The Dramble reviews Auchentoshan Blood Oak
Posted 14 October 2019 / In Auchentoshan
The Dramble reviews Auchentoshan Blood Oak

Successful PR is often not just about what you say, but when you say it. History is littered with examples of press announcements issued at ill opportune times: products publicised with known underlying flaws (see the Iomega Zip Drive); sweeping promises of grandiose designs issued so far in advance that the company hasn’t even commenced working, let alone established whether they can deliver said promises (see anything by Peter Molyneaux). And then there’s the danger of the Osborne Effect – namely that prematurely publicising future, unavailable products can actually damages the sales of existing ones.

The dramble reviews Ailsa Bay 1.2 Sweet Smoke
Posted 11 October 2019 / In Ailsa Bay
The dramble reviews Ailsa Bay 1.2 Sweet Smoke

Scotland. An unknown time in the future. Following the early 21st Century boom in demand for whisky, production is at an all-time high. Competition from on-trend new world producers has taken its toll, and over the years the SWA have been forced to gradually relax the rules which govern the production of Scotch whisky – tradition is slowly sacrificed on the altar of global competitiveness. Age statements are, for all but the most wealthy, a thing of the past. Automation and efficiency are vital to capitalise on the hungering needs of the modern, connected and educated consumer – with an abundance of choice and no regional styling to guide tastes – you snooze, you lose. Deliver or die – or someone else will take your place. 

The Dramble reviews Dalmore Port Wood Reserve
Posted 09 October 2019 / In Dalmore
The Dramble reviews Dalmore Port Wood Reserve

The Internet has had a profound impact on the whisky industry. Its speed and reach have introduced swathes of new enthusiasts. Its breadth has greatly increased consumer knowledge. And its pervasiveness has, at least to a certain degree, democratised the accessibility and availability of an ever growing number of bottlings. But, at its heart, it is a sea of bias, disparagement and sometimes outright meanness. Much of this stems from human nature – people are biased, judgmental and mean – the Internet merely provides a platform to vocalise these inner tendencies without penalty. Whisky appreciation is far from impervious to this – indeed, there are times when it feels like it’s becoming as polarised as our society.

The Dramble reviews Midleton Very Rare 2019
Posted 07 October 2019 / In Midleton
The Dramble reviews Midleton Very Rare 2019

In most countries, the law stipulates that whisk(e)y must be bottled at a minimum alcoholic strength of 40% ABV. This somewhat arbitrary figure came around due to a combination of political imperatives, wartime necessities and of course the old chestnut of taxation. It’s interesting to read about the historical changes in alcoholic strength (previous determined as ‘proof’), especially during the time of the First World War, when distilleries were licensed by the Ministry of Munitions. At one point, the alcoholic volume permitted dropped as low as 50 degrees under proof (28.6%) for whisky sold within munitions areas – no one likes a booze-based explosion. Similarly, at that time, a number of distilleries and munitions depots shared sited together – with a selection of distillation by-products utilised to support the war effort.

Posted 03 October 2019 / In Group

The SMWS October outturn ‘Founder’s Favourites’ delivers 22 new single cask whiskies whilst highlighting Society originator Pip Hill’s recently released book - ‘The Founder’s Tale’. Whilst it’s always nice to see and hear from Pip I can’t help but wonder what it might be like if the Society occasionally looked to the future rather than persistently dwelling on the past. Whilst whisky’s present is inherently tied to its ancestries (maturation will do that), and there should always be respect for the importance of times gone by, it’s the next generation who will safeguard the Society over its next 35 years. Modernity and relevance are not automatic.

The Dramble reviews Springbank 15 year old
Posted 02 October 2019 / In Springbank
The Dramble reviews Springbank 15 year old

The two most automated aspects of Springbank are the bottling hall (which even then employs a busy team) and the inevitability of fans who flock to buy any and all of the distillery’s products. Whilst enthusiasts, and I certainly count myself among these ranks, view Springbank with a current air of ‘can do no wrong’, behind the scenes, the distillery itself is far from the well-oiled and efficient machine that you’ll find at more modern sites. Quality and, importantly consistency are clearly held (and righty so) in particularly high regard by J&A Mitchell & Company – to the point where they’re making life hard for themselves to ensure it.

