Water

When I first drank whisky as a teenager, it was Jack Daniels and Coke, with ice. After a while, I was told that I should never put mixers with whisky, so I ditched the Coke. A while later, I was told that I shouldn’t drink Jack Daniel’s because it’s rubbish; I should drink single malts. I was advised to try Highland Park or Talisker because the best single malts tasted like smoke, so I bought a bottle of each to try. Impressed, I carried on drinking them, until I was told that I shouldn’t drink them with ice because you should never drink whisky with ice in it. However, a touch of water was OK because that’s what the experts did.

However we look at our whisky drinking journey, we have all been ‘advised’ or ‘told’ what is best and how we should drink. Well, what if these people, as most people do, were talking shit? What if it’s OK to use ice? What if not all great whiskies taste of smoke? What if Jack Daniel’s isn’t…Too far. But, you get the point.

A few months ago, I attended a whisky tasting with Balvenie. The host for the night, the extremely knowledgeable and entertaining James Buntin, explained that you could completely change the smell and taste of the whisky with just two drops of water. This was a revelation to me. I tried whisky with and without the two drops and, on more than one occasion, for better and for worse, the taste and smell of the whisky change. Sometimes drastically.

Since then, particularly with cask strength whisky, I’ve nosed and tasted whisky without water to begin with, then with my now customary ‘two drops’. I know that I have witnessed changes and I’d be happy to argue this with anyone. As an active member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, I’m also accustomed to seeing tasting notes that are written with and without water. I don’t know if an established, well respected organisation and an extremely experienced brand ambassador would suggest water if there was nothing in it.

Then, I read this:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/most-misunderstood-spirits-tasting-method-world-ever-george-manska

An incredibly interesting article, this provided me with lots of scientific insight, some interesting suggestions for tasting whisky (a ‘tasting whiskies in different glasses’ post is on the horizon) and some really interesting views on the whole ‘two drops’ thing. Nevertheless, what the article did more than anything was highlight to me what I’ve grown to understand the more I’ve drunk whisky and the more I’ve read and researched tasting: if someone tells you to use two drops, that your retronasal finish is most important, or that you shouldn’t use a mixer, just drink and enjoy the whisky because that’s what it was made for.

Sláinte!

Boutiquey Whisky Company – Nickolls and Perks 24/2

I hate innocent smoothies. A multi million pound company, owned by coca cola, with more sugar than coke, wants to be my mate. It wants to talk to me in cutesy cool lanugage. It tells shit Dad jokes and they wore thin years ago. If it was a person it would, without doubt, be a knob. So botiquey whisky company tread a fine line with me. They have cool comic style labels. Some work better than others, but it’s certainly a welcome change from all the standard gumpf we’ve seen a million times. They bottle in 50cl bottles, which is controversial. They say that they bottle mostly in very small amounts and the smaller bottle size enables them to release more bottles. I can understand that, and whilst it doesn’t sit perfectly well with me, I guess I understand that rationale. They also claim that they reduce the price to make up for the missing 20cl. I’ve not done masses of research but a quick search shows that their prices for 50cl are pretty much exactly the same as other independent bottling companies charge for 70 cl (independent arran 19 – botiquey: £77, single cask: £78, hunter laing: £78). So either that claim is bollocks or at 70 cl they’d be circa 30% more expensive than other companies. Are they worth the extra? Let’s find out…

Continue reading Boutiquey Whisky Company – Nickolls and Perks 24/2

Bottom of the Barrel #1: Glen Moray Sherry Cask Finish

Welcome to the first instalment of my new monthly column, Bottom of the Barrel.

The aim of this feature is to highlight and review a new whisky each month that is on the market at a very low price-point.

Specifically below, a soft, £30.00.

I started taking an interest in more reasonably priced (aka cheap) whiskies when I started getting more into it a year or two ago. I wanted to be able to sit down after a long day at work and have a few drams, but found that I’d be reluctant to, given, that would mean digging into one of the 2 or 3 bottles I owned at the time, which were all £80+.

This is where my quest for a low-cost, “everyday” dram arose.

I’ll be doing my reviews after spending a month living with each bottle (70cl), so hopefully I get a truer measure of what it’s like to actually live with each of these whiskies.

Over time I’ll close in on my elusive quarry and enjoy a good glass or two along the way.

