Friday, October 08, 2010

A David Stirk Tasting Is No Laughing Matter

One of the hits of last year, David Stirk returned to Glasgow’s Whisky Club with another Magnificent Seven whiskies. We like David; he’s from Southern Scotland (Yorkshire) and brings a real honesty to tasting nights. He also brings some of the worst jokes ever heard, with the groan factor rising as the end of the evening approaches.
Most of all, though, he brings some great drams, and Tuesday’s tasting at the Metropolitan was no exception.
First up was a Glentauchers 11, bottled at 45% and one of 381 bottles from the cask. Glentauchers is relatively unknown malt, since most of it goes into Ballantine’s. From a second fill American hogshead, it displayed that classic vanilla and oak, with a chalky dryness.
Another 11 year old, this time from Glen Ord, was our second sup. One of 295 bottles, this was finished in a European oak for nine months. The Euroak (sorry) acts much more quickly on the whisky, and therefore needs to be treated carefully.

David demonstrated the proper way to store and pour whiskies with the next dram - plastic containers and water jugs! The Glen Keith cask strength (54.1%) looked just like chip shop vinegar, but thankfully tasted of very fine whisky.
A 1980 Tamdhu was next, again cask strength at 52.8% from a refill ex-Bourbon hogshead, and each dram just seemed to be better than the one before (That often happens at tastings, though)>
Into David’s Exclusive range and a beguiling Linkwood 1991 18yo. Bottled at 50.8% and again finished in Euro oak, I got polish, leather armchairs, Airfix glue – all good in my view!
The nose is rich, crammed full of mixed fruits, sweet oak and vanilla and a hint of aniseed. The palate is also sweet and oaky with lots of different fruit flavours from orange-liqueur to tropical fruit. The finish is short but fruity with a long oaky aftertaste.
A pleasant interlude was the interruption of proceedings by John Darling, who arrived with a tray of sandwiches left over from a do he was at. John’s fast becoming the Food Meister of the Club; at the last Round the Barrel we had Arran whisky cake, baked by Vicky, his wife. The sandwiches worked well with one of the best drams of the evening for me, a peaty, smoky Ardmore 10, sitting at 54.6% and recasked in an ex-Clynelish cask for six weeks. Amazing.
The final dram was even better. A dram bottled in 1966, when it felt the end of the world was near, this Tomintoul from a first fill sherry cask was simply immense. We were only the second club to have tasted this masterpiece, so some gentle crowing about 1966 was a fair price to pay. The cask spent its entire life at Tomintoul and at around £175 a bottle, it found a number of fans in club members.
Treasurer Ian Black was again keen to flash the cash and his bargaining powers mean there will be a pleasant reprise of Mr Stirk’s whiskies at a future Round the Barrel evening.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Calm Before The Storm

A two-tone Round the Barrel to bring September to an end. A fairly sedate start with a change of plan. Our initial idea for a bourbon night - with real, live bourbons and a selection of bourbon cask malts, took a late hit when bourbon-meister Andrew Bell called off with an attack of Islay cold.

In their stead we sampled a 20 year old Bladnoch, a 10 year old Speyside specially bottled for the Bon Accord, and two Tullibardines from our recent trip - a 15 year old sherry and an 18 year old port.

Joining us for the second part was Curt Robinson from Calgary, Alberta, who runs a whisky blogging website  and has interviewed Ralfy and Mark for it, but also real people like Mickey Heads. He was coming to the end of a tour of Scotland, especially Islay, and chilled out with us before flying home the next day. Hope the head wasn't too bad Curt!

The second part of the evening was an altogether more rewarding affair. With the exception of Big Peat and the 26 year old Caol Ila, the remains of the previous week's Douglas Laing tasting were brought to the barrel. I raved about them last week, but the people who weren't there were equally as enthusiastic at the quality of the drams on offer.

Apart from Kurt, we had two other new faces - Elspeth who came with Eddie,(below) and Roddy,(above) who dispenses wisdom at Oddbins in Crow Road. Roddy joined on the night. We're not sure if we scared Elspeth off, but she seemed to enjoy the drams on the night.

