Establishment whisky

page 339

The contested date of Spring Bay Distillery's establishment

On Chris Middleton’s advice, I determined that the "Establishment Date" for each distillery should be the day upon which its first spirit flowed. Distilling is a quintessential step and it must be recorded as the first entry in every distiller's "Make Book". It made for a real and incontrovertible dating, but distilleries frequently argue for an earlier establishment date. For example, the day they installed their still, or the day their business name was registered.

The matter came to a head with the Spring Bay Distillery. Despite acknowledging that they understood my "first-pour" date test, and had themselves stated, in writing, that no spirit flowed at Spring Bay until September 2016; nevertheless, Spring Bay Distillery was adamant that in the book their distillery must be listed as established in 2015. I was equally adamant that the 2016 date should stand. Time being of the essence, by allowing their reasoning, “their” whisky would turn two sooner.

As a last-minute solution to this standoff, Bill Lark suggested a new test: the date when each distillery obtained its manufacturing licence. Though that date is verifiable, a long gap might exist between the granting and the distilling deed. Proving this right, ironically, the new test let Spring Bay off the hook again. By some irregular bureaucratic dispensation, Spring Bay was granted its spirit manufacturers licence in 2015—before it even had its still built.


A greater irony concerns the Lark Distillery. When was Lark established? Every one will tell you 1992: it's printed on every label. This is contested in Commercial whisky and referred in a footnote in Fake Whisky, and citing Lark Distillery's Manufacturing Licence would have helped resolve the commercialisation question explored in the "Distilling History" timeline too, however, despite making several requests I was never shown Lark Distillery's manufacturing licence. Though nothing would please me more than to be proved wrong about this, I suspect that Lark's manufacturing licence is dated 1998, not 1992.


Bernard LloydComment