As a cask comes to maturity, Finn curates sampling sessions in interesting and relaxing environments, with friends, whisky experts and trusted partners to discover the personality of each cask and gauge the experience each dram evokes.
All the best distillers pride themselves on crafting whisky with a distinctive flavour, which is determined by the water source, grain and barley, the peat and malting, and their distilling processes. High quality original spirit is integral to every cask we bottle.
The cask itself interacts with the whisky over time. The type of wood plays a big role, as do treatments such as the whiskies are aged in a variety of types of casks. The whiskies are aged in former sherry or bourbon casks, augmenting the cask influence. External conditions such as air temperature, pressure and humidity also interact with the cask producing a knock-on effect that makes the spirit inside unique.
Finn uses these factors to balance each FT whisky experience. He may sample a cask and decide to leave it on the rack, allowing age to further develop its personality. He might decide to re-rack a whisky in a new cask to add a finishing touch. Or, he might simply deem it ready. When Finn decides the flavour is perfectly balanced, it’s time to bottle the whisky.
Amid the rolling hills and soft glens of Breadalbane, by the sweeping banks of the Tay, a scene so serene and peaceful you might mistake it for heaven itself. But deep below ground, behind cave mouths and underneath kitchen flagstones, clandestine activity takes place – well away from the watchful eye of His Majesty’s exciseman.
It is here that Finn’s 6x great-grandfather James Thomson, born in 1713, is farming by day and, as dusk falls, distilling a secret that will one day become his family’s legacy: aqua vitae, the water of life.
His is a tale of adventure, graft and rebellion.
The Excise Act of 1823 allowed production of more than 40 gallons of spirit per year if a duty of £10 per annum was paid. The days of the illicit still faded into history and the Victorian boom was under way.
Grandtully Distillery was built in 1825. It passed through several hands before it was taken on by Donald and James Thomson, cousins to Finn’s 3x great-grandfather, Alexander Thomson, in 1838.
Renowned as the smallest distillery in Scotland, it was barely bigger than a smuggler’s bothy. However, with its mash tuns and copper stills Grandtully was a big statement for the family. They were making whisky in broad daylight. The Thomsons had moved from pot still to distillery.
It’s a tale of determination, hope and fraternity.
The cobbled streets of Perth were soon to become the foundation blocks of Scotland’s blended whisky empire. Alexander Thomson, Finn’s 3x great-grandfather, was among the first on the scene.
Keen to capitalise on the open market, the Rogue’s great-grandson set up as a licensed grocer on Perth’s Old High Street – his mark so indelible that you can still see his advertisements on the walls nearly 200 years later.
Trading closely with his cousins Donald and James at the Grandtully Distillery, Alexander gave the first Thomson whiskies their debut on his shopfront, labelled Old Grandtully Whisky.
It’s a tale of entrepreneurship, loyalty, and change.
With Alexander busy running a successful grocery, wine and spirits business in Perth, his charismatic brother Duncan Thomson is expanding the family’s reputation in Grandtully.
An expert with rod and gun, Duncan built and then ran The Grandtully Hotel till 1897, showing favoured guests the best salmon pools the Tay had to offer.
The anecdote that best illustrates Duncan’s character has him striding into an architect’s office, plonking two bottles of Old Grandtully whisky on the desk and instructing the man to ‘fill in the space between’. The result is Bendarroch House which remains one of the most handsome homes in Strathtay today.
Duncan is remembered as a powerhouse of progress who always kept one eye on the past. As his Obituary in the Perthshire Advertiser states, “it is now giving away no secret that Mr Thomson was far from being unacquainted with the smugglers’ methods and profits”.
The Grand Old Man is the last link between the smudgy history of illicit distilling and the unstoppable industry of the Victorian era and beyond.
It’s a tale of drive, charm and vision.
Some years after inheriting his father’s grocery store in Perth, along with his two brothers, the entrepreneurial Peter Thomson – Finn’s great-great-grandfather – strikes out on his own and opens his own grocery shop and whisky merchants on Perth’s High Street.
An instinctive businessman who is well-versed in the family trade of whisky distilling and blending, Peter begins to buy and lay down casks for Peter Thomson’s, his shop’s eponymous house blend.
It’s a vibrant time for imaginative entrepreneurs with a flair for business, especially in whisky. The fair city of Perth is becoming the epicentre of the industry with the founders of Bell’s, Dewar’s and The Famous Grouse setting up shop just around the corner. To stand out from the crowd, Peter must display innovation and ingenuity, and keep one step ahead.
It’s a tale of endeavour, risk and reward.
