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The last year or two have brought a flood of difficulties to the scotch whisky industry and it would be no surprise if the combination of Tariffs, Brexit and the global pandemic was enough to have some businesses calling it a day. Bizarrely though it almost seems like the opposite is true, with new ventures springing to life in the midst of the mayhem. Just as we were hearing about the new Wolfcraig distillery near Stirling and its headline-stealing choice of master distiller, news began to filter through about a new product from the people behind Jackton distillery, a small family-business that had largely managed to slip under the radar of even the most determined of connoisseurs.
Having spent the last 20 or so years in construction and property development, James Harkins Kean and his family set out to indulge their love for scotch whisky by creating a new distillery near their home town of East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire.
A planning application was granted in 2019, despite some objection from locals concerned, among other things, about an increase in traffic on the single track road. The planning committee were satisfied however that the application complied with greenbelt policy and gave the go-ahead, not least because the buildings were already in “agricultural use”.
The O’Cathian Farm near Thorntonhill became Jackton Distillery and before long, spirit was flowing from a shiny new pair of copper pot stills. 2020 of course threw a spanner in the works, and Jackton halted distillation in order to shift their attention to the production of hand sanitiser which they would distribute to vulnerable people in the local community via the East Kilbride Community Trust. Finally, with some tentative signs that we may be nearer the end of the pandemic than the start, Jackton has been able to get back to distilling spirit and are about to launch themselves onto the market with a new blended scotch brand…
*Full disclosure: I was sent this bottle free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the inherent quality of the spirit and the value for money it represents.
RAER is a blended scotch – a marriage of both grain and malt whiskies – bottled at 40% abv that retails for £25.
Smell: Toffee popcorn. Caramel. Chocolate orange. Baked apples and cinnamon. Honey. Young grain. Cereals. Lemon juice. A little spirit-y.
Taste: Orange and honey. Nice weight and mouthfeel for a blend. Lots of grain notes – breakfast cereal and digestive biscuits. Chocolate. Caramel. Liquorice. Some peppery spice. Touch of new make spirit on the finish.
Value for money: Certainly isn’t expensive, but at £25 we’re in the same price bracket as the likes of Johnnie Walker’s Black Label, Chivas Regal 12 year old and Dewar’s 12 year old, all of which are decent quality blends that come with an age statement. When you also consider the price (and quality!) of the whiskies from the likes of Aldi and Lidl, that £25 doesn’t look quite so good.
Nice to see another new arrival that’s local to Glasgow and interesting that they chose to go with a blended scotch as their first product. Price is reasonable, especially when we’re dealing with a small family business who presumably had to buy in stocks from elsewhere. Unfortunately though, I don’t love the dram. I don’t hate it either, but it feels a wee bit immature to me. The character of the grains come through strongly on the nose, which is quite nice, but on the palate that gives way to a slightly spirit-y note that brings the experience down a little. It’s not bad for a first effort and with a few rocks of ice to smooth the edges, or even used in a highball, it could become a useful bottle to have, but it won’t be one I’m reaching for very often of an evening, I’m sorry to say. The whole Jackton distillery project fascinates me though, and I’ll be watching its development with interest in the months and years ahead.