Monday, October 22, 2007
It took 15 months of phone calls, e-mails and chance meetings, but finally we got our man. Robert Ransom from Glenfarclas presided over one of the best tastings this club has had, in terms of the range and quality of the malts on offer. Ably assisted by Peter Donnelly from Pol Roger, we sampled our way through a fabulous handful of Glenfarclas single malts, from the standard 10 to an astonishing 1991 from the new Family Cask range – limited bottlings from casks drawn from every year since 1952. Few of us at the night would have remembered 1952 … but you know who you are!
There was an encouraging turn out as well, and the new venue, Abode at the Arthouse Hotel, treated us very well. First up was the 10 at 43%, used liberally by blenders. The 15 at 46% was next and the big jump in quality because of age and the ABV- 46.5% - was very noticeable. An eye-searingly new make at 68% proved too much for some, even with a liberal dash of water. Malt Maniacs’ Best Bang for your Buck in 2004 came next, the Glenfarclas 105 at 60%. It was voted Best in Class by the IWSC in 2005 and at £35 it was a fine dram. Some genuine top quality came next and was a testimony to the proper use of wood. The 21 was simply brilliant, in this humble scribe’s view, and is the Glenfarclas I have in the cupboard at home. It was followed by the 30, from 100% sherry casks and very dark and rich at 43%.The star of the show was undoubtedly the 1991 cask strength, one of only 613 bottles and running to 57.9% The entire Family Cask range comes in at £15,000 for the set, but by the end of the tasting, I thought I saw a few club members checking their credit card limit!
Incidentally this was the first tasting with the new team of myself as chairman and Andy Bell as secretary in charge. I shamefully neglected to pay tribute to the work of our first chairman and founder, Alex Robertson. He saw the desire for a whisky club and got it up and running. I’m glad he’s staying on as a committee member, not least because our next tasting is at the BBC’s new HQ at Pacific Quay, thanks to him.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
On the evening of Thursday the 16th July at Oddbins, Crow Road, several club members joined customers and whisky-keen punters for an introduction and explanation of Compass Box's range of whiskies. Greg Glass, active alchemist with the 'boutique' company (as Compass Box like to refer to themselves) was both eloquent and articulate in giving a most informative tasting experience along with details of Compass Box’s ideals and ambitions. We enjoyed seven excellent whiskies free of charge … I’ll just repeat that… free of charge!!! as the experience was principally designed for education rather than just mere enjoyment - although we all 20 of us appeared to enjoy it a lot.
So pausing only to grab our compasses and ensuring allowances for magnetic to true north, (to ensure accurate readings), Greg steered us due south with ASYLA the standard blend, and by 'standard' I mean significantly-higher-than-normal-blends’ 'standard'. ASYLA is a tutti-frutti fusion of Cameron Bridge grain along with Cragganmore and Glen Elgin malts resulting in a top class blended whisky, which kicks its caramelised and filtered cousins into second best/all-the-rest.
Second on the menu after negotiating a compass bearing of east by south-east, we arrived at OAK CROSS, a vat o' malts rendered all the more interesting by the addition of fine 'Sessille' oak barrel ends which added wood/spice complexity to an existing subtle malt gathering. Altogether quiet, complex and a quality-engagement.
Heading north-by-north-west, we approached our third offering with some trepidation as it existed by the name of PEAT MONSTER, but we really needn't have worried, our Peaty Monster was a powerful but gently complex beast of Caol Ila and Ardmore, which became quickly evident as a natural and energetic combination with the Ardmore subduing the stormy Caol Ila and the Caol Ila embracing the savory Ardmore.
Fourth, heading west, was HEDONISM the first ever-vatted grain whisky on the market. Who said Grain was inferior to malt/ … it’s not …it's just different, and this Cambus and Cameron Bridge double-dunt was superb, and an education to everyone present. A prolonged soft brulee dry confection with hints of wood-spice and smoke.
Now we were heading due north again towards unchartered territory in the form of FLAMING HEART, a truly brave and courageous blend of Islay and Speyside malts. This whisky is a damn good attempt to create what 'peated-Speyside' malt distillers are desperate to achieve – the best of Speyside sweetness and rounded fruitiness, balanced with the briny intense peat personality of Islay. With this vatted-malt the growing experience and sound judgment of Compass Box is evident.
With an about turn on our compass bearings we then ventured south into the Maderia-infused maltiness of MAGIC CASK, a bottling for Canadian customers (by their own request) which hit the mark with us all due to the ongoing quality of the individual malts of Linkwood and Clynelish that were present.
