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

Posted 20 April 2021 / In Group

Despite many in the whisky industry considering the use of smaller cask as a modern conception – the custom of storing goods, liquids, foods, ores, grains or even explosives in diminutive vessels can seen to have occured for centuries. For nearly 2000 years – until the introduction of pallet-based logistics and containerisation in the 20th Century – the high degree of integrity and portability that wooden casks possess - made them an ideal container for the transportation of bulk goods. But whilst a rose-tinted view of the goods trade would have you believe that transportation – particularly of Spanish sherry – was always in huge and cumbersome butts – smaller casks – octaves – can be seen to have been historically used as long ago as the 1850s.

Posted 16 April 2021 / In Group

Of all the things I’ve missed over the past 12 months, visiting the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is pretty close to the top of my list. 2020 was weird. Really weird. And 2021 is only just starting to feel slightly less odd now. For many of us, whisky only being a mouse click away (in some instances dispatched within the hour) and virtual tastings occurring every night of the week has provided a vital escape from the monotony and isolation of a life spent indoors. But for all the barriers removed and solaces provided by a digital whisky life over the past twelve months, I’m starting to worry that we’ve all - drinkers, distilleries, bottlers and brands - become a bit too good at this.

Posted 13 April 2021 / In Group

Whisky drinkers can be a capricious bunch - one minute mourning the prices and availabilities of yesteryear and in the next breath applauding the future promise of every single one of the growing sea of newly opened distilleries. Last week declaring themselves ‘out’ from what they perceive as too high a price for a new chasey limited-wotsit from a well-established producer – next week loading up shopping baskets full of barely of age spirit.

The Dramble reviews Glen Scotia 10 year old Campbeltown Malts Festival 2021
Posted 07 April 2021 / In Glen Scotia
The Dramble reviews Glen Scotia 10 year old Campbeltown Malts Festival 2021

A brand-new bottle of an old favourite is purchased. But the excited opening and return to the embrace of familiarity is…wait a minute…is…not as expected. The whisky’s composition is somehow different – and certainly not as remembered. “It must be a newer batch. A less good batch.” “The distillery has gone and lowered its standards. Again.” “No. That’s not it – the bottle just hasn’t been opened long enough, give it a week or two.” “Never judge a whisky by the first dram out - a little air in the neck is what’s required here”. When it comes to comparisons, I’ve heard all of these things, and countless more. But whilst occasionally the diagnosis for divergence has been correct – drinkers are always far too quick to assume that any changes they detect are a result of what’s actually in their bottles.

The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange April Fool 2021
Posted 01 April 2021 / In Undisclosed Speyside
The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange April Fool 2021

There are 7,139 languages spoken in the world today, but fewer than a dozen off the beaten track number systems. The Oksapmin people of New Guinea use a base-27 number system - derived from more body parts than just their fingers and toes. The Welsh, for reasons that escape me, traditionally used a base-20 system, but added a twist, in that after 15 (pymtheg) each number beyond was represented as an addition. So, 1 on 15 = 16, or more complicatedly 1 on 15 on 20 = 36. Because, you know – reasons. Nevertheless, outside of these infrequent and often historic deviations, numbers are a universal language of our world. And in this same manner numbers and how we communicate about whisky is no different. Irrespective of location or language spoken, numbers, especially age statements are a commonly understood denominator that is often utilised (rightly or wrongly) to identify a whisky’s quality or perceived value.

The Dramble reviews Carn Mor – Strictly Limited Ruadh Maor 2009 8 year old
Posted 30 March 2021 / In Glenturret
The Dramble reviews Carn Mor – Strictly Limited Ruadh Maor 2009 8 year old

Heavily peated Glenturret is habitually dirty in character. And that puts it well on my whisky radar. The distillate style was first created back in 2009 as a blending component for Black Grouse – where it was used only sparingly as part of a much larger recipe. But, in its purest, unblended form, the spirit clocks in at a peathead attention grabbing 80-120PPM and presents a profile that is not only highly divergent to the character of the distillery’s OBs (at least until the advent of the recently rebranded range which foists some of these traits into the new 10 year old ‘Peat Smoke’), but that is also rather lateral to many of the whiskies being produced in Scotland today. It’s simply something of an odd duck – resulting from three whole days of smoke-dried malted barley passed through the same relatively small (12,500 + 9,000 litre respectively) stills.

