The Dramble reviews Whiskymax Ardmore 2013 6 year old Icons of Scotland
Posted 29 July 2021 / In Ardmore
The Dramble reviews Whiskymax Ardmore 2013 6 year old Icons of Scotland

The long-standing and often repeated saying observes that “whisky is best shared”. It is a phrase which highlights the cosiness of conviviality that is the collective experience of enjoying a dram. And it is a phrase that alludes to whisky being a drink which is to be consumed. No arguments there. But it’s all too easy to forget – especially after a year of living life largely through a digital lens – that whisky can, and often does, offer far more than just the triptych of nose, palate and finish. Whisky *is* more than what is inside of the bottle.

Posted 23 July 2021 / In Group

Whilst the act of venting on social media might make you feel momentarily better – crying about missed bottles and calling out distilleries and allocations methods only stands to make obtaining future bottles either tougher, or more expensive, or more than likely - both. Internet chatter will have you believe that bots, career speculators and ninjas from the League of Assassins are solely responsible for the instantaneous acquisition of any and all releases deemed as ‘chasey’. But the truth of the matter is that there’s a raft of individuals sweeping up whisky bottles who don’t know a damn thing about what they’re buying – they’ve just observed you and others publicly grousing and utilise this as a smoke signal to get in on the action.

The Dramble reviews Whisky Sponge Edradour 2003 18 year old
Posted 20 July 2021 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Whisky Sponge Edradour 2003 18 year old

It’s hot in the UK right now. Too hot. But whilst I’m feeling weary, fatigued and a little sluggish that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m being entirely unproductive. Things are just taking a little longer at present (like writing - sorry folks). The same is true of oak – it is a false assertion that a tired cask is an entirely dead cask – there are methods to both reinvigorate wood and to utilise and harness its characteristics at a point where it exhibits lower levels of activity. Indeed, some of the most famous and lauded bottlings have been matured in wood which nowadays some would argue was knackered.

The Dramble reviews Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky
Posted 14 July 2021 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Whisky

I have come to dislike the term “beginner whisky”. It is a misleading and loaded moniker which often does a disservice to both the intrinsic quality of whiskies and in particular to the intent and target audience of certain bottlings. The name itself suggests several characteristics: that this whisky is unsuited for those who aren’t beginners; that the being of a beginner and thus enjoying so-called beginner’s whisky is but a formative period of time before you head off to discover the ‘real stuff’; and that there’s a selection of transcendent olfactory aptitudes that can only be developed with a concerted input of both time and money – after which, it is possible to rise to a level of enjoying  “expert whisky” (which is also not a thing either).

The Dramble reviews Arran 1996 24 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 06 July 2021 / In Arran
The Dramble reviews Arran 1996 24 year old TWE Exclusive

It starts at a young age. A tantalisingly empty Panini album whose pages beseech to be filled. Over time, sticker by sticker, through purchase and through trade, the gaps are slowly satisfied until all that remains are the hardest to find - Radja Nainggolan (the Belgium midfielder) apparently being the unicorn for the 2018 World Cup album – who’d have known? However most kids, and in particular their parents, aren’t prepared for the expense of purchasing the near 1,000 packs required to ensure the completeness of their Panini album and as such the majority sit, unfinished gathering dust. Fast-forward to 2021 and this mindset of completeness is far from limited to collecting images of men in shorts – indeed, when it comes to whisky, this preoccupation is increasingly becoming warped into a mentality that it's all or nothing.

Posted 01 July 2021 / In Group

It has been eight months. Eight long months since we last ventured into Greville Street to put pen to paper for an outturn review. And I can honestly say that it feels great to be back. Back to the Society. Back to exploring the monthly outturns and most importantly – back to catching up with lovely members. And of course Phil. 

The Dramble reviews Balblair 2005 TWE Exclusive
Posted 29 June 2021 / In Balblair
The Dramble reviews Balblair 2005 TWE Exclusive

Despite incessant media and enthusiast-driven hype, increasing bottle hysteria and more than a touch of elaborate marketing and beautifying packaging, whisky is rather the humble drink. Formed from just barley, yeast and water – even your evening beer has at least one more base ingredient added at its point of creation. And yet it is the elevation, over time, of these normally unassuming components which takes whisky from its modest roots and transforms it into something which can be equally as enchanted as it is diverting.

