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Remembrance Day: Lest we forget

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Happy 4th of July!

Dave Broom Reviews Scotch Malt Whisky Society G7.3 “Fresh Toffee and Glossy Magazines” – Scotch Whisky News

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THIS is how to review a whisky. Dave Broom reviews Scotch Malt Whisky Society G7.3 “Fresh Toffee and Glossy Magazines”

See for yourself

 

Apologies For The Service Interruption This Morning……..

…………blame the wretched servers.

 

Remembrance Day: Lest we forget

remembrance day

Whisky & Chocolate Tasting at Milroy’s of Soho November 19th, 2013 – Scotch Whisky News

Whisky and Chocolate

Tuesday 19th November 2013

Be taken through an extravaganza of chocolate and whisky with Paul A Young’s famous hand crafted chocolates. The evening will leave taste buds tantalised and chocolate lovers satisfied.

£45.00

milroys

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July to our friends in the United States of America!

So You Want To Start A Whisky Appreciation Club? – Whisky Club Sunday on Whisky Intelligence

So you want to start a whisky appreciation club? Good for you, it can be very rewarding and you’ll meet a lot of very interesting people along the way. Here are some suggestions.

Recruiting Fellow Members & Where to Meet 

Sometimes it may seem that you’re the only person in your area that has a passion for whisky, this is unlikely. Most liquor store that sell premium whiskies will know their customer base and will put you in touch with like minded people. They’re out there and they can be found, use your local knowledge and imagination. Hold the first meeting in members’ home, the cost is very reasonable! 

The Number of Whiskies to Taste per Session 

Depending on the group and the length of the meeting you might want to start with two to three whiskies per meeting. Its general practice to start nosing & tasting the lighter whiskies at the beginning of the session and to finish with the heavier whiskies at the end of the evening.

For a great description of how to nose and taste whisky please visit http://www.whiskymag.com/nosing_course/  

Glassware

There is a myriad of glass ware on the market but I suggest that in the beginning you look for a simple & inexpensive but functional glass and the best for small groups is a small brandy snifter, about 10 cm or 4 inches tall. They are quite suitable for nosing and tasting whisky and you can easily cup the glass for hand warming and the curved sides help concentrate aromas. On this side of theAtlanticthis style of glass can be found in many second hand & charity stores which have any kitchen related inventory. I presume there are such stores in most urban centers. These little brandy snifters usually sell for about .25 cents, saving valuable funds for whisky purchases. As your experience with whisky grows you can look towards purchasing blenders nosing & tasting glasses or Glencairn glasses.

When cleaning whatever glassware you choose remember to hand wash them with a gentle dish soap rinsing very well to eliminate any residual soap. Avoid cleaning your glassware in a dishwasher as dishwashers tend to leave a soap reside which will negatively impact the next whisky. 

Tasting Sheets 

If you want to use tasting sheets to write down your impressions and to score your whiskies you can make them up making note of nose, palate and finish with some space for comments. Some people add in legs and color and over all balance, it’s up to you. If you would like some sample score sheets please email me and I’ll be happy to send them to you in Word format, you can adjust them as you see fit.

Water 

To add water or to not add water? This can be quite contentious issue for some odd reason. However you might want to take a clue from distillers, they add water when assessing a whisky. With experience you will be able to determine which whiskies are suitable for the addition of water. As a general rule and in particular in the case of scotch whiskies, those whiskies that are matured in new oak or ex-bourbon casks  tend to be able to accept more water than those matured or ‘finished’ in ex wine casks such as sherry, port or table wines. It is also advisable to have a glass of still water per person to clean the palate in between drams. Still water is generally the best, avoid sparkling water, it just doesn’t work when making an assessment of a whisky. Ice? Don’t. It’s a disaster. 

Banking & Dues 

Don’t go over board, in the beginning a simple system is the best and you may find you don’t actually need a bank account, one trusted person can keep a small cash on hand fund with a simple list of dues paid and expenditures. In my Club we have a general prohibition on discussing Club finances at our meetings; we are focused on the whiskies being presented. Our finances are not secret however they are certainly boring and thus open to all; they can be discussed via email if required. We collect dues once a year but since you are just starting out you may opt for a shorter period, perhaps once every three months. As an aside, I had a friend who was very much consumed by bourbon and tried to start a club based on his passion, however he just couldn’t get past the feeling that he absolutely needed a bank account and was very much stuck on that point. I suggested an envelope to keep the money in, a suggestion that he rejected out of hand. He never did open that bank account or start a club. Kind of missed the point, didn’t he? Pity.

Newsletters & Communication of Meeting Dates 

Once again the key to success is to keep it simple and if possible communicate by email; this reduces the cost of communication as compared to letters and stamps and is very speedy. Again email communication is economical and leaves more money for whisky purchases. This is important.

Left over whisky 

Whatever you do with the remainders or ‘heels’ of the bottles be fair, either distribute them amongst the members or auction them off to the highest bidders, the resulting funds can be used for buying……you guessed it, more and better whisky. Another options is to save them and have a nosing party at the end of each year, we pair this event with a meal, and it works out very well.

