The Dramble reviews TWB Originals Bunnahabhain 2009 10 year old 1st fill oloroso hogshead
Posted 08 April 2020 / In Bunnahabhain
The Dramble reviews TWB Originals Bunnahabhain 2009 10 year old 1st fill oloroso hogshead

Much of my life, professional or otherwise is spend dealing with words. Over time you develop strong associations to certain words – look over the body of work of any whisky writer and you’ll be able to quickly distinguish common descriptors and go-to phraseology. These language hallmarks and constructions are what gives a writer their style, their personality on paper – and in terms of tasting notes - a sense of consistency (and hopefully also dependability). But, when you deal with words day-in, day-out you also develop some pretty strong opinions about the use of language. There are countless overused words within the whisky lexicon – there are also countless misunderstood words. But that doesn’t stop these being rolled out time and time again.

The Dramble reviews W.L. Weller 12 year old
Posted 06 April 2020 / In Buffalo Trace
The Dramble reviews W.L. Weller 12 year old

You can’t drink packaging. But you do pay for it. Packaging is admittedly useful. The days of taking your own container to the grocer’s and filling it straight from the cask are long gone, so we have to accept some amount of packaging. And despite the cost, I’m glad to buy packaged whisky. I’ll happily pay to have my whisky in a bottle rather than poured straight into my hands. And I’ll pay extra to have that bottle be made of glass rather than plastic. Those points I think most whisky buyers will agree on.

Posted 03 April 2020 / In Group

The popularity of wine cask finishing is growing. Which on the surface seems strange – there’s a surfeit of vocal grumblers and conversely few outspoken evangelists (“wine cask perverts” as termed by Whisky Exchange’s Billy Abbot). Cask symbiosis exists throughout the alcohol producing world – ex-bourbon, at one time sherry, beer and also wine. Sharing is caring. The dearth (death?!) of true sherry casks the ready availability of wine casks have combined with a market eager for wood experimentation – the result is an increasing volume of wine influenced whiskies. Like them or not, wine casks are here to stay.

The Dramble reviews North Star Spirits Sirius 31 year old
Posted 31 March 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews North Star Spirits Sirius 31 year old

The British apparently spend nine months of their lives bargain-hunting. That equates to two hours a week, or four days and 8 hours a year, spent solely in pursuit of a good deal. I’d posit that this figure is likely much higher for whisky enthusiasts – hours whiled away searching through auction listings (where bargains are now far rarer than they used to be), days spent scouring online retailers for discounted or end of line listings – or even just the tease of free shipping. It’s an entirely predictable thing – for some people, it’s simply the love of the chase. But, for others, hunting out the next deal is likely a far stronger addiction.

The Dramble reviews The Irishman Cask Strength 2017
Posted 27 March 2020 / In Undisclosed Ireland
The Dramble reviews The Irishman Cask Strength 2017

I’m as guilty as the next person. Despite an undying faith that I’ll get round to drinking it all ‘someday’, I really should come round to the reality that I own more whisky than I’m ever going to consume. Stockpiling is something of an occupational hazard when you both write about whisky and work for a distillery – but nevertheless the sheer volume of ‘drinkers’ I own makes a mockery of the moniker. It’s not going to happen. And I’m far from alone.

The Dramble reviews Signatory Vintage Benrinnes 1974 21 year old Cask 2579
Posted 25 March 2020 / In Benrinnes
The Dramble reviews Signatory Vintage Benrinnes 1974 21 year old Cask 2579

First impressions are everything, or so the saying goes. In a fraction of a second, we can judge how attractive a person’s face is, how much we can trust them, and how likely they would be to get something done. But first impressions are far from perfect. Biases can mangle our judgements and there are times when first impressions don’t last.

The Dramble reviews The Waxhouse Whisky Company Ruadh Maor 2011 8 year old
Posted 23 March 2020 / In Glenturret
The Dramble reviews The Waxhouse Whisky Company Ruadh Maor 2011 8 year old

Community has been, and still is, a cornerstone of whisky. From the creation and support of local employment through to bars, whisky clubs and festivals. Whilst the category is rich with history and craftsmanship – it’s the people who truly drive whisky. In Scotland alone, some 10,000 are directly employed by distilleries and within the supply-chain – expand this to the UK and the figure is well over 40,000. Historically, distilleries provided both a place of work and a focal point for the community – and in many places, particularly those more rural, this is still the case today – the sector, and the interest in it is vital to both employment and investment throughout the Highlands and Islands.