The Dramble reviews Paul John Brilliance
Posted 22 June 2021 / In John Distilleries
The Dramble reviews Paul John Brilliance

With all the focus on limited editions, chasey-exclusives, near-constant, locked-down digital dramming and bizarre Insta photos of sealed bottles artfully posed in places where they most certainly don’t belong (I can make a few additional suggestions of where you can put them) – it’s all too easy for folk to quickly lose sight of the fact that whisky and socialisation are deeply entwined. Whether father, mother, sister or brother. Whether best friend or newest friend. Whether new arrival or dearly departed. The sharing of a dram has been a point of social bonding for generations.

The Dramble reviews Highland Park 2007 13 year old Decadent Drinks Exclusive
Posted 16 June 2021 / In Highland Park
The Dramble reviews Highland Park 2007 13 year old Decadent Drinks Exclusive

It should come as no surprise that mankind has always had an obsession with measuring things. The earliest documented examples of weights and measures originates around the 3rd millennium BC and invariably revolves around the quantification of things related to agriculture, construction or trade. All of significant import for early civilisations. Perhaps the very first measure we’re aware of some 5,000 years later is the cubit which was used by the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Israelites and later Romans as a common unit of measurement based on the distance from the elbow to the middle finger. It’s all rather the far cry from today where units are both standardised and infinitesimally precise. A simpler time where the counting of the number of ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ and making pictorial comparisons with Coke cans just weren’t really the done things.

The Dramble reviews Whisky Sponge Springbank 1994 26 year old
Posted 09 June 2021 / In Springbank
The Dramble reviews Whisky Sponge Springbank 1994 26 year old

Whisky doesn’t need any more blogs/vblogs featuring “my first ever Laphroaig” or copy and pasted wiki distillery histories or WSET level 2 “experts”. But it does need, perhaps more than ever, some sharp angles when it comes to whisky writing. In order to write a good critique, there is also a requirement to critically read and critically assess. These are skills which do not develop overnight…knowledge doesn’t grow on trees (unless you’re into cider reviews). Close inspection and a deep understanding of whatever it is you’re attempting to critique are fundamental requirements and are joined by the aptitude to apply an appropriate set of criteria in order to keenly evaluate the subject to hand fairly and consistently. And then most importantly, and sadly all too often forgotten - to be able to communicate all of this in an engaging and energising fashion.

The Dramble reviews Whisky Sponge Equilibrium
Posted 03 June 2021 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Whisky Sponge Equilibrium

Drinkers are perennially obsessed with bottlings which sell out. How many were there? (few) How quickly did they all sell out? (very) And how many will appear at auction next week? (lots). When it comes to whisky in 2021, I’m honestly surprised that folks are still astounded by any of this. Flip the switch to the opposite direction – and you’ll find that seeing which releases *didn’t* sell out on impact can offer far more insight into the modern market than glancing into the rear-view mirror of blink and you’ve missed it whisky.

Posted 26 May 2021 / In Group

Once a month, once a week, once a day, or several times time a day? Don’t worry, your parents were lying – you won’t go blind. But if you’re purchasing whisky with a frequency which exceeds the rate that you’re drinking it, you’re going to be accumulating bottles. So, to manage this accumulation do you a set number, set budget or set a physical storage space? Or are you just going to think about that later down the line and hope that your other half just doesn’t notice the continuous courier arrivals and the strange bumps under the bed that are starting to lift the mattress?

Posted 21 May 2021 / In Group

Few who pick up a tennis racquet should expect to go on to play at Wimbledon. And treading the boards at a local amateur theatre company doesn’t signal that Hollywood will ever be beckoning. Sadly, not everyone is destined for greatness – though of course we all should certainly dream and aspire – that’s just to be human. When it comes to whisky, the story is similar - not every cask has the composition, character and attributes that mark it out as being of exceptional quality. And that means that not every whisky should be considered as being suitable for being bottled as a single cask. Sorry whisky – no tournament trophy or Oscar’s ceremony for you.

The Dramble reviews Paul John Mithuna
Posted 17 May 2021 / In John Distilleries
The Dramble reviews Paul John Mithuna

Whilst my appreciation for certain styles of cinema remains constant, my favourite film could change every day. Mood plays a significant role in shaping our tastes – and depending on my disposition I could find myself yearning to spend a couple of hours exploring something new and unfamiliar – or equally I could find myself curing up on the sofa with an old favourite that’s been watched countless times already. But regardless of which flavour of flick I’m looking for, there are times when I find myself seeking out the same things in films as I often do in whiskies – richness, depth, focus, intensity, balance, harmony and finesse. But what those things actually mean and how they manifest themselves within a glass is far from easy to truly understand.

