The Softer Side of Graham Eunson

Posted 29 November 2017

Orkney-born Graham Eunson has been the General Manager of Tomatin Distillery since 2011, but whisky has been a big part of his life for many years prior to this. He’s worked at Scapa, Glendronach, Glenmorangie and Glenglassaugh clocking up over 25 years of experience within the industry and overseeing all aspects of production and warehousing along the way. For the last 6 years Eunson has been leading the distillery team at Highland distillery Tomatin, as it looks to solidify its reputation not just as a blending whisky, but as a high quality single malt in its own right.

The Dramble interviews Graham Eunson from Tomatin Distillery

Falger’s Fine Art

Posted 14 November 2017

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury was first published in 1948. Offering a conversational and oft-times witty take on the fundamentals of mixology, it is one of the most referenced and cited cocktail books, and responsible for influencing a generation of cocktail enthusiasts including Frankfurt-based Dominik M.Falger. Inspired by his background in, and love for, mixing drinks, Falger has recently opened Embury Bar, Drawing from his own private collection, Falger has created a venue that encapsulates both the growing zeitgeist in Frankfurt for high quality well-constructed cocktails, as well as a veritable mecca for whisky lovers, with a selection as deep as it is broad.

The Dramble interviews Dominik M. Falger owner of Embury Bar Frankfurt

Keeing it in the family

Posted 11 October 2017

Glenfarclas is one of the oldest Speyside distilleries having been established in 1836. It’s also one of few still independently owned, and its long history runs through 6 generations of a single family – the Grants. Located in Ballindalloch, and drawing water from the nearby Ben Rinnes, the distillery has several distinctive features – a cool microclimate that results in a very low angels share (just 0.05% loss each year), direct gas fired stills and a strict adherence to ex-sherry cask maturation. These features promote a distinctive, rich and sweet house style that is naturally well suited to long periods of maturation.

The Dramble interviews George Grant from Glenfarclas

Ten Dram Good Years

Posted 04 October 2017

Isle of Arran Distillery are in a bit of a party mood this month. Master Distiller James MacTaggart has been with Arran for 10 years, and to celebrate this milestone, a new limited edition ‘James MacTaggart Anniversary Single Malt’ bottling is being released later this month. Originally from Islay, MacTaggart started his career at Strathclyde Regional Council in Bowmore. In 1975 he was asked by the then Manager of Bowmore (Harry Cockburn) to help in the distillery office whilst they installed a new computer system – whilst the computers never happened (back in 1975 they would presumably have taken up the whole office!), MacTaggart still found a role – working in the Bowmore warehouses and maltbarns.

The Dramble interviews James MacTaggart, Master Distillery of Isle of Arran Distillery

The Colour of Magic - Part 1

Posted 19 September 2017

Despite being a simple single lens system, the human eye is capable of distinguishing an incredible 2.8 million different colour variations. On a dark night it’s possible to see a candle flickering up to 30 miles away and if you look up to the sky you’ll be able to make out light emanating from galaxies up to 2.6 million light-years away. In comparison our hearing, smell and taste senses lag seriously behind the power of our optics. As commentators we spend countless hours attempting to define the aromas and flavours of whisky, usually drawing from a collection of less than 50 known smells and tastes, but the colour of whisky also plays a significant part of its overall visual appear. But, an examination of whisky colour can be much broader than just the hue of the liquid itself.

The Dramble explores the colour of whisky

Hammer Time

Posted 17 August 2017

Once the preserve of die-hards and bargain hunters, auctions are now part and parcel of daily whisky life. Data from Scotchwhisky.com shows that from April to June 2017 more than 21,000 bottles were sold at auction – a 70% increase on the same period in 2016. The growth of online auctions continues unabated with a whole new cohort of buyers and sellers driving the secondary market to stratospheric levels never before seen. But, if you’re just setting out on your whisky journey and want to check out the auction scene, where should you start?

