Distillery left blushing after whisky blunder seeks to profit from pink tipple

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Indy Lifestyle Online

After waiting 20 years for it to mature, the staff of Bruichladdich were understandably keen to sample the latest batch of their single malt whisky. But there were red faces all round at the distillery on the island of Islay last week when they decanted the first drops - and saw that it was bright pink.

After waiting 20 years for it to mature, the staff of Bruichladdich were understandably keen to sample the latest batch of their single malt whisky. But there were red faces all round at the distillery on the island of Islay last week when they decanted the first drops - and saw that it was bright pink.

Five thousand bottles of the rosy-hued spirit go on sale this week with the nickname "Flirtation" after what distillery bosses are describing as a five-week "liaison dangereuse" with some red wine barrels.

While traditionalists may be spluttering into their tumblers at the idea of a pink whisky, experts are predicting that younger consumers, female drinkers and the pink pound could be tempted by the £65-a-bottle tipple.

Bruichladdich, which prides itself on its natural production methods, decided to finish its second edition of The Twenty in wine barrels to distinguish it from the award-winning first edition, which sold out soon after it was released in 2001. After 1,040 weeks in bourbon casks, the whisky spent just five in Mourvedre wine casks, an experiment designed to add a suggestion of fruit flavour that resulted in unexpected effects.

In search of "a dram that was a little different", Mark Reynier, the managing director of Bruichladdich, a former wine merchant who bought the small distillery with four colleagues in 2000, tracked down the barrels of Mourvedre.

"When we found some of these barrels we thought it would give it the richness of a sherry cask but with a spiciness to it," he said.

"We thought we could put these two together and get a little extra nuance of fruit. But by mistake we have got this pink colour. It is an aberration - a very pleasant aberration."

According to the company's website, "the result of this dalliance is that the unexpected profound spirit shows the gentle nuances of alluring fruit flavours, with just a hint of subtle spice aromas adding to the overall multi-layered experience."

Mr Reynier denied that "Flirtation" was a marketing gimmick, insisting it had been the result of a genuine mistake in the production process that he hoped they could turn to their advantage. "This is a sensational whisky for connoisseurs. It's a very complex, very profound whisky that has a slight nuance of fruit to it. This is a serious whisky, it's not a frivolous thing. It has caused a huge furore in the industry. Half the people are saying 'what the hell are they playing at' while the other half are saying 'why didn't we think of that first?'

While Bruichladdich can claim to be the first to produce a pink whisky, they are not the first to have the idea. A new novel, A Nice Girl Like Me, by the Scottish writer Abigail Bosanko, tells the story of a woman's attempts to produce a pink whisky called Wildcat in the face of opposition from the male-dominated whisky establishment.

Georgette Crawford of the Scottish Malt Whisky Association said the practice of finishing whisky in port barrels was nothing new."I don't think to anybody in the whisky industry it's a big surprise that it turned out that colour. What is new is the name they have put to it.

"It could be seen to be the dumbing-down of the whisky industry although it's not quite in the same vein as alcopops. But good luck to them - anything that gets people drinking whisky is good for the industry."

A TIPPLE IN SHORT

  • The term "whisky" derives from the Gaelic "uisge beatha", or "usquebaugh", meaning "water of life". Production dates back to the 15th century.
  • Scotch malt whisky is traditionally made using just three ingredients: malted barley, yeast and water. After being dried, the barley is mixed with hot water to make "mash". This is fermented and distilled before being matured in wooden barrels.
  • This liquid must be kept for a minimum of three years before it can be defined legally as Scotch whisky. The portion of whisky that evaporates during its time inside the cask is known as the angels' share.
  • Blended whisky is a mixture of malt whisky and grain whisky, which is made from wheat or maize, and accounts for 95 per cent of sales. As many as 50 whiskies may be used in a blend.
  • There are about 90 malt distilleries in Scotland. Ninety per cent of their whisky is sold abroad, a £2bn business which makes whisky the fifth-largest manufactured export in the UK.

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