The Dramble reviews Teeling Vintage Reserve Silver bottling 21 year old – Batch 3
Posted 26 April 2019 / In Teeling
The Dramble reviews Teeling Vintage Reserve Silver bottling 21 year old – Batch 3

Whilst bourbon and Scotch command a larger share of the global spirits market, Irish whiskey is growing at a significantly faster rate – in 2017 sales were up by more than 10% on the previous year. The revivial has seen the number of active distilleries in Ireland grow from just 4 in 2010 to 24 in under a decade with another 20 in various stages of planning. And yet, quite astonishingly insiders still believe that there is yet more expansion to be leveraged – particularly across the Asian markets. However, at the same time, the market seems to be pivoting – away from long established commonly available bottlings to so-called premium and ultra-premium expressions. And then there’s the likes of Proper No. Twelve – a brand built off of the cult of personality.

The Dramble reviews Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish
Posted 25 April 2019 / In Glenglassaugh
The Dramble reviews Glenglassaugh Peated Port Wood Finish

Glenglassaugh fell silent in 1986. Deemed surplus to requirements and not naturally fitting into (then) owners Highland Distillers blended products, the distillery looked to have gone the way of the dodo. But, a phoenix-like re-emergence in 2008, and subsequent purchases by The BenRiach Distillery Company (2013) and Brown-Forman (2016) have led to Glenglassaugh once again appearing back on the radar. With one important caveat – the distillery didn’t and doesn’t have a wealth of aged stocks.

The Dramble reviews Glenrothes Whisky Maker’s Cut
Posted 24 April 2019 / In Glenrothes
The Dramble reviews Glenrothes Whisky Maker’s Cut

People pay a lot of attention to figures – bottle ages, PPM levels – surely the bigger the number, the better the liquid? The same is often true of ABV levels – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a review of a bottle with a footnote claiming that the release would have been superior with a higher level of alcoholic content. Possibly true – but in my mind, not always. The reasons why bottlers chose a particular ABV to bottle are not always as simple as you might think – there’s a raft of factors from the target market, considered profile of the liquid, spirit tax to pay, and resultant cask yield. ABVs are rarely, if ever, simply plucked from the sky.

The Dramble reviews Glenlossie 1995 22 year old Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask
Posted 23 April 2019 / In Glenlossie
The Dramble reviews Glenlossie 1995 22 year old Carn Mor Celebration of the Cask

Ask a seemingly simple question - get a series of ill-informed answers. The Internet is awash with experts no matter the topic. “Whisky is always at its best at 18-20 years of age, except Ardbeg – I love Ardbeg 10 year old.” Says the chap who manages to contradict himself within 10 words. “I never drink Scotch less than 12 years of age” drones the young lad who’s clearly but a few years older than suggested ideal tipple. Or, my personal favourite – “Best age to drink whisky at? I never really liked it in my late teens and twenties, so I’d say around 35”. The question of age is woven tightly into the very fabric of whisky – there’s a psychology behind the appeal of bigger numbers – and for years the market has been continually educated that older equals better. But in reality, age is not only a diverse and idiosyncratic topic, it’s also highly personal.

The Dramble reviews Jameson Bow Street 18 year old Cask Strength Batch 2
Posted 19 April 2019 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Jameson Bow Street 18 year old Cask Strength Batch 2

Creating a blended whiskey is far from as simple as adding component X to component Y and giving it a good shake. Blends are the oil that keeps the wheels of the whiskey industry turning (responsible for more global sales than single malts several times over), but that doesn’t mean that blended whiskey need be boring bottom shelf glass filler. Far from it. The Dramble recently spent some time at Midleton Distillery in Cork with Blender Dave McCabe – discovering that his art has as much to do with safeguarding consistency and preserving longer term stock as it does with the whiskey equivalent of potions class.

The Dramble reviews Mortlach 16 year old Distiller’s Dram
Posted 18 April 2019 / In Mortlach
The Dramble reviews Mortlach 16 year old Distiller’s Dram

It’s easy to forget quite how big the global spirits market truly is. I’m not talking about the budding expansion of distilleries across the world – or even of the growing interest for all things booze-based. But, the international drinks market is both highly complex and highly interconnected. Taken in isolation, small changes at a small distillery can make huge impacts to both operating costs and profits. At large, multinational companies, whisky, single malt, or even the output of one individual distillery is but a small cog. Far from inconsiderable, but still part of a much large machine. Over the years, Diageo has shown that they’re quite willing to take their machine to pieces and attempt to reassemble it – sometimes with a few nuts and bolts left over.

