Wednesday 10 February 2021




The Secret Speyside Collection was launched by Chivas Brothers on 27/06/2019, featuring fifteen rare Single Malts from four highly sought-after distilleries. 

This is Chivas Brothers biggest Single Malt collection release till date, with the launch of fifteen aged Single Malt Scotch whiskies from four seldom-seen, yet definitely sought-after Speyside, Scotland distilleries.

The Collection is a meticulously curated selection of 18-30 year old whiskies from four of Speyside’s most elusive distilleries. Each has its own rich and unique history for Single Malt fans to discover: the vanished distillery of Caperdonich, the pioneering Longmorn distillery, the landmark Glen Keith distillery, and the remote Braes of Glenlivet distillery.

The fifteen-bottle collection consists of three rare Single Malts each from Glen Keith, Longmorn and Braes of Glenlivet, along with with three peated and three unpeated expressions from Caperdonich, which distilled its final Single Malt in 2002, before closing its doors and being dismantled in 2011.

The Secret Speyside Collection is the first of its kind from Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers and will offer Single Malt connoisseurs the chance to uncover, sample and collect some of the hidden malts at the heart of the iconic Speyside region that have rarely been made available in the past.

"With centuries of rich whisky heritage, Speyside is the treasure chest of Scotch. In curating the Collection, the Chivas Brothers team have hand- selected its contents to shine a light on some seldom-seen distilleries, their rare malts, and unique histories.This new world-class selection demonstrates the breadth of flavour and character that Speyside distilleries can achieve.              Alan Winchester, Production Manager, Pernod Ricard

The Secret Speyside Collection came out in July as a Global Travel Retail exclusive for one year, to later roll out into selected markets globally from summer 2020. Priced between US$100 and US$990 per bottle, all 15 whiskies carry age statements of 18-30 years. All are at 48% ABV, except where cask strength, and Glen Keith which will proffer whiskies at 43% ABV.

The Distilleries of the Secret Speyside Collection

1. Caperdonich – A Vanished Distillery

Once gone, there will never be another. This collection contains the only available Single Malts from this distillery, which was taken down in 2011. The whiskies released from this ‘vanished distillery’ of Speyside offer a rare opportunity to discover and compare peated and unpeated expressions of the same age (21 and 25 YO) from the same distillery.


There will be six whiskies from Caperdonich, three peated and the other half unpeated. The peated selection includes an 18 YO;and a cask strength 25 YO whisky. The unpeated whiskies are a 21 YO, 25 YO and a cask strength 30 YO. The peated 25 YO  and non-peated 30 YO were released in October 2019.

2. Longmorn - The Pioneering Distillery

Blending unique insights in technology and craft, Longmorn was designed by founder John Duff in 1894 to create a whisky of outstanding quality. Duff even built a railway station next to the distillery to facilitate supplies getting to the distillery and speed up the finished product getting into the hands of whisky lovers. One of Scotland’s best kept secrets, Longmorn has long been considered world class by distillers, blenders and connoisseurs, often referred to as ‘every distiller’s favourite apart from their own.’


The three whiskies from Longmorn in this collection are an 18 YO, 23 YO and a cask strength 25 YO, with each bringing a more intense take on its rich flavour profile that is highly regarded by distillers and industry experts worldwide.

3. Glen Keith - The Landmark Distillery

Glen Keith was the first Speyside distillery built in the 20th century. The distillery rose from the ruins of an old mill on the banks of the River Isla, famed for its pure water and leaping wild salmon. This collection marks the first official age-statement release this century from the landmark distillery.


The three whiskies from Glen Keith in this collection are a 21 YO, 25 YO and a 28 YO (all 43% ABV). Each is exceptionally smooth as Glen Keith’s pot stills are taller than most, giving an extra ‘copper kiss’ to the single malt and resulting in a complex, intensely smooth example of the classic Speyside style. 

4. Braes of Glenlivet - The Remote Distillery

This is the first official bottling from one of the highest distilleries in Speyside. In years past, when the snow fell, it settled on the hills of Braes of Glenlivet first. The remote distillery was watched over by a lone keeper at night and was truly at the mercy of the uncompromising Scottish elements.


The three whiskies from Braes of Glenlivet in this collection are a 25 YO, 27 YO  and a cask strength 30 YO. Made using the purest water from the Preenie Well, 2 miles deep in the Braes hills, the resulting whisky is smooth, balanced and intensely flavourful.

The 15 Secret Speyside Collection single malts are as follows:

Caperdonich 18 Year Old Peated: 48% ABV, matured in American oak barrels, RRP US$130.