Finally our trembling compasses took us westerly towards stormy waters where turbulence was in evidence with the existence of our final sample of SPICE TREE. Why the turbulence? Well, ask the Scotch Whisky Association, who forbade Compass Box the further use of 'inner-staves' (i.e. secondary/inner barrel staves designed to impart wood flavours to maturing spirit). There was only one (inner-staved) release of spicy, wood-suffused, gentle, fruity SPICE TREE and bottles are now a sought-after collectors item. We were lucky to get to try it, and everyone enjoyed the whisky enormously. No one present had any problems with the integrity of inner-stave use - we were all just grateful to explore a whisky tasting event free of caramel (E150), and in a non-chill-filtered format with a combination of whiskies above the usual delivery of 10 to 12 years old. The overall quality of the whisky was self evident, even to the non-whisky drinkers who had just come along to 'try something else'.
We look forward to Compass Box's CANTO project. It will be very interesting indeed.
Thank you Compass Box for helping us get our bearings.
Monday, August 13, 2007
It felt like we'd moved into the stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap world of supermarkets at the last tasting - featuring a BOGOF promotion. Oran-Mor was host again and the Private Dining Room provided a suitable ambiance to sip and savour some of the finest malts around. But first intrepid souls had to overcome the obstacle course that was a Glenfiddich tasting, held in the Whisky Bar. Ian Miller from William Grant & Sons was host for both the Glenfiddich and, later, our Balvenie tasting, and in terms of the scrum that surrounded the Glenfiddich table, club members were certainly not found wanting. But in the more sedate surroundings of the dining room, we were able to take our time and really get to know the samples that were on offer. Ian was a genial and generous host who made his views on the importance of choosing good wood crystal clear. Some 65% of the taste of whisky is directly influenced by the wood in which it slowly matures. "It's the key to success," he said. We sampled the standard 10-year-old, which contrary to rumour, is not being phased out - at least not in the UK market,and the Double Wood, which slept for 12 years in US and European oak before being decanted into Oloroso sherry casks for six months. The Rum Wood was next at 47.1%. Having spent 14 years in predominantly US oak, it switched for four years to a rum cask. Next up was the Single Barrel - 15 years and 47.8% and a simply delicious whisky. The stanedard fare ended with the 21-year-old Port Wood, a faviourite of gWc and a highly-recommended dram in the tasting notes we prepare for the Herald. Star of the night, though, was the 1993 bottling in a very heavy sherry cask. Half was bottled for the market, the rest was recasked in 1999. It was snaffled by Mr Miller who labelled it Ian Miller's - Hands Off. Fortunately he let us get our hands on it, and two bottles were passed round and sampled with delight. Even more generously, Ian donated what was left - about £600 worth if it found its way into the shops - for Alex Robertson's SoS Children's charity. Full details in Short Measures
Monday, July 30, 2007
This month sees Glengoyne filling Australian Shiraz casks, adding yet another unique finish to its range of award-winning single malts.
The casks, previously used for a Gold award winning Shiraz from Australia’s Hunter Valley, have come courtesy of Glenguin Winery. The owner of the winery, Robin Tedder, is in fact the third Baron of Glenguin – which was until 1908 the name of the whisky distillery that is now known as Glengoyne.
It is nearly 100 years ago since Glenguin Distillery became Glengoyne Distillery and so to celebrate, 20 empty Shiraz casks have been filled with 16-Year-Old Glengoyne. These casks will be monitored on a weekly basis and, if the spirit merits it, will be released later this year as Glengoyne - Glenguin Shiraz Cask Finish (Limited Edition).
One of only a few “Aussies” with a Master of Wine, Robin Tedder is hugely knowledgeable and is seen as a world authority on the Shiraz (Syrah) grape. Robin is expected to visit the Glengoyne distillery this autumn when he will be in the UK promoting his wines. During his visit Robin will use his expert palate to help decide on the timing for the final bottling of this exclusive malt.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The unique bottling, designed by Master Distiller Jim McEwan, is an unusual alliance of Scotland, America, France… and Austria, to produce a well rounded, compelling dram.
Matured for 18 years in American oak casks, the whisky was selected for an additional cask evolution (ACE) for several months in premium quality French oak.
Mark Reynier, CEO says: “The casks chosen come from Austrian maverick Willi Opitz, the engaging, ever so slightly mad, wine producer. It took four years to persuade him.”
“Opitz’s irreverence – he produces a sparkling wine called Fizzy Willy – appeals to me, as does his huge vitality and enthusiasm - obsession even – to challenge the norm.”
“Aficionados hooked on Sherry casks will be blown away – there are similar traits but more complexity, finesse and fruit thanks to the finer oak and totally unique ‘straw wine’.