The final star of the evening wasn't even a whisky. Your humble treasurer is spending the week basking in the glow of Channel Four's Come Dine With Me. This TV colossus was seen in action in his kitchen, destroying one batch of tatties, before getting caught making one dish stretch into two. 

Last night he was mobbed by star-struck TV groupies (well, Adam actually) who couldn't believe he could get so close to the big man. Where's the Security when you need it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Six Stunning Scotches - And Big Peat

Busy few weeks whisky-wise, but now I’ve got a chance to catch up. First on the list is Ralfy’s departure from these shores for the Isle of Man and a wee bothy from where his acclaimed vlogs will henceforth emanate.
There was a great turn up Round the Barrel for his farewell, and it coincided with a ‘Tache Tribute to Richard Paterson, who is celebrating 40 years in the whisky business.
There were a few speeches, a few drams and a wee presentation to the Chanty Wrassler, who responded in good style, crediting Glasgow’s Whisky Club with untold power and influence.

The Richard Paterson tribute, where we all donned fake moustache for a group photie, so delighted the great man, that he donated a bottle of Whyte and Mackay 40 year old to a future RtB night.
Next up was a wee double-distillery trip that attracted 10 hardy souls. We headed across to the Kingdom of Fife and took a guided tour round the delightful Daftmill Distillery.
Headed by Francis Cuthbert, who began the venture with brother Ian, and set in the heart of Fife, they use their own barley, grown at Daftmill Farm, and sparkling water from their own artesian well.
They also run it as distilleries of yore did, waiting till the harvest is in (and the tatties are howked) before using spare barley for malting.
It’s a working farm, so tours are limited to the quieter periods of farm life (if there are any). Call ahead if you fancy going.

As a reward for the trek you can sometimes share a dram with Francis. The bourbon is full of classic American Cream Soda, Butterkist popcorn, while the sherry is simply immense, with a finish that goes on and on.
Francis insists he’ll bottle whisky “when it’s ready”. We reckoned it was ready on Saturday!

We then dashed across country to Tullibardine, where we undertook the Connoisseur’s Tour. Led by our genial guide, Gavin, we got to explore many bits and bobs of this distillery, before sampling, straight from the casks, a handful of decent drams
Last bit of business was the Douglas Laing tasting with Jan Beckers at Uisge Beatha. Some confusion over emails and dates resulted in a low turn out of 10 – 11 if you count Jan (which we do), but it was an utterly magical evening.
We sat round one long bench in the candlelight (which made even Mr Black strangely attractive) and sampled a Magnificent Seven whiskies, each one better than the one before.

Here’s the list
  1. A Clan Denny 45 year old single grain from Girvan. An astonishing dram for such an old whisky, liquid Bounty Bar, Jan called it, sweet chocolate and coconut and still pretty big at 46.3?
  2. A Provenance Benrinnes. A new one on me, and more shame for having previously overlooked it. Fresh, citrus, with a nose of autumn woodland, this 1997 whisky was 46%.
  3. An Old Malt Cask Braes of Glenlivet 20. Another new one for me, this was bottled at 50% and was just scrumptious
  4. A remarkable Highland Park, bottled at 11 years old. This had more depth of character than the official 12YO. Smokier and peatier than the OB, it comes in at 46%
  5. An Old Malt Cask Ardmore 12. Again sitting at 50%, this came from a refill hoggie and opened my eyes to a spicy Highland/Speysider than I’m determined to taste again. It brought out the romantic in Peter – “a seductive siren” he called it!
  6. The affable Big Peat. A soaraway success when it was introduced last year, the first batch of this 46 percenter sold out in eight to 10 days. We tasted batch 7 and although it has a PPM of 22 “and a bit” said Jan. it’s nowhere near as scary ass the label makes out.
  7. And for me the absolute standout of an evening of absolute standouts – a 26-year-old Caol Ila that was sweet, gentle, far, far better than anything out of the OB warehouses.
  8. A simply stunning evening. “It’s what I joined Glasgow’s Whisky Club for,” said Shawn, and there was no-one who would disagree.