Caperdonich 21 Year Old Peated: 48% ABV, matured in American oak barrels, RRP US$290.

Caperdonich 25 Year Old Peated: cask strength/TBC on release, oak hogsheads, RRP US$550.

Caperdonich 21 Year Old Unpeated: 48% ABV, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$250.

Caperdonich 25 Year Old Unpeated: 48% ABV, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$480.

Caperdonich 30 Year Old Unpeated: cask strength/TBC on release, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$990.

Longmorn 18 Year Old: 48% ABV, American oak barrels/hogsheads, RRP US$100.

Longmorn 23 Year Old: 48% ABV, American oak barrels/hogsheads, RRP US$290.

Longmorn 25 Year Old: 52.2% ABV (cask strength), American oak barrels/hogsheads/butts, RRP US$450.

Glen Keith 21 Year Old: 43% ABV, ‘specially selected’ oak barrels and butts, RRP US$180.

Glen Keith 25 Year Old: 43% ABV, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$380.

Glen Keith 28 Year Old: 43% ABV, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$500.

Braes of Glenlivet 25 Year Old: 48% ABV, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$400.

Braes of Glenlivet 27 Year Old: 48% ABV, 1st-fill American oak barrels, RRP US$450.

Braes of Glenlivet 30 Year Old: 50.3% ABV (cask strength), American oak barrels/hogsheads, RRP US$600

Tuesday 9 February 2021



I first tasted Something Special in 1977 in Poona. It was an exquisite experience and I decided to carry out detailed research on this Blended Scotch. I found that it was an illegal and raw blend first bottled in 1793 from what was to become Bon Accord Distillery in 1860. The Something Special website claims that Hill & Thomson Wines and Liquor in Edinburgh started the production and sale of an excellent blended Scotch whisky in 1793 and that it was granted a Royal Warrant by King William IV in 1838. This is a hoax, as William IV died in 1837. The whisky and distillery are not named. Moreover, blending of malt and grain whisky was permitted only in 1860 for distillers; other traders, like grocers, were permitted such blending in 1863.The term Scotch came from 'Scottish' and was first used in the mid-18th century.


It came out as a 12 YO Premium Whisky thereafter, not an 8 YO. Bon Accord distillery, renamed to North of Scotland distillery, was taken over by the Longmorn Distillery Company in 1893, and the whisky was bottled soon thereafter as a Grant's Distilleries' product (1897). The website also claims that it was granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria, who died in 1901. This is most probably another hoax, as no distillery was given the prefix ‘Royal’ in that period. In 1877 Hill, Thompson & Co. offered the role of export salesman to William Shaw. In 1902 he established the Queen Anne blend, which soon became the company’s flagship whisky.

 Grant's Distillery was destroyed by a fire in 1910, but was repaired and running in 1911. A new blended whisky, named SOMETHING SPECIAL, came out with great fanfare in 1912, quietly burying its dubious past. The website states that the business was still owned by Hill & Thomson and advertised as “A Scotch for a Special Occasion.” It quickly became popular in the United Kingdom and around the world, competing with Walker's, Dewar's and Buchanan's whiskies, among many others.

The iconic decanter was first produced in the distinctive diamond shape in 1959 and heralded around the world as a statement of quality and originality. By then, it was locked in a direct competition with JW Black Label, Seagram's Chivas Regal, Phipson's Black Dog and Dewar's, all splendid 12 YO bottlings.

In 1972, the Glenlivet and Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd amalgamated with the blending concerns of Hill, Thomson and Co.Ltd and Longmorn Distilleries Ltd to become The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. Something Special was then bottled by Hill, Thomson and Co.Ltd, Paisley, Scotland as an 8 YO at very good prices ($15 for an 86 proof 43% ABV 750 ml decanter). The website claims SOMETHING SPECIAL™ whisky was launched in new markets across Latin America and Asia in 1985, where discerning connoisseurs were demanding high quality Scotch whisky. This is a part lie, as SOMETHING SPECIAL™ was freely available across India, even in its Military Canteens in the 70s. What very few people realised was that now Something Special was in the same stable as Chivas Regal, though not under Samuel Bronfman. Sale in India was stopped in end 2001 to allow Chivas 12 YO free rein while it displaced JW Black Label from top spot in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and China. Its primary market remains Latin America and Italy. A bottle or two is often found in odd locations. What did happen was the release of their 15 YO in 2006, focussed on in Latin America with a few bottles trickling over to Asia as rarities.

