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The Revival of J.G. Thomson & Co
In this review I’ll be checking out an interesting and affordable bottling from J.G. Thomson & Co, a new subsidiary of The Artisanal Spirits Company.
The story begins in 1709, when Andrew Thomson took over his Father-in-law’s business in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh. The company enjoyed great success importing wines from the continent and distributing them all over Scotland. On the 29th of July 1782, the firm bought The Vaults in Leith. From there they supplied wines, brandies and home-produced whiskies to eager customers. Over the years they also became a prominent exporter of Scotch whisky to the USA and beyond.
In 1785, the business was inherited by James Gibson Thomson and renamed after his initials. By the late 19th-century, J.G. Thomson & Co had shifted focus to concentrate on wholesale. It was a move that would lead the company into difficulty in the new millennium. Following the Second World War, many privately run hotels joined together to make chains. Others were taken over by breweries. As a result, Thomson’s lost much of market.
In 1960, the company was itself taken over by Charrington United Breweries. Three years later, Charrington acquired Tennent’s of Glasgow and J.G. Thomson became a subsidiary of Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd. By the late 1960s, trade had all but halted and the name fell out of favour but Tennent’s would revive it in 1983 as a wine and spirits wholesaler that operated from new purpose-built premises on London Road in Glasgow. The company operated until the early 2000s before once more fading into obscurity.
The Vaults, once home to J.G. Thomson were acquired by a consortium, led by Pip Hills in 1983. The building would go on to become the home of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which is itself now owned by The Artisanal Spirits Company. In 2021, the owners’ delved into the building’s history for some inspiration in creating a new range of spirits. Thus the J.G. Thomson name was uncovered and brought back to life. Released thus far have been a trio of blended malt Scotch whiskies, categorised by flavour as Rich, Smoky and Sweet. There are also Small Batch Citrus Gin and Small Batch Bold Rum releases.
I first encountered a J.G. Thomson bottling at a tasting organised by the Ayrshire Whisky Group when David and Keiran included the Smoky bottling in their January peated whisky tasting. I was quite impressed on the night so when I saw the range sitting on the shelf at my local whisky shop, I decided it was worth taking a gamble on the “Rich” version. It’s bottled at 46% and cost around £40.
Smell: Quite a clean sherry character. Walnut. Polished oak furniture. Raisins. Leather. Tobacco. Ginger, cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds. Toffee. Fruit cake. Orange liqueur. Wee touch of red berries in there as well.
Taste: Big sherry arrival. Toffee sauce. Caramel. Raisins, sultanas and figs. Oak. More of that berry note – raspberry, cranberries even. Walnut. Orange zest and more dried fruits on the finish.
Thoughts: A good example of a modern sherry-matured whisky. It’s not the weightiest whisky that’ll ever coat your palate but it’s fully flavoured. Perhaps you could argue that it’s a little one dimensional as there’s not a lot of spirit character to be found under all that sherry but then, it isn’t trying to be overly complex. It’s trying to provide an example of a rich, sherry matured Scotch whisky and it does that rather well.
Value for money: Lots of satisfying sherry character at an accessible price.
Buy the J.G. Thomson & Co Rich Blended Malt at Master of Malt click here
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For more on J.G. Thomson visit here