I’ve asked Jan to host another evening early in the New Year when hopefully many more souls can experience a night of absolute bliss.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tam's Drams : Open For Business

 Opening night at Tam's Drams brought out the crowds - a lot of them suspiciously like Glasgow's Whisky Club on tour. Tam Gardiner, who's been a club member for the past three years, has realised a long-held dream to run his own whisky shop. A keen collector, Tam's own haul of whisky provided a big talking point at the opening. His Collectors Corner is stuffed with old drams, rare drams, eye-wateringly expensive drams. One day I'll pluck up the courage.
 Since most of the big boys in whisky don't want to know the smaller, independent outlets, Tam chose to be independent, and go independent. He's getting great support from Glasgow's own Douglas Laing, Duncan Taylor, Wemyss Malts and Springbank. Arran and Bruichladdich, newly moved into new HQ off Blythswood Square, are also generous suppliers.
 Your humble chairman has been helping Tam out in the shop, photographing the stock for Tam's up and coming website - - and Tam has been doing nothing to reduce Toshie's waist line by introducing him to the wide variety of food shops dotted along this up and coming stretch of Finnieston.
Business was brisk on the opening night and a number of bargains were spotted. Tam was a generous host, doling out drams, sandwiches and funny wrap things. When things settle down, he's planning some tasting events. We should get him along to the club one night. I promise there will be no heckling!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

When the drams flow smoothly

 By guest blog editor Alester Phillips

Nestled in the heart of Speyside is Josie’s Well, a source of mineral rich water, and a key component of The Glenlivet. I am sure you will all know by now that a name is not just a name when it comes to whisky. The name is meaning, it is history, and as Chivas Brothers International Brand Ambassador, Alex Robertson is keen to point out, provenance – that thing that defines the origins of a whisky. The Glenlivet is not just a name, “Livet” means “Smooth Flowing One” – and that is definitely not just a name when presented with a range to sample from The Glen of the Smooth Flowing One.
Alex and Chivas Brothers don’t mess about when they do a tasting - it’s all about presentation. In the upstairs dining room of Metropolitan in Glasgow’s Merchant City we have white table cloths, individual “The Glenlivet Signature” tasting books, and a projector with beautiful images of the distillery and its surroundings, oh and lumps of wood and a slice of a barrel.
Neatly laid out in front of us (for the first half of the tasting) were six glasses each containing the one of the core Glenlivet range – 12yo, 15yo French Oak, 16yo cask strength Nadurra, 18yo, 21yo and 25yo.
The 12 is a good place to start, easy, light, and the 15 French Oak is a hit-or-miss, some like the influence of the a couple of years in Limosin oak, some don’t. Next up was the Nadurra, 53.6% and full of flavour and I know that some people are of the opinion that whiskies should be bottles at full strength as standard. As we worked through the rest of the range, up to the 25 which was rich, smooth, so easy to drink - and what should be expected from a classic Speyside which has been maturing for all that time-   it becomes clear that The Glenlivet signature range is not for everyone, some people love it, others are just unexcited by it.
Part two was the exciting (informal) bit, and even Alex seemed excited that we were about to get our eager paws on some cask samples that are not destined for general consumption.
Laid out at the top table from Alex’s magic bag were eight bottles to which members gravitated, like flies to… a fine Speyside Dram. So, there were Glenlivets – 5yo first fill sherry butt which some thought was a bit like Aberlour A’Bunadh, and should be bottled as standard, it was that tasty. Then there were first fill American casks aged 8, 14, 18 and 21 – the 21yo was seriously good.
There was even a drop of cask strength Miltonduff kicking about and the 17yo Alt A'Bhaine, bottled at 62.8% was really something, and a great dram to finish a grand night.
I'm sure most, if not all who attended will agree that the second half was the real treat, and there were things on the table that we could only wish would find their way into a bottle for a reasonable price!
Naturally, the conversation turned to caramel (as it inevitably does), but there was no drama, just a lot of good drams.

Nice to see Alex again, too. As a founder member of Glasgow's Whisky Club, he set us out on the path we're on now. I hope he's impressed by what he sees.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The One That Started It All

Glenfiddich was the dram that started it all. The single malt revolution began in the fifties and sixties when William Grant & Sons expanded their production of the drink, and introduced advertising campaigns, a visitors' centre and from 1961 packaged the Scotch in distinctive triangular bottles. For many young men (and it was mostly men then) setting out on their lifelong whisky journey. Glenfiddich was the dram of choice. It was revolutionary.

