Looking back

What's happened since we launched...
By Greg Dillon
The Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart with whisky
The Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart with whisky
As this is a monumental moment in the history of Whisky Magazine, it only felt right to take a look at some of the happenings, launches, openings, events and general development of whisky since 1998



Back in the 90s, you’d have been forgiven for confusing Charles Maclean’s ‘tash with Tom Selleck's iconic lip fellow.


Marcin Millar, then publisher of Whisky Magazine, now has a PR, gin and Japanese whisky empire.


Dave ‘The Brush’ Broom did not always have his now trademark beard, in fact it did not turn up on our bio pictures until Issue 54 in 2006.


To celebrate Whisky Magazine’s 10th anniversary, our current fearless Editor, a mere contributor back in 2008, was sent to Speyside to lay down two casks at The Macallan… wonder if he’ll share the juice for this, the 20th anniversary.


Main voice and author of all things Bruichladdich Carl Reavey passed away after 25 years of contributing to Islay life.


Brian Nation took the baton as master distiller for Irish Distillers from previous master distiller Barry Crockett in Issue 117.


There used to be a handful of whisky personalities, blogs and websites back when Whisky Magazine first started publishing and no dedicated whisky publications, now there are thousands of blogs and many magazines for everyone.


Bartending used to be about pouring drinks, now it is a full on career in its own right with ‘startenders’ the world over taking consumers on wonderful flavour experiences.


Charles Maclean has now released more than 35 books about whisky.


Andy Murray put his name to a bottle your own cask at The Glenturret Distillery.


As did Ewan McGregor.


A significant amount of distillers, blenders and production apprentices are now women, a welcome evolution in the global industry.


Prince Charles has signed an unknown amount of casks at distilleries around Scotland, growing a nice little collection of whisky for him and charity with each autograph.


David Stewart, the man behind the production and brand prowess of The Balvenie not only clocked up over half a century in the industry, but was knighted.


Richard Paterson celebrated his half-century in the whisky industry with a year-long set of celebrations and high-end whisky releases including The Dalmore 40 Years Old and The Dalmore 50 Years, which sold out in no time.


The legend that was Charles Grant Gordon passed away, leaving a big hole in the world of Scotch and a magnificent legacy of innovation.


Production specialist, and adviser to many of the new wave of distilleries in the world, Dr. Jim Swan passed away.


Fantastic writer and pioneer of whisky storytelling Michael Jackson also passed away and is sorely missed by the industry.


Dave Broom told us all about the smokey cokey; 50ml Lagavulin 16 Year Old and 50ml flat cola, served in a Glencairn glass.


Current Editor Rob Allanson returned after three years away to take the tiller to be the sixth editor.



Consumers no longer just buy by age statement, but increasingly shop by flavour too.


Online whisky auctions have become the norm, with new auctions launching each year selling thousands of bottles each month.


In 1996, the highest ever amount paid for a bottle at auction was £12,100 for a bottle of The Macallan 60 Year Old, bottled 1986.


The most expensive bottle of Irish whiskey sold at auction, a 1930s Jameson sold for £180.


Kate Moss, Neil Morrissey and Jools Holland were, in 1999, noted as being Jameson drinkers.


Consumer education programmes are now amongst the most highest priority initiatives.


Cooking with whisky has taken off in a big way, and is now commonplace whereas in Issue 41 and before it was still relatively niche.


Whisky festivals the world over continue to pop up for consumers and the trade to explore new whiskies to their heart’s content.


Responding to feedback, many distillery visitors are now bottle their own whisky at the distilleries they make the pilgrimage to.


India followed by France, with the UK, key Asian markets and the US now make up sizeable portions of the whisky consumer base globally.


A sizeable portion of whisky drinkers are now female, shirking off the age-old adage that whisky is exclusively for old men.



Blended Scotch, Johnnie Walker, Ballantine’s, Grant’s, Dewar’s is the biggest category with 91 per cent volume, but a shrinking value down to around 75 per cent.


There are a total of around 120 whisky producing distilleries in Scotland now, an additional 12 in the last few years and around 40 more at various stages of development.


Laphroaig has upped its eye catching marketing game since the last campaign in the early Issues demanding of consumers, “Why take unnecessary risks? Stick to your usual bottle of Glenwhatever”.


