Jun 122016
 

Dram Initiative #020 – St. Paddy’s Day Irish Night

 

(Long overdue event recap.  More of these to come…)

It’s fun to pick on the Irish.  Well…that’s not entirely true.  It’s fun to pick on a particular Irish chap I know.  Mostly ’cause he definitely dishes more than he takes, but also simply because he’s delusional.  Y’know the type.  Believes Guinness is brewed of water from the fountain of youth; actually buys into the Bushmills 1608 date; subscribes to the theory that pubs truly are sunscreen for the Irish; and conceded his heterosexuality is threatened in proximity to Colin Farrell.

Anyway…when it came time to schedule our March event it was a no-brainer to make it a St. Paddy’s day celebration.  We pulled out all the stops to suss out a line-up of Irish drams that told a bit of a story (and gave a well-rounded view of Irish whiskey as a category) and settled in for a tour of the Emerald Isle (figuratively speaking), making distillery pitstops along the way.

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I tried convincing our Irish whipping boy to present this one, but to no avail.  The way it works in the DI is that we almost always have top tier speakers coming through to present to the Collective, but from time to time either the line-up of malts isn’t conducive to an outside speaker or there simply isn’t one at the ready.  In such cases the poor saps in the club are forced to listen to me ramble on for a couple hours.  This night was just such an occasion.  Two hours of yours truly nattering about the ins and outs of Scotland’s poor lesser sibling.  At least – as a form of apology/anesthetic – they had a few tasty drinks to help the medicine go down.

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We stepped back in time to look at the origins of the spirit (and spurious, unprovable claims of precedence) and dug into topics such as the column distillation, pot still whiskey, the rise and fall and subsequent rise again of Irish drams and finally went through the distilleries themselves in order to shed some light on a drink that is only now seeing a resurgence to its once-proud past.  And at the very tail end of it all we spoke to the future and how Irish whiskey could finally see some true revolution in coming days, under the maverick stylings of Mark Reynier’s new Waterford distillery.  Even I managed to get excited about a few of these drams.

I say that, not because many aren’t great, but simply because I find them often too light and too…neutered.  Irish whiskey at an abv of 46% or higher, and non-chill-filtered has been a relative scarcity.  No different tonight, but there were a couple that hit that bench mark, and better still…there were a couple absolutely stunning knee-knockers in the midst.  The two Jameson Rarest, in particular.  Just wow.

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So…for one night a year (or this year anyway), we figured it would be apropos to don the green and cheese out like a bunch of cultural tourists and join the (un)official Irish drinking team.  I dare say we done ’em proud.  It was a festive eve.  The right people, and the right spirit.  Pun intended.  It was a night for Guinness.  For Flogging Molly and The Pogues.  For Dropkick and Liam.  For Sinead and U2.  For culturally insensitive, borderline-racist Irish jokes (in good taste, I must add).  And yeah…for Colin Farrell.  The gang truly seemed to enjoy our little detour from the norm.

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The evening’s bevies (in order presented, though not necessarily ranked):

Bushmills 16 y.o. Single Malt

Bushmills 21 y.o. Single Malt

Bushmills 1989 Single Cask #7983 (Bourbon)

Green Spot Single Pot Still

Midleton Very Rare 2011

Redbreast 12 y.o. Single Pot Still

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve 2007 Edition #16544

Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve 2009 Edition #55251

Teeling Hybrid Malt Whiskey No. 1 Edition

 

And finally…

I have to give credit where credit is due.  In all fairness, our overgrown token leprechaun was a good sport, especially considering how liberally I peppered my presentation with mockery.  He took it like a champ.  Fear not, though.  I’m already working on my material for the next St. Paddy’s Day lambasting.  Let no shamrock go unturned in the name of a good insult.  Slainte Mhath!

Until next…

 

 – Images:  Curt, Steve & Scott 

 – Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:33 pm
Dec 072015
 

OCTOGEDDON 20/10/15  

Anxiety is not something you normally associate with a whisky tasting, but on this night, fear hung in the air like the waffling bouquet of a plastic Chucky doll on a campfire.

Prior to the tasting smoke alarms in the Whisky Hall were temporarily disconnected. The Fire Department & City Bylaw Services were notified of possible air quality violations. Police in the area were advised to raise their stun gun setting to maximum. Animal Services set skunk traps and Emergency Medical Services set up in the Whisky Hall’s parking lot equipped with defibrillators and oxygen packs.

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Members attending the tasting were asked to bring a change of clothes so as not to offend non-peat drinking partners upon their arrival home or in the off chance a member might lose control of their bodily functions.

Before entering, all club members were required to read and sign a disclaimer as to the possible side effects of extreme peat exposure such as:

-              Inability to breathe

-              Loss of coordination

-              Blindness

-              Cardiac arrhythmia

-              Spontaneous combustion

-              Appearance of God

-              Tourette’s syndrome

-              Excessive sweating or soiling

-              Abnormal sensations

-              Permanent loss of brain function

Was this really a tasting or more of an experiment?  All I know is Health Canada was very interested to learn the effects of extreme peat exposure on a control group such as our members.

Like the Berserker of old, membership was encouraged to dawn a special limited edition “Octogeddon Hammer & Barley Tattoo” to demonstrate their bravery. Apologies to any I may have told that the tattoos were easy to remove … that may have been an outright lie.

Is Jim McEwan the father of this Octomore?  I think so, after all he is quoted as saying, “The spirit is the child and the cask is the mother”. What he didn’t say, but we all know is, “Who’s your Daddy?” and by that I mean we believe Jim spawned all these Octomore casks at Bruichladdich and maybe a few unknowns on Jura as well.  You have to admit Willie Cochrane bears a striking resemblance to a certain young Cooper.

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Our club President for life, Curt Robinson, was our spirit guide for the evening. Curt’s first words were, “Dram Members! Prepare for glory … swill hearty!  For tonight we drink in Edmonton!”*

*Edmonton or Hell, both have the same meaning here in Calgary

During the tasting Curt reminded us that it’s been more than thirteen years since Jim McEwan, the mad genius of Bruichladdich, laid down into casks a terrifying peated formula. Jim, who was taught from birth to thank the Irish for teaching Scotland distillation. Taught that distilling on Islay in service to the whisky world was the greatest glory one could achieve in life.  Jim has moved on now (about a ½ block from the distillery), into retirement, but on his last trip to Calgary I overheard him say… “Remember Bruichladdich.” As simple a sentence as a Jim can give. “Remember why we distilled.” For he did not wish tribute, nor monuments, nor monotonous poems of distilling like that windbag Robby Burns. His wish was simple, “Remember us”, he said. That was his hope, should any whisky enthusiasts come across Islay, in all the countless centuries yet to be. May all our voices whisper to you from the ageless stones, “Go tell the Ileach, passerby, that here by Islay committee rules, we distill.”

