If you didn’t know differently, Louise Aitken-Walker is just a business owner from her local town. But there’s nothing ‘normal’ about what she was capable of when her feet were dancing on the pedals and hands gripped on the steering wheel. Or what she’s chosen to do next.
Today (November 28) marks 33 years to the day that World Rally Championship history was written – the day Louise Aitken-Walker became the FIA Ladies World Rally champion.
But today is really the day that that remarkable piece of history is rubber stamped, with the launch of a commemorative and exclusive product based on that title triumph.
The launch of Louise Aitken-Walker’s very own limited release whisky.
Most celebrate the anniversary of an amazing achievement with a cake or a party, but that’s not the Aitken-Walker way. She’s always stood out from the crowd.
“I’m passionate about whisky,” Aitken-Walker tells DirtFish. “My dad was a whisky drinker, there was always whisky in the house, and being Scottish…,” she smiles, “it had to be Scottish whisky!
“When I was a little girl I always wanted to be the best, so on a horse we won prizes and then when I started to rally I won a championship, you want more championships and then I got to the world championship and with hard work we managed to get that as well.
“Rallying is a world I’ve known but all of a sudden my brain was sparked about whisky, and it’s super special. That is the icing on the cake to have a whisky, such good quality whisky, in my name, it’s unbelievable way to celebrate this anniversary date..
“This is a journey that’ll be very exciting.”
Much like any of Aitken-Walker’s rallying success, it’s a journey with a strong team behind it. Specifically Turas Dana, which curates rare spirits. Gary Fortune-Smith, who also owns a branding and design agency with business partner Nick Cadbury, and world-renowned whisky curator David Robertson, a former master distiller for The Macallan brand, have all collaborated with Aitken-Walker to create this elusive product.
“Louise and I had a conversation and we were talking about being Scottish, loving whisky and Louise’s passion for winning and being the champion at whatever she does,” remembers Robertson, “and I said ‘I can’t believe you aren’t celebrating your success with your own whisky’.
“Look at what you’ve done in your career, it’s massive – not only world champion but the Segrave Trophy and Jim Clark Trophy and being voted best driver of the year etc.’
“I just couldn’t believe that Louise hadn’t thought about that and that’s how this started.”
Five different casks, all importantly of 1990 vintage, were married together to create the single grain whisky (which David educates me is incredibly rare to find for a 33-year-old whisky), and it’s all lovingly wrapped in a packaging which toasts Aitken-Walker’s entire career.
“The outside is a collage of my rallying career,” she explains. “Every picture is a memory and a story.
“And then you open the box and see the magnificent whisky, it’s all been thoroughly thought about.”
I can certainly vouch for that. It’s the subtle touches, like the golden commemorative plaque that looks like a Monte Carlo Rally emblem, and the blue on the inside of the box that’s reflective of the blue on the in-lay of Aitken-Walker’s world championship trophy, and the included leaflet which charts Louise’s story complete with some personal memoirs… the attention-to-detail is impressive.
With just 490 bottles being produced (owing to the rarity of the blend they’ve chosen, distilled at Invergordon Distillery) the mantra here most definitely is quality over quantity.
The fact the whisky also tastes superb is just an added bonus.
I was extremely privileged to be the first person outside the product’s inner circle to sample the whisky – talk about pressure by the way, as eyes soon become fixated on me as my feedback is anticipated!
Described as “liquid gold” I couldn’t really put it much better myself. Whisky is a drink to be savored and consumed responsibly in small doses but this was smooth, complete with a delightfully sweet and zesty finish
With strong hints of tropical and citrus fruits married to floral notes and rich vanilla toffee and crème caramel, it’s a truly unique, and ultimately finite, taste.
“The beauty of what we’ve done is we’ve picked five casks that seem to combine well together to give a broader set of flavors,” says Robertson.
“One cask might be tropical fruit, one might be spicy, one might be vanilla pod, one might be crème brûlée and one might be banana… each of them are good but when you combine them all together it’s richer, it’s broader, it’s got different layers of flavors.
“This will never be repeated – we’ll never find those casks again, I wish I could!”
I wish he could do, as this product is certainly not all style and no substance. Anybody lucky enough to get their hands on one is acquiring a brilliant slice of rally-inspired fever, but also an exquisite, one-of-a-kind liquid.
“There’s only 490 people that are going to be able to have this collection, and I honestly think it’s perfect,” Aitken-Walker concludes.
“We’ve put a lot of work into this and to me it’s perfect, I wouldn’t change one thing. It tells the story, it looks fantastic, the color’s rich, the detail… everything is quality.
“I did think I was going to burst into tears when I filled the first bottle, I had to be tough in front of everyone! But these are very, very special moments, it’s super special. Nobody’s going to be allowed to touch bottle #1, it’s going behind glass forever – it’ll be treated like a trophy.
“Maybe there’ll be another one to come…,” she teased. “Ideally there’ll be three stories – but watch this space!”
Exclusively available on Turasdana.com, orders can be placed right now. But with such a limited run, don’t delay! If you don’t get your hands on it, I will…
*Disclaimer: You cannot purchase this product unless you are 18 years or over. Please drink responsibly. Never drink and drive.