Oban pre Christmas jaunt……….by Paul Mclean – Scotch Whisky Tour

the lovely Alana at the whisky cellar bar Oban

The lovely Alana at the whisky cellar bar Oban

Oban pre Christmas jaunt

Aye, I wandered along to Oban for a pre-Christmas hangout. Staying two nights, the first after a journey fae Perth, so not much happening, apart from the fantastic scenery. I headed out for food and drink – Coast restaurant was my selection tonight, I have been before and enjoyed it. The staff are great, had a nice wine to start. The menu has the usual Oban selections of seafood.  Salmon main course was fabby dozie, followed by toffee mouse, this was so good, so light, tasty, I ordered a second one! It was only 5.45 and there were 4 staff on duty, owner and chef, apart from myself, it was full of locals, always a good sign. Is it worth a visit, is the Pope a Catholic? Called into another favourite, the Tartan Bar, always enjoy myself in this pub, full of locals, I was the only outsider, great craic. Dondered away to bed.

cellar bar in Oban at xmas 2019

Next day I took many photos of the rising sun and the glorious day, all pinks, oranges and then blues, fab pix if I say so myself. Took myself to Dunstaffnage Castle and marina. Then headed away to Loch Etive on a single track road to Bonawe. Spent most of the day down this road with many stops. The night 0h I know, have jumped a few hours but what the hell – I had an appointment with Etive restaurant,  new to me but maybe a year in Oban. What a great whisky selection including two different Glengoyne Teapot’s, had a long chats with owner David (who buys the whisky), food was superb and good portions by the way, expensive, but you get what you pay for, grand wine selection too – £24 – £105 a bottle. My starter was pollock, then Inverurie Shin of beef, it just fell apart, fantastic. I was seriously tempted by the whisky list, 5 different drams from Tiree whisky company – David was born on Tiree ( ). Noteable others included HP Valhalla flight of 4 drams for £150. Lagavulin 16yo £6, Port Charlotte heavily peated £5, BenRiach 10yo £3.50 and a Balvenie 21 year old £12. My only negative, it was too bright. The place is simply furnished but has really good art on the walls, allowing you to focus on the food and drink of course, would I go back? To be sure!

Same evening I hit the Whisky Cellar Bar, again, amazed at the amount of whisky here, took my time while listening to some rock and metal, never a bad thing. Behind the bar waited Billy Pearson and Alana Moore served my liquid needs – a whisky and cocktail bar with a pool table.  This was formerly “The Cellar Bar” and the change of name reflects drinking priorities. As the name says, it specialises in whisky with over 100 malts, Loch Fyne Ales on pump, Guinness and the usual suspects. There is no draught lager but that makes a nice change, there is a bar I use in Dublin that’s doesnee sell Guinness. This is one of the cheapest pubs in town and tends to draw the locals rather than tourists. The ancient wooden door looks as if it was stolen from an old castle. It’s a shame I couldnee stay longer as I liked the place and now, is one of my Oban haunts.


7 deadly sins WHISKY tour, Northern Ireland….


Picture #2

Picture #2

7 deadly sins WHISKY tour, Northern Ireland

Five days and nights in Belfast, a vibrant city with so much to see both in the city and surrounding areas, this is a tour Paul, Mark and Sean love to bits! Five days, five nights, seven deadly sins!

Day 1.  Welcome to Northern Ireland and the Country’s capital Belfast, where you  will stay for your duration of your tour. We start this morning  taking a tour of Belfast with some Game of Thrones locations en route, (quite different as your driver spent years as a soldier on the streets of the city during the troubles).  Free time to pub crawl in Belfast.  Your driver lives locally so knows the good spots in the city, overnight Belfast.

Day 2.  We head up the outstanding North Antrim Coast, visiting various Game of Thrones locations, such as Ballintoy Harbour which was the back drop for Theons return to the Iron Islands – and where the burning at the stakes was held on the beach, Portsteward Strand.  Early scenes of the Dothraki on horse back were filmed here, also the coast of Dorne, Downhill beach, which was the shores of dragonstone’s. The Dark hedges, which was the Kings road and one of the most requested locations to visit, were planted in the 18th century to impress visitors by the Stuart family.  Visit Cushendun Caves, where the red priestess Melisandre gave birth to the shadow creature.  See Larrybane Quarry, where Renly Baratheons camp in the storm lands and where the tournament in which Brienne of Tarth is introduced. Time for lunch in the Fullerton Arms in Ballintoy, it also has a GoT themed room and the fantastic door of thrones No6 to 10 carved from the trees of the Dark Hedges. There’s a a private dining room set in the world of GoT complete with banners and its’ own replica Iron Thrones.  We also visit Giants Causeway and Bushmills Distillery – In the small village of Bushmills, on the banks of the river you’ll find the oldest working distillery in Ireland, for over 400 years kept to the philosophy that hand crafting small batches is the way to produce beautifully smooth tasting Irish whiskey.  Matured in Sherry Casks is Paul’s favourite. Black Bush combines a high amount of malt whiskey matured in former Oloroso Sherry casks, with a sweet, batch-distilled grain whiskey. Return to Belfast where you stay overnight.