At the Glenfiddich tasting held in Uisque Beatha brand development manager Andrew Torrance and Jamie Milne, the UK Brand Ambassador, took us through half a dozen of the range.
Andrew asked first for club members to describe Glenfiddich. Accessible, approachable, simple were among the terms used and reinforced members' views that, even if it is the best selling single malt in the world, it probably got there by the strength of marketing rather than any complexity of the malt.
We tried the 12, 18, 21, 15 and Rich Oak, in that order and finished with what many felt was the dram of the night - a cask strength seven year old which proved age isn't everything. At 59.4% this seemed to me to be the sort of stuff Glenfiddich should be producing.
The new run-finished 21-year-old met with a mixed response. Some liked it, others thought it was the least best(!) dram of the night. Club secretary Andy  felt that the range was stronger than he remembered but there was nothing that struck him as fantastic or one that he would consider buying. He added: “The Rich Oak was a great dram and stood out from the range but again I doubt I’ll be buying a bottle. I am very interested in the future non-coloured and non chill-filtered releases as I feel that this is the way forward for the brand but they still have a lot of work to do.”
 Jarkko mentioned the malt was revolutionary when it was introduced to the world and it seemed to me, at least, that perhaps Glenfiddich has been playing safe since then. The range is good, with the older the better, but perhaps we need more of the single casks.

Mark agrees. He said: “They are still too heavily into mass-market appeal and need to get more one-offs and experiments into the marketplace. But it sounds like they might be heading that way with the limited release coming out this year. They need to come out of their comfort zone without doing a Bruichladdich.”
Having said all that, of course, taste is highly subjective and the venerable Glenfiddich is still the top award-winning whisky across the globe in blind tastings. It pumps out excellent, straightforward whiskies, which are carefully made. And it remains the world’s favourite single malt Scotch whisky. So that’s us telt!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Taste the Difference

Interesting day at Auchentoshan for Mark, Mr Black and myself on the day of July’s club night. We were there for a media visit and to hear about plans for Morrison Bowmore in the years to come.
After a whirlwind tour with Ian McCallum we had a briefing with Mike Keiler, who revealed plans are definitely afoot for a microbrewery on the Auchie site.
Last year’s Festival Ale was a huge success, but the amount of work it took has ruled it out for this year. Instead the distillery has outsourced it, having it made to its own recipe.
Things are progressing well for this year’s open day on August 28. Tickets from We tried this year’s Festival Bottling, a 1998 Fino cask, and it was delicious. The first 200 will be sold for £50 each on the open day.
Mike also revealed that in October Bowmore would be holding a dedicated Open Day, to be followed in Spring of next year by GlenGarioch.
Anyway, on to the club night, which again followed the more structured formula of last month’s.
We had a handful of Northern Highlands – Old Pulteney 12, Clynelish 14, Raymond’s Bladnoch bottling of a 20-year-old Balblair, an Ardmore 25 year old and a Bladnoch bottling of a 20-year-old Glen Ord.
We split the room into three and there was a highly interesting division of opinions, as there should for such a highly personal subject of taste.
Some loved the Ardmore, some put it at the bottom of the pile. Some hated the Glen Ord at first nosing, then came back to it as the evening progressed and it slowly released its secrets. One soul described the Glen Ord as “challenging” but said it was “a good debate whisky.”
Star of the night, by two groups to one, was the Balblair, with the Ardmore second. As I said, however, one group put the Ardmore at the bottom! That’s the beauty of whisky – different things for different folks and it makes for a lively debate.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Taking the Arran Waters