The Dramble explores whisky auctions

All Hail the King

Posted 09 August 2017

In 2016 the development of English distillery sites was outpacing those north of the border. The number of English spirit distilleries has risen by 413% over the last 6 years - and shortly, England will have 14 separate sites dedicated to producing single malt whisky. But, English whisky has not just appeared overnight – indeed, back in the 19th Century, brewing and distilling historian Alfred Barnard wrote about visiting four English whisky distilleries. One of the sites he visited was located in Lee Valley, London – for those still scratching their heads, it’s where the Olympic Stadium was built in 2012. Riding the crest of the wave of new English distilling is Chris Jaume and his fiancé Abbie Neilson from Cooper King distillery located in rolling hills close to the historic city of York.

The Dramble interviews Chris Stone from Cooper King distillery

Mirror Mirror

Posted 03 August 2017

In 2011 Ian Buxton wrote in Whisky Advocate ‘Mark my words, this “investment” bubble will end badly and people – and whisky – are going to get hurt’. Six years later and this prophecy has yet to come true – in fact, depressingly, speculation, apocalyptic hoarding, price gouging, fetishisation and completely loopy behaviour only seem on the increase. Enthusiasts and commentators are oft-times all too quick to point the finger at producers and retailers, but the truth of the matter lies much closer to home. Perhaps it’s time we all took a long hard look in the mirror.

The Dramble has a rant about pricing, scalping, hoarding and fetishisation

For Peat's Sake

Posted 26 July 2017

Peat has an age-long association with the whisky industry. From Islay to the Western Isles, there were few trees available so peat was traditionally used both for burning as fuel and for insulating material. Since the turn of the century two distinctive trends can be seen in the use of peat within the Scotch whisky industry. The overall level of peating has decreased across bottlings, however, at the same time the peatiness of some whiskies has increased dramatically as distilleries look to create ‘peat monsters’ and a new category of super-heavily peated whiskies such as Octomore.

The Dramble explore peat and PPM

Roll out the barrel

Posted 13 July 2017

The first account of storing alcohol in barrels comes from the 5th Century BC courtesy of the Greek historian Herodotus who wrote about the use of palm-wood in the shipping of Armenian wine over to Mesopotamia. However, it seems likely that the move from clay amphorae to what we would understand as a watertight wooden container probably occurred several hundred years before that. Not only was wood a stronger material than brittle fired clay, it could also be shaped into barrel-like shapes which allowed it to be moved and stored more readily.

The Dramble explores casks

The interaction of oak with spirit is a slow, transformative process and the most fundamental aspect of whisky maturation. Newly distilled spirit, whilst already imbued with distillery-character flavour is at that time harsh, pungent and still at an alcohol volume which will likely prove harmful if consumed in any great quantity. 

Whisky science! Seeing the wood through the trees.

It's quite the honour to be selected to join the Arran annual tasting panel who will decide on the whisky which will become the 2017 White Stag bottling. As part of the panel, I joined a 20 strong group who were all sent a tasting pack containing three different whiskies. But, unlike most tasting packs, no hints at all were give as to the contents of the bottles. They were just labelled as Samples 1, 2 & 3. Decisions, decisions!

Spin Spin Sugar

Posted 20 June 2017

Distilleries don't tend conjure up images of tropical paradises - that is unless you happen to be visiting the Seychelles for your Brother-In-Law's wedding and you take some time out to visit Takamaka Rum. Situated on the main island of Mahé, Trois Frères Distillery, with its 200-year old colonial house and very neaty trimmed lawns is the perfect getaway from a week of table decorations, speeches, family members and white sandy beaches. Oh it's a hard life sometimes.

