Tastings

Posted 20 November 2020 / In Group

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. Our story begins with a bleak vision of the future of whisky. It is a world where the quality of whisky is ever declining. Where a bottleneck in the availability of high-quality barrels has met the perfect storm of an “almost ludicrous” level of demand for those same vessels. And where the only method for maintaining the quality of malt whisky is to look to “innovative alternatives”. Welcome to the world of Swiss bottler Seven Seals.


The Dramble reviews Blue Spot whiskey
Posted 16 November 2020 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Blue Spot whiskey

Widening a beloved whisky series is fraught with danger. Whilst it’s always tempting to try to fulfil bubbling demand, there’s always a risk that if it’s not done correctly that it taints the existing range. Similarly, though the last few years have seemed ripe for expansionary tendencies – the introduction of any new core bottling needs to consider whether this release will supplement or pirate existing sales. A bottling which is viewed (and/or positioned) as a strictly better proposition has the potential to syphon sales from bottles which are both above and below it within a pre-existing range. Equally a bottling which has been created just because of burgeoning demand and nothing else can often just muddy the already often murky consumer choice waters.


Posted 12 November 2020 / In Group

Now boarding the direct service to Hype Town. Stopping at Fanfare, Ballyhoo and Brouhaha and with a driver changeover due at Puffery. Please keep your hands inside the train at all times and have your wallets and purses at the ready – you may have to dig deeper than you expect. Our journey time should be around ten minutes, but please set your expectations to ‘rational’ and understand that this very special service may require a larger investment of your time than you initially envisaged. Last call for Hype Town. All aboard. Choo choo.


The Dramble reviews A Fine Christmas Malt 2020
Posted 09 November 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews A Fine Christmas Malt 2020

Booze scientists (which is a different thing to boozy scientists) have long demonstrated that changes to ambient conditions can markedly change our perceptions of taste. One recent study sought to pair music with wine – discovering that the right combination (based on individual tastes of course) of wine with music was noted to improve the perception of a wine’s quality by up to 15%. Another back in 1999 directly linked in-store music to purchasing decisions – play French music and consumers are more likely to purchase French wine. Simples. But it’s not just changes to music that can affect our taste buds – light conditions, places and even the composition of the air will all affect our perception of taste.


Posted 05 November 2020 / In Group

Despite being presently just a one-man band, the philosophy behind O’Connell’s Whiskey Merchants feels in tune with the direction that the whisky world is taking – and particularly in step with the resurgent Irish whiskey scene. A goal of becoming “…the biggest indie bottler in Ireland by 2035” might sound highfalutin when you consider that other independent bottlers have established their positions over a century as opposed to a mere 15 years hence. However, whilst all new ventures start life with the grandest of ideas, it’s often the identification of the small, but significant aspects of a market that allow businesses to quickly establish roots. And then truly look to the stars.


The Dramble reviews Highland Park 2003 16 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 02 November 2020 / In Highland Park
The Dramble reviews Highland Park 2003 16 year old TWE Exclusive

No one enjoys feeling ill. And believe me - no one gets to enjoy much of anything if they’re around me and *I’m* the one who’s under the weather. I’m the absolute worst at it. There’s something particularly potent (and unenjoyable to friends and family) about an amalgamation of underlying grumpiness, innate hypochondria and a dose of the flu. Over the past week, nosing glasses have been left empty, pens have been downed and whisky musing has been replaced by a new daily routine of Lemsip tastings. You’ll likely be uninterested to note that honey and ginger flavour has come out on top.


The Dramble reviews Midleton Very Rare 2020
Posted 23 October 2020 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Midleton Very Rare 2020

Change within any industry rarely happens overnight. And it equally rarely happens without someone, somewhere asking for it. As the adage goes: you don’t ask, you don’t get. And depending on what it is, consumers might be asking for quite some time. At a glance, whisky appears fast paced – an endless stream of new distillery openings – more new bottles than you could shake a stick at. But in reality and like the transformations that take place inside a barrel as it matures, change in the whisky world generally happens at a rather languorous pace. Less revolution, more measured evolution.


