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The Avengers of spirits: how The Last Drop Distillers brought together experts from across the industry

Story | July 3, 2023

“Kickstarted by the label’s bone-deep commitment to the notion of sharing expertise, The Assembly is celebrated for its centuries’-worth of know-how”

Launched 15 years ago, The Last Drop Distillers has found widespread renown as a purveyor of some of the market’s finest, rarest and most remarkable spirits – from Scotch Whisky and cognac to Port, bourbon to Japanese whisky, and beyond – and the 31-limited bottlings it’s introduced to the world have all been noted for their superlative aromas, singular tastes and, ultimately, expressions of high quality.

Yet, of equal note are the individuals that either bring about the spirits or help push the envelope within this specific space, and, in 2020, in a rare industry move, The Last Drop Distillers formed The Assembly, a panel of experts drawn from across the spirits sphere, each one a celebrated and revered leader in their own category.

Brought together because of the company’s bone-deep dedication to the notion of sharing – not just in terms of enjoying the taste of exceptional libations, but also of sharing expertise, ideas, experience, knowledge and creativity, all of which underpin the route to a superlative end product – the founding members of this remarkable think-tank-style group are: Colin Scott, Master Blender for The Last Drop Distillers; Drew Mayville, Master Blender for Buffalo Trace Distillery; Richard Seale, Master Distiller and Blender for Foursquare Rum; Louise McGuane, Owner and Bonder at JJ Corry Irish Whiskey; Michael D’Souza, Master Distiller and Blender for Paul John Whisky; and Denis Lahouratate, Cellar Master at Domaine Sazerac de Segonzac Cognac.

Earlier this year, in May, all six experts were brought together in person – a ‘historic meeting of minds’, says The Last Drop Distillers – for the first time, an unprecedented gathering that brought aggregated centuries’-worth of spirits know-how to the occasion.

Hosted at The Connaught Hotel, in London, the inaugural get-together revolved around the very ethos behind the creation of The Assembly: to cross-pollinate knowledge and experience from various disciplines in the hope that new perspectives and discourse within the industry could occur.

For the event, guests, including representatives from Sotheby’s, Caprice Group, Berry Brothers & Rudd and Hedonism, were hosted for lunch and a tasting of six spirits from The Last Drop Distillers’ current and archive releases (a rare opportunity to do so), with each dram being introduced by a member of The Assembly: Scott and Mayville, for example, showcased their Signature Blends, meanwhile Lahouratate introduced a 1950 Petite Champagne Cognac, which was noted for its subtle and fresh notes.

After the tasting, The Assembly engaged in a spirited discussion led by Victoria Moore, a leading author and writer on the subject of drinks, with the talk anchored by the theme of ‘scents and sensibility,’ which comprised topics such as what it is to discover, blend, taste and enjoy a truly remarkable spirit.

Lahouratate kickstarted the response, telling the audience of the immediacy with which he can identify a significant liquid. “We are always looking for the exceptional; a spirit that can live alone, not just in a blend. Tasting a liquid like that, the feeling is immediate,” he says. Scott concurred, referring to the casks that help facilitate premium spirits as “nuggets of gold.”

The subjective nature of scent was also a lively topic of debate – McGuane spoke with great care about how she bonds JJ Corry whiskies from her ‘library of flavours’, which comprises flavour blocks such as gorse, a coconuty smell widely associated with Ireland – as was the the subject of ‘time and place’: D’Souza, in this instance, elaborated on the myriad environments in which whisky is made in India, especially on the west coast. “Here, whisky matures rapidly, because of the extremely high, year-round temperatures,” he said. “We have three seasons, hot, hotter and hottest,” he continued, before stating that it’s the releases, not the production methods, that better detail the nuances of the consumption of historic spirits.

Following the event, Rebecca Jago, Managing Director of The Last Drop Distillers, stated: “Our wonderful Assembly members travelled from far and wide to participate in this rare occasion, the coming together in person of the leading lights of the world of rare spirits.

“To witness the blending of knowledge, expertise and experience in one room at once – never mind one country – was a special time for everyone involved,” she continued.

“The Last Drop is delighted to continue to create and curate rare expressions with a group of people obsessively in search of the remarkable… We are honoured and proud that these luminaries have chosen to give their time to us, and we’d like to thank them all.”

Words: Josh Lee
Images and Video: Courtesy of Gentleman’s Journal

This article was first published in Gentlemans Journal

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