Caskaway: Andrew Macdonald-Bennett's desert island drams

Caskaway: Andrew Macdonald-Bennett's desert island drams

The founder of Goldfinch Whisky Merchants shares which whiskies he would take to our desert island

Caskaway | 30 Jan 2023 | Issue 189 | By Bradley Weir

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Andrew Macdonald-Bennett’s drinks industry career began in 2001, when he set up an import and distribution business to bring Beer Laos – a charitable venture to finance the clearance of landmines in Laos – to Europe. Despite months of work and support from the Mines Advisory Group, things didn’t take off in the way he’d hoped, but he was left feeling inspired and with a new-found love for the industry.

He joined a creative agency, where he managed campaigns for Kronenbourg 1888 and consulted with Inverhouse Distillers to create interactive websites and games for two of its key brands, and later took up a role with Edrington, working across the group's prestigious portfolio including The Macallan and The Glenrothes.

Macdonald-Bennett founded Goldfinch Whisky Merchants with his wife Ros around four years ago and now oversees cask procurement and sales and marketing. The independent bottler focuses on bottling single-cask Scotch whiskies under its own labels, including The Goldfinch, Rare Malt, and Paloma.

WHISKY #1

Bruichladdich
3D Mòine Mhòr

In 2000, Bruichladdich Distillery was reopened by former wine merchant Mark Reynier, and Jim McEwan was appointed master distiller. Having a relatively young palate at the time, an unpeated Bruichladdich is the single malt that gave me that “wow” moment of understanding. However, I do like a bit of peat smoke in my dram, and the first trilogy of bottles I purchased was the Bruichladdich 3D Peat Proposal. I remember buying two of each release – one to drink and one to keep. There is only one left unopened, which shows how much I liked them.

WHISKY #2

Lagavulin
16 Years Old

A part of me feels that whisky can create a stitch in time, fastening shared moments into our memories through taste and smell. This wonderful smoky whisky is one my father and I both loved to drink together. We had two incredibly heavy leaded crystal glasses that would only come out on a special night and were often filled with this amazing single malt. It’s the last dram we shared together but as soon as I smell it, it transports me back, reminding me of the conversations and time we had together.

WHISKY #3

Mey Selections
Glen Ord

In 2019, with Goldfinch Whisky having only recently launched, I pitched the idea of creating a series of single-cask bottlings for Mey Selections, an initiative created by King Charles III. All Mey Selections produce originates from within 150 miles of the Castle of Mey and the brand is a celebration of the history, quality and commitment of producers involved. We worked with Max McFarlane, retired master distiller from Highland Park, to select the spirit for the range, and Diageo was a huge support. Within three months we had bottled our first cask from Glen Ord and presented bottle number one to the then Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay. As the first cask bottled in our company, it is still one of my favourite malts.

WHISKY #4

Highland Park
50 Years Old

Even before I had the honour of working directly with the Highland Park team at Edrington, I have always loved this whisky which offers the perfect combination of sweet fruit, toffee, and wisps of heather peat smoke. In the past, if I introduced someone to whisky for the first time, I would reach for Highland Park. Now, I can offer our own cask releases. When Max McFarlane kindly gave me a sample of the Highland Park 50 Years Old, I was blown away by the complexity of its flavours.

WHISKY #5

Paloma
Ardmore 13 Years Old

Goldfinch recently launched a brand called Paloma which consists of Palo Cortado-finished single malt. I was first introduced to sherry at the Bodega Gutiérrez Colosía, just outside Cádiz. Its close proximity to the sea allows the salt to permeate the wood and influence this wonderful wine. As we all know, sherry casks and whisky go so well together but Palo Cortado is quite special. Usually matured for up to 25 years with only 100,000 bottles sold worldwide every year, these casks are rare. We sourced and imported empty casks to finish this lightly smoked
single malt from Ardmore, with fantastic results.

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I suspect this is cheating considering that the idea is that I am stuck on a desert island, but I’d have to choose a yacht. I love to be out on the water, powered by the wind, and even more so when sailing in warm climates.
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