Kirsty is the co-founder of GreatDrams heading up marketing, production, sales fulfilment and, along with Greg, the strategic side of building the business.
Over the past year all of our lives have changed. This time last year our baby, Harry, was two months old, our firstborn Archie had just turned three and we were slowly but surely getting towards ‘our new normal’ as a family of four. We had my maternity leave planned out, holidays, family visits and of course packing up the occasional order we had through the website.
Greg had not long returned from a trade mission market trip to Shanghai, China where he was looking to secure our first export deal, we were having great conversations and it was looking likely we’d be an international brand before long. We also had big plans to increase our participation at Food and Drink festivals, music events and our retail presence within the UK. It’s incredible to think all these plans we had made, not to mention the investment we had put in, and little did we know the way in which our business – and the world – was about to change.
But I lose track, I’m writing this article because I feel like our latest release is a big marker in the sand, an achievement both personally and professionally. I’m talking about The GreatDrams Islay Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky. For a long time Islay has been a special place for many, and we certainly have some incredible memories from visiting there.
When Greg and I were first together and it was clear that I was getting involved with a whisky obsessive, I knew straight away where I was going to take him on a surprise birthday week away. We made the VERY long journey up from London. We took every mode of transport that train to Heathrow, flight to Glasgow, coach to Kennacraig, ferry to Islay, taxi to the hotel. I’m tired just thinking back on it, needless to say on the way back we changed our plans, stayed longer, and flew back to Glasgow with a LOT of checked liquid luggage. But every moment travelling was worth it. The experience was incredible and the whisky we enjoyed over the week was as breathtaking as the views. There is no mistaking an Islay whisky. The earthiness, the meatiness and of course the peat.
Since we started the independent bottling arm of GreatDrams, one of the most recurring questions people have when approaching our tasting bars is of course; ‘is it peated?’. We have in the past dabbled with a smoky whisky, I’m thinking about our very first Ardmore release, then our lightly smoky BenRiach, however it’s not until now I can confidently say ‘YES’.
We haven’t released a peaty whisky like this for many reasons. Firstly, people often seemed a little scared of those strong smoky notes and we were worried with a small customer base that if we did have a smoky whisky we would be limiting our reach. It’s also a big financial investment for us, Islay casks are expensive! We try to make our whiskies as competitively priced as we can, we want as many people to be able to have a bottles from our casks at accessible price points – not always easy with an Islay cask.
However, our business has grown and in a way we didn’t expect or see coming. In my intro I explained where we were at and what we had planned. With the explosion of our virtual whisky tasting we sold through our planned casks for 2020, and a couple that were due for release in 2021, and have managed to build our confidence in investing even more in to the business to build our inventory and release this Islay cask.
So for me, this powerful yet balanced peated whisky is more than just a product on our website. It stands as a real accomplishment for GreatDrams and excites me for the future of our family business.
Bottle cost: £30.00 – £65.00
A heavily peated whisky from the mystical island of Islay, matured in First Fill Bourbon Barrel and laden with beautifully balanced, classic Islay peated whisky notes as well as lovely soothing vanilla and citrus fruit notes along with cinnamon and warming spice notes too.
Distillery: Secret Islay Distillery
Age: 7 Years Old
Distilled: 28th October 2013
Bottled: January 2021
Cask type: Ex-Bourbon cask
Volume: 50cl / 500ml
Limited: 243 bottles globally
The island itself has an almost-magical aura about it that draws you back time and time again, this Islay distillery, located on the coast, looks over the gorgeous clear blue water. In whisky, the ‘peaty’ note is more potent at a younger age as the spirit’s influence is greater than the wood of the cask’s influence, hence why we bottled this one at 6 years old – for the peat power!