Tastings

The Dramble reviews Midleton Very Rare 2021
Posted 26 February 2021 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Midleton Very Rare 2021

The saying goes that it is easier to follow than to lead. But this adage was taken from a time when it was assumed that everyone naturally always wanted to ‘be the boss’. The world’s greatest dance partnerships do indeed have a leader – but there’s nothing about that role that intrinsically requires more skill, more thought or more natural ability than that of the follower. And for Midleton’s new Master Distiller Kevin O’Gorman, I dare say that following (Brian Nation and Barry Crockett before him), is both an immense privilege, but also something of a Gordian Knot.


Posted 24 February 2021 / In Group

Over the past year I’ve been cooking a wider variety of recipes – digging into some of my two-decade old cookery school tomes, scouring the shelves for new ways to use tried and tested ingredients and ordering all sorts of unusual ingredients via the Internet. I’d love to say that this was to achieve a more balanced diet – but the reality has been invariably comfort food-based - an attempt to stave off both location and palate boredom. Nevertheless, this variance has been welcomed – but as is often the case with new recipes – some have been more successful than others. And it’s here that a parallel can be drawn to the art of whisky production – many distilleries, particularly as part of their commissioning processes, experiment with their recipes. But very few of these investigations make it outside of the distillery – and some have been only produced for short periods of time – only to then be consigned to the dustbin of distilling history.


The Dramble reviews Kilkerran 8 year old Cask Strength Oloroso Sherry Casks
Posted 19 February 2021 / In Glengyle
The Dramble reviews Kilkerran 8 year old Cask Strength Oloroso Sherry Casks

Whatever your level of involvement in whisky enthusiasm - no matter how fanatical your hobby and passion has become – it’s vital that you’re mindful that your enjoyment, accumulation and behaviours remain healthy. It’s all too easy to find yourself down various rabbit holes – delivery vans arriving twice daily, countless hours spent scouring the Internet for a "must have" bottle, or even falling into the trap of fury of missing out when failing to obtain this month’s latest and greatest limited release. But whilst many of us, myself included, will openly admit to a degree of obsessivity about whisky – you need to be continually aware of what you’re doing – and what you’re tacitly encouraging through your actions – both to the wider enthusiast base, but perhaps more significantly potentially to yourself.


The Dramble reviews Whisky Works Speyside 20 year old
Posted 15 February 2021 / In Imperial
The Dramble reviews Whisky Works Speyside 20 year old

Cognac is often thought of as one of the most carefully guarded of spirit categories. It is only produced in one rather small region of France, can only be made from a very limited number of grape varietals, and comes with its own in-built countdown clock, in that distillation, legally must be completed by 1st April (no joke) following the grape harvest. But despite generations of production that can be traced back to the 17th Century, the category is under increasing pressure to break with certain perceived traditions so that it can present a broader tapestry of aromas and flavours that will appeal to a wider number of drinkers. Some, producers (particularly newer ones) are asking the question – does Cognac need to be 100% matured exclusively in French oak?


The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange Caol Ila 2008 12 year old
Posted 10 February 2021 / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange Caol Ila 2008 12 year old

Rarely a day goes by in whisky world without someone, be they producer or commentator, making a statement about consistency. The largest whisky producers frequently roll out the ‘c’ word or its equivalent in order to maintain brand perceptions and customer loyalty - faithful vattings, reliable blends, balanced wood policies – even constant pricing structures. And at times these proclamations sadly ring hollow. Meanwhile on the Internet, enthusiasts seem to enjoy little more than comparing seemingly identical bottlings sometimes produced decades apart and suggesting that their differences either substantiate the notion of consistency being a myth or are reflective of diminishing product quality. Neither of these positions seems particularly helpful as generalisations.


The Dramble reviews Glenfarclas 105 22 year old
Posted 08 February 2021 / In Glenfarclas
The Dramble reviews Glenfarclas 105 22 year old

The key selling point of Glenfarclas 105 is in the name: it’s cask strength at 105 old British proof, or 60% ABV, every time. That means the casks for each batch have to be selected not only on taste, but also on ABV. It’s a curious conundrum for the blender. Imagine their dismay at creating the tastiest batch of 105 ever only to find it weighed in at 59.6% or 60.8%. A total disaster.


