Whisky is currently the drink de jour, with consumers the world over scrambling for a piece of Scotland’s national tipple. However, the industry went through some tough times in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, when many distilleries were forced to close their doors. But what of the liquid gold from those distilleries which is still silently maturing? Well, that’s where The Last Drop Distillers come in.
The aim of the independent bottler is simple – find and bottle the world’s finest, rarest and most exclusive spirits. The Last Drop is the brainchild of James Espey and Tom Jago – two industry stalwarts who, rather than retiring, decided to put their knowledge and contacts to good use.
Despite the pair’s expertise, this is still a pretty tall task. A lot of whiskies don’t age well past the 20-year mark and they can also drop below the magical 40% ABV threshold at which a spirit can be called whisky. Dozens of casks are rejected in the pursuit of perfection but, if the stars align, then some truly wonderful whiskies can emerge.
For The Last Drop, this has happened seven times to date, with six whiskies and one Cognac produced. The focus is on small, limited runs, with the age of whiskies often making larger runs impossible.
The latest addition to the collection is the new 1961 Dumbarton Single Grain Scotch Whisky. Dumbarton Distillery was, at one point, one of the largest distilleries in Scotland, but it was closed in 2002 after 64 years of whisky making.
Thankfully, the team from The Last Drop managed to unearth a cask in the warehouses of Auchentoshan Distillery, just along the road. I managed to snaffle a dram of this at its launch and it simply slips across the palate beautifully, offering plenty of sweet notes, including vanilla, coconut and honey. The finish, as you might expect from a dram this age is old, yet light and distinguishably reassuring.
Only 32 bottles were squeezed out of the cask and unfortunately – despite the four figure price tag – all of them were snapped up by the company’s loyal customer base prior to launch.
The detective work done by The Last Drop over the past decade is nothing short of astounding. Due to their advancing years, the running of the company has passed to James’ daughter Beanie and Tom’s daughter Rebecca, although their fathers’ influence can still be felt. And with ports, sherries and rums all in the pipeline, it’s safe to say that – just like the whisky industry – they’ve got a bright future ahead of them.