The Dramble explores Takamaka Rum

Japanese whisky might be hotter than the sun right now, but how much do you really know about it? You've heard of Suntory and Nikka, but what about Akkeshi and Shizuoka? Fear not, for help is at hand in the form of 'Whisky Rising – The Definitive Guide to the Finest Whiskies and Distillers of Japan'. Written by the authoritative Stefan Van Eycken and published by Cider Mills Press, Whisky Rising truly is a definitive guide to Japanese whisky, covering the highs and lows (and highs again) of the industry, detailed overviews of distilleries past and present, tasting notes for renowned bottlings, cocktail recipes and bar recommendations. The Dramble was fortunate to catch up with Stefan to talk to him about the his new book, whisky drinking memories and thoughts for the future of Japanese whisky.

The Dramble interviews Stefan Van Eycken author of Whisky Rising

Lucy Horncastle admirably demonstrates deep-seated passion, along with a fiercely independent innovation in her approach to whisky. Her employer Compass Box are just the same - whiskies such as 'Three Year Old Deluxe' and 'This is not a Luxury Whisky' both challenge perceptions as well as highlight the company's continued devotion to the art of world-class whisky production. If you visit Compass Box at a show (and we suggest you do) you'll find these admirable traits along with a very warm welcome from their knowledgeable and dedicated staff.

The Dramble interviews Lucy Horncastle of Compass Box

The scale of Britain’s industrial expansion during the Victorian era in the 19th Century was massive. Driven by greatly increasing international trade, growing demand for consumer goods and most significantly, widespread application of steam technology,  Britain emerged as the most powerful trading nation in the world. Founded in 1881, Bunnahabhain was born of this period of industrialisation and, you can still see this, even today.

Bunnahabhain and a blether with Brodie

There are two things guaranteed to get die-hard maltheads shaking their heads in distain: E150a (spirit caramel) and chill filtration. Chill filtration has been a hot industry topic for some time now, but how much does it really affect the flavour of whisky? To find out, we need to take a look at what filtration is (and isn’t) and, in particular, to take a look at a particular chemical compound: esters.

The Dramble explores chill filtration and esters

Impressions of Islay

Posted 16 May 2017

History suggests that Irish monks first introduced distilling to the Isle of Islay way back in the 14th Century. Islay's environment is ideal for the growing of barley, plentiful with peat bogs and also littered with excellent sources of pure water. Little has changed in those regards in the seven centuries since. The Dramble spent a week on Islay at the start of May 2017, visiting all 8 currently active distilleries, meeting friends, both old and new, and fully immersing ourselves in to what some believe to be the spiritual home of Scotch whisky.

Islay, ardbeg, bowmore, bruichladdich, bunnahabhain, caol ila, laphroaig, lagavulin, kilchoman,

When the Wolves Were Running

Posted 02 May 2017

Shane Fraser is smiling. He has every right to - Wolfburn has had a meteoric year since the release of their first single malt whisky winning no less than three Gold Medals at international competitions. But Fraser is in no way resting on the laurels of a triple crown win - he's got his sights firmly set on the future of Wolfburn. We suspect he's going to be smiling even more in the years to come.

The Dramble interviews Shane Fraser of Wolfburn

Ciaran Mulgrew is a man with a plan, and that plan aims to put Derry right back at the heart of the Irish whiskey trail.

The Dramble interviews Ciaran Mulgrew Managing Director of Niche Drinks

Nordic Passion, Viking Soul

Posted 17 April 2017

It would take you less than two minutes with Martin Markvardsen, the Highland Park Senior Brand Ambassador to understand just how deeply the Viking soul runs through his veins. He speaks with a profound and genuine enthusiasm, both for the brand he represents, and about people - the people he works with, and the people he meets around the world - all who share his immense passion for great whisky. 

Martin Markvardsen photo

The process of envisaging and building The Dramble has resulted in Danny and me having countless discussions about web design, font sizes and choosing between 400 different shades of the same green. In the end the site we’ve just launched has been built with a large amount of IT experience and knowledge (all Danny’s), but also firmly on the basis of our opinions. So, it occurred to me, whilst looking pensively at Pantone PMS354, that deep down, opinion is at the very heart of whisky appreciation. It’s also why we’ve created this website.

A matter of opinion

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