The Dramble reviews Balblair 1997 19 year old Hand Bottling
Posted 12 May 2021 / In Balblair
The Dramble reviews Balblair 1997 19 year old Hand Bottling

Warehouse drams always taste better in warehouses. But this is not because tranquil, history-steeped dunnages possess any type of capability to enhance the sophistication and awareness of our olfactory systems. Indeed, with lower ambient temperatures and sometimes poor levels of lighting – on paper, you’d expect the exact opposite to be true. However, despite whisky being for all intents and purposes identical whether in a glass at home or in a glass in a warehouse, it is the experience itself – the place, the environment, the occasion, and the company that so often defines our perceptions.

The Dramble reviews Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 2005 15 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 07 May 2021 / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 2005 15 year old TWE Exclusive

The best whisky writing has always been about more than the assembly of nose, palate and finish, topped with a regurgitated Wikipedia history and closed with a selection of largely unsubstantiated plaudits. Whisky writing can and should be about more than what is inside of the glass itself - in the same way that the best food writing extends far beyond what has just been served on a plate. And it’s the broadness of the topic – how whisky impacts economics, scientific understanding, people and evolving cultures that sees me sat here writing about it as the sun comes up.

The Dramble reviews Kilchoman 2007 13 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 04 May 2021 / In Kilchoman
The Dramble reviews Kilchoman 2007 13 year old TWE Exclusive

My niece turned four last month. And whilst she’s still a little bundle of near uncontainable energy, her personality is quite different from when she was three – and remarkably different from when she was two. I on the other hand remain largely the same at 42 as I was at 41 – I’m just a little bit slower and sadly a bit more rotund around the mid-section. Though they were all very nice beers indeed. Maturity is an interesting notion - whether it be in humans, or indeed in aged distillates. At certain points in time, there are expectations for traits and personalities that should manifest – and whether little people or little whiskies, none of us can but help wonder how this character will express itself over time. “I can’t wait to experience this at 5 years of age” – said the parent with an uncontrollable two-year-old.

The Dramble reviews Glasgow 1770 Cooper’s Cask Release
Posted 30 April 2021 / In Glasgow Distillery
The Dramble reviews Glasgow 1770 Cooper’s Cask Release

When is a distillery exclusive not a distillery exclusive? Whisky, like most other things has been in a rather strange place these last twelve months. And I’d argue that nowhere is that more the case than when it comes to bottles that have historically been tied to purchasing at physical festivals and to real-life visits to distilleries. These whisky moments are in my opinion impossible to truly replicate online. Everything from the excitement of travelling to an event/distillery, to the time spent away from home, with old friends, new friends, in history-steeped venues with their own sights, sounds, smells and feelings. None of these things can be duplicated virtually. And I’m genuinely not sure that I require dunnage smell-o-vision via my home computer.

Posted 27 April 2021 / In Group

Feeling a connection with another person is one of the highest forms of social being for humans. At the heart of that connection is habitually storytelling. But storytelling is far more than the cliché of beginning, middle and end. A pencil has all of those features. A pencil is not a story. How we communicate with others determines how in sync with them we are – and as well as being a powerful device, that feeling of harmonisation and like-mindedness can also be highly satisfying. The best storytellers look to their own memories and experiences to convey and illustrate their messages. And when is comes to a subject as academically intensive as that of whisky production – the best stories are consistently actual stories – not just shopping lists of technical specifications to commonly answered questions - how big? how long? how old? how strong?

Posted 23 April 2021 / In Group

Humans and sponges have a surprising amount in common. For the first six years of their lives, children’s brains work in fundamentally different way to that of adults – assimilating and processing new information like a sponge sucking up water. Staggeringly humans are also genetically related to the humble sea sponge. According to research from the University of Queensland there are elements of the human genome (the complete set of DNA of any organism) that function in the exact same way as the prehistoric porous animal. Absorbing stuff. As such, the irony of whisky enthusiasts rapidly soaking up any and all of the offerings from indy bottler Whisky Sponge is far from lost on me.



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