The tasting started with apprehension, but like lemmings jumping off a cliff, once the brave Irish members drank their whiskey, the others followed in kind. And so the tasting was under way, ultimately the Dram members did what they were trained to do, what they were bred to do, what they were born to do! The Dram members taught never to leave an empty glass, never to fall down. Taught that imbibing at a tasting, in service to the Dram Initiative was the greatest glory one could achieve that day.

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Our whiskies of the night were as follows:

1)      Octomore 1.1   Released 2008 131 PPM / 63.5 % ABV 5 Years old, this whisky was born October 16, 2002, then laid to rest inside Bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace and presented to the known world April 2008 at a heart stopping 63.5 % ABV with an unheard of 131 PPM, limited to 6,000 limited bottles and put into glass as black as coal. At the time of distillation, this whisky had the highest level of peat ever to be found. My personal favorite of the night with all the sweet vanilla oozing out from the casks. The question was asked, “Can one drink this much peated whisky and expect to remain unchanged” and the answer came back, “I’m not sure, but let’s find out together”, and so we started into the second malt of the night.

2)      Octomore 2.1   Released 2009 140 PPM / 62.5 % ABV 5 Years old and limited to 15,000 bottles. I think the prevailing attitude at Bruichladdich Distillery was if no body died from 1.1 let’s keeping kicking up the PPM.

3)      Octomore 2.2  Orpheus Released 2009 140 PPM / 61 % ABV  5 Years old and limited to 15,000 bottles, finished in Chateau Petrus wine casks. Named after a character in the Matrix, best known for the line ……… “Diageo created a world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” This malt seemed to be the favorite among the unwashed masses in attendance.

…At this point we took a small break then it was back to peat and repeat…

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4)      Octomore 3.1   Released 2010 152 PPM / 59 % ABV 5 Years old and limited to 18,000 bottles. The PPM in this malt just went from Islay cruising speed to battle speed.

5)      Octomore 4.1 Released 2011 167 PPM / 62.5% ABV 5 Years old and limited to 15,000 bottles. The PPM in this malt just went from Islay battle speed to attack speed. I believe some members might have hit a second puberty with this malt.

6)       Octomore 4.2 Comus Released 2012 167 PPM / 61% ABV 5 Years old and limited to 18,000 bottles. Finished in Sauternes cask. This malt was named for Comus, the son of Bacchus (the Roman god of wine and partying), along with a John Milton’s poem (about the tension between sensual pleasure and physical abandon, extravagance and moderation, chastity and virtue). Well, all I can say is living on an isolated sheep filled Island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with long cold winter storms and having access to large quantities of high alcohol spirits might be cause for some distillery workers to test boundaries.

…After another small break then we started repeating ourselves…

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7)      Octomore 5.1   Released 2012 169 PPM / 59.5% ABV 5 Years old and limited to 18,000 bottles. Rumor has it that when Lance Armstrong heard that Bruichladdich was on a tour de force, he was immediately interested in the performance enhancing qualities of this malt. When asked if this was true, he denied it.

8)   Octomore 6.1   Released 2013 167 PPM / 57% ABV   5 Years old and limited to 18,000 bottles. The PPM was dropped by 2 PPM, based on the rumor that the heavy peat was causing people to stick their fingers inside their glass and then talk like Jim McEwan.

9)      Octomore 6.3   Released 2014 258 PPM / 64 % ABV Islay Barley, 5 Years old and limited to 18,000 bottles. Said to be from the kiln of hell itself. The PPM in this malt just went from Islay attack speed to ramming speed. Rumor has it that rather than using yeast, Jim McEwan ate raw peat and sweated into the wash back to start fermentation. I do remember nosing this malt … then the next thing I remember was being hit with 1,000 volts arcing across both nipples from the defibrillator, a smile from an Emergency Medical Responder whom I temporarily mistook as God, and some Dram member saying welcome back and telling me I should finish my dram.

…Bonus Peat Round…

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10)    Octomore 7.1 Released 2015 208 PPM / 59.5% ABV 5 Years old.  Bonus malt, not on the tasting mats, but a last minute addition from our friends at Glazer’s Canada. Octomore, pronounced Ochdamh-mor, which I now think is Gaelic for “by the sweat and or the sweat, of McEwan”.

For complete tasting notes please visit Allthingswhisky web site and look under ‘Octomore’.

After we finished drinking our last malt Curt told the group of phenol fanatics “No empty glasses, no driving; that is Dram law. And by Dram law we will sit and drink. A new age of Whisky has begun, an age of peat, and all will know that 45 Dram Members gave their dignity to drink ten life altering malts!”

To the Dram members I say, “I’ve never been more proud of a group of whisky drinkers than I am of you. To the committee and cleanup crew, thank you for what you do”.

To our spirit guide for the night, Curt Robinson thank you for guiding us through this marsh of peated whiskies. I truly believe the members were surprised that you were able to speak right to the end.

A special thanks to Tony Perri, Director of Operations, Alberta, Glazer’s of Canada, for your generous contributions. I hope the next day didn’t prove too difficult, and based on your ability to drink, we have promoted you to a Dram prospect member.

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 – Words:  Maltmonster

 – Images:  Pat Carroll & Curt

 Posted by at 9:41 am
Sep 292015
 

Dram Initiative #018 – Tamdhu

January 22nd, 2015

 

(We’re a little behind on some of these past DI event write-ups, so let’s see if we can’t catch up a bit over the coming day.  Between reviews, that is.)

Poor suckers.  When they signed up as members of the Dram Initiative no one told ’em they’d occasionally have to listen to me blather on for hours at a stretch.  I suppose that’s the price to pay for the opportunity to sample some of the fine ol’ drams we offer up.