“It’s turbo-charged golden honey, dark raisin/toffee richness, pomegranate, cooked pear/plum fruit; with hints of cinnamon: viscous mouth feel and long, smooth finish” Stocks should last around two years.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
A tasting with a difference this month where our old friend Gerry Tosh used the club as a testing bed for some new ideas. Instead of just talking about whisky and how it’s made, we actually got the chance to make something approaching the legendary 18 Year Old.
The venue was a departure as well – the Whisky Bar at Oran Mor – and although it got a wee bit noisy as the evening wore on, we had PA if needed. It’s a nice venue and the bar is keen on the club going back there for tastings, but for the Glenfarclas night in September, we might be better booking the Private Dining Room. The committee will have a think about it.
The night began with four samples – the new make, 12, 15 and 18 – and Gerry took us through the characteristics of a typical Highland Park dram.
But he also brought cask samples that he and his master blender would sample and marry to produce the distinctive HP taste. Using two from casks laid down in 1989 along with two from 1981, the club’s guinea pigs added a 1974 to the mix to produce something not dissimilar to the fabled 18. Youngest whisky 18 years old, oldest 33, compared with the 34 that’s the veteran of the official product.
It was an interesting and worthwhile exercise and Gerry is working on ways to take this type of tasting to a wider audience.
In an evening of good fun and good laughs, we also had a special moment when Ian Black brought along a magnificent wooden case which he’d been given by Highland Park during its rebranding.
Containing miniatures of the entire range and a magnificent book of striking Orkney images, it also had the stuff of life that makes up Orkney and Highland Park – the barley for the malt, a lump of peat, a stave from a barrel. A quite magnificent and rare beast, it was one of only 50 produced, and Ian was happy to auction it.
His chosen charity, given his football provenance, was the Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal, which raises cash for orphans in Georgia. Gerry held a blind auction and our very own made of wood Ralf, topped the lot with a very generous £127.Many thanks, also, to Laura Burgess, whose haggling skills got the club 60 Glencairn glasses for a bargain price.
You’ll remember your humble secretary was the recipient of some of the world’s most expensive whisky when he glugged 62-year-old Dalmore at a Whyte & Mackay tasting. Since then his tastes have been a wee bit less rich … until the launch of W&M’s rare and Prestige range.
It would have been churlish to turn down lunch at 29 in Royal Exchange Square, especially as it came with the Whyte & Mackay 40-Year-Old at £549 a pop. Only 1000 bottles are being released, and they’re probably not going to Tesco.
Next up was the Isle of Jura 40. Made in 1966 by master blender Robert Paterson, only 98 bottles will be on sale, for an-I’m-sure-you’ll-agree-very -reasonable £1249.
Big hit of the day was The Dalmore 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon Wood Release. Again 1000 bottles, and cheap as chips at £399.
Finally we sampled the Dalmore 40.Orange marmalade and Christmas pudding, with a toffee and chocolate orange taste. Yours for £1350.I asked Richard if he would host a tasting for the club, but because the reception was getting a bit noisy, I’m not quite sure of his answer. I recognised a few of the words, but am unable to repeat them in polite society.
TWO perfectly responsible members of the club - oh, all right: Andy Bell and Bobby Banford - discovered to their cost the menace of the malt when they travelled to Islay for the annual Feis.
As our pictures show, they got on perfectly well when it was just the two of them, and even when Gillian joined them, but for the life of him Bobby says he has NO idea who the two others in the pic are. If the lady is his wife,he’s in trouble; if it’s not, he’s in trouble.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
A couple of weeks ago Ken Seaton and I inveigled our way into an AnCnoc tasting being given by Jim Murray of Bible fame. The setting was the Lismore in Partick and, frankly, it’s not ideal. The tasting would have taken place in direct line with access to the toilets, with the attendant inconveniences (sorry, couldn’t help it). A bouncer made people walk out the pub and sneak in the side door, thus saving the guests from seeing Mr Murray cancel the tasting.
The drams were AnCnoc new make, a six year old bottling brought specifically at Jim’s request, the standard 12, the new 16 and a bottle from the dim and distant past, a 1975 Knockdhu. He told the audience, Daily Express competition winners, that he takes the AnCnoc to every tasting across the world, as it it’s one most people haven’t heard of, and it scores very highly for consistency of quality.
At the end of a short, but enjoyable tasting, punters got the chance to vote their favourite dram and using a calculation that made the Holyrood election papers a doddle, the standard 12 came out ahead, followed by the Knockdhu and the 16.
Jim told some tall tales, such as being stalked through Inverness in his first ever visit to Scotland. Both stalkers male, incidentally.And he has an interesting technique, insisting the whisky should be warmed in one hand while the glass is covered by the other at the top.
I got pelters for admitting I have the occasional whisky with ice, but told him the club’s motto was drink it your way, and Ken drew his ire by suggesting whisky worked good with food.
