A weekend at Dramboree 2014 on the shores of Loch Lomond in early July sampling a wide array of mainly Scotch whiskies had me thinking about the spirit, its drinkers, the event and my own relationship with uisge beatha.
While this isn’t meant as a “review” of Dramboree a few words of explanation are probably useful. Inspired in part by the Dutch Maltstock, Dramboree is an informal gathering in Scotland (at least so far) of whisky enthusiasts and aficionados (around 60 this year) intended to foster new friendships, share whisky stories, discover new drams, learn a little, and this year – if the mood took – the opportunity to take a “loony dook” in the less than tepid waters of the loch.
My final entry in this rather random series of posts (and only a couple of weeks after 12th night!) is a 1974 half bottle of Ardbeg 23 Vintage 1974, 23 Years Old, cas nos. 606-609 (43% ABV) from independent bottler Signatory (nowadays owner of Edradour).
I acquired this probably 13 or 14 years ago from the Aladdin’s cave that is J. Wadsworth in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. This was a time when I’d recently discovered Ardbeg and interesting older bottlings – especially from pre-1977 when Ardbeg had its own floor maltings – were becoming scarce.
With Christmas duties and the inevitable post festive lurgy out of the way it’s finally on to number eleven and an excuse to uncork another of my stash. This time the peatiest whisky in the world, namely Islay distillery Bruichladdich’s Octomore. Or more specifically Octomore 4.2 Comus (61% ABV), with final maturation in a cask that previously held rich, sweet, Botrytis-enriched Sauternes wine.
At number four is something rather special to me. And generally just rather special. A quarter bottle of cask strength Talisker bottled by William Cadenhead and bought by moi from their old Covent Garden shop back in about 1988.
I didn’t really start this 12 Drams of Christmas series as anything but an excuse to raid my spirits cabinet and compose some short (but much needed) blog entries. However, it’s also providing an incentive to crack open some interesting bottles I’ve picked up over time that I hadn’t previously got around to sampling.
Number three in the countdown (or is that countup?) is one such specimen: Wiser’s 18 Years Old (40%), picked up at Toronto airport duty free a couple of years back on one of my occasional business trips to Canada. Not readily available in the UK, I’d read enough of Wiser’s 18 to know I should pick one up if I saw one. Not only was it a bit of a bargain for an 18 year old whisky – by today’s standards at any rate – it also turns out to be a cracking dram.
Inspired by Master of Malt’s Whisky Advent Calendar, and my friends at Whisky Squad’s homemade version, I thought I’d use the festive season as an excuse to dip into my own spirits cabinet each day. As I’ve left it a bit late to cover the full 24 days, I thought I’d use the Twelve Days of Christmas as a more achievable target, although in truth I’ve already blown that too. Still, better start late than never. Plus I get two drams on a couple of days.
As a reasonably established member of Whisky Squad I recently took up the offer of a Saturday “field trip” to The London Distillery Company (or TLDC for short) in Battersea. The first whisky distillery in London for over a hundred years – the former Lea Valley Distillery, in Stratford, east London apparently ceased making the spirit in 1905 – is the brainchild of Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Glenmorangie alumnus Darren Rook and investor (and former microbrewery owner) Nick Taylor.
I’d previously met Rook at last October’s TWE Whisky Show when TLDC was still little more than a business plan and was intrigued to see how far the project had progressed. Situated in a former dairy in a remote corner of Battersea, next to Ransome’s Dock, TLDC now boast two stills (Christina the gin still and Matilda the whisky still) and four mash tuns and washbacks (two of each I think). There’s also room for a dedicated spirit still (Matilda will serve as both wash and spirit still for the time being), some limited barrel storage (the rest will be kept in a bonded warehouse somewhere in London) and desks made from wood reclaimed during the dairy conversion.
Apologies for the recent blogging hiatus here at Alt-Tipple Towers. The back end of 2012 turned out to be bit fraught for a variety of reasons and so this already delayed post was pushed back further and further. Still, its emphasis on the products of new wave world and micro whisky distillers (a topic I’m very keen on) meant I felt it was worth resuscitating despite being started last October. So here we go.
Unexpected good fortune in early October 2012 saw me in attendance at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show at Vinopolis wine complex near London’s South Bank and what a superb day out it was.
A barely remembered entry of my name and email address into an online raffle on the Whisky Marketplace price-comparison website won me two Sunday tickets, worth a cool £99 each, to the capital’s biggest whisky event. With my whisky-loving friend Cliff in tow I headed to London Bridge and joined the queue heading in at noon.
I’d heard of Whisky Squad long before I finally attended one of their tasting evenings. As a regular drinker at my favourite Clerkenwell pub The Gunmakers until my work moved to the West End last year, I’d several times been kept from sitting in the back room because it had been booked out, according to pub landlord Jeff Bell, by “a bunch of folk drinking whisky”. Or some words along those lines.
Strangely, given that I’m a considerable enthusiast for beer’s distilled cousin, I didn’t enquire any further at the time. As such, I only recently came to full awareness of the Squad through some random web surfing and avowed that I’d get along to one of their £15 sessions ASAP.
Whisky Squad events are extremely popular with those in the know and demand commitment to reserve a place, tickets going on sale online for the (usually) two or three events a month at an appointed time and data and typically selling out in minutes.