Tastings

The Dramble reviews Laphroaig Cairdeas 2020 Port and Wine Casks
Posted 01 July 2020 / In Laphroaig
The Dramble reviews Laphroaig Cairdeas 2020 Port and Wine Casks

Have my tastes changed? Is there something in the water? Or perhaps I’ve finally succumbed to the continued bombardment of new releases? Either way, over the past year, not only have I found myself drinking more wine influenced whiskies - I’ve found myself enjoying them more. “My name is Matt and I’ve become a wine cask pervert”. Well – not quite. My thoughts on wine cask maturation are well documented across this site – and similarly my views on what I see as failed integrations have not changed. Wine casks are awkward things. They require an adept and watchful touch to ensure that their potentially powerful impact doesn’t overwrite the prevalence of the spirit – and bring with it the greatest sin of the wine cask – an overbearing overabundance of wood and astringency.


The Dramble reviews Aberlour 1993 25 year old Single Casks by The Whisky Exchange
Posted 26 June 2020 / In Aberlour
The Dramble reviews Aberlour 1993 25 year old Single Casks by The Whisky Exchange

Just because we can doesn’t mean that we should. Touching clearly marked wet paint, tasting yellow snow, getting into yet another protracted discussion about whisky terroir. And so it is with the announcement that researchers at Virginia Tech are utilising artificial intelligence to ‘standardise’ tasting notes. The hypothesis (which has received grant funding) being that the language used to describe whisky is “metaphorical, messy, natural language which can be a barrier for consumers and industry professionals alike to having a shared understanding of what whiskey (sic) tastes like”. All very noble. But entirely missing the point – our experience of whisky whilst often shared *is* as individual as our olfactory systems – and this freedom of expression is fundamental. A love of language, with all its vagaries is something to cherish – not something to seek to homogenise.


Posted 23 June 2020 / In Group

Despite the pressures to expand our horizons and try new things, humans are creatures of habit – they are frequently drawn to the familiar. The creative industries have long identified that people take comfort in what they’re already accustomed to – and they serve this up repeatedly to eager audiences: a never-ending movie franchise where the only thing that changes is the increasing age of its stars; an on-going book series which may or may not ever be completed (likely not); or just the nth time that The Beatle’s Eleanor Rigby has been covered – one was more than enough. They say that all the stories have been told and all the songs have been sung….but in reality, its more likely that whilst audiences enjoy a little novelty, they’d generally prefer it wrapped up and presented with enough familiar elements that they can more easily comprehend where it fits within the world.


The Dramble reviews Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
Posted 19 June 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition

Even in times of restrictive upheaval, new business opportunities emerge. As it is now, when whisky clubs and producers have seized their captive audience and sent out more Zoom invites than any single liver could cope with. As it was then, when the 1920-1933 prohibition of alcohol in the United States destroyed some brands but opened the door for others. Cutty Sark was a new brand created in 1923 so it was considered less likely to be counterfeited than the established likes of Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal. The story goes that it benefitted from the seal of approval of its importer Bill ‘Real’ McCoy. This enabled the brand to grow even while it was prohibited.


Posted 17 June 2020 / In Group

Life is all about accepting limitations – both our own and those of the world around us. Everything about whisky can be thought of as being limited in one manner of another – from the yield that’s possible from a barley field to the efficiency of a mash, through to the volume of spirit a still can physically produce. Similarly, us humans also have our limitations – how much whisky we’re able to buy, able to store, and particularly, able to drink. You can’t always get what you want – but can folks get what they need? I feel like these last few months have put that adage to the test.


The Dramble reviews Currach Atlantic Kombu Seaweed Cask
Posted 11 June 2020 / In West Cork Distillers
The Dramble reviews Currach Atlantic Kombu Seaweed Cask

Human evolution and its link to fire is well documented – heat, cooking, cremation, propulsion, ritualistic devil worship or just good old-fashioned pyromania. Humans and fire go way back. And so, does whisky production and fire. Regardless of your friend’s insistence that they detest any matured liquid that’s been anywhere near a source of flame or combustible material – they’re mistaken. From a light toast all the way to a heavy char - *all* whisky cask have been subjected to a baptism of fire – many of them, more than once.