Pish and Tosh was his reaction. Well he got it half right!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Friends included Matt Edwards from Isle of Arran Distillery, who poured a generous dram of the Robert Burns Malt. Next up was Kate from Springbank where we tasted the Longbow 10, the Springbank 15 and the Springbank done in the Marsala cask. This nine year old, at 58%, was delicious, and the beginning of some bery fine whiskies throughout the afternoon.
We could hardly ignore our friends and sponsors at Inver House, and master distiller Stuart Harvey was very generous with the new Balblair vintages – the 97, 89, and 79. We tasted these for a Herald supplement a few weeks ago and they were as delicious on Saturday as they had been then.
It would have been churlish to ignore the Glenfarclas stand next to Stuart and we got talking to the man pouring the drams who turned out to be Robert Ransom. Ken and I have both been in touch with him regarding a future tasting and it was a perfect opportunity to try some of them before recommending them to club members. We tried the 10, 21 and 30 – the one Robert recommended for the day after your daughter’s wedding, when a contemplative dram was rich reward for seeing her set out on a new direction. At £110 a bottle, I’d need to have more than one daughter to justify it, but after a few sips, I saw his point.
Your humble scribe, Maggie and Mike drifted away and heading for Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask stall where a simply intoxicating Port Ellen was generously offered. The Old Malt Cask series is the mid-range of this independent bottler’s offering, sitting above the Provenance bottlings but beneath the Platinum of which the brothers Laing are justifiably proud.
A big thank you to Robin Russell of Robbie‘s Drams who made us feel very welcome. He is a keen and enthusiastic ambassador of whisky and next year plans to take over the Town Hall for an even bigger event.
Shame so few of the Club could make it to this year's.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
This year, as last year, the stand-in was superb. Simon Hibbitt from parent company LVMH proved to be a willing pourer with a steady hand and Annabel Meikle – not Emily, as I had been told – was a charming very knowledgeable hostess. Part of the evening’s success was the lack of any formality – the very ethos on which the club was founded. Not lectures, just an informative talk and taste of a handful of Ardbeg’s finest – the Almost There, the Ten, the 1990 Airigh Nam Beist and the legendary Lord of the Isles.
As Annabel and Simon joined us at our tables, it seemed only fair we reciprocate their generosity and share a bottle of one of our sponsor’s drams – the Old Pulteney 12. I think it's fair to say it held its own against the peatier Islays, although obviously it is a different animal.
Sincere thanks to Andy Bell of Oddbins, who arranged the evening, brought the glasses and got Annabel's name wrong!
A very warm welcome, incidentally, to three new members who joined us for the evening - John Macintyre and Duncan and Sheila McLaren. A pleasure to see you all.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Tickets are selling fast for the Whisky An A’ That festival on Saturday, May 26, so if you’re keen to go, please order them now. The event is being organised by Robin Russell of Robbie’s Drams – a thoroughly nice man with a passion for whisky and a shop that’s got some very interesting stock to match. If you go to his website http://www.robbiesdrams.com you can order tickets there. Alternatively call the shop on 01292 284279 and Robbie or Derek will take your order. I’ve managed to get 12 reserved for club members, so if you’re calling, please mention you’re with Glasgow’s Whisky Club and they’ll take your ticket from that allocation.
This year is bigger than ever and Robbie has taken it out of the shop and into Ayr's Carnegie Reference Library. It’s at 12 Main Street and you can find it here http://www.south-ayrshire.gov.uk/libraries/branches/carnegie_map.htm
There will be food and drinks from a mix of exhibitors, with celebrity guests and speakers. Tickets are £12 but you'll get a nosing glass and a mini, plus a catalogue and five vouchers thrown in.
It’s running from 12 to 6 and rather than hire a bus, I thought those who want to go should let me know so I can gauge numbers. We could meet in the Pot Still in time for a beer or a dram and get the train. They run every half hour and take less than an hour. So the 1pm would get us there for 2, give us four hours to eat and drink, and wander wearily back up the road.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Picture whisky-making and the imagination leads you to a white-washed building half way up a glen, with the traditional pagoda roof and a horny-toed son of the soil rolling a barrel across a cobbled courtyard to a damp and dark warehouse.
Not like that on Thursday when nine souls toured the Diageo bottling plant at Shieldhall, courtesy of James Thomson. This is whisky making on an industrial scale – 23 million cases of Johnnie Walker Red and Black, J&B, Bells and Vat 69 rolled off an assembly line last year.
You may well have passed in on your way to the airport. It sits beside IKEA and opposite Braehead and it’s basically a factory dedicated to pumping out high-quality whisky.
