The thrill is in the chase and The Last Drop Distillers is not one to pass up on a good story – or a fine whisky
It is true to some degree that offerings from The Last Drop Distillers are akin to high-value collectibles for the affluent. Yet, the usual suspects, such as the Macallan and Dalmore, are conspicuously absent. So what makes The Last Drop different from other independent bottlers that cater to the luxury segment of the market?
For Rebecca Jago, joint managing director of The Last Drop Distillers, it is more than the allure of a prestigious name.
“The hunt is not just about finding things that are hidden, but finding things where the quality is unknown and identifying them as being sort of the unicorn of the spirit world, where they’re not only old and rare, but they’re also delicious and bright and fresh,” she explains.
If there’s anybody who knows about high-end blends, it’s co-founders Tom Jago (Rebecca’s father; Tom’s Blend was created as a tribute to him) and James Espey, the masterminds behind the iconic Johnnie Walker Blue Label. While most independents rarely stock blends, The Last Drop embraces them – this is, in fact, its seventh. In its own words, while a good single malt is like a virtuoso performance, a great blend is “like an orchestra playing a symphony with a master conductor at the helm.”
The 56 Year Old blend is the oldest Scotch blended whisky that The Last Drop has bottled. The youngest component was distilled in 1963.
“Age is not always the friend of spirits,” says Rebecca, “and often with very old whiskies, the wood can overwhelm the whisky. Here, we have a magnificent balance of age and freshness, where the whisky perfectly embodies the magic of an old blend.”
As much as it is about being in the right place at the right time to find a cask, it is also about happy accidents. The story goes that after a batch of an unknown Scotch was blended, the remainder was put aside and presumably forgotten or ignored. What is known is that it is a deluxe blend as it comprises more than 60 per cent malt whisky (the rest is grain whisky). For context, 20 to 40 per cent malt whisky is closer to the norm.
This is not to say that single grain is always Scotch whisky’s less gifted cousin, but you have to know what to look for.
The Last Drop has had a soft spot for Dumbarton since it first bottled the whisky for its seventh edition – a 1961 vintage – and it has been on the lookout ever since.
Even before going on sale, the 1977 Dumbarton had already picked up an accolade from notable whisky critic, Jim Murray – the man best known for his annual Whisky Bible and awards.
Proclaiming it the Single Grain Whisky of the Year 2020, Murray is quoted as saying: “They’ve only gone and found a near-faultless barrel from what was once, before it was needlessly destroyed, a near-faultless grain distillery.”
But 1977 was also memorable for the company as it was the year that James and Tom met and became lifelong colleagues and friends; a partnership that lives on through Rebecca and Beanie Espey, James’s daughter, who is also joint managing director. For Rebecca, it is a timely reminder of what they are all about.
“We’re in the business of making memories,” she says. “I want people to drink a drop of The Last Drop and remember where they were when they tasted it and what prompted them to buy the bottle. It’s about time and place.”