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Issue 75 - In safe hands

Whisky Magazine Issue 75
October 2008


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In safe hands

The new owners of Glendronach have big plans for the iconic malt. Dominic Roskrow spoke to Billy Walker

Whisky entrepreneur Billy Walker is surveying a range of cask samples. Each of them is from Glendronach Distillery, each of them is old, and each of them is rich in sherry. He is clearly a contented man.

“These samples are so heavily sherried you can't see through them,” he says. “When you talk to people who remember Glendronach with a lot of affection this is what they're talking about – these big sherried whiskies. Glendronach was big, big dram, all about sherry, and it's our intention to return to its traditional glory. We have big plans for it.” At moments like these, Billy Walker sounds like an enthusiast and romantic. It's easy to forget that he's a level-headed businessman and part of a trio who trumped a £5.4 million purchase of Benriach in 2002 with this autumn's £15 million swoop for the in-demand Glendronach.

Easy, too, to overlook the 35 years of whisky experience and time served as a scientist, operations director and master distiller. Here and now it's all about the whisky, and the most exciting thing about his involvement in Glendronach is that he thinks like any other enthusiast, and instinctively knows what will get the diehards talking. Try this.

“There are some fabulous casks here. The distillery had a very good wood policy and was well looked-after, it's just that it had drifted a bit because it didn't fit in with the strategies of some of its bigger owners. It's perfect for us – its capacity is only 1.5 million litres but we can do some...

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