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The Whisky Works is an interesting new side-project from whisky maker Gregg Glass. Run as an independent arm of internationally renowned blenders Whyte & Mackay, Whisky Works is set up not only to bottle exceptional whiskies but to develop modern experiments that utilise unique methods of maturation. Their output so far has comprised of a 29 year old single grain from a Glasgow distillery, a 20 year old Speyside single malt finished in Cognac and the most interesting of all: the King of Trees blended malt, finished in native Scottish oak.
For the latest release, Glass has created a blended scotch that takes a highland grain whisky matured in ex-rum casks, finishes it in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks and then adds two Speyside malts, one matured in American oak, the other in sherry butts. On paper it is a fascinating, even bizarre, combination but one that I’m sure will capture the imagination of the more adventurous whisky drinker.
Gregg Glass began his career in whisky as a tour guide at distilleries across the Highlands. Seeking to take his interest further however, he began studying distilling and brewing, working in various industry roles in order to enhance his knowledge. At Compass Box he first focused on cask selection and quality control before becoming whisky-maker in 2005. Then in December 2016 it was announced that he would be leaving Compass Box to join Whyte & Mackay, working alongside legendary master blender Richard Patterson. Soon after, the idea for the Whisky Works began to take shape.
Back in 2019 I went to a Whisky Works tasting at the Good Spirits Co in Glasgow. Gregg talked us through his work with Scottish oak with full power point presentation showing photos of trees and sawmills and cooperages… It was fascinating stuff, though I confess perhaps not how I would normally envisage my Saturday night. To break things up however, Gregg produced a Wonka-esque contraption that fired flavoured bubbles into the air. We each took it in turns to catch bubbles in our mouths and make a guess as to the flavour. I don’t remember what the flavour was, though I do know I got it dramatically wrong, but it was a great way to add a bit of hilarity to a subject that, though interesting, was also a little dry.
Gregg’s latest creation has been dubbed “Quartermaster” because four transatlantic elements – American oak, Caribbean Rum casks, Scotch whisky and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks – come together in a unique blend. Aged for a total of 11 years and bottled at 46.4%, it retails at £75.
*Full disclosure: I was sent this sample free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the inherent quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Smells green, if that makes any sense. Green apples and pine needles. Honey and caramel with fresh oak. Lemon, lime and pineapple. Rum and ginger beer.
Taste: Good weight. Dried fruits and toffee. More ginger. Cinnamon. Maple syrup. Orange liqueur. Coffee creams.
Value for Money: On the face of it £75 may seem a tad high for an 11 year old blended scotch but delve a little deeper and you realise that this is a rather unique dram. Rum on the nose with a bit of sherry on the palate, it’s unlike anything I’ve come across before and that alone makes it worth exploring.
The scotch whisky industry never fails to amaze me. Every time you dare to think you’ve seen it all, something new and exciting appears and from what I’ve seen so far, The Whisky Works have adopted this pursuit of creativity as their operating model. Gregg’s time at Compass Box is very clearly an inspiration and it’s interesting that he has gone in equally creative yet different directions. Quartermaster is exactly what a blended scotch should be: interesting, complex, nuanced – and unique though certainly you will have to pay a fairly sizeable sum for the privilege of enjoying it.
Incidentally you can buy Quartermaster from Master of Malt here
*Please be aware, as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links on my page.
**Other retailers are availabe.
For more on the Whisky Works visit here