There’s no finer sight than Glasgow’s Whisky Club on tour. Resplendent in GWC polo shirts, clutching Gregg’s pokes containing essential breakfast items, and hip flasks at the ready, the outriders heading for Arran’s 15th anniversary open day, gathered at the very crack of dawn at Central Station. The smart set – well, Mark – bought their tickets to include passage on the CalMac ferry, the rest of us  - well, me and Bobby – had to queue at Ardrossan. The result was that bold Bobby and I had to wait in line, as our US friends say (more of them later) for the famed CalMac breakfast – a full fry up for £5.95, including toast.
At Brodick we were directed to one of two buses heading straight to the distillery, and we discovered Ayrton Senna was actually alive and well and driving a bus on Arran. The all day runabout ticket was offered as the cheapest fare option, but there was no way any of us were spending the day hurtling around Arran’s wee roads and big hills with Michael Schumacher’s older brother at the wheel.
Deposited more or less in one piece at the distillery, restorative drinks were needed, and Arran Ales came to the rescue with a good selection – but at a fiver a pop! The food was fantastic, venison burgers for the carnivores, oysters and mussels for the more adventurous. Big respect to Tam who lost his oyster virginity!
The sun shone, we had a wee smirr of rain, and there was plenty to keep people amused. There was a pipe band, a brass band, but neither was intrusive so if you just wanted to sit and natter, that was fine. There’s something special about sitting in the sunshine sipping drams with good friends, and Saturday had that in spades. We also met Blair and Mitch, two US students studying at Edinburgh University, who regaled us with tales of their whisky tastings and asked about ours. See whisky? See friendships throughout the world.
It was good to see our East Coast Representative, Lavinia Turnbull, and her daughter Sarah; it was great to meet up with the Springbank team, Angus Whisky On Line and Ewan from Morrison Bowmore, and it was really generous of Arran boss Euan Mitchell to deposit a bottle of the Anniversary Malt at the table. It was, and is, a superb dram and the whole of the Arran crew are right to be proud of it. We bought a bottle for the club and Euan has promised us a full-on Arran tasting in the future.
The part-timers left for the twenty to four boat while the stalwarts, joined by Adam, Juliet and Julie, hung on to the bitter end. Some of the pictures on Facebook indicate merr drink might have been taken on the high seas!
But it was a great day and proved, as Auchentoshan did last year, that the family-friendly open days make it possible for everybody to be happy. Now it’s on to Auchentoshan 2 in August. Polo shirts at the ready!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


For some time the committee has felt we needed to introduce an educational aspect to club nights - it's good fun getting round the barrel and having a few drams, but some people, especially the younger members of the club, may not feel too confident about the whiskies they're tasting and how to describe them. And thus was born the Andrew Bell Masterclass. June's RTB was devoted to Islay, and some of the more obscure expressions that fabled land has to offer. As you can see from the pic the bold Andra had some competition for his attention in the Spain v Portugal World Cup tie, but undeterred, he took us through five drams, of varying degrees of greatness. First up was a Bruichladdich 17 year old, aged in an Italian Red Wine Cask. Now, no-one will bow to Andrew in his admiration for all things 'laddich, but it's a fact that is a dram that can divide a whisky club. One clubber described it as "Fur coat and nae knickers," another said it was "a good example of a bad whisky." The second met with more universal approval. A cask strength Laphroaig Feis Ile, loading at 57% was next. Bottled for this year's Islay festival, it was smooth but intense (?) with a great nose.
A cask strength Lagavulin, available only at the distillery, was our next offering. It had no age statement but seemed young, although it had lovely toffee on the nose and trademark ash/smoke on the palate.
The oldest dram was a 25 year old Caol Ila bottled by Raymond at Bladnoch, and one that was offered to Forum members. It scored among the highest marks of the evening, souls loving, as one put it "the gentle, but intense aroma of coal peat, lemon coriander and mild, mild curry." Eat your heart out Mr Murray!
Last one of the night was donated by one of our newest members, Jan Beckers from Douglas Laing. His Laphroaig 8 year old was elegant and complex and shows that young Islays have the power to impress.
A more traditional Round the Barrel night then ensued, but feedback appeared to show the experiment was a good one and we'll certainly be looking at more.
Thanks to Andy for his hosting and Julie for her tasting notes. And thanks to everyone who poured.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Colonial Cousins Join the Club

