I first met Selim Evin, founder of Chapter 7 independent whisky bottler, in mid-2020.
Selim and I worked together to put on a tasting of their range for the London Whisky Club. I had the unenviable task of bottling up, labelling, and mailing out approximately 600 mini samples around the world for our online event, a task familiar to many whisky enthusiasts and whisky club members by now.
Selim seemed to have an eye for an interesting cask, and we’ve kept in touch since. One aspect of the brand that I know is very personal to Selim is the link between the whisky and literature. Inspired initially by the “All the world’s a stage” monologue, from As You Like It by William Shakespeare, Selim believes that a good whisky can have as profound an effect on you as some of the world’s greatest literature. The passage from Shakespeare is now used to adorn the Chapter 7 bottles in very smart and contemporary style, which makes the bottles quite charming gifts for significant birthdays.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
As a man transitioning from stage 4 to 5 (the justice) “in fair round belly, with a good capon lin’d. With eyes severe. And a beard of formal cut, full of wise saws,” I feel well placed to make judgement on the whisky once again!
Within the Chapter 7 range there are the Monologues Series of single cask releases, which are unique and bottled at cask strength, or ideal strength for the spirit as judged by Selim himself. The Anecdotes Series are those batches of unusual whiskies such as uncommon limited blended or whisky uncharacteristic of the source distillery, the sort of thing you’ll be talking about and sharing for some time. Chronicles are small batches that are periodically repeated – closer to a core range, if you will – such as Islay blended malt.
Finally, or not quite, there is the Prologue range which includes a blended malt scotch from the Highlands and Speyside which is usually blended form 15 casks, or so and will vary somewhat over time. The final instalment, so to speak, is the exclusive range for TopWhiskies, which includes single casks at keen prices, which are hand-filled and have handwritten label styles. All Chapter 7 ranges are bottled naturally coloured and unchill filtered.
The association between Chapter 7 and TopWhiskies has been a boon for the brand, and has certainly contributed to the proliferation of bottles in the hands of keen whisky drinkers. The various striking labels do standout on shelves, and certainly communicate the sort of critical information that whisky enthusiasts look for such as vintages, finishes, bottle numbers, cask numbers, etc.
Earlier this year, Ed Leigh of TopWhiskies agreed to sponsor and exhibit at the first whisky festival focused on Independent Bottlers in Newcastle, somewhat strangely named the “Whisky Indy Love Fest 2022.” The event will feature many of the trendiest indie bottlers including Thompson Bros, Little Brown Dog, Artful Dodger and of course Chapter 7. The festival is scheduled the day before the Great North Run, a not entirely complimentary pairing, as most attendees will be trying to exert as little as possible the day after the festival, and city accommodation will be at a premium.
Nevertheless, the festival is well timed, as indie bottlers need a fair amount of support as wholesale cask prices skyrocket – driven by the investment market – and a reduction in the supply of casks as distillers aim to retain more stock for their own single malt lines. You can expect to meet Selim Evin from Chapter 7, along with many of their recent bottlings and perhaps a few special Chapter 7 treats. I’d love for some readers to report back on this inaugural event in due course.
The next instalment from Chapter 7 will be the opening of their own warehouse and bottling plant in Paisley near Glasgow. Due to start bottling from August 15th, this new development will see an expansion of the casks brought to market under the Chapter 7 brand, allowing more experimentation with the Anecdotes range.
In the second half of this year you can expect a number of interesting releases from Chapter 7 including an Indian Single Malt which is in transit from the sub-continent. There will also be a Knockdhu 16, Orkney 16, some much older Glenrothes and Tobermory, a lovely old grain from North British, along with a few other fun sounding releases which I’ll not spoil completely here.
The Chapter 7 whisky I am choosing to review is from Glen Grant distillery, a Speysider, from Rothes. With a healthy output of almost 6,000,000 litres each year, Glen Grant is one of the most recognisable and well-known whiskies the world over. Gordon and MacPhail have a good relationship with Glen Grant, resulting in a healthy G&M Glen Grant back catalogue and some extremely well aged expressions, however other indie bottlings are rare.
The fermentation is a commercially convenient 40 hours. The stills are assisted by an additional copper purifier which removes the heavier elements. The scale of the distillery includes a significant amount of automation including computers making the cuts between the fore shots, heart, and tails. This typically puts official bottlings of Glen Grant at the lighter end of the whisky market, not particularly favoured by connoisseurs other than the divisive Jim Murray who regularly voted it near the top of his annual list. This is not assisted by the lower strength of official bottlings between 40% and 43%. Here at Malt, Glen Grant has been fairly overlooked; other than a 2021 review of an official bottling by John, you have to go back to 2018 to find further reviews.
Chapter 7 Monologue Glen Grant 24 Year Old – Review
Single Bourbon Hogshead #6454. January 1998 to January 2022. Bottled at 51.1% ABV. £184.
On the nose: Soft oxidised ripe fruit, cut red apple, crushed pear, a little ethanol, hard nectarine, lots of dusty wood derived baking spices dry and marginally tannic, although a refill cask this wood has still been quite active. A little creamy and nutty. With time many more tropical fruits develop; mango, toasted coconut, dried papaya and pineapple cubes.
In the mouth: Complex rich fruits, then coconut. Reminiscent of a Parisian La Durée Pina Colada macaron (Travellers passing through Charles De Gaulle should look out for these). Soft malt, more nuttiness from ground almonds and honey-soaked baklava. Baking spices, crystalised ginger, a slightly creamy finish that is medium length.
Well, this is not as wood forward as the 31 year old Tormore I reviewed, which was really interesting. Neither is it the old worn-out refill casks that bring very little wood, just wonderful tropical fruit notes from the matured spirit. In fact, it’s right between the two styles and as such is nicely balanced bring both the richness of the wood and the aromatic tropical fruitiness of the spirit. The finish is a little brief, but this is super whisky.