Maker’s Mark still hand dips all its bottles in its iconic red wax.


Scapa was brought back from the brink in 2003 (Issue 41).


The world’s peatiest whisky, Octomore, was released to both acclaim and to challenge the notion of peat in whisky.


Ardbeg thought it wise to send some whisky into space, Suntory followed suit soon after, and a number of limited edition whiskies were released to celebrate this feat.


Monkey Shoulder was released by William Grant & Sons, and has consistently been a consumer and bartender favourite ever since - great liquid, a vatting of The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie single malts, and three faux-brass monkeys on the bottle, marvellous.


Penderyn, under the guidance of Dr. Jim Swan, launched the first Welsh whisky


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society turned 20, then 30 since Whisky Magazine started, and was the host of the first ever Whisky Magazine Whisky School in 1998.


A couple of brands decided to release whiskies designed to be stored in the freezer, with Dave Broom suggesting in Issue 74 that “the frozen serve, while hugely interesting and fun is also, as [Walker] Gold showed, fashion led”.


Issue 117 saw the triumphant return of whisky distilling to London for the first time since Lea Valley Distillery in Stratford closed its doors in the early 1900s.


Glen Moray is still one of the best value single malts.


Bacardi launched Craigellachie, Aultmore, The Deveron and Royal Brackla as single malts in their own right, winning a bunch of awards along the way.


The Glenrothes Single Malt was sold to Edrington in full by Berry Bros. & Rudd.


Ballantine’s has released a series of single malts to highlight their influence in the end blend; Glenburgie 15, Glentauchers 15 and Miltonduff 15.


Bruichladdich thought it a great idea to unleash the peaty beast from Islay, Octomore on us, and wow are we glad they did.


Issue 131 reported that Isle of Harris Distillery opened its doors on Thursday, September 24, 2015, the culmination of a seven year drive to establish the Hebridean island’s first commercial whisky distiller.


Many new independent bottlers have entered the market, mostly in Scotch and Ireland, bringing in great whiskies at often affordable prices, as well as unique single casks from distilleries you rarely see such products being released from.


Ancient bottlings are hitting the market from 50+ year old grain whisky to Gordon & MacPhail’s 75 Years Old Mortlach single cask as part of their Generations range.


Issue 124 saw David Beckham on the cover to launch Haig Club on the world. What a release it ended up being!


The Macallan launched the 1824 Series, and after a few years realised that they should move back to having age statement, wood-driven releases in their core range so calmly the brand withdrew the 1824 Series from distribution.


Ardbeg launches its annual Ardbeg Day event to close off the Islay Festival each year.


The Kilkerran brand was released through a series of work in progress bottlings, limited editions and a 12 Years Old.


Arran has turned 22.


Kilchoman became the first new distillery on Islay in more than a century, and has now been in production for over a decade.


Distilleries are now iconic visitor destinations in their own right, with Scotch whisky tourism up eight per cent on 2015 numbers to 1.7 million visitors to Scotch whisky distilleries in 2016.


Own label whiskies from Aldi and Lidl stormed into consumers’ hearts and minds with highly aged, award-winning releases all sub-£50… 34 Years Old sherry cask finished blend for £49.99 anyone? Yes, lots of yes.


Irish Distillers have now had more than 30 years of continued growth.


Irish Distillers have also launched innovative new brands and products including Method & Madness which is the result of the business allowing distilling and production apprentices to ask ‘what if?’.


Chivas expanded its production, ranges and brand offerings with The Glenlivet now the largest whisky brand by volume in the world.


Glenfiddich became the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whisky.


Dewar’s became one of the world's most awarded blended Scotch whisky.


Issue 51 saw the 175th anniversary of the Teacher’s Scotch whisky brand and product.


Highland Park has released a near-endless stream of whisky with names being both Viking and Norse God-inspired. Taking design cues from the many sagas and legends of the people who settled the islands.


Innis & Gunn founded a business based around ageing beer in ex-whisky barrels.


The Loop opened in Dublin Duty Free, boasting 365 bottles, one for every day of the year.