Posted 05 February 2021 / In Group

“What do you want to be when you grow up Timmy?”. “I’d like to be a whisky brand ambassador mummy.” Said no kid ever. Yet. Alongside the growth in the popularity of whisky has come an increased desire from the fandom to work within their hobby. As much as Master Distillers and Master Blenders are in the spotlight – so too are those whose roles requires them to be out and about (hopefully physically once more in the not-too-distant future), talking the talk about the wonders of whisky. But whilst there’s countless pieces written about the importance this role within the industry and of outreach in general, there’s one profession which receives far less attention that it deserves given its vital importance to the creation of whisky – the role of Coopers.


The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange Bunnahabhain 1997 22 year old
Posted 02 February 2021 / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange Bunnahabhain 1997 22 year old

Knowledge and enjoyment are all too easily confused. Within any pursuit there’s habitually an expectation that acquiring greater knowledge on a subject should, by implication lead to greater sense of gratification when experiencing it. The knowing and understanding of a thing providing a heightened ability to appreciate it. Whilst there are times that this is certainly the case – eureka moments – all to often the manifestation of knowledge vis-à-vis enjoyment can be little more than boorishness or snobbery. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.


The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Moment Körsbärsrök
Posted 29 January 2021 / In Mackmyra
The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Moment Körsbärsrök

When I mentioned Körsbärsrök in passing to a non-whisky drinking friend their immediate reaction was “Körsba-what?” When I elucidated that the translation of the name was directly linked to journey of the liquid itself – and its flavours - there was nodding, but shortly after a slightly bemused look and a question “then why not just call it ‘Cherry Smoke’ in the UK?”. To be sure - a literal solution to a hard to pronounce name that equally could be applied to a large number of Scotch whiskies, whose Gaelic labels never cease but result in countless mispronunciations. But in doing so, not only would the product lose some of its cultural significance it would also fall into the oft-times muddy word of brand localisation.


The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange Glen Elgin 2008 12 year Old
Posted 27 January 2021 / In Glen Elgin
The Dramble reviews The Whisky Exchange Glen Elgin 2008 12 year Old

Earlier this week the Scotch Whisky Association announced a new sustainability strategy. Committing to emissions neutrality by 2040 (five years in advance of the Scottish Government’s overarching target) the organisation has sought to build on the progress made over the last ten years which has seen distillers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a third. The strategy encompasses four distinctive themes – tackling climate change, using water responsibly, moving to a circular economy and caring for the land. It’s an ambitious plan. But whilst some industries have seen environmental issues as something to be pushed back and lobbied against, over the past decade the sustainability of the whisky industry has gathered the same level of steam as you’d expect to see rising to the very top of still.


The Dramble reviews Paul John Christmas Edition 2020
Posted 25 January 2021 / In Paul John
The Dramble reviews Paul John Christmas Edition 2020

My inbox is currently burgeoning with suggestions of the finest bottles to toast the bard with. A veritable flood of recommendations for whiskies that are judged the most suitable for an occasion such as this evening. And looking through the myriad pitches for appropriateness it seems that pretty much any whisky is fair game as being Burns approved. And that’s usually the rub with whisky daubed as ‘special occasion’ – as opposed to possessing any degree of relevance to the event, most occasionally-themed whisky is nothing more than an opportunity to sell bottles – popular bottles, unpopular bottles, special offer bottles – it honestly doesn’t matter. But it’s Burn’s night – so you really should buy something right?


Posted 21 January 2021 / In Group

Whilst the mission of independent bottlers might still be same as it was three decades ago, their current-day foundation and operation has irrevocably changed. For much of their 179-year history (since the foundation of Cadenhead’s in 1842), change has come at the pace that one might expect from the whisky industry – slow cautious and largely thoughtful. Spurts of growth, stutterings of contraction and period of crisis have been and gone. But regardless of this steeped history, I would still posit that the greatest changes to the independent bottling industry have happened over the duration of our lifetimes. And are continuing to happen right now.


The Dramble reviews Waxhouse Whisky Linkwood 2010 10 year old
Posted 18 January 2021 / In Linkwood
The Dramble reviews Waxhouse Whisky Linkwood 2010 10 year old

Waxhouse Whisky’s maiden voyage into both Linkwood and the oft-times weird and wacky world of wine cask maturation comes in the form of Release 003 - a 10 year old that has spent its life within a 1st fill red wine barrique. The single cask bottling was distilled in May of 2010 and released last month with an outturn of 310 bottles delivered at 50.1%. Linkwood and full-term wine? Perhaps surprisingly, this is not nearly as unusual a combination as you might initially think.


