Discovering the 2021 Release with Ian Renwick

Discovering the 2021 Release with Ian Renwick

We sat down with our Distillery Manager, Ian Renwick, who's worked at the distillery for over 25 years, to talk about the 2021 release and how it came to be.

How has the last year been since the relaunch of the brand in 2020?

The success of the last year has been amazing. The biggest success is that there’s been very positive press. I can’t remember any articles really that’s been negative which is brilliant because I think when we launched, we tried to do it from a point of view where we tried to be a bit humble and say “this is what we’ve done” and we didn’t know how it would be received. Bob was exactly the same because he wasn’t sure how it would be perceived but it’s gone great and the success of peated in particular has been a big one for me, that’s for sure. And I always knew it would!

What have you learnt from the 2020 Maiden Release launch?

What we can launch is dictated by what’s available, stock drives everything. I think that’s worked quite well with the range we’ve put out. A big learn is that there’s more opportunities for peated going forward.

Can you tell us, from your perspective, a bit about the decision to launch a new release every year?

I think it’s a cracking decision because it lets us maximise what we’ve got available to us in that year because in every year you’ve got another year’s development of stock that’s older, it’s developed a lot; its different. And we’ve got such small production here, that’s important because we maximise the stock year on year. We’ve not got masses of stock in the warehouse.

It allows us to make the best of the stock we have rather than trying to navigate it back to the same taste year on year. We’ve not got hundreds of the same type of casks all the time, all the casks are very, very individual. When Bob’s putting stuff together he’ll put it up different so it will be different from one year to the next. For him to try and tailor it to exactly the same, well why do that when we don’t have to do that? That’s a spreadsheet way of doing things, and we don’t need to do that.

There is quite a few changes to the range this year, but ball park it’s similar, they’re similar strengths but nothings exactly the same as last year, that’s for sure.

Can you give us an overview of the 2021 release?

One of my biggest surprises is the Triple Wood. I think the Triple Wood was fantastic last year and it was done really well but I like this year even more. One change, which looks like a tiny change, but is actually a massive change, is the strength. The strength is now 44%ABV instead of 43%ABV which sounds like nothing, but I actually tasted both samples, one at 43% and one at 44%, and they were completely different. It worked so much better at 44%. It's little changes like that. It worked well at 43% last year but it was slightly different stock so next year it might be 42% or 45%, we don’t know, but having that flexibility to do that without being told “We need it at 43%”, not having your hands tied that way is really important to us. That’s probably one of the biggest changes.

The 15 Years Old as well, it was a cracking product last year but it’s changed quite a lot this year as well and that’s just because of what was available to use this year too. I think you’ll notice a big difference in the 15 Years Old.

The 10 Years Old Peat Smoked, we’ve changes the percentages a bit on the mix, just because we’ve got a lot of peated casks but some aren’t as peated as others so they’re very variable through the range. So depending on what we’re using, we can use less peated casks or more peated casks depending on what we’re looking to achieve. For me, it was fantastic last year but its even better this year.

There’s not a lot of stock so we want to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be before it’s released. All of it is scarce.

What’s special about the 2021 release?

I don’t know if I’d say special because I think the 2020 release was fantastic, and I don’t want to say this year’s better than last year because it’s not necessarily, but it’s different. There are slight tweaks and it’s to do with what stock was available and what we’ve done this year compared to last year. We always said we’d do a new release every year and it really is to try and maximise what we’ve got and not to try and replicate what we’ve done the previous year, which on the success of last year maybe that’s what we should be doing!

It’s maybe a bit of a gamble doing this, but we want to be true, and we want to release the best we can possibly do this year.

What are you most excited about the launch of the 2021 Release?

I was most excited to see it on shelves! I’ve been involved so much with the practicalities of it, and you see what’s involved in getting this done and it’s major, it's really major. A year and a half ago we didn’t have a bottle or labels or a carton, so we put it all in place last year and there’s been a lot of developments on that. So not even as much on the whisky side of it but we’ve been developing the label and the carton which I’m excited to see. Last year was great, but this year we’ve got better. When I saw the line samples I just thought “Yes, that’s really good” – it’s not an easy task for the bottlers, it’s not an easy battle, but we’re so pleased with it!

I’m so excited to see it finished on the shelf with those little bits of progression, that probably most people won't notice, but because we’re always striving to do better, it will be all the little things that we’re progressing on that I’m looking forward to seeing on the shelves.