A fine gent whom I love like a drunken old uncle (y’know…the kind who always wants to borrow money?), and who also happens to be the VP of the Dram Initiative, Maltmonster, once told me a secret to speaking out with confidence on subject matter for which you may be on shaky ground.  That path to enlightenment consisted of two words: ‘Bleeding Heart’.  I won’t get into the linguistic origins of this phrase and context but the theory behind the concept suggests that if you speak with enough assurance and without hesitation no one will doubt you.  It’s rather ‘Miyagi-ish’, really.  Sort of an ‘if do right, no can defense’ idiom.  I took it as such anyway while preparing my presentation for this event.

‘Cause really, let’s face it, aside from the brand ambassadors and the distillery workers themselves, who the f*ck knows much about Tamdhu?  Before this event?  Not me either.—

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Let’s do a quick catch up then.  Tamdhu is a Speyside distillery with a production capacity of about four and a half million litres per annum.  The spirit tends to be rather innocuous, with malty and fruity characteristics.  But that could be almost any Speyside whisky, couldn’t it?  Nothing too exciting, to be honest, but when Tamdhu starts to make its way down the backside of the hill (into its 30s and 40s) it proves to be one of the sexiest old malts around.  The most wonderful thing about that, however, is that the price remains shockingly low, since they tend to be independent bottlings and are from a distillery of little renown.

We got to dig into some nifty little historical whisky roots with this event.  In fact a huge portion of the presentation was a throwback to the late 1800s and early 1900s.  We spoke to the history of early Scottish distillery innovation and architecture; Prohibition and the linguistic origins of the phrase ‘The Real McCoy’; early whisky writing (via Alfred Barnard’s incomparable tome ‘The Whisky Distilleries Of The United Kingdom’); the evolution of technical maltings; etc.  For whisky geeks like me (and a bunch of the members) this stuff is gold.

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The name ‘Tamdhu’ comes from the Gaelic ‘Tom Dubh’ which means ‘Black Hill’ or ‘Little Dark Hill’.  The distillery was founded in 1896 and first casked new make spirit in 1897.  At one time Tamdhu was called ‘the most modern of distilleries … perhaps the best designed and most efficient distillery of its era’.  It’s architect was none other than the highly distinguished Charles C. Doig.  Doig, if you’ve done your homework was one of the most foreward thinking of distillery planners, having designed 56 of them in his day, and also responsible for the advent of the Doig Ventilator, or as we laymen know it: the pagoda.

—Historically Tamdhu has always been recognized primarily as a blending whisky, and a rather non-descript one at that.  We wondered if we’d be able to unshackle the malt from this less than flattering yoke.  Much of the distillery’s output gets dumped into Cutty Sark, so that seemed like a logical jumping off point, and a turning point for making sense of the brand’s decision to forego much of the single malt market.

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The evening’s line-up fell out as follows:

  • Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky (40% abv)
  • Tamdhu – 2013 NAS Distillery Bottling (40% abv)
  • Tamdhu 16 y.o. First Editions Independent Bottling (56.2% abv) 1998-2014     253 Bottles
  • Tamdhu 17 y.o. A.D. Rattray Independent Bottling (62.9% abv) June 20, 1990 – November 20, 2007     291 Bottles
  • Tamdhu 1989 Carn Mor Independent Bottling from a Hogshead (54.0% abv) 29/09/89-04/02/13     150 Bottles
  • Tamdhu 1971 Gordon & MacPhail Independent Bottling (43% abv) 1971 – 2011
  • Tamdhu 1971 Gordon & MacPhail Independent Bottling (43% abv) 1971 – 2013
  • Tamdhu 42 y.o. A.D. Rattray Independent Bottling Cask #6 Co-op Wine & Spirits Exclusive
    (43.8% abv) January 2, 1967 – March 30, 2009     95 Bottles

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There were some truly special malts on offer tonight.  Namely those last three.  And unquestionably the last one in particular was a showstopper of a dram.  I have a serious history going back with this malt.  One that involves some good friends and great memories.  Or maybe great friends and good memories would be a more apt way to put it.  Either way, a roomful of collective sighs validated initial opinions and served to affirm that the DI committee is steering this crew in the right direction.  Nice to see a whisky universally adored.  That shared experience becomes something that transcends the simplicity of a whisky tasting.  I imagine many in the room look back on this one with fond memories now too.

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All in all, another very memorable night.  We got to pick on our Irish and ginger contingents a bit, have a few laughs and pull together a tasting that is probably one of the most unique I’ve ever been a part of.  ‘Cause really…who other than the Dram would do a Tamdhu tasting?

 

– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt, Steve and Scott (aka The Ginger Buddha)

 Posted by at 7:40 am
Aug 042015
 

Dram Initiative #23 – Silent Stills: Closed Distilleries

July 18th, 2015

 

Wow.  Eighteen bottles from nine closed distilleries, seventy-six necro-drinkers, six hundred eighty four Glencairn glasses and plenty of Irish insight. All this assembled for one purpose: to drink what was and is no more. If you were lucky enough to be in attendance you can say you drank liquid history.

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The evening’s tasting was held in the upper whisky hall of the Marda Loop Community Centre. On tap for the event were whiskies from Banff, Dallas Dhu, Rosebank, Glen Mhor, Pittyvaich, Littlemill, St. Magdalene, Brora and Port Ellen. All these distilleries had one thing in common; they lacked a safe word from their directors or a savior like Jim Murray.

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Calgarians weren’t exclusive to this event. Like the biblical plagues of old, swarms of unwashed clockwork orange Edmontonian Droogs rode the QE2 Highway from hell into Calgary prior to the tasting. They came at us from the high Northlands, near the Arctic Circle, fixed on the idea of corrupting our innocence and consuming all the whisky in Calgary. It has been said that they hate us cause they ain’t us. Regardless, we Calgarians showed them grace, tolerance and compassion in allowing them to join our tasting … although I am very glad we had security at the door.

Also in attendance was Andrew Ferguson, better known as the legend of Kensington Wine Market; Dave Breakenridge, Associate News Editor of the upscale & prominent sunshine girl newspaper; along with Rob & Kelly Carpenter, the founders of the Scotch Malt Whisky Association Canada, an association that promotes single cask AGE STATED whiskey and other alcoholic beverages less important than whisky.

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Our spirit guide and orator for the evening was none other than the Dram’s own president and whisky dominatrix, Curt Robinson. With a slide show and carefully scripted address, Curt whipped open the doors to each of these long scuttled distilleries just long enough to give us a peek at the rich history which once existed.