The roaring 20s. Peter Thomson is riding high. With a burgeoning wine and spirits business, his blended whisky is flying off the shelves. Then, Peter catches wind of plans for a magnificent countryside estate in the heart of Scotland. Described as a ‘Riviera in the Highlands’, it is the Gleneagles luxury hotel and golf course.
Always ready to seize an opportunity, in 1922 Peter re-names his house blend Golden Beneagles Scotch Whisky, positioning it to become synonymous in the minds of the well-heeled experience seekers that would be flooding the hotel two years later.
When Gleneagles opened in June 1924, it was dubbed ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. BBC Radio broadcast the opening gala with Henry Hall and his band. It’s easy to imagine Beneagles Scotch flowing as quickly as the champagne.
This is a tale of foresight, style and glamour.
In 1939, Peter Thomson left his business to his son David Kinnear Thomson, Finn’s great-grand uncle. Within weeks, David volunteered for an even bigger adventure. Joining the 51st Highland Division, he departed for France to fight the German invasion.
To allow the mass evacuations at Dunkirk, Churchill commanded the 51st to hold the line. Near the town of Saint-Valerie, they fought almost continuously for 10 days against overwhelming odds. Eventually, with 1,000 killed and 4,000 wounded, they were surrounded by German forces. David was one of 10,000 troops taken prisoner.
While incarcerated in Laufen Castle, in defiance of their captors (and to while away the long years of enforced inactivity) David and his fellow prisoners created their own Scottish Reel symbolising their fraternity, solidarity and national pride. The Reel of the 51st Highlanders is still danced to this day.
After the war David collaborated in business with many of his fellow prisoners – a testimony to the deep friendships and bonds forged through those traumatic years.
This is a tale of bravery, survival and friendship.
With Britain’s men away fighting, women are filling the breach, stepping up, and running the country.
In Perth, the Cameron household is a hive of activity. Three of the four sisters have found themselves heading up some of the city’s most influential businesses. Jean Cameron’s formidable drive and resolve sees her seamlessly take over the reins at Peter Thomson’s Ltd. One week ago she was the secretary. Now, she is leading the company.
Having joined the firm in 1915 and helped steer its destiny through the Depression of the 1930s, she navigated those difficult war years when she was in sole charge, then the post-war growth years and adaptation to the computer age. Eventually Jean retires after 55 years of service but agrees to remain a Director, “lest her experience be lost to the Company,” as the Board’s minutes record.
This is a tale of change, loyalty and indefatigability.
With a head full of ideas and a thorough grasp of the bottom line, Finn’s grandfather Michael Thomson joins the family business and becomes managing director. His vitality and ambition launches the company to unprecedented heights. The firm expands to become agents of wines, spirits and fortified wines, forging ties with iconic winehouses across Europe and the world. But, for Michael, his ties with Speyside hold strongest.
Like Thomsons before him, Michael is a gifted businessman with particular expertise in two areas: ideas and relationships. He celebrates the past by extending his grandfather’s friendships across the whisky industry, especially The Macallan, and grows Beneagles through innovation and clever marketing to become a leading blend in Scotland.
With an eye on the future, he sells Beneagles but keeps the Dougal Cratur Company’s stock of aging casks in the family. It marks the dawn of the single malt era.
This is a tale of entrepreneurship, partnership and innovation.
Michael Thomson sought, sourced and purchased promising young casks bursting with potential. But the responsibility of caring for them – ensuring decades of quiet and enriching slumber – was passed to his son, Andrew Thomson.
With dogged attention to detail that only a lawyer could bring, Andrew has stood sentinel over the Thomson cask collection and family history, pouring over archives, unearthing stories and piecing together the full extent of the Thomson legacy.
It was under his watch that a new spark of inspiration was ignited. Under a golden-white winter sunset in the Cairngorms, Andrew, his son Finn and daughter Sorcha resolved that these casks be re-introduced to the world, a testament to their grandfather and resurrecting the Thomson name once again.
This is a tale of patience, discovery and new beginnings.
Representing the ninth generation, Finn Thomson is a young man who has inherited his family’s 300-year-old passion for whisky.
Thirsty to pair passion with knowledge, Finn sought opportunities to learn every aspect of the bottler’s craft: spending time with Miguel Torres in Spain and Casa Pedro Domecq in Mexico, as well as tutelage from some of Britain’s best-known Scotch whisky merchants.
Fuelled by the natural instinct for creativity and entrepreneurship that has pulsed through Thomson veins for centuries, Finn is now embarking on his biggest adventure yet. With a reverence for those who have walked before him, Finn Thomson is bringing new life to the family business. The story continues for the next generations.