... and the season starts again - September 2013
After some months in the office, sampling Whisky and organising new bottlings, a new period of travel starts. This year is even more exciting than previous years as we have just released our new range of Single Cask Single Malt Whiskies - Old Particular. Starting with a road show in Scotland with Fred, Chris and myself on the go... well if only if I didn't break down on the motorway just outside Glasgow.
We introduced our friends at Oran Mor to our selection of Single Malts, Single Grain and Big Peat and we offered them a sneak preview of Old Particular a day before the release. Look out for Big Peat on the bar.
Spreading the word of Old Particular, we invited some Scottish bloggers to our sample room for an introduction to a selection of the first releases. With Chris Hoban of Edinburgh Whisky Blog and Nicola Young and all the Whisky Boys visiting soon after.
I also had the opportunity to welcome some Russian Whisky enthusiasts and introduce them to the new Old Particular and gave them a sneak preview of Big Peat's sweet little pal... but more about that in the next blog.
You might wonder now, it must be halfway September and Jan still hasn't been out of Glasgow yet... true, but here comes. Off to the Netherlands for a 3-day tour with brothers Hans and Marcel Bol, visiting retailers with a box of Old Particular and the newly released Big Peat Christmas Edition. Then off to Paris (if only the trains weren't rerouted past Schiphol, where I was going to board - so a quick detour via Rotterdam to catch the Thalys to Paris).
And then the annual visit to Whisky Live Paris. For me one of the highlights of the year, as it is one of the best visited events in Europe and just oozes style. Being joined by Fred, who preferred to spend his birthday weekend in my company rather than staying home. Attending Whisky Live Paris for the 5th time myself, you start to get to know the locals and it was good meeting old friends and making new ones.
After Paris, a quick visit to Belgium with some more Old Particular in my suitcase. Joining Jan in Zammel and Serge in my hometown Mechelen.
We concluded this trip with my annual charity tasting/Food Pairing in Antwerp with Peter@Anverness. This year raised about €1300 - "Whisky for water in Budjala". Highlights were the Auchentoshan 15yo with apple tart and fresh custard and the Glen Scotia 21 with a Carpaccio of Scallops.
Summer time as a Malt Ambassador July 2013
The summer months might not be considered as the perfect Whisky drinking season and there aren’t many Whisky events on from June to late August. But because there are fewer trips I have more time to focus on other duties in the office. Now I have the opportunity to try out samples from different casks that we would consider for bottling and release over the autumn period… and even if it is still several months ahead of Christmas, Fred and I are trying out different vattings for the new Big Peat Christmas release.
Whilst traveling around Europe, you have the opportunity to catch up with fellow Whisky Ambassadors that I don’t see that often in Scotland, even if they live around the corner from me. The long spell of sunny weather has been ideal to meet up in Glasgow over a BBQ and discuss the world of Malt Whisky and the different events we expect to attend. As it has been surprisingly warm, the ice bucket is out with cold beers, refreshing white wine and prosecco, we also blitz up some frozen Whisky Sours, but as the sun sets and the evening gets cooler, the bottles of Malt will come out of the bags. This time of the year a fresh and fruity Speysider from a Bourbon cask, like our Provenance Mannochmore 14yo, certainly does the trick.
In this line of work, it is difficult to separate work and pleasure as they are very interchangeable (in a good way of course). So while I went on a scuba diving trip at Loch Long, I took a bottle of Really Big Peat with me… purely for a photo opportunity, you don’t drink and dive, plus we also had to drive back home. Once posted on Facebook, we got a lot of reactions, both from Whisky friends as dive buddies.
Now we have selected the Whiskies to take with us on our next event - the Whisky Fringe. Looking forward to catching up with you in person over a dram. And who knows, we might have some bottles hiding under the table.
Spirit of Speyside Festival 4 – 6 May 2013
The Spirit of Speyside festival is my annual excuse to head back to Dufftown, where my (and probably many more people’s) Whisky roots lay. For many it is part of their yearly pilgrimage to the “Malt Whisky Capital of the World” and it is good to see that Whisky enthusiasts from all over the world join in to discover some of the less accessible distilleries.
On my way up through Spittal of Glenshee and the Lecht (it’s a beautiful drive) I didn’t expect to be met by snow in the beginning of May though. But I arrived in Dufftown, just in time to have a pint and a wee dram in the Royal Oak where I joined familiar festival goers from Germany, Denmark and Japan.
Mike Lord of the Whisky Shop Dufftown is hosting several Whisky events throughout the year, but during the festival he’s run off his feet, starting with Bacon Rolls and Drams in the morning to hosting dinner for all the Whisky exhibitors that make their way to do tastings for the shop. The night ended up with some sing-a-long Karaoke and it proofs that neither of us Whisky Tenors had lost a career in showbiz. (Incriminating material will not be posted online – but I’m happy to show the movies in person)
On Sunday, I arranged an interesting line up for the tasting this year and was happy to see many familiar faces in the audience. As it is the Speyside festival we had a Provenance Mortlach 10 years old and a Director’s Cut Caperdonich 30 years old in the range, but we decided to open the tasting with a Single Grain from Port Dundas distillery at 21 years of age. Also the Springbank and the Bowmore were well received and we had some Big Peat enthusiasts in the audience, who were happy when I pulled out the Really Big Peat bottle.
Monday was the last day for me in Dufftown, with a tasting in the shop. This time we were fully focused in the Spirit of the festival with Speyside only Malts from our Provenance range, including a 10 years old Auchroisk, a 12 years old Glenburgie, a Sherry matured Benrinnes of 12 years old and in Premier Barrel, an 8 years old Glenrothes.
After a great day/weekend, we toasted on Mike’s award as Ambassador of the festival and offered him a big dram of Really Big Peat in his really big Quaich.
Slainte to all that were there.