Round the Barrel evenings give us all a chance for a natter over a dram and we were delighted to see old friends and new on Tuesday. Among the new friends was a tall, lanky Canadian called Herb. Herbert A LeRoy, Insp (Retd) to give him his full Sunday name. Herb is the Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, who's been touring Scotland with his wife Margy and his sister and brother in law. T
hey were invited by Treasurer Ian Black, who collects people as well as he collects our fivers. "It's a long story," he started to tell me, then the bottles were opened and we kind of missed the moment. Nonetheless Herb told Ian later he'd had a great evening with people who instantly treated him as a friend. He also met club member and fellow countryman Andrew and as the drinks flowed, the tales grew taller and taller.
Some good drams too, on the night, and thanks to Julie for doing the shopping at Oddbins - and to Mark and Matthew who suggested the supplies.
My personal favourite was the Benriach 15 year old PX - a truly stunning dram, full of sherry and sweetness. The Clynelish went down well too and Herb endeared himself to the club even more, by buying a bottle from the bar to stick on the barrel. Canadians - much nicer than the Yanks!
The pic above was taken with Herb's giant Nikon by Duncan, who struggled to even hold it. But not a bad piccy Dunc. Not bad at all.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dribs and Dregs, but Never Drab

By Global Internet Superstar, Ralfy

 Glasgow's Whisky Club are not the sort of folk to waste good whisky, so last Tuesday the merry maltsters gathered at the Club cosyzone (called by the locals a "pub") to see what bottle-ends were sitting on the Barrel and available to sniff, sample, savour and speak about.
Isle of Arran Peacock, Rowan tree, an old Strathclyde Grain, Indi Bladnoch and many assorted other stuffs provided a good variety of offerings/options, and importantly, with most being half (or less) full bottles there was a need to finish off the contents prior to opening new Whiskies.
We are all a motley assortment of individuals of varying gender, ages, disposition and character, so conversations and malt-discussions are rarely dull, and fortunately, not too serious or heavy-duty! and it is always a great opportunity to discuss with like minded people the findings and fine points of smell and flavour.
A young peated Arran proved a talking point, particularly as the Distillery are charging £50 for a four year old Malt,  was it worth it? Should we encourage Distillers to ask high prices by paying for what we think might be good Whisky or not ?

With such good natured interaction, it is worth noting that sometimes it is not the actual whiskies that make an event successful, but the quality of company and relaxed atmosphere which allow folk to relax and just enjoy ..... the Malty stuff.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A + B = a (comparatively) quiet night!

A rather more sedate tasting with David Keir at Sloan’s. Proper pourers and a limit on the number of drams meant the gathering had an enjoyable evening, if not quite so riotous as previous occasions!

David is one of the club’s favourite hosts – he brings good whiskies, but more importantly he has a refreshing honesty when he talks about the industry and the problems it faces. The fact that he’s a committed club member is a bonus.

David handles Arran and Bruichladdich for Blavod, the drinks distributor, and he spoke of the year ahead for the two distilleries – new bottlings, a reduction by Bruichladdich of its wide variety of finishes, and the upcoming 15th anniversary celebration by Arran.

We were eagerly anticipating the unveiling of Arran’s latest in its Icons series – the Rowan Tree. Not quite as immediately WOW! as the Peacock revealed last year at Whisky Fringe, nonetheless it is an important drink, and we were privileged to be the first club in Scotland to get a taste. A limited edition of 6000 bottles globally, 600 are destined for the UK market; so if you want one, grab it quickly.

The 1997 Rowan Tree comes from 100% sherry butts, a departure for Arran, which normally mixes with bourbon and had cherry brandy, cherry cola cubes and a spicy note. Left for an hour, it had improved tremendously in the glass. It’s a grower I think. I rather liked it.

First up, however, was the Arran 10, with more sherry influence than before, followed by Rowan Tree.

A new ‘laddie, the Classic, was next. A NAS, it had a lot of old Whyte and Mackay distillation in it, as well as more recent work by Jim McEwan. It was 100% from bourbon with a peating level of 3ppm.
Number four was the Bruichladdich Sherry infusion. It reminded me of Sunday in the Kirk – Everton mints on the palate! A multi-vintage ‘laddie Peated (at 35ppm) again 100 from, bourbon casks was next, delicious, and the star of the night for me.

Final dram was an Arran peated, cask strength at 59.8% and a beautiful big dram, full of sherbet dip! Only four years old, but full of life.

