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A Journey to Haig Club with Baldwin Ho
January 10, 2017
If you haven’t seen the new Haig Club advertisement with David Beckham, you are definitely a rare breed given the amount of airtime Diageo has spent on promoting their message of ‘breaking the rules’ with their new Clubman whisky – a new single grain Scotch whisky variant. Drink it neat? Only allowed a splash of water? Never with a mixer? None of this applies to Clubman, which is designed for the modern age with the upwardly mobile crowd in mind. We went along to Scotland recently to discover the magic behind the Haig brand.
First port of call was the Cooperage, where we had a hands-on experience in the age-old art of cask craftsmanship. The whisky has been matured exclusively in American Oak casks that previously stored Bourbon, which helps to infuse notes of butterscotch, vanilla and sweet toffee to the tasting notes. Even though they have a state of the art assembly line, we were shown how to assemble a cask manually along with the apprentices who were training to be coopers.
Next was a drive through Blackgrange, which is a vast expanse of casks and slowly maturing whiskies. To put things into perspective, Blackgrange sits on ten miles of roadway and with so many flammable products around, they have their own fire brigade. Haig Club has around ten million casks of gradually maturing Scotch whisky in warehouses around Scotland and around a third is stored at Blackgrange.
One of the highlights of the visit was undoubtedly a trip to The Diageo Archives. Not only were there fascinating antique Haig bottles from centuries ago, but also from other Diageo brands like Bell’s, Lagavulin and many others. Whilst Clubman is an accessible drink for the modern generation, Haig the brand is steeped in tradition, which started around 1627.
To truly understand, Haig Club, we visited Cameronbridge, which is the birthplace of the brand. As well as being one of the first distilleries to produce grain whisky, it is also the largest in Scotland. It has a capacity of thirty million litres per year. The industrial scale production has the most up to date technologies to ensure at every point during the process, every minute detail is checked numerous times and the most environmentally friendly practices are used.
The visit also involved a liquid immersive experience with Master Distiller and Blender, Chris Clark. He used his thirty years of experience to create the Clubman liquid which he combined with the American oak ageing process in the cask to create a supremely smooth and sweet Scotch whisky. Chris, along with Diageo Global Whisky Master Ewan Gunn, were extremely humble and affable and readily answered any questions we threw at them.
The jewel in the crown was a visit to Bemersyde House hosted by Lady Haig herself. It’s a historic estate dating back to 1535 and it was a fantastic experience to walk around the grounds to appreciate the significance of the history of the Haig family and their influence on the whisky industry in Scotland. Apart from dining with Lady Haig and staying in one of their grand bedrooms, other activities included a country walk and cake baking.
It is captivating to see how one of the oldest whisky brands in Scotland has developed with the times to ensure grain whisky is going to be even more popular in the future. Clubman is a spirit for any sex, any age and any preferred method of drinking. It is about breaking the rules and following your own path.
Words by Baldwin Ho