Posted 16 April 2019 / In Group

If you believe everything you read in the media, you’d come away trusting the countless headlines that suggest that ‘there’s never been a better time to invest in whisky’. In actuality, the opposite is true – there’s never been a better time to sell whisky. Those who stashed away bottles ten, or twenty years ago might well find large returns on some of your long-forgotten gems. But, in 2019, Id argue that whilst there is obviously a lot of money to be made in whisky, it is largely from buying and selling quickly – I.E. flipping. The initial release of Diageo’s Game of Throne Collection was snaffled up at a rate only surpassed by that which they all appeared the following month at auction. Huge profits were expected. Huge profits largely failed to materialise. Several factors contribute to this game of fools – the sheer number of identical bottles and sets being sold at the same time. But, more importantly - the fallacy of the ‘limited edition’.

Posted 15 April 2019 / In Group

Game of Thrones – violence, incest, missile-grade swearing and boobs. Perhaps not the most obvious combination for blockbuster TV but nevertheless, 16.1 million people tuned in for the season six finale – and I suspect an even higher number will now be glued to their boxes for the final season seven. No spoilers – I have to wait until later this evening. The shows’ success lies (beyond the quality of the source material) in being quite different to all other prime-time series that have gone before it. High-ish fantasy has always been rather the niche. But, it didn’t always start that way – launched in 2011, it wasn’t until 2014 that its popularity (driven by an unparalleled level of piracy) elevated it to the status of HBO’s biggest ever hit. And, at that point, a target ripe for partnership with whisky’s powerhouse Diageo.

The Dramble reviews Elements of Islay Ma2
Posted 12 April 2019 / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble reviews Elements of Islay Ma2

The considerable differences in peat smoke type and intensity relative to their origins are fairly well documented. Islay peat is richer in phenolic compounds such as guaiacol, vanillins and nitrogens. Highland peat has a greater concentration of carbohydrates. These chemical variances are reflective of the landscapes where the peat has been extracted from – Islay: iodine packed sphagnum moss, washed by sea water and coastal air. The Highlands: larger numbers of wood-based deciduous plants offering syringol compounds from the lignins contained in plant matter. Complex stuff – well beyond my pay grade - and that’s without any consideration of Orkney, Campbeltown (or even further afield).

The Dramble reviews Old Pulteney 18 year old
Posted 10 April 2019 / In Old Pulteney
The Dramble reviews Old Pulteney 18 year old

Stock management is neither easy, nor a precise science. Casks are ordered, filled and laid down based around a wide range of assumptions - some of which will only come into focus decades in the future. Unless you’ve got near endless warehousing and extraordinary production capacity, everything is by necessity a compromise – how much liquid can you producing to maintain the consistency of your existing range for X number of year? What selection of casks are required, how are they judged to be of the appropriate quality – and when? Whisky production is educated guesswork for a possible future, and in many instances, no one would have predicted the shape the industry twenty years ago.

The Dramble reviews Glenrothes 10 year old Soleo Collection
Posted 09 April 2019 / In Glenrothes
The Dramble reviews Glenrothes 10 year old Soleo Collection

Sometimes change can be a bitter pill to swallow – a beloved bottle discontinued, a change in cask compositions away from a particular profile or a patently ugly rebranding. Glenrothes’s 2018 brand overhaul from vintages to age statements is perhaps one of the more curious recent upheavals. Whilst new (old) owners Edrington likely wanted to bring Glenrothes’s market proposition in to line with their other two distilleries (Macallan and Highland Park), in doing so, they’ve removed the distillery’s point of difference. The new ‘Soleo Collection’ has kept the recognisable hand grenade shaped glassware, but has forsaken uniqueness for conformity.

The Dramble reviews Mortlach 12 year old The Wee Witchie
Posted 08 April 2019 / In Mortlach
The Dramble reviews Mortlach 12 year old The Wee Witchie

You don’t have to look far to find ridiculousness in 2019 – in all of its varied forms. Just a few days ago whilst passing through travel retail I witnessed dozens of eager travellers lapping up stories of Game of Thrones whisky ‘exclusivity’, ‘limited editions’ and ‘investments’…. none the wiser to the thousands upon thousands of bottles being held back for an imminent ‘release two’, nor what’s been going on at Scotch Whisky Auctions this month. Honestly, I love seeing greedy bastards getting burnt. Just next door to the behemothic Westeros-themed display sat the revitalised Mortlach range – empty of attention, barely a glace of interest aimed in its direction.

Posted 04 April 2019 / In Group

SMWS’s April outturn ‘Embrace the extraordinary’ offers 17 new single cask whiskies – over half of which have been matured in something other than standard ex-bourbon. From oloroso and PX sherry to the less commonly seen (and bafflingly popular) port and even an IPA cask – which might well be a Society first?! There’s a smorgasbord of finishes on offer, but as always, something for everyone regardless of your partialities.