Many thanks again to David for the evening. He’s keen to come back to visit. We only ask that it’s not during an election year!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Win a trip to Bushmills to make your own blend

The oldest licensed distillery in the world celebrated St Patrick's Day by launching a competition offering a dream job to one lucky whiskey lover.

The Bushmills Whiskey distillery in Northern Ireland is scouring the planet for someone to work with master distiller Colum Egan and his team for a month to create his or her own blend of Irish whiskey.
The winner will spend a month on Northern Ireland's north Antrim coast, near the Giant's Causeway, where Bushmills has distilled whiskey since James I authorised it to do so in 1608.

To win the job, prospective whiskey makers ought to make sure they know the difference between Irish whiskey and its Scottish rival, beyond the fact that one is spelt with an "e" and the other is not, when they apply online at the Bushmills Facebook page.

Mr Egan said: "If someone can prove to us that they have what it takes, then we'd be delighted to let them be the first person outside of the distillery to work alongside me to create their own special blend of Bushmills Irish whiskey."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Don't mention the vomiting dog

Aye it’s a varied life, this whisky game. Fresh from drinking 70 year old Mortlach at Edinburgh Castle last week, your humble chairman found himself, and it seemed, about half of Glasgow’s Whisky Club and forum members from at McSorley’s for the opening of a cask of Abhainn Dearg.
The McSorley boys took it upon themselves to take a 600-mile trip to pick up a wee cask from the Red River Distillery on Lewis, where McSorley’s manager Mike Donald hails from.
Various adventures unfolded which you can see here
Don’t mention the vomiting dog!
The pub was packed, the nibbles were great and there was a fabulous exhibition of the ancient art of cooperage when the Fishers Cooperage boys came along and built a cask before our very eyes.

Start of the show was Marko Tayburn who flew in on the last plane from Stornoway to officially open the cask. The usual speeches were made, including some incoherent bumbling from your chairman, then Marko cracked the cask. In the ensuing melee, I was able to get a hold of a dram (see above for proof) and for a new make eight weeks old, it was remarkable. Already it had colour, a light pink bluish, and had pear drops, peaches, bags of fruit and was very very fresh.
It’s on sale at the end of McSorley’s Bar until it runs out, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Friday, March 12, 2010

70 years old - but still with plenty of life

As Chairman of Glasgow’s Whisky Club, I’ve been privy to some special moments in the whisky world – but none more so than the unveiling of the world’s oldest bottled single malt at Edinburgh Castle.
Released under Gordon & MacPhail's 'Generations' brand, Mortlach 70 Years Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky was tasted by guests at the launch in the setting of Castle's Queen Anne Room.
The new-make spirit from Speyside's Mortlach Distillery was filled into the cask on 15 October 1938 on the order of John Urquhart, the grandfather of Gordon & MacPhail joint managing directors David and Michael Urquhart.
Exactly 70 years later, the decision was made to empty the cask and bottle the contents.
Founded in 1895, Gordon & MacPhail is known the world over as the custodian of some of the oldest and rarest single malts available.
Members of the third and fourth generations of the Urquhart family now own and manage the business.
David and Michael Urquhart said: "This is a very special day for us, one we've literally been anticipating for generations. Our family has been in the whisky business for a long time, with each generation building and handing on a lifetime's expertise to the next.
"We believe Mortlach 70 Years Old is a malt without comparison. If the reaction of those lucky enough to enjoy a dram today is anything to go by, whisky fans and people wishing to own a unique piece of Scotland's liquid history will be very excited about it."
Charles MacLean, whisky writer and connoisseur who was allowed a sneak preview of the single malt, described it as "a delicate, fresh, vital, fruity whisky, with unusual attributes of waxiness and smokiness."
Each bottle will be presented in a tear-shaped hand-blown crystal decanter with an elegant silver stopper. The decanter nestles in a stylish silver base and is framed in a handmade Brazilian Rosewood box, created using wood from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified sources.
Mortlach 70 Years Old was matured in a Spanish oak, ex-bodega sherry hogshead cask, which yielded 54 full-size and 162 small decanters bottled at cask strength (46.1% ABV).
The recommended retail price in the UK is £10,000 per 70cl decanter and £2,500 for the 20cl version.
This is the first in a series of extremely rare malt whiskies to be released by Gordon & MacPhail under its 'Generations' brand.
Your humble chairman was blown away by the life that was still evident in the dram. No sign of it having been overwhelmed by the oak and the nose from the empty Glencairn glass lingered well into the afternoon. A truly memorable dram, but at £10,000 per 70cl bottle, a bit rich for most of us. Perhaps the Club could buy one for a special Round the Barrel night.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Joy of Six