It would be fair to say that all the malts were enjoyed, save one sherry bomb, and a few, like the Banff, Brora and Port Ellen, stood out. Detailed tasting notes will follow once Curt has had time to imbibe the samples saved. All the whiskies presented carried an AGE STATEMENT with an average age around 24 years. The fading echo of these nine single malts was consumed in the following order:

1)  Rosebank 12 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Refill Hogshead Ref #1564
March 1993 – June 2005     50% abv     332 Bottles
Born 1840     Final Production 1993     Property redeveloped 2002

2)  Littlemill 21 y.o. (A.D. Rattray) Bourbon Hogshead Cask #560
April 4, 1991 – May 28, 2012     50.6% abv     290 Bottles
Born 1772*     Final Production 1994     Destroyed by fire 2004
(*Bushmills was founded in 1608)

3)  Saint Magdalene / Linlithgow 24 y.o. (Murray McDavid Mission Gold) Bourbon, Port Finish
1982 – 2006     58.3% abv     446 Bottles
Born 1798     Final Production 1983     Property redeveloped

4)  Pittyvaich 15 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Refill Hogshead Ref #2390
October 1990 – January 2006     50% abv     340 Bottles                               
Born 1974     Final Production 1993     Demolished 2002

5)  Banff 32 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Refill Hogshead Ref# 3521
March 1974 – April 2007     47.8% abv     272 Bottles                                              
Born 1863     Final Production 1983     Destroyed by fire 1991

6)  Dallas Dhu 32 y.o. (Gordon & MacPhail) 
1979 – 2012     43% abv                                                                                                                                                     
Born 1898     Final Production 1983     License to distill withdrawn 1992     Turned into a museum

7)  Glen Mhor 27 y.o. (The Cooper’s Choice) Hogshead Cask#1350
1982 – 2009     46% abv     345 Bottles                                                                                                                         
Born 1894     Final Production 1983     Demolished 1986

8)  Brora 25 y.o. (Diageo) 
2008     56.3%     3,000 Bottles                                                                                                                                
Born 1819     Final Production 1983     Dismantled

9)  Port Ellen 25 y.o. (Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask) Sherry Cask #4176 KWM
February 1983 – July 2008     54.7% abv     210 Bottles                    
Born 1825     Final Production 1983     Converted into a malting facility

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Sadly these distilleries were all victims of over production during the seventies and eighties leaving Scotland drowning in excess production. Unfortunately, single malts weren’t as popular as they are today resulting in most of the stock being put into blends with little left over for today’s single malt drinker.

To heighten the evening’s drinking pleasure the Closed Distilleries whiskies were enjoyed with the Closed Distilleries soundtrack which included such songs as, CLOSING Time – Semisonic / CLOSE To You – The Carpenters / CLOSER To The Heart – Rush / Don’t Stand So CLOSE To Me – The Police / CLOSER – Nine Inch Nails / CLOSE To You – New Kids On The Block / CLOSER – Kings Of Leon / Get CLOSER – Linda Ronstadt / So CLOSE – Matthew Good. The soundtrack was available for purchase in the lobby after the event.

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As a ‘thank you’ to committee members and volunteers who stayed behind to help clean up after the liquidated whisky jamboree, a bottle of Japanese whisky from the closed Hanyu distillery, SMWS 131.2 with the AGE clearly STATED at 13 years old, was swigged, glugged and knocked back, leaving only the green Irish skeleton of a once desired outturned bottle and the unchaste cleaners wanting more.

Shout out to Curt for countless hours dedicated to researching, coordinating and speaking to this tasting.  Stephen King couldn’t have done a better job speaking on behalf of these dead distilleries, many thanks!

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Also, cheers to the Dram’s full patch and prospect committee members for the hard work in making this tasting happen. Although this was probably our most ambitious event to date it was just another in a line of award winning tastings with more to come. All Dram tasting events are intended to help raise awareness of how good AGE STATED whiskies can be.

Final thoughts and some closing words ………… Let’s hope that the producers of whisky learn from history, so that future whisky drinkers aren’t as lucky as we were.

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Your Humble Drudge,

– Maltmonster

– Photos: Pat Carroll

 Posted by at 9:27 pm
May 222015
 

Dram Initiative #19 – GlenDronach with J Wheelock

February 19th, 2015

 

GlenDronach Single Cask Experience, Tasting & Music Pairing

This was truly a night of nights, nine cask strength distillery editions; five of which were bottled for stores here in Alberta.  This is how we, at the Dram Initiative, roll. Sure, we just celebrated Valentine’s Day but what better way to celebrate VD than to fill your heart with a deep, warming red sherry afterglow that will cuddle you, without judgments, for hours. To heighten the night’s drinking pleasure, the Glendronach whisky was expertly paired with sherried music. We believe this to be a world’s first or, at the very least, a world’s best.

With the high cask strength of the spirit, all members at the door signed liability waivers before gaining entry.  Anybody with a heart condition, fan of ‘I Love NAS Whiskies’, or a dislike for the Irish, was denied admittance.

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Sherry is to GlenDronach, as happiness is to life and therefore, GlenDronach is essential to the life of the Irish. This neglected sherry superstar distillery, which rivaled Macallan & Glenfarclas, is now thriving again under the new ownership of Mr. Billy Walker and Company. In my not so humble opinion, GlenDronach has taken its place, yet again, as one of the premiere sherried whiskies in the world.

To better understand the distillery and its people, we called upon the always entertaining and fabulous, “JJ” Jamming J Wheelock to be our spirit guide for this sherry shindig. Whisky enthusiasts consider Mr. Wheelock to be one of the great whisky ambassadors in the industry today; a gifted speaker who possesses a James Bond swagger, an angelic monk aura and has industry knowledge second to none.

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After talking about the distillery, its people and its rich history, Mr. Wheelock took us by the dram and led us down a path of sherry cask illumination.

The first flight of two whiskies was skillfully paired with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – “Sherry Baby”………………….“Sherry, Sherry baby, Sherry, Sherry baby, Sherry can you come out tonight, Come, come, come out tonight, Sherry baby, Sherry baby”

1)      Glendronach 2003  KWM                       Cask #1820 / 11 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon 55.4%

2)      Glendronach 2003 Liquor Depot          Cask #4007 / 11 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon 54.8%

After both whiskies were tasted blind, a vote was taken to decide the better of the two 2003 store casks currently available. The winner was cask #4007 Liquor Depot/Wine and Beyond, with 62% of the popular vote and Kensington Wine Market cask #1820 not far behind with 38%.