The Dramble reviews Signatory Vintage Glenlivet 2007 TWE Exclusive
Posted 08 June 2020 / In Glenlivet
The Dramble reviews Signatory Vintage Glenlivet 2007 TWE Exclusive

There’s a world of difference between someone who enjoys an occasional dram down the local boozer at the end of a long week and someone who self-identifies as a whisky devotee. A wider level of experience, a (sometimes) deeper level of knowledge, and more than likely - an innate proclivity to discover the outer limits of aroma, flavour and intensity. Nowhere is this penchant for discovering powerful (sometimes outlandishly so) whiskies more visible than with the appreciation of peated and sherried whiskies. Whilst the two styles can often be disparate (but equally highly sought after when combined) – their modern renderings provide enthusiasts with exploratory temptations – How intense and concentrated can flavours be? How peaty can it get before it’s repellent and/or a phenolic health hazard? How heavily sherried can a whisky become all semblance of the distillate is lost behind a wall of sweetness and wood tannins? And do you even care, so long as it’s as dark as pitch?


The Dramble reviews Glenburgie 1966 Gordon & Macphail (Original Cask)
Posted 03 June 2020 / In Glenburgie
The Dramble reviews Glenburgie 1966 Gordon & Macphail (Original Cask)

There’s a wide gulf between celebrating our past and seemingly wanting to live in it. Whilst few would deny the importance of whisky’s history – indeed for a product with an unusually long manufacturing time doing so would seem counterintuitive – tradition and heritage should be the bedrock on which the industry’s future is built, not the crutch it always falls back on when it has run out of new things to say.


The Dramble reviews Tomintoul 25 year old
Posted 01 June 2020 / In Tomintoul
The Dramble reviews Tomintoul 25 year old

Whisky is often thought of as a seasonal drink – from outside of the bubble it has a long-standing reputation for being allied to long nights, colder evenings and roaring fires. Within the industry, there’s a predisposition for utilising the seasons merely as another tool in the marketing arsenal for making a sale – positioning an ideal ‘summertime’ dram as somehow also being perfect as a Christmas gift for a loved one less than 6 months later. Seasonality is tricky – no producer wants to limit their sales window to just proportion of the year.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Blaaack Committee Release
Posted 29 May 2020 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Blaaack Committee Release

Whilst cats are supposedly curious creatures, it is humans who are the ones hardwired to be inquisitive (though apparently sheep can be inquisitive also – who knew). And whisky fans are most certainly an inquiring bunch. As soon as a bottle hits the shelves, enthusiasts are already scanning the horizon for the next release….and the one after that. And if you work for a distillery, you better get used to the bombardment of appeals. What’s next? When will that cask be ready for release? What will you be doing in a decade’s time? But for all the bleating, it’s often in the industry’s interest to indulge these investigations – the hype train requires constant fuelling.


The Dramble reviews Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood
Posted 27 May 2020 / In Laphroaig
The Dramble reviews Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood

Depending on how it’s spun, this review is either laughably late, or a perfectly timed retrospective. Of course, given today is Laphroaig’s virtual open day, it’s undoubtedly the latter. But in reality, my tardiness is simply a function of over-accumulation. A rough back of a fag packet calculation indicates that I currently own enough whisky to have a dram every single day for the next 26 years. That’s somewhat reassuring – whilst toilet paper might sometimes prove scarce, finding a drink is not going to be a problem. But on the other hand, and certainly as my wife regularly suggests – that’s simply too much whisky. A combination of sampling bottles and then purchasing, and purchasing bottles for sampling presents us drinkers with first world problems. You can’t take it with you.