Day 3.  This morning we head down to Castle Ward, where in the opening scenes (season one), the 5 stark children and the bastard John Snow each adopt a Direwolf pup.  Get to meet real Direwolfs Odin and Thor and the chance to dress up in the costumes for photo ops.  Visit the castle where Bran falls from the window ledge in the winter fell courtyard and the cottage (aka) the Brothel of Winterfell. Then we drive to Echlinville Distillery – Northern Ireland’s first licensed distillery in over 125 years distilling its first spirit in 2013. Tours will be personally welcomed and guided through the process, from the barley arriving from the fields, to the maturation warehouse where the Angels are certainly enjoying their share. And after you have discovered the flavour, colour and mouthfeel of our spirits, relax and enjoy drinks of your choice in our bar. Tanks are also on this tour! Return to Belfast. Shall we blend tonight darling?

Day 4.  A drive south of the Border today, to the Great Northern Distillery  a private company owned by the Teeling Family, Jim Finn and David Hynes who between them established the Cooley Distillery and rebuilt the Kilbeggan Distillery before selling them in 2012. The Town of Dundalk has always been ideally suited to foster a distilling industry with access the purest water from the nearby Cooley Mountains. Since the late 1600’s brewing has been at the heart of Dundalk with breweries in the area. The Dundalk Distillery operated in the Town between 1708 and 1926. Two of the distillery buildings, the grain store and maltings, still exist and now house the County Museum and Dundalk Library. The Distillery operates two distinctive distilleries pot stills and columns that produce a diverse range of Irish whiskey spirit’s including grain, triple malt, double malt, peated malt and pot still whiskey. The distillery has a current capacity of 16 million litres of spirit with an opportunity to expand production. We spend some time down here in the Republic, with free time in Dundalk to experience the local pub scene. Back to Belfast.

Day 5. This morning a drive to Gosford Castle and park.  The castle has become known as the gloomy home of HouseTully. It was first seen in season 1 when Rob Stark executes Richard Karstark for treason and later used for season three’s gory Red Wedding in which several main characters were killed. Then a visit to Armagh to see the two main churches in the city situated on two hills, one Protestant and one Catholic.  Return to Belfast, your final night.

Whisky pubs we recommend in Belfast; The Harp Bar, incorporating the Dunville & Swinging Diddy Lounges is decorated in plush red velvet fabrics and adorned with antique furnishings resonant with Victorian Belfast. Walls and cabinets feature rare memorabilia inspired by the building’s origins as a bonded warehouse – the headquarters of The Old Bushmills Distillery Company. Paul’s favourite Belfast bar.  The New Orpheus. The Orpheus: Ballroom of Romance has been a vision of Willie and Joanne Jack, alongside their late business partner and friend, Bruce Kirk. An extension to the Harp Bar on Hill Street Belfast, The New Orpheus is a stunning monument to one of Belfast’s lost architectural treasures, the Orpheus Ballroom, York Street (1932). The Dark Horse and you can enjoy some of the finest coffee and Suki tea served in Belfast. You can also appreciate the superb decor and special atmosphere with beautiful antique surroundings, furniture and artefacts from some of the city’s most famous hotels and buildings from bygone times – all providing a rare and unique glimpse of Belfast’s historical past…Nestled along a narrow, cobbled alleyway, The Duke offers a traditional Belfast welcome of craic, music and humour in contrast to the modern, fashionable establishments currently blowing into the surrounding streets.  All these bars are owned by rhe same people and, all within yards of eachother, but YOU MUST pay a visit here, in the midst of all the bars; The Friend at Hand is a unique whiskey off-licence combined with a mini museum charting the whiskey distilling history of Belfast. Browse and buy from the biggest collection of Irish Whiskeys available anywhere and get exclusive access to own brand 13yr old whiskeys.

Paul McLean

Your Host Paul Mclean

Some further reading

My end of year ramblings by Andrew Nelstrop of the English Whisky Company


Well what a year…

It is that time of year again when I am asked to write a few lines about the year that was 2018…oh and what a year.

At the beginning of the year Jim Murray voted “The Norfolk – Parched” best single malt whisky in Europe (the 4th time we have won the accolade). A lovely start to 2018 – well done the distillers David and Steve.

This exciting win was closely followed by Breckland Lodge, the lovely hotel owned by my wife’s family, burning to the ground, caused by a little over zealous use of a blow torch by one of the roofing contractors. The devastation was complete. Standing watching the flames with nearly 100 staff, who of course had very real concerns for their future was a moment I shall never forget.

In March it snowed and then it snowed some more. I learned a lot about staff loyalty over those few days. On day 2 of the snow, the first waitress to arrive had walked 3 hard miles to get to work; it is moments like that that you realise what a great crew you have working for you. Excitingly the big Land Rover was put into action ferrying staff around for a couple of days after this, so the walk didn’t have to be repeated.

