Saturday, September 03, 2005


It was an intriguing scenario - five whiskies and only one of them Scotch. Could we tell the difference?

That was the challenge set by Frank at the Pot Still when he hosted a World Whisky Selection. A small turn-out of diehards set to the task with relish (I'LL do the jokes about burgers, thank you).

Helped by Frank's Aroma Wheel or Spider-Gram and the Six Steps to Deciphering a Single Malt, we were all set.

The crash course in terminology provided the first hint of confusion. We got Oily, Sweet, Phenolic, Aldehydic, Cereal, Feints and Estery, but no-one, including Frank who'd ... 'borrowed' the Aroma Wheel from a tasting at Auchentoshan, could remember/work out what TIA stood for.

As we went from one dram to another, it veered from This Is Acceptable, to Take It Away. Somebody told me what it meant a few days later ... but, sadly, I've forgotten. Answers on an e-mail, please.

Anyway, to the selection.

First up was a Milford 12YO from New Zealand. 43% NCF. One or two people found it a light, refreshing dram with a peppery nose. Others found the finish short and overall it finished last in an informal sounding.

Next was the Hakushu 12YO from Japan. 43.5% The largest malt distillery in the world, it was a typical Highland dram with heather and honey and a long finish.

Then it was the only Scottish whisky in the test. Morrison Bowmore's Rob Roy 40% is a blend of Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glengarioch. It was light gold but big everywhere else. Definitely one to stick on the shopping list.

The second most popular was the Amrut Single Malt from India. It's aged in oak barrels, but only for three to four years. A third of the total volume is lost during maturation because of the very cold winters and fierce summers (it's microwaved, says Frank) but it was a remarkable whisky, very reminiscent of Speyside with an oak taste.

Top of the bunch, however, was a Canadian rye - Crown Royal at 40%. The colour of decking varnish, there was fruit and oak, along with furniture polish (beeswax?) All right, it was the last dram and I'd run out of 'smooth', 'oily' 'gentle' so you're getting decking varnish, beeswax, Airfix glue (well, I liked the smell of Airfix!!).

It was a good night, though, and opened a lot of eyes on the potential of drams from furth of Scotland.

Maybe we'll get round to them when we've tasted all the indigenous drams!

Thanks again to Frank and the Pot Still staff for the purvey.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Just a final word on our Glengoyne outing. It was a bit of a surprise for some of us when we clambered up the stairs for our first dram and were met by tour guide Bill McDowall (above). Bill worked as a journalist with some of us and was the subject of no little envy when he beat the guard towers, searchlights and attack dogs to escape into the real world. He was a genial and genuine host on the outing and proved that there is hope for the rest of us. I've sent our CVs to Bill in the hope the distillery needs another 15 tour guides!