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Issue 127 - Whisky Making at Altitude

Whisky Magazine Issue 127
April 2015


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Whisky Making at Altitude

Allt-á-Bhainne and Braeval's contribution to some of the world's best-selling blends

By the early 1970s, the post-war boom in Scotch whisky sales was approaching its peak, and most major distillers were seeking increases in malt whisky production in order to slake the apparently ever-growing thirst for blended Scotch.

One brand performing notably well was the 12-year-old premium blend Chivas Regal, which boasted a loyal following in the leading Scotch export market of the USA. The owner of Chivas Regal was the Canadian distilling giant the Seagram Company Ltd, an organisation that had entered the Scotch whisky market by acquiring the Chivas Regal brand in 1949, going on to purchase Strathisla distillery in Keith the following year. A ‘sister' distillery named Glen Keith was constructed between 1957 and 1960.

Chivas Regal had been launched back in 1909 as the world's first luxury blend, aged for 25 years, but under the ownership of Seagram, headed by the legendary figure of Sam Bronfman, it was re-configured as a 12 Years Old, and sales grew rapidly on the back of high-profile advertising and celebrity endorsement. Chivas Regal was the favoured Scotch of Frank Sinatra and his ‘Rat Pack' cronies.

Ultimately, demand for component malts for Chivas Regal outstripped Seagram's supply, and after failing in a bid to buy Glenlivet distillery, the solution was to build new plants of its own. According to Chivas Brothers' distilling manager Alan Winchester, “Seagram actually developed a plan to construct five new distilleries, starting with Braes of Glenlivet i...

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