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 –
uperstition (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!

Thanks to all at Auchentoshan for a great day, and to Nicki from Fior Brands, who helped with the arrangements.