The Dramble reviews Ballechin 2003 15 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 30 September 2019 / In Edradour
The Dramble reviews Ballechin 2003 15 year old TWE Exclusive

Is the dark side stronger? There were certainly times at this year’s London Whisky Show when I was left wondering. The energetic camaraderie and palpable buzz of excitement of the (longest I’ve ever seen it) queue outside the venue quickly faded when the doors opened and a veritable bun fight immediately began to join a second queue – to make purchases. The tannoy welcoming arrivals, could almost have announced the opening of ‘the 2019 whisky shop’. The jostling turned into barging, and smiles turned to grimaces as folks quickly realised that turning up several hours early is simply not good enough to guarantee scoring that particularly desirable bottle nowadays. And then there was Sunday…

Posted 25 September 2019 / In Group

Despite spending much of my career working in and around the sciences, there were many times when I found science classes particularly dull. Applying Newton’s Second Law of motion to calculate inertial mass (m= F/A) is not something that the vast majority of kids ever find particularly exciting (though its rather useful to the planet that there’s always an interested minority). Like many of a young age, I was always more interested in things I could immediate visualise – A litmus test. A bunsen burner packed full of magnesium ribbon. Simple pleasures. As such, this year’s Whisky Show London exclusive bottlings quite literally caught my eye.

The Dramble reviews That Boutique-y Whisky Company Cameronbridge 39 year old Batch 7
Posted 23 September 2019 / In Cameronbridge
The Dramble reviews That Boutique-y Whisky Company Cameronbridge 39 year old Batch 7

That Boutique-y Whisky Company have long championed grain whiskies. Rather than scything them off into a second class citizen sub brand, grain whiskies sit with exactly the same livery as their malts – 50cl, cartoony and generally quite fun. On the one hand this feels like the correct approach – whilst some would argue that grain whiskies *are* second class citizens in the whisky world, you’re only going to raise their profile and understanding by giving them an equal share of the limelight. But, on the other, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of pricing grain whiskies based on the preponderance of higher prices for larger age statements.

The Dramble reviews Aerolite Lyndsay 10 year old
Posted 20 September 2019 / In Undisclosed Islay
The Dramble reviews Aerolite Lyndsay 10 year old

For over 200 years the small island of Islay on Scotland’s west coast has been synonymous with whisky production – but its link to the spirit can be traced back even further – almost 300 years to the near birth of aqua vitae. Nowadays its reputation has reached near legendary status the world over – whisky pilgrims travel for hours to step foot on its hallowed ground and wander around its revered distilleries. But what is it about the island that so captures the imagination of enthusiasts?

The Dramble reviews BenRiach 22 year old Moscatel Finish
Posted 18 September 2019 / In BenRiach
The Dramble reviews BenRiach 22 year old Moscatel Finish

“Drink sherry - help the whisky industry” It sounds both romantic and rather supportive – who doesn’t enjoy this story of a centuries old symbiotic relationship. Alas, nowadays it’s far from the whole truth of the matter. Whilst sherry has an image problem (despite wine educators and bartenders singing its praises, sales continue to decline) and could certainly do with you all drinking a little bit more of it, the drinking sherry industry and the whisky sherry industry have been near separate entities for many years.

The Dramble reviews Daftmill 2006 Single cask 021
Posted 16 September 2019 / In Daftmill
The Dramble reviews Daftmill 2006 Single cask 021

Don’t be too tough on yourself. We’re all hard-wired to mentally reward ourselves for fulfilling our “needs” for in-demand products. This isn’t just a facet of 21st Century consumerism, it has existed since the dawn of humankind. When a person obtains something they really crave, the brain releases dopamine – a chemical both critical to our mental health, as well as responsible for that familiar warm fuzzy feeling of contentedness. But, if you factor in hype – which could be a combination of anticipation, limited access, increased expectations of quality or simply that of status – this chemical reaction is magnified several times over.

The Dramble reviews Loch Lomond Inchmoan 2007 12 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 12 September 2019 / In Loch Lomond
The Dramble reviews Loch Lomond Inchmoan 2007 12 year old TWE Exclusive

Pulling up outside Loch Lomond’s front gate, you’d be easily forgiven for not recognising the hub of innovation and experimentation which is taking place deep within the heart of the built-up industrial looking site. Pretty it ain’t. But, visiting Loch Lomond last week offered me much more than just first-hand knowledge of the distillery’s unique still setup - which combines a selection of pot and column stills with two stills which in themselves manage to combine both pots and rectifying columns. There’s much more to Lomond than just equipment – there’s a constant curiosity which seems to manifest itself in a form of ‘what if we just tried X’…..