The Dramble reviews Bowmore Vault Edition Second Release – Peat Smoke
Posted 20 March 2020 / In Bowmore
The Dramble reviews Bowmore Vault Edition Second Release – Peat Smoke

When it comes to whisky, timing is everything and everywhere. The length of mash, fermentation and distillation all have a huge influence on the eventual character of the resultant spirit. Similarly the most commented on aspect of whisky production – maturation is, at its heart, purely a matter of time. Production is measured in hours and days. Maturation measured in months and years. For the most part, these variables are both understood and controllable – a tweak here, a change there having an fathomable knock-on effect on the rest of the whisky making ‘machine’. And yet, here were are in the midst of the biggest period of uncertainty the industry has possibly ever faced. And once again, it’s all about timing.

The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Grönt Te
Posted 16 March 2020 / In Mackmyra
The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Grönt Te

I read over the weekend about a Hungarian fellow who has become the highest scuba diver in history (by swimming in the water-filled crater of a 21,000 foot Chilean volcano). This lead me tangentially to read about Nancy Schubring from the US – who is the current world record holder for completing a half-marathon…whilst pushing a pram (1 hour 30 minutes and 51 seconds in case you were wondering). Humankind’s obsession with being the first goes back to our innate desires – to push ourselves, to explore our world and to seek to understand the realm of possibility. But looking back on the pioneering adventures and expeditions which have shaped our last two millenniums, it’s easy to start to feel that in the 21st Century, record-breaking and world’s firsts have become more about re-engineering past achievements than they have about forging genuinely new explorations. And whisky is far from sheltered from this false glamour.

Posted 11 March 2020 / In Group

It’s not as easy as you think. It’s not just a case of taking a carefree afternoon stroll through a dunnage, cracking open a selection of casks, sampling, and then 15 drams later slurring “that one”. Selecting casks for bottling requires a broad set of skills – and not all of them are palate based. It’s not just about selecting the right cask – it’s about selecting the right cask at (and for) the right time. Whilst it might seem that whisky is riding on such a crest of a wave that anything half decent is a sure-fire winner – this is far from the case. There are myriad details, which regardless of whether you’re an established independent bottler, or just an individual who wants to own an inordinate number of bottles - that need to be borne in mind before pulling the trigger. Selecting is about consideration and knowledge, not just about personal preferences and moments of overeager liquid romance within warehouses.

The Dramble reviews Talisker Distillery Exclusive 2019
Posted 09 March 2020 / In Talisker
The Dramble reviews Talisker Distillery Exclusive 2019

You can’t have it both ways. Folks regularly bemoan distillery-only bottlings – an unfair limitation on their god given rights to obtain whisky. All the whisky. A slap in the face for an increasingly FOMO obsessed fan base. “Can’t I just order it online and have it delivered?” And yet, distillery exclusives are still one of the first things which enthusiasts enquire about when visiting distilleries “what have you got which I can’t get anywhere else?”. There’s double-standards at play when it comes to distillery exclusives - they’re only loved when they’ve already been acquired.

Posted 06 March 2020 / In Group

If we spent less time fruitlessly trying to define exactly how much flavour is derived from oak, and more time focussing on the types of flavour it’s possible to develop from different types of oak - the whisk(e)y world would be better place. We’re currently in the midst of a rather strange period. A point where most (but not all) producers are starting to roll back on decades old, misguided education that ‘the wood makes the whisky’. And at the same time, when other producers are increasingly realising the potential – both in terms of experimentation, and in terms of marketing – for breaking down whisky’s raw ingredients to explore whether their place and manner of development can have an effect on the eventual liquid product. These two things are by and large polar opposites – the first, a sweeping, and unprovable assertion that puts the quality of spirit behind a curtain. The second, a palpable foray into transparency and openness, but as yet somewhat unproven. But could we think about these two things in equal terms?

The Dramble reviews Knappogue Castle 12 year old Chateaux Pichon Baron Finish
Posted 04 March 2020 / In Bushmills
The Dramble reviews Knappogue Castle 12 year old Chateaux Pichon Baron Finish

Despite the world and his dog being captivated by Irish whiskey right now – I’m more eager for a time, in the not too distant future, when simply knowing whether a release is trad pot/single malt and double/triple distilled doesn’t reveals which of the three distilleries it hailed from. Much has already been written about the sourcing of whiskey in Ireland – its practice has sustained both the sector and the interest in the sector over nearly a Century of stormy weather. But, as Ireland’s whisky revival starts to take shape, what people think of Irish whiskey is likely to change. Indeed for the revolution to truly to take hold, it’s a necessity that it does so.

The Dramble reviews Bushmills Original White Label
Posted 02 March 2020 / In Bushmills
The Dramble reviews Bushmills Original White Label

Some score whisky like gymnastics, starting at top marks before marking down for any imperfections. Points off for plastic-y smells, rubbery tastes, and lack of spiritual enlightenment. It can feel negative to only deduct points, but the system works well for some. Other whisky raters go the opposite route, beginning at zero and adding points for anything and everything. That’s 25 points for showing up, 25 points for presenting as liquid, and 10 points for not being vodka. Bottom-up rather than top-down. Despite the differences, these scoring methods can lead to similar results.