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The second encounter, which involved three whiskies that were adeptly paired with Journey & Steve Perry – “Oh Sherry” ……………..“Oh, Sherry, But I should’ve been gone, Long ago, far away, And you should’ve been gone, Now I know just why you stay, Oh, Sherry, our love, Holds on, holds on, Oh, Sherry”

3)      Glendronach 1993  KWM                       Cask #1625 / 20 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Butt 57.5%

4)      Glendronach 1994 Liquor Depot          Cask #1503 / 17 Years Old Oloroso Sherry Puncheon 54.9%

5)      Glendronach 1995 Liquor Depot          Cask #5959 / 18 Years Old Tawny Port Pipe 53.6%

After these three whiskies, ranging from 1993-1995 were sampled, another vote was taken. Surprisingly and shocking (well, not too shocking) the vote was almost a three way split. Each cask was well received by the unwashed masses, which evoked a great amount of discussion. Given how vastly different these whiskies tasted, the point could be made that the taste of sherried whisky is a very personal thing.

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The third arrangement of four whiskies was shrewdly paired with Neil Diamond –

“Sherry, Sherry”*** ………………………….“Won’t need bright lights, no, no we won’t, Gonna make our own lightning, Hey, she got the way to move me, Sherry, She got the way to groove me, Sherry, baby”

***When the tasting test subjects were given GlenDronach cask strength whisky, nobody noticed or cared about the minor oversight of Cherry vs. Sherry, also since Mr. Diamond wrote the song “red, red wine”, we thought he’d be cool with this.

6)      Glendronach 2002 Batch 10 Release   Cask #1500 / 12 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon 56.7%

7)      Glendronach 1991 Batch 10 Release   Cask #1346 / 22 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon 52.1%

8)      Glendronach 1994 Batch 10 Release   Cask #326 / 19 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon 53.5%

9)      Glendronach 1994 Batch 10 Release   Cask #3397 / 19 Years Old Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon 53.8%

These last four of nine whiskies were tasted and enjoyed in the sequence listed without a vote.

When it comes to Sherry matured or finished whisky, can anybody surpass GlenDronach right now? Wow, where others have out-priced and over-marketed, GlenDronach has exceeded most whisky geeks’ expectations.

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Shout out to … Authentic Wine & Spirits Merchants & Kieu-Trinh Phan, thank you for your exceedingly lavish donation, along with releasing the Wheelock for the evening … Liquor Depot & Ryan Engen for your very generous donation … and Kensington Wine and Spirits & Andrew Ferguson for your kind contribution. Thank you all for your support in the ongoing struggle to get free whisky.

To Mr. Wheelock, what can I say, other than, you complete us and enable us, or simply, you just completely enable us! Total respect, and thank you from the bottom of our sherried filled bellies.

At last it is time to raise the friendly castle’s drawbridge, put the furniture away and thank all the members for coming out in force, after all, nobody should drink alone!

 

Your Humble Drudge,

– Maltmonster

 Posted by at 7:52 am
Dec 112014
 

Dram Initiative #017 – Drinking Our Way ‘Round Scot(ch)land

Movember 26th 2014

 

(Editor’s Note:  The Irish have a gift for bending the truth to suit their whims.  Case in point.  Mr. O’Maltmonster was gracious enough to save me some work by drafting up this l’il episode recap, but he crammed it full of untrue nice things about me.  I deny it all.  I did swear I wouldn’t change anything he wrote, but he never said I couldn’t put my own disclaimer atop.  Now…back to my misanthropic, curmudgeonly ways…)

The planning committee, of and for the unwashed members of the Dram club, always attempts to keep the club tastings stimulating, current and nutritious. To that end, and with all concerned on balanced diets these days, we thought why not balance a diet of Scottish whiskies with the different whisky regions of Scotchland.

There are only five official whisky regions in Scotland, but given the contrarian wisdom of the planning committee, we thought it best to go with one additional region called “Islands in the Stream”. This region is everything from any Scottish island, excluding Islay.

The location for the night’s festivities were held in the lower whisky hall of the Marda Loop Community Centre. Between the upper & lower hall, we have grown to call this the home of the “Drammed and Land of the Designated Drinkers”.

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Our spirit guide for the night was none other than our ne’er-do-well, anti-Irish club president, Curt Robinson’ AKA: Captain Curt Robinson or CCR. For those not in the know, Curt’s passion for whisky is immeasurable and he is the godfather and architect behind the Dram club’s existence. Thank you Curt … you complete us! In his spare time, when he’s not euthanizing whisky bottles, he runs a website called “All Things Whisky”, where he writes and solicits opinions on ‘all things whisky’. Curt also hosts a book & booze club called “Liquorature”, where a small group of fanatical Bohemians believe the true path to paperback enlightenment is lubrication through the water of life.

CCR rocked us through one hit whisky after another, stopping between whiskies to explain the difference between regions along with the subtleties of each whisky, all while interposing club business. The presentation was informative and with the help of the slide show, very entertaining.

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The whiskies were tasted & enjoyed in the following order:

Lowland:

1)      Auchentoshan Valinch 57.2% ABV

Speyside:

2)      Glenrothes 1991 Vintage 43% ABV

3)      Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 49, 60.1% ABV

Highland:

4)      Old Pulteney 17 Year Old 46% ABV

5)      Balblair Vintage 1989 46% ABV

Campbeltown:

6)      Springbank Society Bottling, Local Barley 14 Year Old 57.8% ABV

Islands:

7)      Arran 17 Year Old 46% ABV

8)      Talisker 25 Year Old 2012 45.8% ABV

Islay:

9)      Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014 51.4% ABV

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Interjected into the night’s tasting was different club business. The club, at this time, is just over 70 members strong. Membership will be allowed to grow until we can quickly sell out at all events. The club, moving forward, will be doing both one and, when available, two bottle events. Starting in January 2015, the ‘per event fee’ will be raised from $35 to $40, along with the policy of no refunds on reserved, prepaid spots.

Sadly, members were made aware of the sudden passing of one of our own … may you rest in peace Lane, you will be missed.

We welcomed our newest and sixth Dram committee member, Steve Simcoe AKA: pending (suggestions welcome), whose duties will be best described as harsh and ugly.