From the moment the cigar-shaped spirit tanker drops its pre-blended spirit off, to the time when pallets of whisky are loaded on to artics, a mere six hours elapse.
We spent four of those hours having a wander round with James, dressed in the shiny yellow vests that lollipop men and women wear. As you can see from the pic, the camera doesn't really like them!
We climbed to the top of the vast storage vats where Ralf had a close encounter with buckets of caramel and lived to tell the tale, and down to the bottling hall, where a Disney World theme park of bottles and boxes amused several grown men for several minutes at a time.
Back to the admin offices for a wee spiel and a couple of glasses of Red and Black, then we went shopping. Suffice to say the Diageo shop ain’t like something you’ll find on Buchanan Street, but for some reason, no-one was in too much of a hurry to leave. The shop assistants coped well with the demands of clubsters, including at least two proposals of marriage!
Many thanks to James and all at Diageo for a really interesting day.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
The Club's tasting panel got together in The Pot Still this week for a magnificent seven drams for the Herald's Whisky Galore supplement. Thanks to Ralf, Raymond, James,Ken, Andy and Frank for tasting and talking. The Designated Driver - me! -who humped the whisky across town deserves nothing but the highest praise for selfless devotion to the cause. Apart from the tasting notes, we also got space to puff the club, so all in all, it was a good night's work. My spare room is now awash with whisky, so we'll need to meet up soon for another club night.
There’s a wee sweetie shop in Troon that sells traditional confectionery – granny sookers, pineapple chunks Kola Cubes and Sherbet Lemons.There’s a wee distillery in Edderton, near Tain, in Rosshire that sells whisky that would
be completely at home in a wee sweetie shop.The new Balblair range has been out for a month or so; new packaging, new drams, new pricing.Gone are the age statements and in are vintages to reflect the best the distillery has to offer, married with the skill of the master blender in picking just the right cask at just the right time.The house style is rich spices; fruits and a pleasant leathery note. These are drams worth getting to know.The youngest kid on the block is the Balblair 97 , a soft, rich spicy and very attractive whisky, with a nose reminiscent of polished furniture, pear drops and vanilla fudge with a wee hint of pepper at the tip of the tongue. When tasted neat, it’s like chewing marshmallows. With a touch of water it becomes dangerously easy to drink. Its big brother is Balblair 89. The colour of green straw, there’s a touch of olives and a fruity, floral nose. With water, the Highland toffee and fudge comes to the fore and unravels to reveal a balanced yet complex malt building to a strong finish. Old but gold, the Balblair 79 asserts itself with an effervescent burst on the tongue, followed by long citrus flavours and a tiny, tiny touch of salt. It’s honey, toffee and vanilla. Then it’s deep into the sweetie jar for oranges, bananas, pineapples and pears and a final dusting of American Cream Soda.Magnificently well groomed, you could take this to tea at the Ritz.
Here are other drams we tasted:
Auchentoshan Three Wood: a feinty, eucalyptus nose leads you in to worn warm leather. Think Honor Blackman after a day filming the Avengers! There’s liquorice, rum, burnt sugar, and it’s got a complexity that keeps it interesting.
With added water, molasses come to the fore. It’s creamy, malty and you could see yourself swapping a cup of hot cocoa for this last thing at night. A real ‘put your arms around me’ dram.
Old Pulteney 17: An immediate feelgood factor with a soft mouth a gundog would kill for. A favourite of Glasgow’s Whisky Club’s tasting panel, we consider this to be an example of how good malt whisky can be.
Think Co-op Greengrocer’s of the 60s and that fresh, ripe, just-picked fruit. Fresh, with the tang of limes and lemon-drizzled butterfly cakes. It does sweet; it does salty. It does warm sea breeze to perfection.
A sequence of fabulous flavours that massages the palate. When water is added, there are oranges and a faint whiff of peat. We like it!
Not every whisky needs to be a single malt. Some of the finest drams are the result of the blender’s craft and Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a prime example. From first glance to final taste it’s got the lot. A perfect whisky colour, it just glows in the glass. Superbly crafted, it’s a whisky to lounge around with. Try it on a big comfy sofa with something not too threatening on the telly.
It’s the dram Dean Martin would be drinking just before recording Volare, and no wonder Dino was flying if this was his dram of choice. Sparkles like a diamond.
There are big drams; there are beefy drams. And there are drams you ‘d want beside you when Saturday night’s all right for fighting. Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength is your best pal when the chips are down. Understanding if you’re a wee bit feart of approaching it without water, it repays your trust tenfold. Ready Brek for grown ups, it wraps you in a warm Doctor Who scarf dipped in shoe polish, treacle and a touch of smoke. A real gentle giant.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Other bits and bobs around this week include:
The Co-op is about to launch the lightest bottle on the market. The upside is it is made with less glass to help save the planet; the downside is you have to drink the Co-op’s own label scotch!!
