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The Cooper’s Cask release is the first distillery exclusive from the Glasgow Distillery Company. It is a collaboration between the distillery and the Kelvin Cooperage in Kentucky, USA. This may seem an odd partnership at first, but the connection goes back a long way.
The Kelvin Cooperage was founded in 1963, not in Kentucky, but in Glasgow. Local man Ed McLaughlin established his own business and began repairing and rejuvenating casks for whisky distilleries all across Scotland and Ireland. He named his cooperage after the River Kelvin which flows through the west of the city.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the Scotch whisky industry was in decline and Ed found himself looking across the Atlantic, where Bourbon was booming. In 1995 he and his sons Kevin and Paul moved the business to Louisville, Kentucky and began servicing some of the biggest and best distilleries in the country. Despite almost three decades in the USA however, the family never forgot their roots and have retained a close association with the city of Glasgow.
When the Glasgow Distillery Company went into production in 2015, they needed to find a reliable source of good quality casks within which to age their new make spirit. It’s unsurprising that they soon found themselves working with the same cooperage that once called the city home.
The brainchild of Glasgow’s own cooper Hugh McMurray and Kelvin’s Kevin McLaughlin, the Coopers Cask project took unpeated 1770 single malt that had been filled into a port cask in 2015 and transferred it to a special cask with half of the staves being virgin American oak from Kelvin and the other half from one of Glasgow’s own whisky casks. This unique cask was designed by the two coopers to showcase the intensity of the virgin oak whilst tempering it with the less active oak of the whisky staves.
Sadly, Kevin McLaughlin passed away in 2019, before the whisky was ready for bottling.
Paul McLaughlin, owner of Kelvin Cooperage said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with The Glasgow Distillery on The Coopers’ Cask Release. The Coopers’ Cask has been launched with the vision to bring our craftsmanship and expertise back to our home city of Glasgow in a way that is truly unique. This is Glasgow-distilled single malt, matured in a hand-built cask made by not just one, but two sets of Glasgow hands.
“It is, however, with a heavy heart that we announce that Kevin, my much loved brother, Kelvin Cooperage’s fearless leader and one of the cooper’s who made this collaboration possible, passed away in December 2019 before the launch of this release. The Coopers’ Cask Release is therefore launched in honour of Kevin, who was instrumental in bringing this project together and whose memory lives on within the spirit.”
Liam Hughes, CEO and Co-Founder of The Glasgow Distillery, added: “We’re very excited to launch our first Glasgow 1770 distillery exclusive – The Coopers’ Cask Release. This unique hand-built cask – cask no 15/87 – is the physical embodiment of the relationship that exists between cooperage and distillery and ultimately, the relationship between wood and spirit – the fundamental elements that come together to make great single malt Scotch.
“Kevin and Paul embraced our vision from the outset and we quickly became friends so it is a bitter sweet moment to launch The Coopers’ Cask Release without Kevin here to witness it. We are very grateful to the whole McLaughlin family for their continued support throughout this project, especially as it has been a particularly difficult time for them all.”
The Cooper’s Cask was bottled at 53.3%. Just 403 50cl bottles were available at the price of £59 each.
*I was sent this sample free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest opinion on the quality of the dram and the value for money it represents.
Smell: Pleasant combination of malt, spice and summer fruits. There’s a yeasty note at first. Like bread baking. Some baking spices like clove, ginger and allspice. Distillery mash-houses! Oak. Then there’s a bit of raspberry and red apples. Some vanilla and toffee too.
Taste: Big chewy toffees. Lots of bourbon vanilla too. Then comes the woody spice. That’s followed by the Port influence with a burst of forest fruits. Furniture polish. Dry finish with some lingering fruity notes.
Thoughts: I’ve made it clear before that 50cl bottles annoy me, so I’m not going to go on about it here. In fairness to the Glasgow Distillery Company, they’re a tiny outfit striving to compete in a world of giants. Perhaps they can be forgiven for trying to claw out some kind of advantage. To their credit, this first “special release” isn’t priced much higher than their normal bottlings (usually £50).
I’ve been following the Glasgow Distillery story closely for a few years now. Not just because it’s my home town but because it’s a fascinating little urban business that I genuinely feel brings something different to the Scotch whisky scene.
The first “distillery exclusive” certainly lives up to the high standard of previous releases. The combination of that malty spirit with the spicy oak and that fruity port is a bit of a joy. I’m looking forward to seeing what other creative delights they have in store with future releases.
For more on Glasgow Distillery and 1770 single malt whisky visit here