The archives paint a very different story. In 1709 Andrew Thomson inherited the business of his father–in–law, Mr Brown, who was a brewer and vintner in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. About 20 years later the business was moved to "The Vaults" in neighbouring Leith, which were bought by the company on 29 July 1782. The firm of J G Thomson & Co was founded by James Gibson Thomas in 1785 at the Vaults to supply goods like whisky, brandy and wines. James Gibson Thomson junior, the son of the company’s founder, was associated with the company from 1820 to 1876.

In its early years the major part of the business was in the import and distribution of wines from the continent. Later it traded in wines and spirits of all descriptions, imported or home produced. The company’s wholesale business was carried out under the name of J G Thomson & Co and the private trade was carried out under the name of Thomson Lauder & Co.

In 1884 the firm acquired Glen Garioch Distillery in Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire and owned it until 1908. In 1890 it took over the Leith firm, Scott & Allan, and its two clippers, which brought cargoes of wines and brandies into Leith. Scott & Allan were also cork cutters. In 1905, J G Thomson & Co became a limited liability company.

The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1921 and the buildings and stocks were taken over by J M Hogge on behalf of the new company, which was a private company without a stock exchange quotation. By the 1930s, J G Thomson & Co was supplying wines to most of the top hotels in Scotland and had become one of the country’s leading independent whisky blenders, with a prosperous overseas trade. By 1959 it owned three bonded warehouses and large duty paid warehouses. The company acted as agent, stockist and distributor in Scotland for many famous and internationally known brands of wines and spirits. It also functioned as a very large exporter of whisky to all parts of the world, especially to the USA, and was involved in the blending of whisky. The company maintained a large transport fleet with depots in Leith and Glasgow, and its own cooperage.

After the Second World War many private hotels amalgamated into larger chains or were acquired by breweries. This effectively removed J G Thomson’s principal outlets. In 1960 it was bought by Charrington United Breweries Ltd of London. Three years later Charrington acquired the Glasgow firm J & R Tennent Ltd and in 1966 J G Thomson became a subsidiary of Tennent Caledonian Breweries Ltd.




SOMETHING SPECIAL is still a premium Blended Scotch whisky, the no. 1 Scotch whisky in the Dominican Republic, the no 2. in Colombia and overall no. 3 premium Scotch whisky brand in South America. It’s considered an outgoing and sociable whisky that celebrates life, an optimistic attitude and everyday success. As may be seen in the photos at the top, it is now a NAS expression and the decanter, while retaining its diamond cut, has been slimmed down a mite. The decanter for the SOMETHING SPECIAL LEGACY is unique and seems a stand-out collector's item.

Surprisingly, SOMETHING SPECIAL made its debut in Latin America in 2004 as a 12 YO Blended Scotch whisky. The award-winning blend contains fine Speyside malt whiskies and is sculptured around the outstanding Longmorn single malts, embellished by classy single malts from the Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Aberlour, Laphroaig and Allt A Bhainne distilleries, among others. They are melded together in single grain whisky from Strathclyde to give it its unmistakably sweetness with a hint of smoke. The trace of peaty character is imbued from a single malt produced at the Allt À Bhainne distillery in Keith, Speyside. The Islay contribution is made by an unpeated whisky from, surprisingly, Laphroaig, a distillery well-known for its unique pungent, medicinal and smoky spirit. This expression is said to have aged in Bourbon and Sherry casks but the Sherry influence in this blend seems minimal. 

It is deep gold in colour with E150A caramel additive, chill filtered and blended in Scotland. It is bottled in both Scotland and India. The Scottish version is at 40% ABV in a 70cl bottle and at 43% ABV in a 75cl bottle in India.

Nose: When you pour this blend in your glass you immediately get peat and light smoke that remind you of a light Islay whisky. However, on inhalation, the peat and smoke prove evanescent and are driven back quickly to the back of the glass and grain, wood, sundry dried fruit and malt come into play. After a while in the glass, earth and wood tones begin to dominate. There isn’t much sharp alcohol, which is good but this blend would benefit from some more fruity tones.

Taste: Sweet (Sugar, Honey) and Spicy Oak. The sweetness becomes syrupy if swigged after a chillied momo.

Finish: Not overly long and quickly getting dry. Some Cocoa powder, nuts and wood.

If you add four or five drops of water, the peat on the nose withdraws to the background. Floral and mineral tones appear. The palate however just gets watered down. So you can nose this blend with and without a few drops of water but it is best sipped neat.

Eagerly awaiting the release of the SOMETHING SPECIAL LEGACY.