A man named after a single malt has made a 4000 mile pilgrimage to his ‘spiritual home’. Nicholas Glenfiddich Lahren, is a 26-year-old technician from Philadelphia, who visited Glenfiddich Distillery to pick up a crystal decanter promised to him on his 18th birthday. His dad named him after his favourite tipple, but the family moved to America, and this was Nick’s first chance to get back. I see this as a trend that might well catch on. So, introducing Ralf Laphroaig Mitchell, Iain Ben Nevis Black,, and Francis Bunnahabhain Murphy.
Inver House has posted a dip in sales and profits, hard on the heels of its relaunch of Balblair. The firm, bought last October by InterBev, the international arm of Thai Beverages, saw profits slip to just under £2.6million, down from £2.9m the last time.
William Grant & Sons is investing tons of dosh in a new malt distillery in Girvan, Ayrshire, next to its existing grain distillery. The move was forced on the firm because of overwhelming demand from emerging markets such as China. China is also behind the launch next month by Ian MacLeod Distillers (parent body of Glengoyne) of a series of single malts and blends. They’ll include 12- and 15-year-old blends as well as 17- and 21-year-old single malts.
Finally, you'll notice a wee advert at the top of the page. This is a feature supplied by Google, and we make a wee bit of cash every time someone clicks on it from this page. I'm hoping to get some more targeted ads in the future.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
The Club got back to doing what it does best this week – meeting, greeting and talking drams. The club night benefited from a raft of half full bottles (or half empty if you’re a natural-born pessimist) left over from the Tasting Panel’s exertions at the end of the year. This was supplemented by some samples The Disciplined Disciple had managed to wheedle out of exhibitors at the Edinburgh Whisky Festival earlier in the spring, plus a bottle of the Glenrothes 92 Ray Urie kindly donated and a very interesting rum-finished Caol Isla 19 from Bobby Banford which won it by a nose. Early birds also sampled Ian Black’s Ben Nevis 13, which is just about to go into bottling and is so new it doesn’t even have a name (How about Ian Black’s Ben Nevis 13?) Or Andy Clark's I can't get my nose far enough in 13?)
No speeches spoiled the flow of the evening, or the drams. We enjoyed Jura –
Superstition (modelled here by the handsome Fergus) and a fine 16YO – Glenfiddich Toasted Oak, Highland Park 12, Auchentoshan 10, Glengoyne 17 (about the most popular of the night) Bruichladdich Flirtation and Old Pulteney 12. In addition there was a Yamazaki 18 from Nicki at Morrison Bowmore. Most thought this was like a Lexus; just about perfect to drive, but strangely, with nothing terribly memorable at the end of the journey. Does that sound like a contradiction? Well it was getting on and the drams were flowing.
There’s another Whisky Supplement coming up for the Herald, so I’ll let the tasting panel know the dates, and sometime in May we can do the free club night all over again.
Incidentally, Ken at the Pot Still was happy to have us on the Tuesday evening. Our presence gave the pub a real buzz and didn’t do his takings much harm either! He was telling me the other day he’ll be getting in some Duncan Taylor bottlings, which club members can buy at their 10% discount.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
We had three good reasons to celebrate our visit to Auchentoshan Distillery on the last day of March:
1. It was our first outing of the year;
2. We were joined on the second day of their honeymoon by newly wed members Erik and Laura Burgess; and
3. We were the first people to sample Auchentoshan’s new 18 and 19-year-old malts due for the market early NEXT year.
Our sojourn into the Kilpatrick countryside got off to a pleasant start at The Pot Still. On a quiet Saturday lunchtime we were the only customers, giving the premises the feel of our own private club. The short drive to the distillery found us in a neat cluster of whitewashed buildings in bright sunshine. Lunch was a bowl of warming soup and platefuls of man-sized sandwiches, but strangely, club members missed the tray of 10-year-old Auchentoshan sitting on a bureau. We were soon to make up for that omission.
Distillery manager Ronnie Learmond was to be our guide and talked us through the visitor centre and training room, which was also the venue for Ceilidh nights. First stop was the mash room where Ronnie explained the process, which heralds the start of the Auchentoshan journey. We enjoyed a glass of the 12 year old as we listened. Then it was through to the tun room where the four wooden wash backs have pride of place.
Our second dram overlooking the three stills was the Three Wood, triple distilled, as are all Auchentoshan malts, but gaining character from its immersion first in bourbon, then Oloroso sherry and finally Pedro Ximinez casks.
Next up was the 21-year-old hogshead, a bright copper coloured dram with a palate of mint and chocolate and a long smooth finish chocolate. Sipped in the cool of the warehouse, this was a warming and satisfying dram.
