Sweden may not be a name you readily think of for whisky, to be honest, me neither. Until I met Roger Melander on Islay, I was sitting at the bar of my friends’ place in Port Charlotte; Lochindaal Hotel. A brief interlude here – The Lochindaal Hotel in Port Charlotte is one of Islay’s most famous hotels, a family run haven, the MacLellan family for well over 100 years. Iain and Katie and their 5 children are the latest generation. Over the years the pub has played host to many characters; locals, visitors and many a famous face. They all leave with a tale to tell about an evening at ‘The Lochindaal’. Myself included, many, many times. It is my “go to” destination on the whisky isle. The hotel has an impressive collection of rare and unusual Islay’s and other malt whiskies in two bars. Its’ reputation for seafood is unmatched by the way. Back to the coast …settled in 19 century buildings (an old box factory – hey, see what I did there) they began production in 2010. By the way, another Swedish friend helped me here with facts – Ingvar Ronde – the first release in 2014 did better than imagined, leading to a visitor centre opened in June 2014. The visitor centre now attracts over 10,000 people a year! In 2017 Compass Box contacted them (at that time they were Box Distillery), a long story, but the bigger boy on the block (Bacardi acquired a stake in Compass Box. The Bermuda-based company, confirmed the investment it has become a “long-term” supplier to Compass Box through its’ John Dewar & Sons business) had more expensive lawyers, so won any argument over names, hence High Coast, “bully wins” is my headline. This was first told to me by Ingvar, it peeved me and I vowed to write a snippet on this in the future, here I am. Roger and myself had a good chat, he was on Islay before going to London for the whisky show. It tempted me to ask him for “the angels interview”, read on whisky lovers … some good replies here, some I knew would come along, some new to me
Paul; Roger, great to meet you on Islay, how did that trip, and the London show go?
Roger; I was going to spend a couple of vacation days on Islay, mainly to see how the developments on the island’s distilleries had evolved since the last visit. I also wanted to sample a couple of my barrels from Bruichladdich. The Whisky Show in London was as nice as usual, and we got fantastic praise for our whisky.
Paul; it was a mutual pal who told me the Box story, now it is over (I hope) how do you feel?
Roger; The new name High Coast Whisky works grea, but it was obviously a lot of work on the change of brand.
Paul; can you tell our readers how the new name came about? Roger; The High Coast is a part of the coast of Sweden that has risen about 300 m since the last ice age. We used the phrase “High Coast Distillery” together with the old brand Box.
Paul; how did you manage to move the last bottles already labelled?
Roger; In some markets, we were able to sell bottles under the old name over a transitional period.
Paul; so to the new label, what would be your favourite release to date? Roger; It’s a bit like asking which of my kids I like best. There is an enchantment with all our bottlings. It depends a little on what you are craving for right now.
Paul; what of the future? Any new ideas/bottles or plans you can tell me about?
Roger; We have, of course, a long-term plan with several new releases. What we are focusing on at the moment is our new series of Origins with Älv, Hav, Timmer and Berg.
Paul; on a personal level, what styles of whisky would you drink at home?
Roger; I have the advantage of having quite a lot to choose from, so it varies a lot from day to day. There are, however, generally so much whisky at work that it can be nice to relax with a good beer when you come home.
Paul; a question we are always asked; are you considering selling casks?
Roger; We have sold over 7000 private casks since 2011.
Paul; will you be in Scotland at all next year – on business or pleasure?
Roger; It tends to be a couple of trips to Scotland each year. I like it here.
Paul; thanks Roger, I hope I can get over to Sweden in 2020 and call in to see your distillery.
Roger; You are always welcome. The High Coast is a very beautiful place.
Well, I hope to get myself over there in 2020, have a few people to see and hopefully will NOT be there in any minus temperatures! Paul McLean.