Posted 10 September 2019 / In Group

If you’re looking for a particularly good method for improving your knowledge of a particular whisky or a particular style of whisky, comparison tastings are your friend. Whilst sometimes it can be hard on the palate, lining up a tasting which focuses on a particularly distillate of cask type will, over time, allow your olfactory system and your tasting memory the chance to start to identify the commonalities which bind whiskies together. Granted, a pile of single casks are all going to offer different nuances, but nevertheless there will always be something (assuming you’ve picked your line-up carefully) that you can take away from such a comparison tasting.

The Dramble reviews Knockdhu 23 year old
Posted 09 September 2019 / In Knockdhu
The Dramble reviews Knockdhu 23 year old

Being a Londoner, I’m rather spoilt for choice when it comes to whisky bars. Whilst many venues have and do offer a broad selection of brown liquids, it is really only over the last decade or so, that I’ve noticed whisky moving from out of the traditional pub/bar space and into what are dedicated, specialist venues. Floor to ceilings with bottles, menus so vast as to take the indecisive drammer (there’s a name for a new blog) longer to select a whisky as to actually drink it. But, this all comes at a price. A very literal high price. Drinking anything in London outside of the norm – older, discontinued, or limited release bottlings - requires deep pockets. Business is business, and whisky can be a very profitable one.

Posted 05 September 2019 / In Group

September’s SMWS outturn delivers 23 new single cask whiskies with a selection of bottlings earmarked for the Society’s inaugural whisky festival – The Gathering, which celebrates the Leith-based origins in a seven day raft of events and, well gatherings. People are, after all at the very heart of the whisky sharing experience. There’s also a few venue exclusive Gathering bottlings not covered in this outturn, so if you’re visiting your local branch anytime soon keep your eyes peeled.

Posted 02 September 2019 / In Group

Today marks the start of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s new week long whisky festival – The Gathering. Established to celebrate the Society’s Leith-based origins, The Gathering offers seven days of celebrations, not just at the Society’s spiritual home at The Vaults, but around the world across a wide variety of SMWS venues. There’s a raft of events planned including whisky and food pairings, tastings and film screenings as well as walking tours which highlight Leith’s long-standing whisky history. And, of course, no whisky festival is complete without festival bottlings.

The Dramble reviews that Boutique-y Whisky Company Balcones 3 year old Batch 2
Posted 30 August 2019 / In Balcones
The Dramble reviews that Boutique-y Whisky Company Balcones 3 year old Batch 2

Earlier this year the change in the SWA rules around cask maturation opened the floodgates to a wider array of experimental wood types which could be utilised in the production of Scotch whisky. The move came as little surprise (though why cider casks are still effectively outlawed is beyond me), given the noises Diageo had been making around the need for wider cask experimentation for some time prior to the rule change. An announcement a few years back of a special edition of Don Julio reposado tequila finished in Scotch whisky barrels (from the Buchanan’s blend) was swiftly followed by a leaked report detailing the company’s intention to create a variety of new product types, whilst at the same time seeking to rewrite the regulations around what constitutes Scotch whisky.

The Dramble reviews Booker's True Barrel Bourbon
Posted 28 August 2019 / In Jim Beam
The Dramble reviews Booker's True Barrel Bourbon

How would you feel if your favourite whisky doubled in price from one day to the next? In late 2016, Beam Suntory announced that in 2017, the price of Booker’s bourbon would double from US$50 to US$100. The resulting uproar wasn’t enough to stop the price hike completely, but Beam Suntory did decide to stagger the increase rather than implementing it in one fell swoop.

The Dramble reviews Bartels His Excellency Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 17 year old
Posted 27 August 2019 / In Undisclosed
The Dramble reviews Bartels His Excellency Blended Malt Scotch Whisky 17 year old

When the Internet isn’t being utilised for cat photos or porn, it is by and large an echo chamber. You hear what you want to hear, you see what you want to see. There’s some truth in that for whisky also – whilst the folks I regularly engage with are switched-on, clued-up and usually non-partisan about their brown liquids – when I step outside this ‘comfort’ zone, it’s a different story. The Interwebs are of course packed full of armchair experts with little to no knowledge, but plenty of in-built prejudices. And some of the most common fallacies that are raised time and time again revolve around blends and blended malts.



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