In Issue 83 Whisky Magazine wondered about the "state of the collector’s market” which "coincided with the release of the first six whiskies in Diageo’s Managers’ Choice selection, which [saw] the distiller releasing single cask bottlings from each of its 27 distilleries over the following year". Wonder how much these are all worth now as a set…


Kingsbarns distillery was founded by the Wemyss Family & Doug Clement after Clement realised, in his years of being a caddy at St. Andrews that it was the perfect location for both whisky production and touristic appeal, as reported in Issue 109.


Issue 109 also heralded the news that ancient Scotch whisky brand Wolfburn was to be resurrected, with the magazine saying that the new venture "revives the Wolfburn name, formerly applied to a distillery which stood very close to the new plant and was owned and run by members of the Smith family between 1821 and the 1850s”.

Spirits market


Many new craft distilleries all over the UK.


Brands are seeing the value in brining ’silent’ / ‘dead’ distilleries back online; Port Ellen, Brora, Rosebank to name just three.


Gin is now not only about two big brands, Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire.


Vodka eventually had its celebrity moment.


Single malt Scotch hit £1billion exports for the first time in 2016 and equates to about 25 per cent of the export market.


Scotch contributes around £5 billion to the UK economy, and supports 40,000 job.


Duty Free, known as GTR in the trade, has become one of the most important places to launch new products and innovations in airports around the world.

The Unexpected


Karuizawa, need we say more?


Well yes, actually, Hanyu Ichiro’s Card Series.


Oh, then there’s Pappy van Winkle.


At the other end of the spectrum was Fujukai… less said about that the better.


Bill Murray put Hibiki and Japanese whisky on the map in the hit film Lost in Translation, as reported in Issue 37.


Also in Issue 37, and Issue 36, Whisky Magazine explored Russian whisky, something barely heard about since…


You used to be able to pick up a bottle of Port Ellen 20 Years Old for £62.99 in Oddbins (Issue three).


Issue 36 saw a big feature on the hit TV show Monarch of the Glen with their focus on whisky and Scotland in the storylines.


In 2004 an entire village near the Tormore Distillery went up for sale for £550,000.


Tamdhu was mothballed in 2010 (Issue 89), and then production restarted in May 2013 after the distillery was sold to Ian Macleod Distillers two years earlier.


The Whisky Sponge popped up out of nowhere to bring hilarity and brutal assessments of various personalities and brands within the industry.


Even back in Issue 31, published 2003, The Macallan was fighting the problem of fake versions of their products being released in the market.


In a similar vein, and in the same Issue, Dominic Roskrow investigated the act of tipping in the on trade; "a simple enough crime. You empty a bottle of branded spirits, fill it up with a cheap version as many times you like, and pocket the difference”, noting that “every day, a game of cat-and-mouse goes on between licensed venues and those protecting the spirits trade. In the middle is the drinker, who is being conned to the tune of millions”.


An average bottle of Scotch whisky sold at £12.77 will generate more than £10 for the Treasury which equates to around 80 per cent tax.

Global Whisky Development


The rise of rye whisk(e)y through America and Canada (predicted in WM).


Canadian whisky has started to get the attention it deserves.


Ichiro effectively became the founding father of Japanese craft whisky.


Australian whisky has continued its rise.


Sweden have been producing award-winning whisky, some matured underground in old mines.


Ireland is now producing some of the most interesting whiskey in the category.


Kavalan heralded Taiwanese whisky as one of the leaders of the new world order of whisky.


NAS, or non-age statement bottlings are now the norm as producers react to demand outweighing supply, and the need for new and innovative releases.


The resurrection and the rise of distilling in London, Dublin, Edinburgh.


The Teeling dynasty bringing out the most single cask bottlings from a single distiller in history.


There are now hundreds of whisky festivals yearly around the UK, Europe and the world.

New Distilleries


Kininvie was the ‘new’ distillery back in Issue one, although it was already eight years old and ‘maturing nicely’ according to Jim Murray at the time.


Benromach was bought and reimagined by Gordon & MacPhail to bring classic Speyside flavours back to the industry.

Taste and Flavour


Back in 1998, in Issue one, the late, great Michael Jackson hit the nail on the head when he said, “make Scotches lighter and blander and the message is clear: ‘malt, peat, sherry, salt and seaweed taste horrible. We are doing our best to remove all whisky tastes from our product. Lack of flavour is good’ This might be more succinctly expressed in two words: ‘Drink Vodka’.