In April, the youngest member of the family, Alfred, turned two. His birthday is on April 1st and there are times one feels he is trying hard to ensure we remember he was born on April Fools day – he is already proving to be the joker in the family! A note to all – don’t wait until your forties to have children, I swear I’m too old for the job some days! J

May saw the Royal wedding, which seemed to cheer the nation up quite a bit and we got to release one of our rare Royal bottlings. Once again it sold out rather quickly. I am always tempted to do more but get reined in by our distiller, who rightly thinks it is better that a limited edition is very limited. Whilst the big 5 drinks companies seem happy to have 50,000 bottles in a limited edition, we think a tenth of this is probably closer to the public’s perception of limited. Your thoughts on a postcard please.

June is a good month at the distillery, the lawn between the distillery and the restaurant is filled up with visitors most days and the 10 acres of walks down to the river start to get used in earnest. It is lovely to see so many visitors using the place. My mother’s retirement project is the development of these acres into an interesting and pleasant place to play. With this in mind, more sculptures have been installed, lots of new trees have been planted and more areas are now mowed to allow picnic space etc. Whilst we don’t allow dogs in the restaurant, we do allow them on the lawns and river walk and in the outside seating areas.

July always seems to be a quiet month in the world of whisky, so time is spent planning new projects – and this year’s was the building of Warehouse 4. Space for another 4000 casks of whisky.. All a bit of a rush to see if we can get a grant out of Europe before the door is shut permanently. The design looks good and the planning department seem enthusiastic – phew.

August resulted in one of my more surreal moments. I visited Stringfellows to discuss our whisky, having met the owner a few weeks earlier. Rather too sensibly I visited before opening time. So, sitting in the famous gold throne drinking a mug of tea with Scott Stringfellow and his lovely mum I got to watch the first act of the night. I am not sure drinking tea with someone’s mum is how everyone experiences Stringfellow, especially as I didn’t know where to look most of the time. A night I shall not forget.

September and it is back to work in earnest with export markets growing and an extraordinary growth in enthusiasm for our Nog and PX. I already know we aren’t going to have enough to make it to Christmas – this is a nice problem. It is also the anniversary of The Kitchen, our distillery restaurant. We celebrated by handing over the kitchen to the famous chef Richard Bainbridge and his crew who cooked a superb meal for our members and other guests. Richard did an amazing job resulting in a great night for all.

October: We sadly have to say goodbye to Julian, who has commendably run the new shop and restaurant since it was built. We wish him well in his new role and welcome Lee to take over and hopefully do the job so well, I feel redundant. Mike our head of Sales has done a great job this year and this month we see orders going to most corners of the globe, as well as increasing sales in the UK. Please do email us if your local wine / booze shop doesn’t stock our whisky. We will try to make it happen.

November: Wow – Christmas has started already. Web orders quietly ramp up and by the middle of November you are all proving to be very loyal customers – thank you. Most days we have 2 people just packing orders. The Christmas decorations go up and the nights draw in. I like this time of year as I get to light the fire in the evenings and mow the lawn less often. Breckland Lodge re-opened this month, completely re-built and lovelier than ever, what a relief; definitely worth a visit if you need somewhere to stay or eat locally.

December – here we are again, kids only have a few days left of school and the online orders are slowing down. Christmas parties are happening in the restaurant and there is a sense of relief and jubilation that the year has gone by without too many snags. Oh and you won’t believe it but the Jim Murray voted The Norfolk – Farmers best single malt whisky in Europe for 2019. The 5th time we have won!

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting us and to wish you a Merry Christmas.


Andrew Nelstrop


Merry Christmas from Whisky Intelligence

WI Xmas18
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Happy Holidays from the Universal Whisky Experience


Universal Whisky Experience, 1621 Central Avenue, Cheyenne, WY 82001

Merry Christmas and a Relaxed 2019 from Maltstock


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the crew at Canadian Whisky News


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the crew at Canadian Whisky News


Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year from Robbie’s Drams and Robbie’s Whisky Merchants


We just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Thank you for your custom over the past year.
With warmest regards
From Robin and all the staff at Robbie’s Drams and Robbie’s Whisky Merchants.


Barrel Christmas Tree – Raasay Distillery – Scotch Whisky News


The team at the Isle of Raasay Distillery on the beautiful Inner Hebridean island are an enterprising bunch, so when the festive season approached and they didn’t have a tree handy, they made do with the best materials to hand – casks!

Raasay 0W1x-n60

Using around 50 ex-sherry and bourbon casks, the team built the tree by stacking barrels and strapping them together with old cask staves to keep it from being blown over by wintery gusts. Joseph McGowan, Distillery Operator, and Iain Robertson, Head Distiller, constructed it over the course of an evening, with the star made up from a broken sherry casks by Lead Tour Guide Calum Gillies, who added:

“We wanted something that celebrated our first full year of production, and the island doesn’t have a community Christmas tree so this seemed like the perfect compromise. We have it wrapped in a variety of lights, so walking past the distillery or coming over on the ferry at night, you can see it lit up like a, well, Christmas Tree.” 

“The community has really appreciated it, and it just makes the whole place feel a lot more festive and unique. Next year we can think of more decorations, but come 2020 we’ll maybe have one of the first bottles of Raasay single malt to put at the top instead of a star!” 

Please see an a link to the video of the team building the tree here.



Merry Christmas from The Strath ~ Victoria, BC


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