The Dramble reviews Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive 2018
Posted 25 May 2020 / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews Caol Ila Distillery Exclusive 2018

Making a pilgrimage to Islay is often viewed as part of a whisky enthusiast’s ‘rite of passage’ – the island, its natural beauty, friendly locals and steeped whisky history holding a near mystical pull which extends far beyond its small borders. But there’s a very different ‘feel’ to Islay during The Islay Festival of Music and Malt when the population of the island nearly triples from its base of 3,228 (at last census) inhabitants. All day whisky revellery, a large (and important) tourist boost and an infrastructure which simply cannot cope with the influx of people. People everywhere – camping on beaches, fields and even on any available roadside verge. 2020 sees a virtual Feis Ile – closed B&Bs, empty roads and distilleries shuttered to the public. But don’t let this quietness fool you – Islay is far from silent.


The Dramble reviews Glen Scotia 14 year old Tawny Port Finish
Posted 21 May 2020 / In Glen Scotia
The Dramble reviews Glen Scotia 14 year old Tawny Port Finish

Mistakes were made. I never imagined that opening a new bottle would also simultaneously unlock Pandora’s box. But, in posting up a photo of my freshly popped Glen Scotia 14 year old Tawny Port Finish, the floodgates were immediately sprung wide. A deluge of messages followed – What did I think of it? Is it ‘better’ than the previous Campbeltown festival release? Is it good value? Question, questions. And a newly poured glass, which hadn’t actually passed my lips as yet offering few instantaneous answers. Whilst I take my drinking easy as she goes – I take my reviewing a whole lot more seriously. And then things escalated.


The Dramble reviews Redbreast 28 year old Dream Cask Ruby Port Edition
Posted 19 May 2020 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Redbreast 28 year old Dream Cask Ruby Port Edition

At some point, now almost lost to history in certain countries, whisky made the transition from being viewed as an old fashioned beverage to being that of a lifestyle purchase. As the middle classes started to desire something more than a comfortable living, annual holiday and reasonable priced family car, whisky production and particularly whisky promotion started to speak to what consumers wanted to become, not just what they felt they needed. The single malt, which at the time was synonymous with Scotch, became positioned not only as the pinnacle of whisky production, but as an lifestyle choice. The concept of aspirational whisky was born. And its steady drum beat has been with us ever since.


The Dramble reviews Chichibu 2012 #2089 TWE Exclusive
Posted 16 May 2020 / In Chichibu
The Dramble reviews Chichibu 2012 #2089 TWE Exclusive

This week saw several distilleries failing to cover themselves in glory with their ability to ensure both fair allocations (limited to 8 bottles per person?!) and non-malignant website checkouts (“what do you mean it removed the bottle from my basket?”). And at the same time, others who, with a little bit of patience and planning, managed both high website loads, and enthusiast expectations. It can be done….but, the harsh reality of allocations and the methods to allocate allocations, is that the only systems which whisky fans will truly praise are the ones which get them what they want.


The Dramble reviews Loch Lomond 2006 13 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 14 May 2020 / In Loch Lomond
The Dramble reviews Loch Lomond 2006 13 year old TWE Exclusive

Where there’s a will there’s a way. In a far cry away from what seemed like the total devastation of the whisky appreciation calendar but two months ago, it’s now entirely possibly to vTaste your way through the entire week. Initially a patter, now a deluge – enthusiasts find themselves spoilt for choice and brands are actively competing for a share of digital attentions. But, whilst brand ambassadors get used to only having to dress their top halves, it’s remiss to think that this flurry of virtual events and online camaraderie is a comprehensive solution to the variety of issues that the drinks industry is still facing – production, distribution and the bar trade in particular cannot be pivoted digitally in quite the same way.


The Dramble reviews Bain’s 18 year old Fino Cask Finish
Posted 12 May 2020 / In James Sedgwick
The Dramble reviews Bain’s 18 year old Fino Cask Finish

I first tasted the regular release of Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky a few years ago as part of an international whisky tasting that I co-organised. Bain’s is from South Africa and so it added not just another country, but another continent to the line-up. It had other things going for it too, as it was well reviewed, balanced the budget for the tasting, and seemed to be a good opening dram because it is a low ABV single grain.