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Year-end shout out to the Dram committee! First, our hard working treasurer and professional greeter, Scott Wolfe, AKA: Ginger Buddha; Second, Antonio Dourado, AKA: Tone or Big Tony, who’s duties include looking after the food, only because he’s our cleanest committee member; Third, Jason Roberts, AKA: J-ROC, our techno wizard; and last but not least Barry Flynn, AKA: The Irish or Dirty Irish, whose duties include, but are not limited to, pre-tasting and procurement.

Thanks to Stuart, AKA: Stuart-Two-Fist (among other things nick-named for his ability to always have a glass in each hand) for being our non-alcohol gift auctioneer for the night. Your friendly, hypnotic, Scottish accent lulls our members into over paying.

Many thanks to those of you that help with the set up and take down at each event. You know who you are and in your next life, may you be born Irish!

To all the members of the club, have a great holiday break and we will see you in January of 2015 with another stellar line up.

 

Mostly Sincere,

Maltmonster

 

– Words:  Maltmonster

– Images:  Steve

 Posted by at 9:02 am
Dec 092014
 

Dram Initiative #016 – Benromach with Michael Urquhart

November 4th, 2014

 

It was a bright day in November and the clocks were striking 19. The Dram fanatics gathered from around Calgary and the Ambassador followed. “Call me Michael,” said this older gentleman who advocates whisky, usually travelling the back roads of Alberta alone.  …But not this time, as he was introducing the next generation of herald, owing to his pending retirement.

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For the unenlightened, Michael Urquhart has long been the voice in the wilderness, awakening Canadians to the merits of his family owned business, Gordon and MacPhail.  It has been in operation since 1895 and is one of leading independent bottlers of fine and aged whisky. In 1993 Gordon and MacPhail purchased the mothballed Benromach distillery and, after four years of refurbishing, reopened it once again to a thirsty world.

The Dram Initiative Executive discussed the merits of a large tasting.  “Aye, have a large tasting and we may get a hangover.  Don’t, and we’ll wake well in the morning, but dying in our beds, many years from now, would we be willing’ to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance – just one chance – to come back here and have one bitching ostentatious tasting of Benromach?  One befitting such a great man as Michael Urquhart the Grey?”

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Keeping in mind that this was Michael’s swan song tour of Alberta, after travelling for so many years to great cities like Calgary (and backwater towns like Edmonton), all the while selflessly educating the unwashed masses on the finer points of whisky drinking, we were compelled to pull together a line-up worthy of the Grand Chieftain of the Urquhart Clan.

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So, how to honor this third generation Wizard of Whisky?

How indeed! Well, with an Alberta first, of course, Benromach extravaganza ten bottle affair, designed to make British Columbians come out of retirement, Ontarians want to tea party the LCBO and Maritimers live in Alberta, permanently!

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The Malts were appreciated and knocked back in the following order:

1.     10 Year Old Benromach 43% ABV, 80% Bourbon barrels, 20% Sherry hogsheads. Final year in first fill Oloroso casks.

2.     Cask Strength Benromach 60 % ABV 2002-2012 Casks # 21-31

3.     Peat Smoke Benromach 46% ABV 2005- 2014, 67ppm, matured in first fill oak Bourbon barrels.

4.     21 Year Old Benromach 43% ABV matured in first fill and refill sherry casks.

5.     25 Year Old Benromach 43% ABV matured in a refill American hogsheads.

6.     24 Year Old  Willow Park 1981 Benromach Single Cask December 1/81 – October 12/06 Cask# 1416 46% ABV 300 Bottles matured in a refill sherry Butt

7.     27 Year Old CO-OP 1981 Benromach Single Cask November 11/81 – September 25/09 Cask# 1280 54.1% ABV 226 Bottles matured in a refill sherry Hogshead

8.     30 Year Old Benromach 43% ABV matured in first fill and refill Sherry casks.

9.     1976 Benromach 37 – 38 Years Old 46 % ABV matured in first fill and refill Sherry hogsheads.

10.     1969 Vintage Benromach 42 Year Old, from two casks both from November 6/69 – August 2012 42.6% ABV. A marriage of casks #2006 & #2008, matured in refill Sherry hogsheads. 

Also in attendance this evening was Richard Urquhart, fourth generation of the Urquhart family, Sales Executive for the Export team at Gordon & MacPhail and the Canadian Ambassador in waiting. (Hope to see you back in Calgary soon. You have some big tartan pants to fill.  Or, as you call them, “tartan trews”.  But heads up…in Canada it’s best to call them “pants”).

Michael & Richard Urquhart acted as our spirit guides in this ceremonial drinking of the Benromach; answering questions, sharing details, providing us with tasting notes and telling us about the dismal state of the Benromach distillery when they took over.

The top two favorites of the night were the 1969 & 1976.  Wow, what amazing malts. In the Battle of the two 1981 hand-picked store casks, between Willow Park & Calgary Co-op, the winner was Willow Park in a vote of nearly 3 to 1. The best value malt of the night was the 2012 Cask Strength.

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Not present, as he had to leave earlier in the week, was Ewen Mackintosh (not an Urquhart, but genetically altered to be like an Urquhart and is now Gordon & MacPhail new Chief Operating Officer).  (FYI:  Thanks for telling me about the remaining low double-digit Port Ellen stock, all in sherry butts.  Something Michael would never do. Your secret is safe with me.)

Many thanks to Mr. Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing Inc., one of the hardest working Irish agents in the industry. Without your help, this evening would not have been possible.  Further thanks for supplying some great bottles we enjoyed, especially the 1976, which was absolutely stunning.

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As for the Dram Club…another in a series of incredible tastings…with another iconic speaker!  Not sure what we can do to top this, but we’ll try!

 

Sincerely,

Maltmonster

 

At an earlier private dinner I wrote* a speech which was read aloud and brought the room to moans. I thought it fitting to share it here, as it aptly describes my feelings. (*plagiarized)

To Michael Urquhart with Love:

Those early whiskey days, of telling tall stories and hangovers are gone,
But in my mind, I know they will still live on,
But how do you thank such a presenter, who has taken us from 70 Year Old Mortlach to Benromach 1968
It isn’t easy, but I’ll try,

You wanted Benromach to reopen,
So you could have the red brick chimney write across the sky
Like a phallic finger which would soar a hundred feet high,
See world, we have our own supply

The time for finishing drams
And long last looks must end
And as you leave I know
I’m saying goodbye to a good friend

A friend who taught me that tartan pants are still cool,
The Irish invented whiskey and
Your stocks of Port Ellen have limits
That’s a lot to learn, what can I say in return?

