|ALEX NICOL HAS BUILTSPENCERFIELD SPIRITS WITH INNOVATIVE BRANDING AND HARD WORK
Spencerfield Spirits is not the usual Scotch whisky company. For one thing, their base has a historic link to the U.S.: James Anderson, George Washington’s distiller, farmed here before setting sail for his new career at Mount Vernon.
For another, unlike most small drinks companies, you’ll find their unusually-named brands (Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose) in über-trendy bars such as Death & Co. in New York, but also in well-established style icons such as the Waldorf-Astoria.
Alex Nicol down on the farm at Scotland’s Spencerfield Spirits.
And, for a third thing, CEO Alex Nicol is far from the usual Scotch whisky chief—certainly the only one whose desk is located in a former livery stable. I found him bouncing around his office with excitement at several new product ideas (“Try this,” he’d exclaim at intervals, pushing yet another sample in my direction).
From a standing start Alex, who enjoyed a long career in the drinks industry, and his wife Jane have built Spencerfield to a seven-figure turnover with a mixture of good products, innovative marketing and a lot of solid hard work (for several years they personally drove round country fairs selling from the back of a van—“one bottle at a time,” recalls Alex).
The core of the company is in whisky, but recently they’ve enjoyed some success with their medal-winning Edinburgh Gin and further new products are in the pipeline (see sidebar). But why the unusual names?
Sheep Dip was first developed in the 1970s and targeted at the U.K.’s farming community, but for some years had languished as something of a corporate orphan. Intrigued by its history, Alex rescued it and has rebuilt the country feel for a contemporary, international audience. Pig’s Nose, a blended scotch, was a natural partner. Despite the offbeat names, they’re both excellent, drinkable whiskies.
And, of course, as our pictures prove there are pigs at Spencerfield. It’s not every day that an interview with an industry leader ends up in a muddy field but, as I said, this is not the usual Scotch whisky company!
Spencerfield Spirits products are available through Frederick Wildman & Sons.
Alex gave THE TASTING PANEL a heads up on several exciting products that will be leaving the farm soon. Edinburgh Gin has been a big success for them, so they’re introducing a flavored version with an infusion of Perthshire raspberries (best in the world, say berry mavens). That builds on a centuries-old Scottish tradition of flavoring spirits with local fruits and herbs. Innovative cocktail bars are going to love this.
And I also tried a most unusual “winter warmer” of a whisky that has spent years maturing in rare old sherry casks in a Spanish bodega. Accordingly, Alex can’t call it scotch but, with his fertile imagination, an unusual label is bound to follow soon.