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Walker Peated & Unpeated Portfolio
In 1895, John Walker & Sons of Kilmarnock bought Annandale Distillery from John Sykes Gardner. At that time they owned only one other distillery, Cardhu (Cardow) on Speyside. We speculate that John Walker & Sons acquired Annandale as a source of peated Single Malt Scotch Whisky, to supply their burgeoning Blended Scotch Whisky business. The expanding railway network would have made it relatively easy to transport barrels of peated whisky from Annan directly to Kilmarnock, where they once produced their world-famous Johnnie Walker whiskies.
John Walker & Sons also invested heavily in Annandale Distillery, building the magnificent sandstone bonded warehouses (where the Portfolio sare maturing) as well as our iconic, Charles Doig-designed malt kiln.
Walker’s tenure at Annandale was interrupted by World War 1. The post-war economic recession, prohibition in the USA and the growing temperance movement in the UK, caused a huge downturn in Scotch Whisky consumption, forcing many distilleries to close, including Annandale. But this tale has a very happy ending. In 2007, David Thomson and Teresa Church bought the slumbering Annandale Distillery site, restored the beautiful buildings and reinstated whisky production using a modern plant designed by the late Dr Jim Swan.
Today, Annandale produces award-winning peated and unpeated Single Malts. To celebrate this and to honour the great whisky family’s tenure at Annandale Distillery, we’ve created The Walker Peated & Unpeated Portfolio.
In 2008 David Thomson and Teresa Church, the new owners of Annandale Distillery, commissioned the late Dr Jim Swan (sometimes known as the ‘Einstein of Whisky’) to design a whisky-making plant for their distillery. Extensive sensory research conducted by MMR Research Worldwide had identified a style of slightly sweeter, very fruity and peaty/smoky Single Malt,that seemed to be rather unique. Using his vast experience, his finely tuned nose and his extensive stock of Single Malts, Jim created sample of what he thought this whisky should taste like. We loved it! Of much greater importance so did MMR’s whisky consumers. At the same time, Jim also produced an unpeated version in a similar style, and so our award-winning Man O’ Sword (peated) and Man O’ Words (unpeated) Single Malts were born.
The next challenge was to build a modern plant to produce peated and unpeated Single Malts that would match the sensory profiles of Jim’s samples. It also had to fit inside Annandale Distillery’s historic buildings. Quite a challenge but we did it! There are three ‘secrets’ to producing Annandale’s particular style of early-maturing Single Malt; it’s all down to the way we operate the Mash Tun, the combination of yeasts we use to create our fruity character and our twin copper spirit stills.
In his 2020 Whisky Bible, Jim Murray awarded us the accolade of ‘Best Single Cask, Single Malt – 10 years and under’ for our 2015 Man O’ Sword (peated) Single Malt. In 2021, he awarded the same accolade to our 2015 Man O’ Words (unpeated) Single Malt. Both of these ‘world beaters’ were bottled at under 4 years of age.