February 23rd was the first Round the Barrel night of the year for Glasgow’s Whisky Club – and it looks like we need a bigger one! Apart from the two club bottlings, it seems everyone who turned up brought something. In fact we had so much we’ve plonked a couple away. Thanks to Gary Dawson, a new member, for his generous donation. In fact thanks to EVERYONE who brought along goodies.
Our very own Chanty Wrassler, internet superstar Ralfy, brought along a couple of bottles, generously donated by the victims … sorry, SUBJECTS of his global reaching You Tube series of whisky films.
They were an eight-year-old Ballantine’s pure malt and an 18 year old Chivalry blend from the guys who bring you Glencairn glasses.
Chatting with our estimable club secretary the following day, when the effects of such a full barrel were evident, we suggested limiting the number of bottles to six, the same as for a tutored tasting. That way we can savour the drams and still function the next morning!

Monday, February 01, 2010

That Was The Week That Was

I’m told I should start every blog with Scotch, single malt, Glasgow’s, Whisky, Club to make sure the search engines pick up Still Life. It’s known as Search Engine Optimization and makes for a very dull intro. Still, for last week we could have Burns Supper, good food, good whiskies, good friends. We could have followed that up with Spirit of Speyside, and breakfast drams with Glenmorangie. That Was The Week That Was.
Tuesday was our second annual Burns Supper, held again in the Bon Accord, and again it was a superb evening, enlivened by the addition of a raffle. We had some old faces and some new faces and within a few round the barrel evenings, I’m sure we’ll all get to know each other’s names. Having three Gordons doesn’t really help, though! Good job treasurer Mr Black has worked out a mnemonic to help. Shame there were too many great drams floating around for me to remember it.
Wednesday was fairly quietish for those who tarried a bit overlong at the barrel, but Thursday saw your chairman and treasurer at the Scottish Parly as guests of the Spirit of Speyside festival. We’d been asked to act as judges – a dream job you may think, but you try “tasting” 56 drams without swallowing one. Half way through I was gasping for a pint!
Friday brought our first breakfast meeting – courtesy of those good folk at Glenmorangie. The Pot Still at 11am is a quite, peaceful place. It stayed that way until the flight of five fantastic Glenmos was finished. By the way, can someone, anyone, tell me why it’s called a flight of whiskies?
We had been invited by Corey, Martin and Annabel to taste the range, including for the first time, the new Sonnalta, described by Annabel as the missing link in the Glenmorangie family.
First up was the breakfast dram – the Original, full of dark coconut, vanilla, perfect for pouring over your porridge.
The La Santa was next, big on sherry having spent two years in a sherry cask after 10 in bourbon. It was juicy, nutty, spicy, with dry fruit and orange marmalade. The 18 shows the progression there is in every Glenmorangie expression. It is its own dram, but identifiably comes from the Glenmorangie house. It had a tropical backdrop, and was also refreshing and amazingly fruity.
Number four was the new Sonnalta and I urge you to get your mitts on this if you possibly can. Retailing at £65 or so, it’s an astonishing dram, sublime, superb and stellar. It has spent 10 years in bourbon with a further two in a Pedro Ximenez sherry. Sonnalta means generous in Gaelic (apparently) and this is a dram that just keeps on giving. It’s smooth, sweet, scrumptious and a very, very dangerous dram. One is not enough!
Last up was the Signet. A bit of an experiment, the barley used for this was highly roasted chocolate barley, fired at 250 degrees centigrade (whatever that means) and contained some very old whiskies from 1974.
The Glenmo Three generously left a handful of extras as they made their way onto another tasting, leaving five souls from the club to blink their way home.
*That Was The Week That Was will be remembered by some of our older members as a satirical TV programme from 1962 and 63.