At The Distillers Library, A Reverence for Single Malt Whiskies

by Runi Cholid
12th January 2024
The Distillers Library by William Grant & Sons, a renowned family-owned distiller and distributor from Scotland, lands in Jakarta to tap into the city’s growing enthusiasm for single malt whiskies.

Following successful ventures in Singapore, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok, The Distillers Library by William Grant & Sons is now set to open at the Bumi Pakubuwono compound in South Jakarta later this month to tap into the city’s growing interest in single malt whiskies. 

“We know a great number of collectors in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta. We see the rise of the luxury [industry], and with that, great quality spirits as well. It was a natural choice for us,” shared William Grant & Sons’ Global Luxury Director Will Peacock, who initiated the idea behind the retail-space-cum-private lounge. 

A casual glance would easily mislead one into perceiving The Distillers Library as a regular whisky shop that displays an impressive collection of William Grant & Sons’ single malt bottles; both from Glenfiddich and those of its sister brand, The Balvenie. But stepping further inside past the retail section and into the tasting area is where one would experience how genuine conversations, fueled by a profound interest in the flavours and stories behind each bottle, are intertwined with the act of drinking whisky itself. 

Unveiling like a private enclave for whisky buffs, each aspect of the room is curated to prompt discussions and satisfy their curiosity about the brown liquor. Even the decor adds further topics to the conversation: bottles on the wall illustrate the ageing process of whisky, holding liquids with hues that range from clear to light golden and the quintessential whisky amber, while framed photographs chronicle the brand’s history.

“For me, one of the most amazing experiences is going to Scotland to the distillery, meeting the people and seeing [the whisky] get made,” shared Peacock. “Within our distillery, there’s a master distiller’s room, where he keeps all the whisky samples from the warehouses in little bottles. I always thought that was amazing to look at and taste. The Distillers Library is a recreation of that.”

Within The Distillers Library, there are also dedicated suites reserved for the company’s most esteemed private clients. These suites house some of William Grant & Sons’ rare reserves, including special releases, those aged in unique casks and, a highlight among them, the Ladyburn Edition One 1966.

First released in 2021, the 11-bottle collection came from the family company’s ‘lost distillery’, which began operation in 1966 and closed shortly after in 1975. “These things happen cyclically in the world of whisky, where some distilleries have to close down,” shared Peacock. “But you keep hold of those barrels of whisky and you keep on nurturing them over the years. Sometimes, some very special things happen due to ageing.”

The 1966 vintage for one, which has matured for 54 years in a sherry oak cask, imparts a distinct and robust flavour. “You get a lot of dark spices, a kind of multi-layered, red fruit sweetness and even notes of dried tobacco leaf as well,” described Peacock of the drinking experience. “And being such a mature liquid, it lingers. So it has a real length to it as well. You can kind of get that power, depth and intensity that keeps on going as the flavour keeps evolving on your palate.”

Beyond intricate flavours, the appeal of collecting whisky, particularly those from long-closed distilleries like Ladyburn, lies in the one-of-a-kind quality and ephemeral nature of these coveted releases. Each bottle of the Ladyburn Edition One 1966 is labelled with never-before-seen, signed photographs by renowned fashion photographer David Bailey, taken in London’s East End where he grew up before gaining notability for his profiles of 1960s celebrity icons.

Depicting quiet street corners, foggy bridges, and colourful laundries drying on a washing line against a backdrop of red brick houses, these features of the London neighbourhood may no longer exist the way they did in the ’60s when Bailey immortalised them through his photographs. Yet these historic scenes remain formative to his craft, shaping Bailey’s inimitable photography style the way we recognise it today. Similarly, the Ladyburn distillery may be long gone, but its life in the past and its preserved legacy continue to suffuse the Ladyburn Edition One 1966 with distinct qualities that, understandably, would appeal to the aficionados.

Through private discussions, tasting experiences and rare access to previously undisclosed collections, at The Distillers Library, the curious and discerning get the opportunity to go beyond the surface and experience how each whisky is made, from the craftsmanship behind its evolving flavours to the stories that further add novelty to each bottle. Especially in Asia, where single malt whisky is beginning to hold significance amongst the general public, the space provides an ideal hub for those seeking to explore further.

“Across Asia, and particularly in Indonesia as well, I find that there is a real appreciation for the craft, quality and artistry that goes into making these incredibly fine and rare products. So for us, it’s an exciting place to be in,” closed Peacock.