Perfume, Hand Creams & Aftershave 

These and other such products should be eradicated at all costs, the attendees need to be educated about the negative effect these products have on the sense of smell. Whisky is generally a product that is quite delicate and since most people tend to marinate themselves with copious amounts of pollutants they will spoil the event for all. Hand creams are particularly odious and they can cling to the glass, there’s no proper nosing happening with such a polluted glass. Ugh! 

Food 

It is not a good idea to serve food when making an initial assessment of a whisky, if you feel it will add some benefit to the evening then wait until the nosing & tasting is complete. Pairing whisky and food in a social setting is another aspect altogether and can be quite enjoyable. I frequently enjoy whisky with my meals. 

Sharing the Work Load 

Don’t try and do everything yourself, try and share the work load among your fellow members, if you don’t you’ll burn out and leave. This would be a shame, no?

Women

Yes, they live on this planet also and they really like whisky, so why not include them too? A roomful of grunting silent males is simply not that amusing and quite frankly the female of our species has a much better sense of smell and is much more adept at turning what she smells into words. Since most whisky appreciation groups are more than mere ‘drinking’ clubs the ability to turn what you smell and taste into words is of high value.

Friends & Family who Travel 

If you are having a difficult time sourcing whiskies locally then you can always turn to friends and family who travel, you’d be surprised how often they can help you acquire a hard to find bottle. Ideally these people should not have a taste for whisky otherwise they’ll be shopping for themselves, the selfish bas……. 

Drinking & Driving 

Don’t do it. Show some leadership and ensure that all participants have a safe way home, set a proper example. The down side of such irresponsible behavior is generally irreversible and ruins lives.

If there is a single theme that I’ve tried to communicate is to keep it simple in the beginning and stay focused on the whisky and the people, the rest will fall into place as your group gains experience. Have fun and…….Slainte!

This article was originally published on Whisky Fun and is written by Lawrence Graham

How To Host A Whisky Tasting – Scotch Whisky News

How to host a whisky tasting

by Mark Davidson

 Here are some general pointers to keep in mind if you are thinking of socialy or even professionally hosting a whisky tasting. Very important is to bring your personality to the event. A too casually organised event will be obviously flawed however a sterile presentation will deduct from the main attraction: the drams.

To begin with, there are loosely two distinctions in tastings. In one style the whisky is chosen and attendance is open to all. Alternatively, a group is looking to have a tasting tailored to their needs.

There is usually a pattern to proceedings, most notably the layout. Best practice is to have all drams poured before the start so give yourself enough time for the filling of glasses and the arrangements of places. For comfort, a seat with everything laid out on a table in front of the taster is better than standing. Consider the shape of the room and where best to stand while addressing the group. Arrange the tables and chairs to maximise the space. The devil is in the detail: how far must all the glassware be carried to the room? how long will this take? do you have access to drinking water? how will this be contained? do the tables need set up? table clothes, etc.

Glassware
Glassware is very important. Essentially we want to capture the aromas on offer while allowing the gentle warming of the contents. Outwardly fluted or straight sided glasses will not arrest the bouquet as well as a bowl style body. The thickness of the glass when too great as well as a solid base will reduce ability for the heat of your hand to warm the spirit. As many elements in the whisky are thermoactive it is important to bring these to the fore to fully understand a dram’s character. Stemmed glasses present a whisky much better than the traditional shape, although there is nothing quite like a heavy cut crystal tumbler, they seem to fit into the hand so naturally but perhaps best left to casual drinking at home.

Ideally each glass will come with its own lid. More than one variant is available but as long as the aroma is kept in, the ‘noser’ will be given the best chance of finding the whisky’s soul on removal of the cover. If lids are not to be got then any covering will help.

If people are sitting, then each placing will benefit from a glass of water to cleanse the palate and and rehydration, some relatively neutral nibbles like oatcakes or crackers for the same reason, a pen and paper for notes (possibly tailored to the event or more simply a generic sheet) as well as a small glass water carafe or jug for diluting and maybe even a pipette for controlled diluting.

If the host wants the participants to leave with information, for marketing or educational reasons it is an idea to supply notes of the main points of interest, even if they will be covered in the discussion. A brief distillery profile and/or an overview of production, industry history and distinct styles of taste will all help illuminate any dark corners in the taster’s understanding.

How Much?
How many drams should be offered? In practice, no fewer than three, with five or possibly six maximum. Little will be learnt with one or two as comparison will be impossible or minimal. Too many drams and the palate will tire, with the nuances of flavour lying unappreciated.

For this reason it is also important to work through the drams in a sensible order. The first should be the lightest. Perhaps a blend. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that blends are inferior and not worthy of study. Quality blends can outshine many a low end malt, although to be fair, these two categories are so different comparison can often be impossible. Other than a blend, a Lowland or light Speyside can be an excellent appetiser in a Scotch whisky tasting.