The best was held to the last, though, as we gathered in one of Ronnie’s offices, a small room lined with some of the older products from the range, with a small bar area. Ronnie produced samples from two casks that had been drawn that week and invited the club to become the first outsiders to try the brand new products to be released for sale next year. Both at cask strength for our tasting, the 18 and 19 will be reduced to 43% before being sold. Both were magnificent, with the 18 perhaps edging it in the favourite stakes, while the 19 had been finished with a brief flirtation in port pipes.
Our final dram with Ronnie was an 18-year-old Limited Edition. Only 4800 bottles, but every one a winner.
Time for a last dram in the shop and the purchase of a few mementos before rounding off the day back the Pot Still where we tried to persuade Erik and Laura that 10 days in Mallaig would be more fun that their intended destination -Mauritius!
Saturday, March 24, 2007
…On your biscuit, join our club.
It was a slow day in certain licensed premises in the Hope Street, Glasgow, area. Two lonely barkeeps (let’s call them … err … Frank and Aiden) are discussing whisky and food. Frank, an acknowledged Whiz at Whisky, and also the Biz with Biscuits, and his sidekick (who passed his licensee’s exam last week and is now … ehm … licensed) were pondering pairings. Which dram with which biscuit? Raiding the tips drawer Frank hurried next door and returned with a Crunchie bar and a packet of Jaffa Cakes. Slicing off the top and bottom of the Crunchy, a handy bradawl pierced a neat hole through the honeycomb core. Steeped into a dram, the Crunchy was used as a straw to sook up the spirit. Verdict? Not the best success, although some time later the chocolate had taken on a distinctly whisky hue.
The Jaffa Cakes were a whole different kettle of fish (?) Inverted so the chocolate provided a non-porous base, the dram of choice, a Dalmore 12, was drizzled slowly over three Jaffas. What a marriage! The orange in the Jaffa perfectly complemented the orangey marmalade in the whisky.
The next day ginger nuts and Talisker were the chosen combo, but battled each other. Rye whiskey seemed a likelier fit, but Crown Royal, Canadian Club and Old Portrero were swiftly sampled and discarded. Then came the Eureka! Moment and our old friend Mr Daniels was pressed into service. Jack and Ginger? They were destined to go together like fish and chips, Laurel and Hardy, Balblair and Buckfast.
By the by, our old friend Richard Paterson, Master Blender from Whyte and Mackay invites you to 'Meet the Whyte and Mackay Family' at Oran Mor, Glasgow at 6.45p.m. on Wednesday 28th March 2007. Richard will conduct a presentation and tasting session. There will also be a free draw to win the family, a bottle each of Whyte and Mackay 13, 19 and 22 years old.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Regulars and staff at the aforementioned howff were stunned when hard man turned blues player Steven Seagal ambled in on Thursday night. The bold Ken swiftly arranged an impromptu tasting session for Seagal, who was playing Renfrew Ferry.
Chivas has produced a 16YO expression of its much understated Longmorn as it seeks to reposition it as a 'super-premium malt'. It will cost £50.
March 21 is the date for a challenge hosted by Andy Bell at Oddbins in the Retail Park at the bottom of Crow Road. Andy's pitting a selection of Balvenie drams against a number of expressions from Bruichladdich. Contact the branch for tickets.
The bus is booked for the Auchentoshan visit on Saturday, March 31. Only 12 clubsters will be able to go on the day. We have nine names so get your names in if you want to be the last three. The bus will pick us up at The Pot Still in time for soup and sandwich lunch at Auchentoshan at 1pm. The Master Blender tour kicks off 45 minutes later. There will be an opportunity to try some very old Toshans as well as a visit to the shop, so bring your credit cards. Price of the tour is £40, but the club is getting it for £25. Bus is £130, divided by the number of souls on it.
Robin Russell of Robbie's Drams in Ayr is planning a follow up to his 2006 Whisky An' A' That event with an even biggest whisky fest in May - and he's keen for club members to join him. This year's event is on Saturday, May 26, from 12 to 6 in Ayr's Carnegie Reference Library.There will be food and hunners of drinks from a mix of exhibitors, including marketeers, producers and distillers, with celebrity guests and speakers. Tickets are around £12 but you'll get more than a few drams for that. If you fancy it, let me know. It's a while since we've had an away day.