That Goodbye is not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean we’ll miss you
Until we meet again!

 

– Words:  Maltmonster

– Images:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:55 am
Dec 082014
 

Dram Initiative #015 – Jura II with Willie Tait

October 16th, 2014

 

Wee Willie Tait.  The little man with the personality so big we couldn’t fit it all into one tasting.  To date Willie is the only return speaker we’ve had for the Dram Initiative.  This kindly curmudgeon is an icon in the greater whisky world.  When we heard he was swinging back through town a year after his first visit to the club we happily jumped at the opportunity to bring him back and do an almost entirely different range of Jura whiskies than the previous event.  I should also mention that the club has morphed and grown since Willie’s last visit.  We knew we’d have not only new whiskies on hand, but new members as well.

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The last time Willie was over, the DI crew decided to swing for the fences and put on the biggest Jura tasting the world had likely ever seen.  We had 16 different expressions on offer that night.  The tasting itself was set up with a much smaller number of drams at each place seating, but we had others available if a member was curious enough to try.  At one point, in a rather emotional moment for all involved that night, Mr. Tait spread his arms wide, shrugged his shoulders in touching humble pride and said “this is my life’s work.”  Not gonna lie…it was one of those ‘goosebumps’ kinda moments.  One where you feel proud just to have been there.

I think all of us in the Dram Initiative planning committee took a bit of personal pride and satisfaction in helping to facilitate this bridging of whisky maker and eager acolytes.

With that in mind, we knew we’d once again have to do something memorable to make this event resonate.  Y’know…beyond just good speakers and whisky, that is.  Gotta throw a curveball or two to keep things memorable, right?

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Before we get to the drams at hand, let’s just discuss the master of ceremonies for a moment…

Willie’s a showman precisely because he’s not a showman.  He’s the kind of guy that will tell you that whisky smells like whisky when you ask him for floofy tasting notes.  The kind of guy who’ll tell you there’s only two ways to drink your whisky: with your left hand or your right hand.  The kind of guy who’s equally comfortable telling you you’re always welcome to come visit him and telling you to ‘f*ck right off’.  All with charm and a mischievous knowing twinkle in his eye.  You simply can’t help but love the guy.  His persona – not at all put on – is refreshing in its frank old school purity.

The whisky world would be a better place if more of the ‘face’ people in the industry would shoot more from the hip, as Willie does.

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When last we gathered for Jura we concentrated on building a range of primarily rare and limited Jura releases.  This time we stuck a little more to core standard range, though in keeping true to character we did also inject the line-up with a few malts that are now either discontinued or yet to hit the market.  What can I say?  We like to do things a little differently with this club and offer members a bit of a treat that they may not otherwise be able to try.  This evening’s menu:

1.  Jura Origin
2.  Jura Elixir
3.  Jura Brooklyn
4.  Jura 18 y.o.
5.  Jura Boutique Barrel 1996
6.  Jura Boutique Barrel 1993
7.  Jura 30 y.o. Camas An Staca
8.  Jura Superstition
9.  Jura Prophecy

One of the Boutique Barrel releases (I believe it was the ’96) and the 30 year old were massive hits.  The Prophecy also had the peat-o-philes in the room salivating and smoking at the ears.  Another immediate standout was the recently launched Brooklyn.  A surprising depth of well-integrated peat was well received by most.

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No DI event is complete without what we generally refer to as a ‘homerun’ whisky.  This eve we went back to one we actually did taste last time Willie was through.  The 30 year old ‘Camas An Staca’.  Whether or not you’re a fan of Jura’s malts, this is a whisky that’s almost certain to win you over.  A great waltz of fruit and oak with this one.  I’ve drunk my fair share of this malt (and possibly a few other folks’ shares as well), but would happily continue revisiting this one for years to come.  Hopefully circumstances allow.

While we couldn’t break out any embarrassing old photos (again…sorry ’bout that Ruaraidh) or suggest maybe a bit of Irish two-stepping (our bad, Jim), we did have a wee gift for Willie as a way of expressing our thanks for his time and efforts.

Not sure how many of you are aware, but in the days before Jim McEwan worked the stills at Bruichladdich, there was another chap with a bit of a reputation and bedrock of whisky wisdom who ran the show.  Yep…none other than Mr. Tait.

And just to see if we couldn’t rankle the man, we presented him with a bottle of Bruichladdich signed “To Willie…From Jim…”.  I shan’t dare repeat what the rest of the message said, but hopefully Willie can find some use for the juice in the bottle.

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Huge thanks to J Wheelock, my brother-in-arms, for once again making magic happen for this humble l’il club.  J…You complete me.  Without you…we’d just be us.

To the team at Authentic Wine & Spirits…your support on a few of our events now is infinitely appreciated.  Look forward to making more happen in the coming years.  Much love and appreciation.

Willie…you’re practically part of the family now (the slightly older uncle who smells like whisky, perhaps?).  Happy to host you any time you come through, sir.  Thanks again for all you’ve done for us.  Cheers!

…and finally…to the committee folks and members at large…glasses high.  You deserve it.  Slainte!

 

– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:11 am
Dec 032014
 

Dram Initiative #014 – Bruichladdich with Jim McEwan

September 10, 2014

 

A little late, but…here goes…

The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that.  The logistics of organizing events for 80 members/attendees can be rather daunting sometimes.  What happens when you take all of the already multitudinous amount of tasks we have to cover each month, then dump a couple feet of heavy, wet slushy snow all over everything is a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone but the Irish.

The reality is that Calgary got lambasted with an early dump of snow the likes of which I don’t think I can recall.  I mean this stuff was so wet and heavy it took weeks to clear away the fallen tree limbs that had cracked under its monumental weight.  Power went down in quadrants all over the city, and much of our lives went into forced temporary hibernation.

One of the areas of the city that lost electricity was, of course, the very same in which the community hall we had booked for this event resides.  With just a couple of hours to go ’til showtime when we were informed that the hall was inaccessible , The Dram Initiative committee was forced to get creative with our venue.  And by that I mean we made a last minute appeal to our good mate (and staunch supporter of the club) David Michiels of Willow Park Wines & Spirits.  David is the resident whisky guy at Willow Park, but that title doesn’t really do him justice.  Go in and visit him if you don’t already know what I’m talking about.

Long and short of it is though, that Dave came to our rescue and allowed us to host our event in the store’s spacious and welcoming lower hall.  And it worked out to be not only a life saver, but an absolutely stellar evening.

