The spirits industry is no stranger to celebrity endorsements, and it seems that they are becoming more and more commonplace. These tend to fall into 2 camps: 1) pure advertising, or 2) where it is more than just endorsement but also financially backing a startup. It seems that the most successful arrangements fall into that later camp – for example George Clooney and team have their Casamigos tequila, whilst Ryan Reynolds is the face of Aviation Gin [ed: both of which ended up being bought by Diageo!].
In 2022, a new partnership was launched in that vain. One a world famous sportsman, the other a world famous whisky writer. Together Jenson Button and George Koutsakis have created a new whisky brand in Coachbuilt – a blended scotch whisky.
The name Coachbuilt leans into Jenson Button’s post-racing business venture and love of coach building. That said, he does have previous ties with whisky as one of his race teams used to be sponsored by Johnnie Walker. Into the partnership, George Koutsakis brings his extensive whisky credentials – more predominantly a Japanese whisky expert but now residing in Taiwan – and the two were connected by mutual contacts. George wanted to explore the idea of bringing blends back to the fore by crafting different parts of scotch heritage into a new fully functioning unit. It was this idea that struck a chord with Jenson Button, seeing the coach building similarity and possibilities for the name and brand.
The Coachbuilt brand has launched with a single core release, but with special plans for releases and variants in years to come.
This first expression has brought together whiskies from all 5 regions in Scotland, across various ages and maturation types (both malt and grain) and has then married them in Sherry casks for 6-9 months. Build No. 001 is available widely, bottled at 46% ABV at natural colour and without filtration, ca £42 a bottle.
A silky soft peat smoke rises up first, making way for stewed apples, oranges, pears, and rich fudge, whilst a rich cinnamon and anise set of spices offset it all.
The orchard fruits have definitely been stewed, and they are joined by numerous rich fruits like raisins, dates, and cherries. There’s a sweet and thick vanilla/rich fudge flavour along with dark chocolate, orange, fruit cake, and loads of baking spices
A distinctive and lingering sherry cask spice with warming peat smoke fire and embers.
This is rich and shows lots of character. There are lots of spices at play and altogether a great meld of flavours.
When I read that this was a blend of all scotch regions, I hadn’t really thought about Islay featuring and any blend can be at risk of becoming overly peated but they’ve kept it at bay – it’s not in the background or the foreground but just remains complementary throughout. I’ve heard from some sources that the grain whisky in there is of quite some vintage, and the body and depth available here seems to be testimony to those rumours.
I was recently talking about celebrity-associated whiskies (yes… Haig Club did come up) and the general attitude was fairly dismissive however when I told them that Jenson Button was involved with a whisky – they didn’t bat an eye and immediately said they’d buy that. [ed: typical F1 fans!] What gains more respect from the market though – and I believe to be the case here – is about the integrity of the character and the whisky; not just slapping a name on something to shift units.
The bottle design is a talking point as it is a truly unique bottle. Having watched the OurWhisky live streams interview between Becky Paskin and Jenson Button (as part of the whisky subscription that I have samples this whisky through – video here) it was revealed that the bottle’s indents reflect the chassis of a car, and an old racing style spinner wheel nut is on the label and embossed on the bottle. To me, those features remain fairly subtle and far from being in your face, whilst those car fans out there would definitely love it.
Have spoken to some people in the industry to get more idea about the content and whilst everyone has their guesses and/or remains tight lipped, we know that there’s good stuff as well as well aged old stuff in there. Given the potential heritage in the bottle then, plus the branding and names associated with it? I think that £42 is a remarkable price really. In the interview, Jenson noted that it could have been priced higher but George insisted that it should be more readily available and not cost inhibitive. Well done team.
Sample disclosure: This sample was received as part of a paid subscription to OurWhisky. All notes are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.