Right, that's the weeding done (not by me obviously!!) so I'm off to supervise the car getting washed. 8-))
AN intrepid duo from the club defied the rail strikes to attend the Edinburgh relaunch of Balblair as a premium single malt. As you know, Balblair comes from the company that also produces Old Pulteney, one of the club's supporters this year, although they are very different beasts. Held in The Dome, a former banking hall, the great and the good gathered with Toshie and the Blackster to sniff, sip and swallow a trio of malts released as vintage expressions. The 1979, 1989 and 1997 came from three casks out of 1062 sampled by distillery manager John Macdonald and blends manager Stuart Harvey. A new bottle and packaging inspired by the distillery’s Pictish links will help the malt stand out on the shelves.
The three expressions are:
Balblair 1979 - amber in appearance with radiant golden honey highlights. Warm aromas of honey, toffee and vanilla that come from the long years of maturation in American oak barrels. Cloves, oranges, bananas and pears can also be detected. Sweet, honey vanilla flavours combine with cloves and spices leading to a rich, full-bodied, long-lasting, finish. Retails at £84.99.
Balblair 1989 - mid-amber in appearance with honey-gold highlights. A full-bodied malt with aromas of raisin, green apple and hints of banana and lemon. The American oak barrels lend a warm toffee, vanilla fragrance. On the palate there are raisins and fruits with a rich spiciness leading to a long, complex and ultimately smooth finish. Price £39.95
Balblair 1997 - subtly amber in appearance with rose-golden highlights. Full-bodied and fused with the aromas of pineapple, apricot and lemon to create a long-lasting sweet finish. On the nose, the American oak barrels produce an inviting, spicy fragrance. Hints of oak, spice and raisin combine with the sweetness of vanilla to create a long-lingering, creamy smooth finish on the palate. Yours for £27.99.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Awarding the first-ever Arran 10 year old a score of 93, he said: “It won’t be long before the world’s malt connoisseurs add Arran to their list of must haves. Because if it’s character and quality you want, it’s here by the malt shed load.”
The new Arran 100o Proof Single Malt has a rating of 91 and is described as “sheer class”, while a number of the special bottlings in the company’s Cask Strength Programme are given scores of 92, 93 and 94. The Sherry Cask rated 92 is described as “A glorious advert for a distillery just coming of age.” The Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Wine Cask Finish rated 93 is described as “A jazzed up fruity, spicy number but astonishingly clean.”
Murray’s best rating, however, is reserved for a special sherry cask he tasted with Gordon Mitchell, our Distillery Manager, (above) at the company’s 10th anniversary celebrations in 2005. Awarding a score of 94 Mr. Murray commented “Total drinksmanship and brilliance. There is not a whisky even close to this in character. A stunning one off.”
Commenting on these ratings, Arran’s managing director, Douglas Davidson, said: “We have always known that we produce single malt whisky of the very highest quality here on Arran. It is nice to know that the world’s top whisky writer agrees with us, however! These ratings – across a variety of different Arran single malt products – show just how far Arran has come in the last three or four years. The baby distillery has grown up. We are here to stay and intend to become an even greater force to be reckoned with in world whisky markets for the future.”
Sunday, February 25, 2007
And what a table. Last used by the SFA high heid-yins at Park Circus, it now dominated the private dining room at Oran Mor, an oak-panelled suite with plush leather chairs and sofas, and its own bar. It’s an expensive option, but we felt it worthwhile for the first tasting of the year. Other nights will be in less exclusive surroundings until the Gerry Tosh Highland Park night in June, which will again be at Oran Mor.
We were walked through six whiskies by Jacque Sutherland, left, from Duncan Taylor:
1. NC2, a 1993 Mortlach at 46%.
2. 19YO Macallan at 52.4%. Bottle 05/1306 from oloroso sherry cask 9793, distilled 12/1987
3. The Lonach Caperdonich at 41.9% aged 33 years
4. Rarest of the Rare Glenlochy at 53.2%. Bottle no 3 out of 294 from cask 2452. Distilled 08/1980
5. Invergordon grain at 50.3%. Bottle 05/238 from cask 15514. Distilled 12/1965
6. Auld Reekie 12YO Islay malt at 46%, and mainly Caol Ila, with a drop of something ‘unspecified’.
There were as many favourites as there were drams. Your humble scribe was taken by the Lonach Caperdonich, a vatting of three casks, one or two of which had dropped below the 40% mark. It was fresh, with green apples, grass and, I kid you not, an initial nose of fish oil (!) with pear drops. At around £60 retail, not a bank buster either. The 26-year-old Glenlochy, which closed in 1983, was also a star, but at £90, perhaps one for a special occasion.
Finally, just a word about attendance. Eleven souls out of a club membership of 40 turned up. Perhaps the cost was high, although more members would have reduced the price of admission. Perhaps the choice of whiskies wasn’t appealing to everyone; although I would have thought the chance to taste whiskies aged 40, 33 and 26 would have been adraw in itself.
Still the team that turned out did them proud.