The notion of cocktail culture and mixing high end single malt has evolved a lot since the early days of Whisky Magazine.


Mixology bringing whisky to new and younger generations, driving demand, interest and conversation.


A plethora of whisky glassware has been released, led by the Glencairn glass which revolutionised the consumer drinking mindset, but also new innovations in flavour and whisky experience are entering the market.

The Magazine


You used to be able to get a free pewter stopper adorned with either a salmon or a grouse when you subscribed to
Whisky Magazine.


And by Issue 31 you could buy a Whisky Magazine themed tie on the magazine’s website.


The availability of it! 20 years ago a few did mail order now most do and with the internet and bars the availability, helped by technology, has helped push it away from the Old Mans drink ethos - @TomsWhiskyReviews (Twitter)


Limited editions and superpremium editions every five and half seconds. Particularly super premium from 2nd tier distillers - @JotterFace (Twitter)


The ease of choice! You can get super rare and interesting bottles with just a couple of clicks. The more independent bottlers put more out there themselves the better too! - @Steven_Carrie (Twitter)


Social media. The ability to share information, ideas and drams with people around the world via things such FB whisky groups and tweet tastings - Jo Lawson (Facebook)


Craft distillery revival in the American whiskey industry - Amanda Joy (Facebook)


Different types of casks used for finishing and full maturation - Graham Ward (Facebook)


I think the big thing in just the last few years is the growth in finishes and expressions to try and create a wider platform of flavours and this whisky drinkers. I think the accessibility for drinkers to try something different whether that be at a distillery or a festival is another big change that has done a lot of good.
- Matt Whalley (Facebook)


The internet has been one of the biggest changes in whisky - Mark Watt (Facebook)


Easier access to opinions of others, be it blogs, vlogs, etc. - James Palmer (Facebook)


The use of different woods for maturation and flavours, social media, online sales, festivals over the last few years. People like yourself [& GreatDrams] using new media channels to promote Scotch to a world wide audience
- John Carlil (Facebook)


Finishing casks and NAS releases have been the two explosions in whisky, from what I see. However, I believe that the finishing cask has now become so important, that its the main reason why whisky worldwide is booming in popularity. Scotch, Irish, even bourbon here in the US. All true fans of whisky probably find themselves buying more, simply because of these finishing casks altering the flavors, making every release a "must have”
- Andy Pace (Facebook)


The use of Internet and social media to promote whisky to a new audience
- Giuseppe Romano (Facebook)


Maybe because of the ongoing hype that I have access to good / great whiskys in bars and restaurants and the increased availability in general
- Michael Lutz (Facebook)


Variety! 10-15 years ago availability of bottles from distilleries was limited to a few indie expressions and many only had one or two official bottling. Now the market demands new product every few months hence the increase in NAS and finishes - Barry Bradford (Facebook)


Social media with all of its upsides e.g. far greater interaction with companies, expanding one's whisky knowledge
- David Rogers (Facebook)


How snobbery is declining… looking at the way Real Ale is having a great rise in the younger drinkers it seems like whisky is going through the same growth - Michael McKittrick (Facebook)


It began before the last 20 years but the loss of innocence in the industry and the removal of decisions from the distillery staff to central management, accountants, marketing departments and scientists has resulted in an efficient, reproducible consistent product but often to the detriment of character, flavour and romance and often infuriating for the people who had worked there for decades. In many cases these changes were necessary for the growth and survival of the industry but they have fundamentally changed the spirit - Andrew Smith (Facebook)


Most interesting and most disturbing is that Whisky has turned into an investment object - Mr Barleycorn (Facebook)
Inside a Bourbon rickhouse
Inside a Bourbon rickhouse
The cooper's tools of the cask making trade
The cooper's tools of the cask making trade
Jameson, enjoying 30 years of growth
Jameson, enjoying 30 years of growth
Fields of gold
Fields of gold
Midleton's new stills
Midleton's new stills
The distinctive Haig Club bottle
The distinctive Haig Club bottle
Master blender Richard Paterson
Master blender Richard Paterson
The Glencairn glass
The Glencairn glass
Raymond Davidson, the innovator behind the Glencairn glass
Raymond Davidson, the innovator behind the Glencairn glass