It was not so much the Angels’ Share, more the Hell’s Angels’ Share as Speyside Distillery crossed to the dark side to launch its black whisky – Beinn Dubh – at Europe’s biggest Harley Davidson motorcycle rally over the UK holiday weekend (August 30, 2015).
The single malt was unveiled to over 3,000 motorbike enthusiasts who gathered in Aviemore in the Cairngorms – the home of the tiny boutique distillery – for the annual Thunder in the Glens event.
Speyside Distillery CEO John Harvey McDonough says there was no better platform to launch Beinn Dubh than at the biker rally, which draws Harley enthusiasts and visitors from all over the UK and Europe.
He adds: “Whisky drinkers know all about the Angels’ Share – the term for the whisky that evaporates into the atmosphere during maturation – but with the launch of our new whisky at a motorbike rally, it’s possible that the angels who were looking over Beinn Dubh were wearing black leathers and biker boots.
“Visitors to Thunder in the Glens have been able to sample Beinn Dubh over the weekend, and the feedback is that it’s a heavenly dram. The colour of the whisky – a very rich ruby-black – has been a real talking point.
“We feel honoured to be part of this fantastic event. There has been an incredible atmosphere in Aviemore, and we are delighted that our new friends from Thunder in the Glens have been among the first people in the world to sample this new single malt.”
Beinn Dubh was the name given to Ben Macdui – the highest peak in the Cairngorm mountain range – by Professor Norman Collie after his solo climb to the summit in 1891. It translates from Gaelic as the black mountain – a reference to the mystical and spooky atmosphere Prof Collie encountered on Ben Macdui.
Speyside Distillery wanted to recreate the essence of the black mountain in a bottle, and Beinn Dubh was born. It gets its unusual colouring because it has been finished in toasted port casks from the Douro Valley in Portugal.
Speyside Distillers managing director Patricia Dillon says: “Like the mountain, the whisky is dark and mysterious. It is very much the whisky of the Cairngorms – the water used in its production is from the Black Mountain, and the malted barley is sourced locally.
“We are deeply passionate about the Cairngorms and our links to this area: the landscape, the history and the people are very much part of the distillery’s story. The Cairngorms is a truly magical place and I can understand why thousands of bikers come to Thunder in the Glens to ride through this beautiful area.”
George McGuire, rally co-ordinator for Thunder in the Glens, says visitors were intrigued by the brand new expression from Speyside Distillery: “It’s a fantastic dram and the colour is so unusual; no one has ever seen anything quite like it. If any whisky was to represent the Cairngorms – this incredible part of Scotland where people come from all over to ride – then it is Beinn Dubh.”
Beinn Dubh’s taste is deep and dark: rich fruits, currants and chocolate dominate at first, but these gradually give way to both bitterness and sweetness. Beinn Dubh is 43% ABV and the 70cl bottle has an RRP of £50.
Speyside Distillery near Kingussie has been in production since 1990 and is operated by Speyside Distillers. Beinn Dubh is being launched in the UK, Europe, Asia, the US and Canada, but on an extremely limited allocation due to the limited number of port casks that Speyside Distillery been able to secure. All the casks have been stripped down and re-charred so they are not in huge supply.
The packaging for the bottle was designed by the Speyside Distillery artist in residence, Joanna Miller.
1 September 2015 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor