Brian Stormont spoke to Chris Molyneaux, the man behind the world’s first carbon offset single malt whisky, Creag Dhu, following its launch success.
The first release of Creag Dhu Speyside single malt whisky has caused a stir in the drinks world.
Produced by the team behind multi-award-winning Daffy’s Gin at Strathmashie Distillery, at £34 for a 70cl bottle, Creag Dhu is being hailed by whisky experts across the board as one of the best value single malts on the market.
It is also a world first on the environmental front, being the leading drinks brand to issue an official Carbon Offset Certificate with every bottle linked to the peatland saving projects in which the team are involved.
Harrods listing for Creag Dhu
The first release has been selected by Harrods and Harvey Nichols as a key brand for 2021, and this month it will be available at Co-op stores and top independent retailers across the country as well as on their website and Amazon.
“We tested it among friends and the feedback was amazing, but that is obviously peers. However, we became more confident and went to market this year,” said Chris who was a distiller with Diageo before he set up Daffy’s and Creag Dhu.
“Harrods have chosen us as their strategic spirits brand for the year, we won the whisky masters and got great reviews from whisky consultants and critics, Blair Bowman and Dave Broom, so that has given us the confidence to take a breath and crack on.”
Blair Bowman, a whisky consultant and broker, said: “Creag Dhu is a delicious and fruity whisky. It is very approachable but still has plenty of depth of flavour from the influence of the sherry casks.
“It provides lovely layers of warming spice and sweet fruits. Like dried apricots dipped in honey with star anise and vanilla pod.
“Exceedingly good bang for buck ratio in terms of price to quality. Very moreish and exceedingly quaffable.’’
Dave Broom, whisky critic, added: “Great confidence and style. A whisky of this quality for £34? Form a disorderly queue!’’
Environmentally, Creag Dhu is working hard on a project to restore some of the area’s peatlands, one of nature’s most important carbon stores and a critical component in the fight against climate change.
Throughout the past century, UK and Irish peatlands have undergone rapid deterioration and degradation due to farming practices and peat extraction, releasing thousands of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and destroying ecosystems of diverse and essential wildlife.
The firm’s restoration projects have reduced carbon dioxide emissions equivalents by 10kg for every bottle released over the next 30 years – the equivalent of 1,295 smartphone charges, 2,610 light bulb hours or 1,140 km travelled on the EuroStar train.
“We are surrounded by peatlands here at the distillery and for years we have been improving them because they were drained,” revealed Chris.
“We got in touch with the people at the Peatland Code who are the official body that regulates peat and restoration. We showed them the work that we were doing and they were quite impressed.
“They said from the work we are doing that we could officially accredit it and say that we had saved so much in the way of tons of carbon and that we could apportion that to bottles we release.
Watch: Creag Dhu peatlands project
“Originally there was a big wildlife focus for us because we saw if we blocked up the drains and restored the peatlands then the wildlife came back and obviously carbon restoration was a massive part of it, too. For us it was a win-win.
“Whisky has had a long association with peat, although our whisky is not peated, it was a no brainer to put the two together.”
‘Demand through the roof’
And the initial release of Creag Dhu has exceeded expectations with whisky lovers keen to try out their first release.
“Demand has been through the roof,” Chris continued. “We have placed with Co-op in Scotland and Harrods and Harvey Nicholls down south and now we are taking a breath. Then we have some overseas customers we will place with.
“We only have enough stock for 20,000 bottles year one, then hopefully 40,000 bottles year two and then we will build after that. We will also release it as a 15-year-old and a 21-year-old. It’s a super strong time for Scotch whisky and our whisky ticks all the boxes.”
Charring and toasting
The whisky has a deeply flavoursome profile which Chris credits not just the liquid itself, but the treatment of the casks that the team use charring and toasting techniques on.
The 44-year-old added: “When I was a distiller with Diageo, we had a programme that focused on the charring and toasting of casks. With toasting, you get all the spice and the fruity notes coming through and all the flavour, and with charring, you get the smoothness coming through.
“That has been our mission with Creag Dhu over the last year has been to focus on the balance between the charring and the toasting to get the optimal balance of fruit and spice versus flavour.”