As Holyrood Park Distillery, Edinburgh’s newest whisky distillery in almost 100 years (since Glen Sciennes closed down in 1925), nears its opening date in July, it is releasing 100 casks for sale to whisky aficionados through its Holyrood Cask Programme.
I’ve written about distilleries that offer casks for sale before, but this one stands out. It is the first that I’ve heard of that allows its customers to create the whisky itself, customizing a preferred flavor profile, and then choosing the cask that it is aged in.
To do this, cask customers engage in a flavor consultation with the men behind Holyrood Park’s upcoming whisky; head distiller Dr. Jack Mayo and co-founder David Robertson, a former master distiller of the Macallan distillery. Customers can choose from four core flavors: smoky, spicy, sweet, and fruity/floral.
During the consultation, the decisions are made that allow the buyer to decide how the barley is dried and roasted, which yeasts are used for fermentation, the distillation approach and date, as well as the type of cask used for maturation, which includes oak subspecies, size, and previous fills (i.e. choosing between bourbon, sherry, or other casks). The result will be a whisky matching the favored profile.
Dr. Mayo sees parallels between this bespoke program and the distillery’s philosophy for production: “Everything we do at Holyrood is driven by flavour. That’s why our Cask Programme gives people the unique chance to tailor a cask of our whisky to suit their flavour preferences.”
This means that prices do vary depending on what is purchased. Three cask sizes are available, a barrel (200 litres), a hogshead (250 litres), and a butt (500 litres), priced at £4,500 ($5,850), £5,500 ($7,150), and £10,500 ($13,650) respectively. The cost, however does include 10 years of storage, sampling, insurance, labelling, and bottling. Keep in mind, however, that additional costs will also arise out of paying for duty and VAT, which will usually double the quoted costs once the whisky is ready for bottling. Sales are limited for up to two casks per person, with a deposit of £1500 per cask required to secure ownership.
Robertson notes how this differs from the usual offers: “Normally, if you invest in buying a cask of whisky from a distillery, you are limited to their spirit perhaps with a choice of one or two cask types. But we’re flipping things on their head and giving buyers the chance to design the flavour. By working with me and Jack, they can have a hand in each step of the whisky’s journey and be in control of shaping how the whisky tastes.”
The distillery’s announcement of a July opening date is exciting given that this has been a project years in the making, that took more time than originally planned. When the original concept was approved by Edinburgh authorities in 2015, the opening date was originally set for the summer of 2016. 3 years later, Edinburgh will finally have its own whisky distillery, joining the ranks of urban Scotch whisky operations already set up across the central belt in Glasgow. Combine these new additions with Johnnie Walker’s upcoming £150 million centre in Edinburgh, a central belt whisky tour all of a sudden sounds pretty delicious.