The Dramble reviews Red Spot 15 year old
Posted 04 April 2019 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Red Spot 15 year old

Where does the line lie between protecting tradition and limiting innovation? In the case of Irish pot still whiskey, tradition seems rather mired in the mists of time – there’s little historical evidence to provide a precise definition of what pot still actually is. The category is now offered some protection in the form of GI (Geographical Indication) status, but the specifics of the production methods (as detailed in the so-called Technical File) seem more in tune with current shape of the industry than they do with the past.

The Dramble reviews Tullamore Dew 18 year old
Posted 02 April 2019 / In Tullamore
The Dramble reviews Tullamore Dew 18 year old

The educational benefits of distillery tourism go far beyond solely pandering to die-hard malt fans. Along with practical information, there’s a host of culturally relevant knowledge that grounds the significance of whisky and distilling into both a location’s past, as well as its possible future. It can, and it should be, about a whole lot more than an end of tour tasting table. Visit any larger (or better known) distillery and you’ll immediately see that most of its visitors are simply day-trippers who have added a basic distillery tour into their busy holiday schedules. These guys probably don’t want or need the level of technical information that us enthusiasts yearn for – but, for the preservation of whisky’s integrity, they too deserve an honest and accurate account.

The Dramble reviews Edradour Vintage 2005 – TWE Exclusive
Posted 29 March 2019 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Edradour Vintage 2005 – TWE Exclusive

Fear of missing out is described as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. And in the whisky world, I believe it to be just a prevalent as buyers regret. There’s a *lot* of whisky out there – over 6000 releases in 2018 alone, but for some, playing Pokemon with a bottling series, or distillery’s entire release calendar can become a near obsessive pursuit. Beyond that, craving and longing focusses on the individual bottle level – a stunning, historically significant or unexpected whisky that has an allure that feels irresistible – often to a whole host of people. Cue crazy auction results. I missed the release of today’s Edradour – but, having now tasted it, I’m rather kicking myself that I didn’t have a FOMO moment at the time.

The Dramble reviews Edradour 2008 SFTC Sherry Cask Matured
Posted 28 March 2019 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Edradour 2008 SFTC Sherry Cask Matured

All distilleries have some elements of uniqueness – after all, what would be the point of a glut of homogenised liquid? Sites operate differing fermentation and distillation processes, divergent maturation regimes (a couple of days ago I visited a distillery where casks are being stored vertically on their heads?!), and sometimes have examples of one-of-a-kind equipment that either never took off elsewhere, or was superseded by history and progress. Edradour has plenty of uniqueness – it’s a beautifully weird place – but one thing which always stands out to me is its continued use of a Morton’s Refrigerator – the last one still in operation in the whisky industry.

The Dramble reviews Edradour 2007 Natural Cask Strength
Posted 27 March 2019 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Edradour 2007 Natural Cask Strength

A big, heavy decanter is a nice thing. There’s just something oddly reassuring about pouring a dram from a weighty bottle. We’ve not really spoken about glassware on The Dramble before – truth be told there’s more than enough glass comparisons out there on fellow bloggers sites – and I’ll take some convincing that the 1920’s Blender’s Glass isn’t the best for reviewing with and the worst for cleaning thereafter. But, perhaps there’s more unique mileage to be had in us taking looking at decanters one of these days? Andrew Symington from Edradour/Signatory would probably think so – many of the distillery’s/bottler’s expressions come delivered in easily recognisable heavyweight glass. But, I’ll be honest – I have no actual no idea what an Ibisco decanter really is.

The Dramble reviews Edradour 2007 SFTC Grand Arome Rum Cask Matured
Posted 26 March 2019 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Edradour 2007 SFTC Grand Arome Rum Cask Matured

Historically Edradour has had a reputation for woeful inconsistency. Some bottles were good, some were terrible, but you’d be hard pushed to established a common thread between them. My personal experience of older Edradours has been a total shot in the dark. Far from reassuring, but sort of fun in a lucky dip kind of way. Since the distillery was purchased in 2002 by independent bottler Signatory Vintage, standards have dramatically improved. However, consistency has rather been turned on its head by Andrew Symington – the breadth of cask utilised is now mind-bogglingly wide. Edradour bottlings are still a lucky dip – just a much better one.

The Dramble reviews Edradour 10 year old
Posted 25 March 2019 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Edradour 10 year old

It’s all too easy for whisky geeks to get bogged down by the technical aspects of a distillery. Fermentation times, lyne arm inclinations, spirit cut points – all interesting – but sometimes a distraction from what’s right under our noses. Whisky tourism makes a considerable contribution to local economies (sometimes with perceived detrimental effects), and whilst its growth is certainly being spearheaded by an ever increasing fan base of whisky enthusiasts, the raw number of tourists (nearly 2 million each year) to Scottish distilleries reveals an allure that’s beyond our immediate community. People simply like pretty little things.



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