Continue reading Bottom of the Barrel #1: Glen Moray Sherry Cask Finish

Flippers…*sigh*

Allow me to set the scene: Whisky Birmingham, March 2016. Tom and I are at the Springbank stand and we’re treated to an ‘under the counter’ dram, brought by our man for lucky people like us. He went on to explain that this was a new release from the distillery called Local Barley – a 16 year old, retailing at around £90. Blown away was an understatement. Shortbread and fudge, with a hint of smoke. Stunning. “But don’t expect to be able to buy one. Not for under £120.” This was only weeks after the release. Good luck finding one for under £160 now. Yet, I regularly talk to people who have never tried it, despite the 9000 bottle release. Fast-forward to February 2017. Springbank issue this statement:

http://www.springbankwhisky.com/news/2017/02/20/statement-regarding-local-barley-11yo/

I’ve tried for two days to source a bottle. What’s the betting I can buy one on an auction site next month for £150?

I know there’s nothing wrong with making money and people are free to do whatever they please with their own purchases. Just give a little thought to the whisky drinkers. The ones who want to buy a drink, to err…drink??

 

Tom’s Guide To Whisky Festival Winning

Whisky festivals are without a doubt one of my favourite places in the world. Like a wedding with an exceptionally well stocked open bar, everyone is going to have a
great time. I’ve been to a fair few, learned some lessons (mostly the hard way) and have some advice: prepare, take notes, know your limits, experiment and have an
exit plan.

1) Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Anticipation is always a large part of any great experience. Depending on the festival in question you could have an idea of the distilleries/bottlers attending
(likely), the dream drams on offer (hopefully), and maybe even a full list of everything on show (only happened once to me, but gave me some of the best days of geeky
whisky planning of my life!). Personally I like to research to the nth degree on everything I can find out. I would suggest you at least have an idea of some stalls
that you really want to visit, and maybe a few that you will avoid. If you want to get geeky, write them down (see item 3: take note) so you don’t get carried away and
forget. One of joys of the internet is you can research what everyone’s core offerings are, what their latest releases are and anything new and limited they might
bring along.

I try to plan my first 10 drams to the letter, then hit them (especially the dream drams) with military like precission. This is when my palate is at its best, my
faculties are mostly intact, and I’ve got the most energy and interest. Once I’ve hit those first few I know I can sit back and relax, the formalities are done, and
its time to have fun. My second ten-fifteen tend to be a bit more experimental, distilleries I’ve not tried before, stuff that people are talking about/recommending,
old favourites to check the current release, looking for a surprise. Finally my final five tend to be anything goes. Bourbon, blends i’ve had before, flavoured things,
rum, gin, anything I’m not going to have to think about or analyse too much, just for the joy of it.

2) Know your limits Continue reading Tom’s Guide To Whisky Festival Winning

SMWS Cask Strength Evening @ Rob B’s – 10.02.17

2 months.

2 long fucking months.

My final whisky event of 2016, a fantastic year-closer, Diageo’s Special Releases with the always jovial Colin Dunn had been on 8th December at theStudio in Birmingham.

The festive period had been good to me with a number of bottles passing through my hands, a trip up to Comry, Scotland and even a brief visit to Blair Athol Distillery.

But I was still champing at the bit to get going with 2017 in earnest.

Now it was a gloomy February night and it was threatening to piss it down.

I arrived into Quinton early and walked to Rob B’s before we shot over to collect Tom from the station.

Rob is a paid up member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) and had promised us a good night’s tasting.

I was in at the first mention but the intrigue of the coded dark green bottles and whimsical titles had gotten me in a right state.

We rocked up at about 7:30pm and were handed little A5 booklets detailing the night’s line-up and some tasting notes for each.

Nothing below 56%.

Shit me. Continue reading SMWS Cask Strength Evening @ Rob B’s – 10.02.17

Jim Murray can fuck off

“If any of my staff have anything remotely like a cold, they come nowhere near me. If I pop over to the pub, the landlord will tell me if someone has a cold and I’ll walk out. I don’t even have sex during this time because from kissing you can pick up something, so it’s really miserable.”

Really Jim? Do us all a favour and just fuck off. Fuck right off. Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before you disappear up your own arsehole anyway, praise be.

Link here if you think you can stomach his bullshit, I give you 20 lines before you want to smash the screen.