The Dramble reviews Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch B517
Posted 21 October 2020 / In Heaven Hill
The Dramble reviews Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch B517

The British television game show Mastermind has two rounds: specialist subjects and general knowledge. Contestants’ specialist subjects range all the way from James Bond villains, to golfing majors, to English coinage 1066–1662. You can imagine the whisky equivalent, featuring general knowledge questions on distillation, ageing, and bottling, contrasting with specialist subject questions on Brora 1972 bottlings, Wild Turkey rickhouse variations, and weekend yeast activity. It’s levels to this ish.


The Dramble reviews Chichibu London Edition 2020
Posted 19 October 2020 / In Chichibu
The Dramble reviews Chichibu London Edition 2020

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the method selected to allocate a limited number of bottles to a larger number of enthusiasts is only ever truly welcomed by those who successfully secure a bottle. You don’t have to look all that far to see the same folks bemoaning balloting methods one month and then miraculously championing them another (bottle in hand). Possession is it seems, still nine tenths of the law. But whilst balloting for bottles is not a new phenomenon, its prevalence is steadily growing - both as a technique for divvying up short allocation releases, and as marketing tool.


Posted 16 October 2020 / In Group

Launching a new business takes bravery. Doing so during the height of a global pandemic takes sizeable minerals. And commitment, self-belief and above all else resolute passion. The times are certainly weird, but whilst COVID-19 has disrupted ‘normal’ life it’s worth noting that there’s no ‘prefect time’ to start a company. Even during the most prosperous of ages businesses have come and businesses have gone. Timing is important, but it’s far from everything. Whilst some might argue that the perfect time to start independent bottling was likely during the last decade – before things went whisky crazy – there’s still just enough headroom to squeeze a few more indies into the market. So long as they’re doing things right.


Posted 13 October 2020 / In Group

All whisky brands have a personality – regardless of whether anyone has sat down with tea, biscuits and a whiteboard and attempted to define it. We all naturally associate human traits with companies and their products – and the charisma of a whisky can frequently be defined by more than just the tasting norms of ‘nose’, ‘palate’ and ‘finish’. Distilleries, bottlers, brand managers - all want to express a set of characteristics that resonate with their customer base and convey how they wish to be perceived. And customers in turn, through the whiskies that they associate with, champion and regularly enjoy also articulate something about themselves and their aspirations and motivations at the same time.


Posted 09 October 2020 / In Group

Across the events industry one word is now being thrown around and that word is ‘hybrid’. The blended concept (whisky pun intended) sees a smaller, more exclusive event taking place in a face-to-face environment, with the majority of attendees connecting purely digitally through platforms such as Zoom. Already the Internet is littered with service companies offering hybrid services – adaptation is crucial. And just last month someone decided that it was high time that hybrid events had its own Wikipedia page created – a page which pleasingly outset ensures from the outset that readers are not confused with “hybridisation event” –  a rather more carnally focussed term that’s really not appropriate for conferences and trade shows.


The Dramble reviews Skene Whisky Black Tartan 88
Posted 07 October 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Skene Whisky Black Tartan 88

Last year saw a confounding number of self-proclaimed authorities on parliamentary practice. 2020 has revealed a staggering number of armchair epidemiology and virology experts. But rest assured dear readers, since time immemorial, everyone and anyone has believed that they can ‘do marketing’. Its genesis can be traced back to antiquity, and its early professional practice was solidified during the time of the industrial revolution. Unlike some career functions, marketing is everywhere you look – both inside and outside of your workplaces.  And this ubiquity has resulted in everyone thinking they’re a marketeer – particularly now, in an interconnected world that has provided us with the platforms, tools and voice to freely share our opinions. But as the whisky world can regularly attest to – turning hype into hyperventilation is still a skilful endeavour.


The Dramble reviews Drumshanbo Inaugural Release
Posted 05 October 2020 / In Shed Distillery
The Dramble reviews Drumshanbo Inaugural Release

In 2001 a group of students at the University of Bordeaux were asked to taste two glasses of wine – one red, one white. They invariably described the red wine as “jammy” and offering notes of red fruits and berries. They failed to note that both wines were in fact completely identical, save for one being coloured red using a flavourless dye. A somewhat unkind experiment, but one which highlights that biases are both regular in drinks tastings, and that regardless of wine or whisky, a taster’s judgements are easily influenced and prejudiced by external stimulus or additional information (which may or may not be correct).


