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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
New whisky made with beer
Grants whisky
The whisky is matured in old beer casks
The world's first blended whisky matured in beer barrels has been developed by a major Scots distiller and a brewery.

William Grant and sons, makers of the popular single malt Glenfiddich, has teamed up with Edinburgh-based Caledonian Brewery to produce a whisky that has been matured in old beer casks.

Ale Cask Reserve is a blended whisky that has been kept for several months in barrels which used to hold Edinburgh Strong Ale.

William Grant hopes that the new product will be a big hit with whisky drinkers but industry analysts think that it may only have a limited appeal with the younger generation.

The quality of whisky all depends on the quality of wood in which it is matured

Charles MacLean, whisky expert
Both partner companies have said that this is the first time whisky has been successfully matured in beer casks and they will be seeking a patent for the process.

Caledonian Brewery managing director Russell Sharp said: "This is a world first. We believe a number of people have tried to make this work and they haven't managed to do it.

"It is the first time that whisky has been successfully matured in a beer barrel."

Mr Sharp said it was not "a simple matter of putting whisky into an old beer barrel".

'Distinctive taste'

He added: "The beer itself has been brewed in a very innovative way and that has actually produced the desired flavours."

Grant's blended whisky is placed in old beer barrels at its warehouse in Girvan, Ayrshire, for several months before being bottled.

The spirit is said to take on a subtle hops smell and flavour, in much the same way as malts do from sherry casks.

Whisky casks
The whisky is bottled after months in ale casks
Grant's chief chemist Mike Webber said: "While there has been finishes in the malt industry with malt whiskies, it's never been done with the blended whiskies."

He described the flavour of the new Ale Cask Reserve as "distinctive" and said it "actually works".

Both firms believe the product's unique characteristics will make it a success but whisky analysts are less convinced.

Writer and editor, Charles MacLean, who reviews different brand for whisky magazines, believes finishing a blend in ale casks may appeal to young people.

But he says that older people and whisky connoisseurs are likely to shy away from any radical departure from tradition.

It is the first time that whisky has been successfully matured in a beer barrel.

Russell Sharp, Caledonian Brewery
"I would not be alone, among many so-called experts, in believing that in many cases, the original without the finishing is better.

"The quality of whisky all depends on the quality of wood in which it is matured."

Mr MacLean said that putting the new blend in casks for a short time only might "introduce aromas which don't necessarily cohere".

William Grant is hoping to convince drinkers that Ale Cask Reserve is a winning product and will begin a major marketing campaign when the blend has its world-wide launch in London on 25 September.

Morag Kinniburgh reports
"The spirit takes on a subtle hops colour and flavour."
Morag Kinniburgh reports
"Barrels which used to hold beer are now being filled with whisky."
See also:

12 Apr 01 | Scotland
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02 Apr 01 | Scotland
Drambuie plant to shut in merger
07 Mar 01 | Scotland
Whisky leads mix of Budget reaction
09 Jan 01 | Scotland
Hopes for whisky import change
22 Nov 00 | Scotland
Industry plea for whisky cuts
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