Looking at the end of the tasting, it is normal to finish on a peaty drop. Big Islays are hard acts to follow with perhaps only the most sherried stealing the show. For this reason, the Spanish cask example is usually in the penultimate position. As we have covered light, sherried and peaty, we may fill the remaining glasses with either a good grain whisky or something of venerable age. Grain whiskies account for more than half the maturing stocks in Scotland but remain frustratingly elusive as singles.

To bring the evening to a close, consider a game like getting those present to guess the drams by nose alone. This will need opaque glassware so colours don’t give the game away. Alternatively take a popularity poll. Perhaps the cheapest will win or maybe the grain will conquer the malts with its popular sweet vanilla kick.

Whatever, always remember whisky is like life… too important to be taken too seriously.

Mark Davidson…

Of a distinguished Banff 1968 vintage Mark Davidson has a short but full body and so marries well (& subsequently producing two limited editions), frequently seen at whisky fairs in Scotland yet curiously difficult to find outside his domestic market it is hoped his inaugural launch on the Canadian scene will be well received. He is at home in independant bottling circles being most commonly found in the William Cadenhead livery where he has enjoyed a 13 year finishing period, however as a stand alone single expression under the Jolly Toper brand he can come into his own while being a fine mixer.

Happy 185th Birthday Springbank – Scotch Whisky News

Happy 185th Birthday Springbank

by Mark Davidson

All distilleries are unique but in true George Orwell style some are more unique than others. Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, Argyll can be singled out as having an embarrassment of riches any one of which another distiller would be proud to boast of.

Perhaps its single most attractive aspect is the fact that the company has the oldest original family owned distillery in Scotland. As Scottish whisky grew in popularity it could not avoid the attentions of big business. As a commodity whisky can offer handsome dividends to any investors, although any return may not be dramatically quick thanks to the time taken to mature stock. So it was that small family established businesses were bought out by, initially, home grown companies then eventually overseas predators. Where we are today is the curious position of having many of our most famous brands owned by large companies from abroad. These corporations often have interests not focused on just one category of beverage and may even deal in other totally unrelated industries. How refreshing it is then to have such a jewel still in independent Scottish hands. Amongst the very few stills held by private companies Springbank can point to their longevity, they were established in 1828, as testament to their reputation for quality and dependency.

Beyond this remarkable achievement the distillers lay claim to the most complete and traditional distillery in Scotland. Nowhere else will you see the whole production process taking place on one site. From the arrival of un-malted barley to the despatch of the bottled product all parts of the production process are controlled in-house. The retention of old fashioned methods must surely contribute to the well recognised complexity in their drams.

Of the near 100 malt distilleries in Scotland only 6 retain floor maltings. Of these only Springbank produces 100% of distilling requirements. The other 90-odd all rely on mechanised malting for their barley. Almost exclusively this part of the process is sub-contracted to specialists not connected with the distiller. The dependency on outsiders although not appealing to the Mitchells (Springbank’s owners) does not necessarily mean a compromise of quality. Indeed the consistency of a professional maltster solved problems associated with floor maltings where variables such as ambient temperature can affect results. The reason for the switch from tradition was really down to matters of scale and economy. As demand grew distilleries expanded and their appetite for grain out grew their capacity to feed themselves. Modern drum maltings were designed to the new scale required. Also as the manual option is so labour intensive, the malting barley must be turned regularly to prevent matting and to evenly spread the germinating heat, the costs of manning the floors became unattractive. Production at Springbank is indeed capped by their ability to supply enough malt and the distillery runs at a fraction of its potential output.

At the other end of production bottling may seem a rather mundane issue. Far from it. As a cask of mature whisky would typically be around 60% alcohol if the bottled dram was sold at this strength the price of a standard size bottle would be considerably higher than if it was diluted. Also an argument runs that this strength is too high to find the drink’s character and watering down is essential for proper appreciation. This is why 99.9…% of all whisky is bottled at the legal minimum strength of 40%abv. The question must be asked: what water was used during reduction? Many whisky labels will wax lyrical about the source of their production water being of ambrosial quality. How many allude to the neutral nature of the water added at the bottling stage? Again Springbank can be relied upon to treat their efforts appropriately. Alongside very few other malts Springbank sympathetically dilute their mature whisky with the water used to make it, keeping complete the influence from minerals to be found at source. All this at the superior 46% abv.

By now you should realise this company is more about substance than subcontracts. There hasn’t been enough space here to mention features like their warehousing, method of heating stills, distilling regime, condensing techniques and further bottling principles all of which deserve mention. A visit to their website, www.springbankwhisky.com, should further illuminate just how special this family inheritance is.

Mark Davidson…

Of a distinguished Banff 1968 vintage Mark Davidson has a short but full body and so marries well (& subsequently producing two limited editions), frequently seen at whisky fairs in Scotland yet curiously difficult to find outside his domestic market it is hoped his inaugural launch on the Canadian scene will be well received. He is at home in independant bottling circles being most commonly found in the William Cadenhead livery where he has enjoyed a 13 year finishing period, however as a stand alone single expression under the Jolly Toper brand he can come into his own while being a fine mixer.


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