Whisky Magazine Issue 22
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Tom Bruce-Gardyne meets one of single-cask bottling's real success stories, as Lorne Mackillop and his Mackillop's Choice label go from strength to strength
London's west end is famed for its private doctors and dentists and for the size of their consultation fees, but it is not the first place you would look for a firm of independent bottlers, nor the heir to the chief of a Scottish clan. Yet the two come together here in Mackillop's Choice, a relative newcomer to the single cask malt scene. It was set up by Lorne Mackillop in 1997 who was already in the whisky industry, but very much at the commodity end, and this was a departure from his usual trading. Mackillop's Choice is exclusively involved in the rarefied world of single cask bottlings.
Leaving that to one side, Lorne fills me in with some family history. The Mackillops whose motto is Non Dormit Qui Custodit (he who guards does not sleep) were once the personal bodyguards of the Kings of Scotland. Then in 1745 they rallied to the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie only to be almost wiped out in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Coming from Argyll in the heart of Campbell country, it was not the best place or time to be a Jacobite, and according to legend the clan only survived thanks to the escape of two teenage boys.
On leaving London University with a degree in comparative physiology and zoology in the mid-70s, Lorne Mackillop hardly intended a career in the booze trade, let alone whisky. But when the original plan of becoming a doctor fell through, he found his old holiday job, delivering wine by bicycle round Belgravia for André Simon, a useful stop-gap. Soon he...