The Dramble reviews Glentauchers 1997 22 year old Signatory TWE Exclusive
Posted 08 May 2020 / In Glentauchers
The Dramble reviews Glentauchers 1997 22 year old Signatory TWE Exclusive

People often confuse popularity with legacy. The renown and reputation of distilleries tends to ebb and flow across the decades – driven by a combination of consumer trends and the ability of producers to tap into whatever the zeitgeist of the day is. A star-quality release can rapidly raise the profile of a distillery up this imagined league table – just as equally as a duff one can send it back down into the relegation zone.  Some distilleries appear as deciduous – their spirit coming into bloom during certain periods of time (1995-97 Clynelish for instance – likely to be regarded as a modern golden period for the distillery’s spirit). Others appear near evergreen – regardless of the inherent variances in single releases and shifting enthusiast trends, their status remains largely intact and near monolithic over longer periods of time.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg 1998 Still Young
Posted 05 May 2020 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg 1998 Still Young

It surprises me how impatient whisky fans can be. Despite every facet of the creation and appreciation of whisky requiring some degree of patience – enthusiasts often revert to the allure of instant gratification. Distillation takes times, maturation takes considerably longer and even waiting for a dram to properly unravel in a glass can be an exercise in restraint – but woe betide you if you leave an enthusiast waiting too long for their new release fix.


The Dramble reviews Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye 2002
Posted 01 May 2020 / In Buffalo Trace
The Dramble reviews Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye 2002

At least 45% of us spend 57% of our time obsessing about percentages. Product discounts, interest rates, inflation, exam results - all measurable as a proportion. And when it comes to whisky this inborn desire to quantify is just as appreciable –“What % ABV is that?”, “what percentage of cask fills are sherry?” “What proportion of people ask you the exact same questions?” Enthusiast fact-finding is never a chore to answer – indeed it sometimes leads to further interesting and esoteric discussions – but I do find it baffling how we’re all by and large predisposed to ask a similar set of questions when it comes to our whisky geekery.


Distilleries

Bottlers

Scotland (897)
Aberfeldy (8)
Aberlour (13)
Ailsa Bay (2)
Ardbeg (17)
Ardmore (12)
Arran (24)
Auchroisk (5)
Aultmore (8)
Balblair (14)
Balmenach (4)
Balvenie (11)
Ben Nevis (6)
BenRiach (9)
Benrinnes (11)
Benromach (8)
Bladnoch (5)
Bowmore (16)
Braeval (5)
Cambus (3)
Caol Ila (28)
Cardhu (1)
Clynelish (10)
Daftmill (4)
Dailuaine (8)
Dalmore (16)
Deanston (7)
Dufftown (3)
Dumbarton (1)
Edenmill (1)
Edradour (7)
Girvan (1)
Glen Grant (13)
Glen Moray (21)
Glen Ord (3)
Glen Spey (1)
Glengoyne (14)
Glengyle (5)
Glenlivet (13)
Glenlossie (10)
Glenrothes (11)
Hazelburn (2)
Imperial (1)
Inchgower (1)
Kilchoman (5)
Knockando (1)
Knockdhu (6)
Lagavulin (3)
Laphroaig (28)
Linkwood (10)
Lochnagar (1)
Longmorn (9)
Longrow (4)
Macallan (11)
Macduff (4)
Mortlach (11)
Oban (3)
Scapa (1)
Speyburn (8)
Speyside (1)
Springbank (10)
Talisker (7)
Tamdhu (3)
Teaninich (5)
Tobermory (30)
Tomatin (10)
Tomintoul (4)
Tormore (5)
Wolfburn (3)
Canada (3)
Europe (20)
Cotswolds (3)
Langatun (1)
Locher (1)
Mackmyra (9)
Penderyn (2)
Ireland (39)
Bushmills (7)
Midleton (20)
Teeling (5)
Tullamore (1)
Japan (34)
Chichibu (9)
Chita (1)
Eigashima (1)
Hakushu (2)
Yamazaki (2)
Yoichi (2)
Rest of the World (5)
Dunedin (1)
Paul John (1)
Starward (1)
Taiwan (7)
King Car (6)
Nantou (1)
USA (34)
Balcones (1)
Bernheim (2)
Jim Beam (1)
Lux Row (1)