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Shining a new light on the water life

20 Apr 2017

There are many reasons to travel to Scotland, but a rare invitation to a VIP experience to the distillery and overnight estate stay in a family home of one of the world’s best known Scotch whisky brands is about as good a reason to go as it gets.

Air Partner is proud to offer clients this extremely exclusive opportunity to those booking private jet travel. We work with London based private travel specialist The Modern Concierge (the owner is Scottish) to ensure a meticulous planned and curated experience.

Additional activities such as Scotland’s world famous country estates and grand country hotels can be organised within your itinerary, including the elite outdoor sports of the stunning Scottish highlands. It all starts with an appreciation of whisky…..

Whisky by Mark Thomson

In these days of growing connoisseurship - enjoyment and appreciation increased through knowledge - and perhaps helped along just a little by the increasing obsession of social media 'moments', not to mention the hipster factor; we've seen the adoration and exploration of some of the oldest alcoholic drinks: from craft beers and micro-brewery's popping up in every hipster town around the world, to small batch gin makers and even gin hotels.

Cocktail making - now mixology - has been raised to a veritable art form, with the leading mixologists almost as famous as the brands they pour. And now, whisky is having it's own renaissance...

In the year that a bottle of whisky sold for the highest ever price at auction, and now even with celebrity own brands, we asked our go-to whisky expert to enlighten us about trends in 'uisge-beatha' - the water of life - and how a new generation are embracing whisky as never before - not to mention some collector tips on investment bottles.

Mark Thomson is the UK brand ambassador and face of Glenfiddich Whisky - The World's Most Awarded Single Malt Whisky, still family owned and run - a rarity in Scotland now - a renowned whisky expert who lives, breathes and, yes, drinks whisky!


Q: What are the major trends in whisky right now?

Due to it's popularity growth, people are trying a larger range of flavours and experimenting with choice which has seen a rise in Non-Age Statement whiskies. These allow new as well as old distilleries to focus on flavour and character of a whisky without being encumbered by age. We are fortunate in having a huge level of stock to draw on at Glenfiddich – which gives us options to offer our customers a vast range of aged whisky as well as experimenting with different styles such as our new I.P.A. finished whisky.


view from hills

Q: We have seen a huge surge in whisky drinking in the last 18 months, especially whisky cocktails, why do you feel that has happened? Is this trend here to stay and how do you think it will evolve?

Cocktails for sure have assisted as bartenders are mastering the flavour range of whisky and creating wonderful, (respectful) concoctions. In addition, we've seen TV shows such as Madmen and Outlander raising the awareness of the spirit, its coolness, its history and there is far more information available about whisky.

Looking further afield, single malt is starting to find its way into new countries with the likes of Russia, China and India – territories who have had their own traditional spirit drinks. Scotch is starting to keep a seat at the bar with no signs of slowing down.


Q: What are your favourite whisky cocktails?

I like my cocktails short and strong. The classic Old Fashioned is by far my most common order at a bar. A simple mix of sugar, bitters whisky and water. Traditionally made with Bourbon or Rye whisky, I prefer mine with Glenfiddich 15 year old as it has a nutty, oily and fruity character that works perfectly with it's partnering ingredients.

Q: Many people say you need to drink whisky in a certain way, is this the case?

Oh no, absolutely not! Left or right handed is about as many rules as you need. I really cannot say enough that there is no right or wrong way. Whisky, like no other spirit, seems to have collected a number of barriers to new drinkers inclusion in the "club". Yes, you can add water – but every whisky is different, some don't need it at all.

Some need quite a bit – but then every drinkers palate is different to the next, so what is right for one, is not the case for another. Yes add ice, if you want. "Just one cube" I often hear – well, ships have been sunk with just one "ice-cube" but it all depends on dilution and quality of the ice. Add a mixer too. Ginger ale is great with most whilst soda water and a twist of lemon is perfect with our lighter 12 year old.

Don't let anyone tell you how to drink your whisky – you paid for it. With all that in mind, what I would suggest, is that if you've never tried a specific whisky before, try it as neat as possible – then decide what, if anything, it requires.