Seeing the response from people, and what it’s going to be like will be great. People will undoubtedly compare it to last year. But it’s great to talk about, it’s so easy for us to talk about and explain why these slight differences are there.

Can you tell us a bit about the importance of production in the releasing of a new range every year?

We’ve got to get the New Make Spirit right. When I’m nosing anything that’s coming through Bob (whisky samples) I’m always relating back to what I can smell on the distillery, almost like a connection somewhere, and there are!

My favourite one is toffee apple! I’ll say “there’s that toffee apple in there Bob, that’s the tun room, I can smell it!”

I like that because we’ve got such a strong new make spirit. And I say strong, it’s very delicate and fragile, but it’s very prominent. It’s got prominent features in it. And that does come through right through the range, right through to 30 Years Old, you can still smell it.

The Triple Wood, it’s a non-age statement whisky but it smells really quite old, and really mature, and the way we get that is on the strength of our new make spirit.

How does this range build on what we released last year and how/will it help expand the Glenturret’s horizons?

I would hate to try and say we’re building on last year, I think it’s a different range. I think last year was great, and we did really well and it’s going to be hard to top. What we have done this year is make it a lot more accessible, we’re putting it into new markets this year and the production is bigger as well, and it’s the success of last year that’s allowed us to do that.

It’s not just whisky, it’s packaging and other things outside of the liquid that we’re building on.

How does genuine scarcity play a part in the 2021 release?

Exactly the same as last year, we are just genuinely scarce! And it’s a massive challenge all the time to maximise what we’ve got, and I’m getting to the point where I know every cask in the warehouse! It is going to be scarce; the older stuff is very scarce!

There’s not a lot of it so we want to make sure it’s the best it can possibly be before it’s released. All of it is scarce. Even the peated is quite scarce because we’ve got to look at the stock going forward and what we plan to do with that. But we have to be really careful because anything we do today alters the stock system in ten years time.

We will only go up in production a little bit because this works for us. This whole model works really, really well for us. If you really up it too much, the handcrafted bit would disappear, and we just don’t want to do that.

From your perspective, how does this release resonate with the Glenturret touchstones of provenance, prowess, and passion?

I think it fits in exactly the same as last year, it’s in our DNA. We don’t know how to do anything else, it’s the way we work, absolutely 100%.

We’re really hands-on, we’re finding ways to do things which is exactly what this is about, we’re maximising vats and things like that and developing stuff for next year which we did a little bit last year for this year. It’s working smart.

We’ve not put in any new technology at all, it’s just we’ve got a lot more in tune with what we’re doing. The team are really good at working things out. We took spirit today and we reduced the strength down, and it’s all about doing that and doing it accurately. So we all do it individually; I did it then Kenny did it then Brian did it, then we compare notes and agree on what we’ve done to make sure we’ve not had any mistakes. In big distilleries you don’t get that, it’s done on computers. But we know exactly what we’re doing because we know it; you’re seeing it, you’re touching it, you’re there, you’re feeling it. It’s just brilliant, we wouldn’t want to do it any other way. That’s why we don’t want to go up massively in production.

It’s like I said about changing a product by 1%, it’s working out the best it can possibly be, even changing it by that one percent, it’s these touchpoints. You’re looking at it and you’re maximising everyone’s skills and experience to do that. And again, Bob puts whiskies together and then he puts them round to the team to get their opinion on that 1% abv change. It's little things like that, getting things that are done in the sample room passed around the site, so everyone’s got the opportunity to look at stuff like that.

We’ve brought in Mathew and Robert (younger members of the production team) to the team to make sure we’re set up for the future. They’re both fantastic. Robert has just passed his GCD (General Certificate in Distilling) which is great and Mathew’s looking at doing his as well. They’re so keen. The other guys are there anyway but we’re letting Mathew and Robert step forward and lead tasks.

We’re also in the process of looking for a couple of apprentices, one in logistics and one in the distillery, so we’re looking to the future in that sense as well.

Do you have a favourite from the range?

I’m going to say 15 Years Old, I think it’s a brilliant dram. I’m a peated fan and the 10 Years Old Peat Smoked is always going to be pride of place but the 15 Years Old really stood out for me this year.

Discover Our 2021 Release


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