The Dramble reviews Berry Brothers & Rudd Blended Scotch Whisky 1979 Royal Mile Whiskies Exclusive
Posted 27 February 2020 / In Blend
The Dramble reviews Berry Brothers & Rudd Blended Scotch Whisky 1979 Royal Mile Whiskies Exclusive

The world outside of enthusiast circles still often views blending with something of an upturned nose. There’s a lack of knowledge, and to some degree a lack of education around what is and what isn’t blending. On a base level, all but single cask releases are indeed something of a blend – the often rolled out adage of “I don’t like anything that’s been blended – just single malts” simply doesn’t hold any water, let alone any whisky. Long held misconceptions can be hard to unpick. But on the flip side, there are instances when blending takes on forms which are outside of the conventional norms even for most whisky lovers. Blending aged stock is one thing – blending from birth is quite another.

The Dramble reviews Tomintoul 16 year old
Posted 25 February 2020 / In Tomintoul
The Dramble reviews Tomintoul 16 year old

Whisky has a tendency to focus on the past. The creation of the liquid itself being a point in time which can be measured and then looked back upon as a footnote in history. In the case of some coveted bottlings – a generational divide between distillation and bottling and countless world events in between. In the eyes of some – a desirable liquid chronology. But for much of the whisky market, the simple passage of time holds far less resonance. How often have you held a bottle of 12 year old whisky and thought back to what you were doing in July 2008? For enthusiasts, whisky and time is often far more relatable to its point of consumption rather than its point of inception. And as such, the presentation of that whisky – its style, its character, its packaging, its price – all of those things are usually considered in the context of ‘today’.

The Dramble reviews Allt-a-Bhainne Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Posted 21 February 2020 / In Allt-a-Bhainne
The Dramble reviews Allt-a-Bhainne Single Malt Scotch Whisky

There are somethings which just don’t go together – oil and water, pineapple and pizza, toasters and bathtubs. The same is arguably true of whisky – not everything can and should work. And whilst it’s often admirable that producers try to push the envelope both of what’s possible, and of what’s expected, there’s a danger that when a product becomes so wrapped up in a desire to be ‘different’ that it can lose the very heart of what made that liquid unique in the first place. Whisky cannot and doesn’t need to be everything to all people. But, sadly that alone doesn’t stop producers trying to push square pegs in to round holes nevertheless

The Dramble reviews Cadenhead's North British 32 year old
Posted 19 February 2020 / In North British
The Dramble reviews Cadenhead's North British 32 year old

Older whiskies turn heads. We’ve been taught for generations that older is better – fine wine, venerated spirits or simply times now past – history, and certainly whisky is often presented as an enhanced, more desirable version of today. Forget a better future and dig into your pockets for a glimpse at a forgotten past – things were magical back then. Spirits crafted during this supposed golden age and left to slumber for extended periods of time have an undeniable allure about them. Your very own piece of history – an opportunity to taste the past – the prospect of tasting (or just possessing) something that’s older than you are….at least for the time being.

The Dramble reviews Chorlton Whisky Glentauchers 21 year old
Posted 17 February 2020 / In Glentauchers
The Dramble reviews Chorlton Whisky Glentauchers 21 year old

Much has, and more than likely will be, written about cask strength whisky – the disgorging and bottling of liquid at its then settled and natural ABV without any further dilution. But, fewer articles focus on the fact that most whisky has indeed been reduced in alcoholic content prior to be being filled into cask. Spirit ABVs vary – from grain to malt and across different equipment setups – what you get out in new make form varies - even between runs if you’re taking a more hands on approach. And yet, there are commonalities with filling strengths, and in malt terms (and particularly across Scotland), 63.5% has been employed as an industry standard for over 70 years. But whilst this diluted ABV is widespread, not every distillery utilises it – indeed, some (particularly in the craft sector) are experimenting with lower filling strengths and their effect on maturation.

The Dramble reviews Bowmore 25 year old Small Batch
Posted 12 February 2020 / In Bowmore
The Dramble reviews Bowmore 25 year old Small Batch

There’s a disconnect somewhere. Whilst producers continue to make subtle (and not so subtle) pronouncements of the importance of, and their strict adherence to consistency, enthusiasts continue to note changes to quality and bottle profiles. Master Blenders near famed for their abilities to create an identical product from an ever-changing inventory of casks – some generations apart. And drinkers swearing by their lives that their bottle of X possesses quite different qualities to its previous incarnations. They can’t both be right can they?



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