Whisky distillingQ: This year, a bottle of Glenfiddich was sold for the highest ever price at auction. What are the qualities to look for/you look for in investment bottles?

Closed distilleries are always good – those that obviously cannot be produced again. Bottles that are discontinued are also worth seeking out and they don't have to be a mature age. Some fairly youthful drams have gained a following and therefore added a high price tag. It's a tricky one to comment on at great length as whisky, like stocks and shares rise, fall in fashion and value in the collector's world.

If you are going to start a collection for investment, buy ones you like the taste of – that way, if it all goes wrong, you'll have some great whisky to drowns your sorrows.


Q: Celebrity endorsement helps a lot to sell a brand. Glenfiddich doesn't have a celebrity to endorse them, however, it is the no.1 whisky in the world, as well as being the world's most awarded. Tell us about Glenfiddich and why it's so special, as you are clearly doing something right!

We've never really gone in for that type of message at Glenfiddich, happy to allow the whisky do the talking- but as new customers seek our whisky for the first time, it was clear to us that we had to talk in a slightly different way. Yes, we are the most awarded single malt and have been for many years – and I'll add here that those awards are given through "blind tastings" without the judges knowing what brand they are sampling.

We've always been an experimental family – pushing back against tradition and approaching things in a different way. We were the first distillery to open it doors to the public back in 1969, the first company to actively market single malt whisky outside of Scotland in 1963, first company to use "finishing" where a matured whisky rests for the majority of its life in one cask, to be transferred (or finished maturing) in a secondary cask to extract another flavor.

I could go on – but when you master your art, you earn the right to experiment and with our new Experimental Series that's exactly what we've done. The bottles have changed – less traditional. The series will release various experiments each year. 2016 saw the release of IPA and Project XX which have both been exceptionally well received by existing and new whisky drinkers.



Outside shot of GlendiddichIn association with The Modern Concierge, the Grant family, owners of Glenfiddich, have extended a very special invitation for exclusive VIP 'behind the scenes' tours to clients of Air Partner.

Either using existing JetCard hours or a new private jet charter, guests will be guided by Mark Thomson and invited to stay in the private Grant family houses on the estate - a true 'money can't buy' experience. Land in Aberdeen and then either choose to travel by road or helicopter to the distillery. **Availability is extremely date-limited and will require advance notice**.

The Modern Concierge can organise sporting extensions to the distillery experience - either golfing or other outdoor country pursuits (hunting / shooting / fishing) in the great sporting estates or luxury spa hotels around Scotland. The ideas & possibilities are endless.

The final price will depend on your final itinerary and arrangements. To access this special opportunity you are required to include a London - Aberdeen return private jet charter, as well as US or EU to UK if applicable. No charge is made by the Grant family for the special invitation VIP tour and overnight accommodation, but all other arrangements would be charged as organised.

To find out more, simply speak with your Air Partner Account Manager.


Scottish VIP Whisky Experience - as explained by Mark Thomson

Back in 1969, Glenfiddich was the first whisky distillery to open as a visitor's center. We offer a range of tours depending on the experience the guest is looking for. The first is a gentle introduction of the distillery and the family history with a tasting at the end. Our intermediate tour offers a little bit more of an in depth tour of a few of the special warehouses including our famous Solera Vat which creates our 15 Year old Glenfiddich finishing with a tasting.

The top tour for guests is an afternoon with a senior guide, a special visit to some of our lesser seen warehouses and finishes with a whisky and food pairing in the Grant family home.

However, as part of my role as an ambassador, I do host special guests on a very private tour that is bespoke, and lasts usually a day. My year gets booked up very quickly so these bespoke tours are all subject to my availability and will have to be booked months in advance.

You can land your helicopter next door at the Balvenie Distillery, we will put you up in one of the Grant family homes overlooking the Glenfiddich Distillery, what ever you desire, we will be able to provide it (within reason). It is such a beautiful place so we want you to get as much out of the experience as possible. 


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