The Dramble reviews Loch Lomond 2010 10 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 13 January 2021 / In Loch Lomond
The Dramble reviews Loch Lomond 2010 10 year old TWE Exclusive

It takes somewhere in the region of 30 billion yeast cells to create a single ounce of whisky. A distiller’s yeast strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae propagates mainly through asexual ‘budding’ where an offspring cell or ‘bleb’ is formed from the mother cell, which in turn splits its nucleus into the child cell forming an entirely new spore. This can happen with furious momentum – so much so that within a few days, a test tube full of yeast culture will prove enough to populate 100,000 gallons of wash with over 150 million cells per ml. Yeast is often about numbers – and these are often very big numbers.


The Dramble reviews Uhuru whisky
81%
Posted 11 January 2021 / In Ailsa Bay
The Dramble reviews Uhuru whisky

The sustainability of the whisky industry is a topic rarely given as much attention as it deserves on the pages of whisky blogs. Despite the core ingredients of whisky being seemingly limitless, the impacts of their convergence within distillation are often far from neutral. Whilst not listed on environmental shit list alongside fuel producers, transportation companies and fashion production – virtually all aspects of the production of spirit require inputs that result in by-products – some of which are not easy or cheap to deal with in an ecologically-minded manner.


Posted 07 January 2021 / In Group

Ask a whisky enthusiast to name a dozen distilleries in Scotland and they’ll reel off a list in no time at all. But ask the same enthusiast about Swiss distilleries they’ll likely stumble from the off, only being able to name one (Langatun) or possible two (Santis). But nevertheless, as of writing there are upwards of 60 whisky-producing distilleries across Switzerland. Far from a shabby achievement considering that the distilling of grain-based spirits was outlawed from 1932 all the way until 1999.


The Dramble reviews Redbreast 1989 30 year old Port Finish TWE Exclusive
Posted 04 January 2021 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Redbreast 1989 30 year old Port Finish TWE Exclusive

Everyone needs a break. Without dwelling on the year that was (there’s more then enough ‘year in review posts’ already written to depress yourself with) – 2020 was as close as I’ve ever come to feeling burnt out. A combination of taking on too many things at once, whilst simultaneously being unable to escape – often from my computer, let alone my house – makes for a situation where some ‘me time’ is certainly required. After 10 days of ‘cerebral maintenance’ (read: eating and drinking too much whilst largely off the grid) it’s time to get back to it. And in a similar vein, today is likely the day that most distilleries and bottlers put down the chocolate boxes and TV remotes and make vain attempts to get back into their now ill-fitting clothes.


The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Whisky Islay #4 11 year old Batch 1
Posted 25 December 2020 / In Undisclosed Islay
The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Whisky Islay #4 11 year old Batch 1

Welcome to the end. The conclusion of our 24-day journey into the annals of Boutique-y Whisky and the start of the much needed break to recharge the whisky writing batteries. Today is a special day for many - so no (d)rambling introductions, nor long-winded sermons - just a hearty, heartfelt festive thank you for your support throughout 2020 and the best of wishes for the holidays.


The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Whisky Japanese Blended Whisky #1 21 year old Batch 5
Posted 24 December 2020 / In Undisclosed blended
The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Whisky Japanese Blended Whisky #1 21 year old Batch 5

At the start of the Japanese whisky famine, the country’s largest producers signalled that they were aiming to have rebuilt their stocks of aged whisky in time for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. The milestone event would provide both an influx of eager thirsty tourists as well as a global spotlight on the country’s culture – of which distilling has increasingly become a celebrated part of – perhaps even more so outside of Japan than within in. Events in 2020 have necessitated that all these things have been put on ice – until July 2021. And in whisky terms, I guess we’ll have to wait to see whether the publicised stockpiling of whisky reserves took place as planned.


The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Blended Malt #4 6 year old Batch 1
Posted 23 December 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Boutique-y Blended Malt #4 6 year old Batch 1

Seeing Blended Malt #4 6 year old Batch 1 yet again in the Boutique-y Advent calendar felt like a great disturbance in the Force - as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Of all the drams to be recycling into Christmas, it pains me that it’s *still* this one - a whisky that is not only my lowest scoring Boutique-y whisky, but something I have become oddly and most annoyingly inseparable from over the past three years. As if 2020 couldn't get any worse. 


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