The Dramble reviews Bunnahabhain 2010 Moine Amontillado Finish
Posted 26 March 2021 / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble reviews Bunnahabhain 2010 Moine Amontillado Finish

The suspects are gathered in the ballroom. Each one of them with a secret to hide. Their flickering, beady eyes catch the attention of their fellow guests, giving away their sense of unease and a growing feeling of suspicion. None of them had left the manor that evening and therefore one of them had most certainly committed a murder most foul. The trench-coated detective stood to address the room…. Meanwhile in a living room somewhere in suburbia…”Wait. Yeah, I got it. The killer is left-handed. The handprint on the wall is from a right hand if you look at the direction of the thumb - and because the killer was leaning against the wall with their right hand, they shot their gun with their stronger hand – the left. It’s obviously the butler. Boom”.

The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Björksav
Posted 23 March 2021 / In Mackmyra
The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Björksav

I’ll admit to being a little surprised seeing comments suggesting of the weirdness of combining birch sap with single malt whisky. Björksav is far from the distiller’s first foray into this traditionally harvested tree juice – nor is it in my opinion even in the running in the odd alcohol stakes (more on that in a moment). Indeed, beverages crafted from a variety of tree saps – birch, maple and also bamboo - are nothing new. Tapping for sapping has been commonplace for generations upon generations. Often stemming from traditional folk medicines, in some countries the use of sap has grown into cottage industries. And in the case of birch – alcohol production is similarly nothing new – the sap can be fermented in a similar manner to pulque or palm wine. When it comes to combining things with alcohol there are far stranger things…

Posted 18 March 2021 / In Group

I’m afraid that over the years many of us have allowed ourselves to become rather spoilt. It’s all too easy to spend far too much time griping about the availability of limited editions, complaining that whisky is becoming inaccessibly priced and moaning about perceived unfairnesses in allocations. That is not to say that any or all of those things don’t have merit but taking a step back from the negatives (of which you’ll find in any pursuit or hobby) I’d argue that today, right now, is possibly the best time to be part of the wider whisky enthusiast community. You might not think it…but we’ve never had it so good.

The Dramble reviews Redbreast 10 year old Cask Strength
Posted 15 March 2021 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Redbreast 10 year old Cask Strength

Not all that long ago whisky was a lot less of a loyal market than people supposed. Whilst at the blended end of the market parents and grandparents often tended to sup the same entry-point whisky night in, night out – the ‘premium’ segment of whisky has always been composed of more adventurous types. And adventure rarely equated to unequivocal allegiance back in the day. Devoted whisky enthusiasts – even those who today you’d describe as zealously loyal to particularly distilleries have always flitted between brands. But over the last twenty or so years, dedicated and formal marketing of whisky has come to the fore – and with it – the notion of drinker-led advocacy.

The Dramble reviews Ben Nevis 1996 23 Year old The Whisky Exchange Single Casks
Posted 10 March 2021 / In Ben Nevis
The Dramble reviews Ben Nevis 1996 23 Year old The Whisky Exchange Single Casks

It possessed a texture best compared to an amalgamation of fried squid rings and a non-stick bathmat - I’d clearly made the most terrible lunchtime mistake. But let’s start this back at the beginning….Many moons ago I sat down in a restaurant in Seattle for what would be my first Korean Barbeque experience. A rather neat dining concept where the food is provided raw and the customers then get cook it on small grills built into their tables. Fun. And a clever method for getting people to unwittingly pay a premium for little more than an ingredient delivery service and a readily available supply of propane. But, novelty or not, to this day, this meal is still, probably, my biggest ever textural blunder.

The Dramble reviews Arran 25 year old
Posted 08 March 2021 / In Arran
The Dramble reviews Arran 25 year old

There’s a wealth of occasions, moments and milestones which distilleries can (and probably should) celebrate. From breaking ground on a new site and the filling of cask #1 all the way to celebrating a 200th birthday and everything in-between. But the achievements from the earlier parts of a distillery’s journey – the ‘first ofs’ - are in many ways the most significant of a lifetime. A centennial or even bicentennial is of course a remarkable achievement, but it’s a poor relation to the whisky being made and enjoyed right now. The times have moved on many times since. 25 years though – that’s a landmark that I can actually relate to - both personally, and also in liquid terms.

Posted 04 March 2021 / In Group

The relationship between whisky and time is far deeper than a fleeting insta of an expensive closed bottle elegantly posed next to an equally expensive watch. Time has a bearing on every aspect of whisky production. From the seasonality of barley in terms of its planting and harvesting to the production processes employed within distilleries themselves. The length of sparge, the period of diacetyl rest for the grains, the lag and multiplication phases of yeast, and of course the duration of distillation and its resulting cut points (often dictated at many sites purely by time alone). But whisky is not immutable - its practices, processes and even pleasures are altered by and with the passage of time.



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