Posted 01 October 2020 / In Group

SMWS’s October outturn ‘Lets get fizzical offers up 20 new single cask whiskies, 1 new single cask rum and a flashback to the August 2019 outturn with another list billed as focussed on the ‘hauf n hauf’ of whisky and beer pairings. Don’t mind if I do. But perhaps the biggest Society news this month comes not from the upcoming list of whiskies, but from the announcement that a new SMWS website is on the horizon. Quicker than expected. This I’m sure will please many members – particularly those who have struggled to navigate a site which has become increasingly creaky over the past few years.


The Dramble reviews Whisky Works Quartermaster 11 year old
Posted 28 September 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Whisky Works Quartermaster 11 year old

Grain whisky is underappreciated, under-valued and often misunderstood. Despite a total lack of education into what grain whisky is, and what grain whisky isn’t – the common or garden consumer is likely to have already formed an opinion on this much maligned of categories. And, it’s a mark of the success of “single malt” marketing that despite an absence of knowledge, folks will still readily proclaim grain whisky as a to be avoided ‘additive’ to their precious single malts. And yet offer these same folks a renowned wheat whisk(e)y or high percentage corn-based product and the penny almost never drops.


The Dramble reviews Rebel Yell Cognac Barrel Finish
Posted 25 September 2020 / In Lux Row
The Dramble reviews Rebel Yell Cognac Barrel Finish

As a younger man my father was always keen to remind me of the folklore wisdom of “grape or grain, but never the twain”. But like a bad chef always blaming their tools, it’s an easy excuse to lay the culpability for a hangover on mixed drinking as opposed to either the intake volume or simply dehydration. Whilst reality provides zero scientific evidence that combining different alcohol types will (in isolation) produce an increasingly undesirable effect – anecdotally many drinkers, myself included, are rather fond of the different configurations of aroma and flavour that it’s possible to produce from amalgamation and experimentation. Sorry Dad.


The Dramble reviews Arran Kildonan and Pladda Island 21 year old
Posted 23 September 2020 / In Arran
The Dramble reviews Arran Kildonan and Pladda Island 21 year old

People have been tasting things for as long as they’ve been putting stuff in their mouths. But how long have they been observing what they’re tasting? Early forays into food and drink were more focussed on the life sustaining properties of consuming things as opposed to systematically breaking down those experiences and the differences in aroma, texture and flavour. Things were simpler then - apple = good – ominous-looking mushroom = bad. And the same is true for alcohol. We’ve been boozing much longer than we’ve been musing about boozing.


The Dramble reviews Ledaig 1995 24 year old Chapter 7 Monologue
Posted 18 September 2020 / In Tobermory
The Dramble reviews Ledaig 1995 24 year old Chapter 7 Monologue

The versatility of whisky never ceases to amaze me. Significant and perceptible variances in profile and character manifest themselves not just between different distilleries – who don’t forget, largely make spirit using the same core processes - but also between the output of different seasons, years and even down to the level of the divergences that are possible between individual casks. Two identical woods filled with the same run of the same spirit on the same day – stored side-by-side for a decade and still tasting remarkably dissimilar. Mind blown. The changeability of whisky is a truly remarkable thing. And as much as I like to contrast spirits to what I perceive as their core representation – their natural zenith – I still always crave a little wonderment in my whisky.


The Dramble reviews Signatory Vintage Longmorn 2002 17 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 16 September 2020 / In Longmorn
The Dramble reviews Signatory Vintage Longmorn 2002 17 year old TWE Exclusive

You’ve more than likely tasted whisky from Longmorn distillery even if you’re not cognisant of doing so. The usually understated and often underrated Speysider has been quietly buttressing myriads of blended whiskies since its foundation in 1894. Ever sampled Chivas Regal? Well, whilst the core of that world-renowned Scotch comes from Strathisla, much of the fruit-forward character is derived from the dressing malt component of Longmorn. And it’s that same fruity charm that regularly sees enthusiasts on the lookout for exceptional single malt bottlings of the distillery’s spirit. But there’s one small problem – whilst Longmorn’s place as a high regarded blended component is assured, it’s presentation as an official single malt has never really (particularly over the last few years) captivated the market.


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