". The "Islands" bottling uses firsts fill ex-Bourbon Barrels with toasted Virgin European oak heads for further maturation, while the "Speyside" series gets a second maturation in Oloroso Sherry Butts with heavily toasted charred virgin American Oak heads. There are also various single cask bottlings available in their Vintage Cask range.
In 2013, Mossburn Distillers acquired the small, historic Torabhaig farmstead on the Isle of Skye, which has had a planning permission for a distillery since 1973. In January 2017, distilling commenced, and for Christmas 2020 a first, special release bottling is planned. The malt used before distillation has a phenol content of 80-85 ppm.
Torabhaig has two stills whose size was determined by the height of the old farmhouse. The annual capacity is about 650,000 liters of alcohol.
For reasons of logistics, the whisky will be stored on the mainland in Jedburgh. Bruce told me, that bringing a tank truck with whisky from Skye to the mainland was difficult enough, but sending a truck full of barrels or bottles to the lowlands would be an enormous challenge which they rather want to avoid.
Thankfully, Bruce gave me some of the New Make of Torabhaig, and I will upload my tasting notes for you tomorrow. But I can tell you, that I was really impressed and liked it a lot.
Two new distilleries will be erected in Jedburgh at the Scotish Borders during the next few years. The planned annual capacity will be four million liters. The warehouses for Torabhaig will be there, too.
Kaikyo Whisky Distillery, Japan:
In the Japanese city of Akashi, Mossburn Distillers have also acquired an old sake distillery and have been distilling whisky there since 2016. According to Bruce, the first bottlings will be launched next spring. Sake has long been made there under the name of Akashi Sake Brewery. To avoid confusion with the Akashi whisky of the White Oak / Eigashima Distillery, the whisky of the Kaikyo distillery will be called "Hatozaki". Well, Japanese Distillers don't go for an easy name game, do they?
Actually, the story would be exciting enough as it is. But it gets really exciting when we take a look behind the scenes.
|Much bigger than it seems: Mossburn Distillers and Blenders Company
Bruce Perry is not only the Sales Director of Torabhaig Distillery, but also Managing Director of Marussia Beverages, which has an extensive distribution network in the US. This company in turn belongs to the Swedish pharmaceutical multi-billionaire Frederik Paulsen. Paulsen is said to be one of the 200 richest men in the world and is the real "head" behind the companies Marussia Beverages, Torabhaig, Mossburn and Jedhart Distillers. Other directors in this corporate conglomerate of Frederik Paulsen are John Mathieson and Alan Rutherford. Unlike Paulsen, Mathieson has been active in the spirits industry for many years and is a connoisseur of the scene.
Even more interesting, however, is the business biography of Dr. Alan Rutherford. For many years, he served as head of Research and Development at Distillers Company Ltd., was co-founder of the Islay Development Company, President of the Malt Distillers Association of Scotland and Council Member of the Scottish Whisky Association. In 1996, he was awarded am OBE for his services to the Scottish whisky industry, in October 2017 he became a Master Keeper of the Quaich. He began his career in 1975 at Glenallachie and Jura. Today he is one of the directors of the Lakes Distilleries and Wemyss Development Company Ltd. and Chairman at Compass Box.
And now, we have come full circle. The concept of "hybrid barrels" that are currently used for their Blended Malts at Mossburn Distillers, was originally used several years ago by John Glaser at Compass Box, when he developed his whisky "Spice Tree" – back then a bone of contention, but today a classic.
Frederik Paulsen has left nothing to chance. He has managed to bring top-class whisky industry professionals on board, and I'm sure we'll see and hear a lot from Mossburn Distillers in the years to come.
Finally, I have a little surprise for you: Paulsen has also secured distribution channels in Central Europe. Since 2017, the multi-billionaire with German roots is the sole owner of the German Schlumberger Wine and Spirits Distribution company, and holds a majority of Schlumberger Austria.
I am very curious to see how Mossburn Distillers will continue. For me they are among the hottest "new discoveries" this year!