Last week, I headed to London to spend the afternoon with the team from The Last Drop Distillers. Formed in 2007, the company has a superb heritage, with an outstanding range of whiskies and an exciting future ahead of it.
The Last Drop is the brainchild of James Espey and Tom Jago – two industry stalwarts who have been instrumental in creating and development some of the world’s greatest Scotch whisky brands. James’ creations include J&B Rare, Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal, and is also founder of Keepers of the Quiach. Tom’s CV is no less illustrious, as the driving force behind The Classic Malts, Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Bailey Irish Cream (he basically made Baileys a thing!). Rather than retiring, the two decided put their knowledge, expertise and contacts to good use, and formed this unique whisky bottler.
The aim of the company is simple…ish – find and bottle the world’s finest, rarest and most exclusive spirits. This is a pretty tall task, as a lot of whiskies don’t age well, as spending too long in wood can often ruin the spirit. They can also drop below the magical 40% ABV threshold at which a spirit can be called whisky. Additionally, many distillers are keen to keep onto their aged stock, due to the rise in the super premium sector of the market. According to Rebecca Jago – Tom’s daughter and creative director of the company – dozens of casks are rejected in the pursuit of perfection.
But, if the stars align, then some truly wonderful whiskies can result. 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 their largest run to date comprising 1,347 bottles of their first ever release – The 1960 Blended Scotch Whisky. The age of the whiskies involved probably means that larger runs would be tough to supply, with no bottling other than the first breaking through the 1,000 barrier.
In September, it was announced that the company had been bought by American drinks firm Sazerac – home to brands including Buffalo Trace and Southern Comfort – though there’s an assurance that The Last Drop will continue to operate in the same way. Today, it is run day-to-day by Rebecca, and James’ daughter Beanie Espey. The two have exciting plans for the future, which include bottlings of port, sherry and rum.
My visit to London saw launch of the new 1961 Dumbarton Single Grain Scotch Whisky, of which only 32 bottles have been created. I also had the unbelievable opportunity to taste the rest of the company’s extremely limited bottlings. And you can find out later this week what I thought of them.
You can find out more about the company at www.lastdropdistillers.com