Could a 'whisky horoscope' predict future spirit character?

Could a 'whisky horoscope' predict future spirit character?

Astrology has well and truly arrived in mainstream culture, with individuals and businesses alike looking to the skies for insights. Could these principles be applied to new distilleries, where spirits are yet to come of age?

Whisky Focus | 22 Jan 2024 | Issue 195 | By Kristiane Sherry

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What’s your star sign? It’s a question that can be a major talking point, depending on how aligned one is with the ancient practice. The zeitgeist for the zodiac resonates strongly with today’s millennials, Gen Zers, women, and many in the queer community (so, as a 30-something lesbian, you could argue I’m doing my due diligence here by attempting to blend whisky with astrology). Even if you’re not across your birth chart, it’s likely you know your star – or sun – sign. A study by author and astrologer Nicholas Campion suggests 90 per cent of adults do, more than the 60 per cent or so who know their blood type.


Arguably, this does not have a lot to do with whisky, but with more and more businesses looking to the principles of astrology when forming strategy and building teams, perhaps there is something in it. If a birth chart can be a tool for personal introspection, imagine if the same principles could be used to ‘predict’ the character of a spirit.


“Your birth chart is a map of the stars the moment you were born. It’s like your celestial code, or your cosmic DNA,” says Bex Milford, professional astrologer, founder of Cosmic Cures, and (satisfyingly) a drinks writer. She explains that a person’s sun sign indicates purpose, moon shows their more introspective side, and their rising sign shows motivation and direction.


I asked three new whisky distilleries to share the exact time of their first spirit run. The purpose is to see if a birth chart can indicate the quirks and character of their whisky once it has come of age. At the time of writing, none of them have released a whisky so it’s yet to be seen if the stars will hold true – but as with all affairs of the astrological, the following is best taken with a pinch of salt.



Holyrood Distillery

First spirit run: 6 September 2019 at 14:51

Sun: Virgo

Moon: Capricorn

Rising: Sagittarius


Edinburgh-based Holyrood Distillery became the city’s first new whisky maker in almost 100 years when it fired up the stills back in 2019. Since then, it’s made a name for itself as a wildly innovative producer, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with grain processing and fermentation. The team has even struck up a partnership with Heriot-Watt to jointly sponsor a PhD in malt use in distilling.


All this resonates strongly with the distillery’s birth chart. Virgo suns tend to be analytical with a need for facts and a meticulous eye for detail. Capricorn moons point to studiousness and a love for structure and organisation. Throw in a Sagittarius rising sign for rampant curiosity and a sense of adventure.


As for the whisky, we’re looking at a precise, exacting spirit with an experimental edge. Bottlings will be intriguing and interesting, meeting curious whisky fans where they are, while offering a masterclass in technical expertise. Releases will champion malt-forward styles, but with a surprising twist – perhaps in the form of unusual estery notes from fermentation.



Rosebank Distillery

First spirit run: 18 July 2023 at 10:05

Sun: Cancer

Moon: Leo

Rising: Virgo


Rosebank Distillery made whisky headlines in 2023, for good reason. Although its heritage dates all the way back to 1840, it was reawakened after a near-30-year distilling hiatus. Current owner Ian Macleod Distillers bought the site in 2017 and has been rebuilding the brand as a luxury player ever since. The aim is to replicate the spirit of ghost Rosebank, but even with a painstaking site rebuild, nothing is guaranteed. “Nobody knows,” wrote assistant production manager Jason McCabe on the Rosebank blog. “Anybody who tells you how the spirit’s going to be after the first distillation is talking nonsense.”


With regard to the sign placements, a Cancer sun means emotion, sensitivity, and a deep care, while a Leo moon brings confident self-expression and a love of the spotlight. It’s all reined in by the Virgo rising placement, which brings in a sense of responsibility.


Cancers are notorious for their sensitivity and nostalgia, so the sentimentality of the past will undoubtedly shine though. This will be a considered, thoughtful whisky, and one that will bring the production values of the past into the present. At the same time, it’s a dram that’s already revelling in the spotlight – classic Leo moon. Rosebank is a name that captures the imagination. Taking into account the team’s seriousness for recreating the character of old, anticipate a spirit that turns heads for its substance and style.



Retribution Distilling

First spirit run: 10 August 2021 at 11:00

Sun: Leo

Moon: Virgo

Rising: Libra


A small maker based in Somerset, England, Retribution started life as a brewery. Founder Richard Lock pivoted into making spirits and started laying down casks in 2021. There’s a strong focus on local raw materials, and all mashing, fermenting, and distilling takes place on-site. There are plans afoot to experiment with different grains and yeast strains, alongside an ambition to peat malt.


It makes sense that the Retribution whisky was ‘born’ under a Leo sun. Magnetic, boisterous, and charismatic, its confidence stands out. The attention to detail from the Virgo moon tempers this, with organisation and problem solving likely to drive the distillery forward. The Libra rising placement adds a social element – bringing people together is at the heart of the whisky.


Technically due to come of age next year, Retribution’s whisky is likely to be bold, lively, and directional. There could be an unapologetic element to it (a trait that may be recognisable in Leo friends), but it’s certainly likely capture the imagination of whisky drinkers. Perhaps it’ll stir up conversation or be a ‘sessionable’ dram – obviously still to be consumed responsibly.

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