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There are two guest speakers that I’d been hoping to lock down for the club since its inception.  Both just so happen to be named Jim.  One is a gentleman, a rawk star, a whisky authority and all ’round good guy.  The other is Murray.  We’ve yet to have the latter even reply to an email (so be it), but the former came through in spades for the club.

I’ve known Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan for a few years now, via trips to Islay, email exchanges, attending his events, interviews, etc.  It was through one of our email exchanges that I asked if there was a chance of having him through anytime soon.  He got in touch with ‘his people’ and within an hour forwarded on to me an email exchange from their side confirming all was a ‘go’ for September.  Having now organized eighteen of these club sessions, all I can say is that I wish each event came to fruition as painlessly as this one did.  Little did we know that we’d pay for that ease tenfold later on with the ‘storm of the century’ that was due to roll in on the day of the event itself.

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Having a venue and a knockout speaker is only half the battle though.  Being a whisky club and all, it seemed pertinent to maybe have a malt or two to offer the collective.  When it came to pulling together our line-up for this tasting, we ended up meeting in the middle with the Select Wine & Spirits team.  Select is our local Bruichladdich representative.  They wanted a few of the newer core expressions in the line-up in order to help garner some more exposure, and were more than willing to help out with the budget side of things.  It just so happens that the new range tied in nicely with a few of the special treat malts we’d managed to track down for this one.  Pulling out a few gems is sort of what the club is all about.  One of the main reasons we exist is to let members gain access to whiskies that most would simply not be able to source otherwise.

This blend of ‘just new to the market’ drams and ‘long discontinued treats’ was a perfect mix to suit all.

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This evening’s malts were (in order):

1.  Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley
2.  Bruichladdich Laddie 10
3.  Bruichladdich 18 y.o.
4.  Bruichladdich The Laddie 22
5.  Bruichladdich Legacy 3rd Release 35 y.o.
6.  Bruichladdich 12 y.o. Manzanilla Cask Willow Park Exclusive
7.  Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1
8.  Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
9.  Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley

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Members and guests (and bears, oh my!) were greeted at the door with a gin and tonic welcome drink, made from Bruichladdich’s ‘The Botanist’ gin.  At one point in my life I was a dry gin martini kinda guy on occasion, but I’ve sort of moved away from that.  I can say however, that The Botanist is a top shelf gin.  The botanicals bringing life to this crystalline spirit are all sourced on Islay, where the distillate rolls off an old school steampunk looking contraption of a still lovingly named ‘Ugly Betty’.  Trust me…she’s anything but.

Additionally, as we wanted to be careful with how much we were offering up here, yet still wanted to explore as much of the Laddie range as possible, everyone in attendance took home a wee sample of Bruichladdich’s beastly (in all the right ways!) X4+3, the quadruple distilled release from a few years back.  To my knowledge, no other distillery has ever done quadruple distillation.

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With the juices flowing and the conversation lively, the troops began taking seats for the show.  This was the biggest crowd we’d assembled to date, ironically on one of the worst travel days possible.  Looking out at a sea of faces and the glare off nearly 800 Glencairn whisky glasses was quite a moment.  I tend to share a few words at the start of each of our events, and tonight was no exception.  I couldn’t help be taken aback though, as I introduced Jim and Bruichladdich, by the magnitude of this ‘little club we’d managed to build.  We’ve sort of turned a corner into the realms of respectable.  Well…most of us anyway.  There are some Irish and Gingers in the mix.  😉

(Easy now…don’t worry.  We’re equal opportunity offenders here in the DI.)

After a brief intro, we turned the evening over to Mr. McEwan.  And the rest is now Dram Initiative history.

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Jim is a showman of the first degree.  In fact, I don’t there’s anyone better at what he does.  Some people simply have an inherent gift for working with an audience.  For finding that perfect balance between show and tell.  Jim shares tales that are almost heartbreakingly pastoral, nostalgic and emotional, then adeptly throws out one humorous tale after another, delivered with the poise and timing of a long time stage performer.  Sitting in the audience is a real treat.  Whether or not you know and love your malts or are new to it, there will be something in Jim’s presentations for you.

I should also add that while I’ve seen Jim do his thing several times now, he always has new stories to share and new tales to spice up the evening.

He started us going, even before our first dram, with a rousing call to arms.  We were mere days from the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, and the fire was obviously burning strong.  His impassioned speech for an ‘aye’ vote made it hard to argue that there was more at stake than simple economics.  Identity.  A true Scottish identity.  (Hmmm…resonates especially true considering the manner in which Bruichladdich have carved out their own enduring visage).

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At the end of an evening full of laughs, mockery and damn fine whisky (especially that 35 y.o. Legacy!), Jim asked the gathered masses to take to their feet.  Not on the floor, but atop their chairs, with a foot thrown up on the table.  He asked us to be warriors for the night.  He asked us to raise a glass to the future of Scotland.  Then – just for shits and giggles – suggested that as marauding warriors, after we’d downed our glasses, we should ransack the store, steal all the whisky, spill out onto the streets and continue our fearsome escapades all ’round town.

With that being said, Mr. Ewan raised his glass and led our 80+ strong audience through an adrenaline-boosting and raucous Highland toast, finishing with a flourish and letting the crowd cheer him off in style.  Tough act to follow, this one.

Afterwards, members hung around to meet the man of the hour, buy some whisky, take some photos and get a few bottles signed.  All in all…a brilliant occasion.

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Big thanks to Jim McEwan himself, who took matters into his own hands to ensure we were able to make this event happen.  The good people at Select Wine & Spirits were responsible for providing the Octomore and Black Art.  Tony…Em…you two were great to work with.  Thanks for everything.  Look forward to making it happen again at some point.

Finally…once again we have to say thank you to Dave, Wayne and the team at Willow Park for not only coming through for us in a lurch, but for doing so with style and class.  All of your help with set-up, storage, sales, etc was appreciated more than you know.  You definitely won over some of the club who may not have attended WP events before.  Let’s do it again soon.  Maybe without all of the panic next time though.

Jim…anytime you want to come back, we’ll make sure to set ’em up for you to knock ’em down again.

Cheers to the committee and all the Dram Initiative members.  Y’all rawk.  But you already knew that.

Until next…sláinte mhaith!

 

– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:43 pm
Sep 232014
 

Dram Initiative #013 – Year End Wrap-Up Moxie’s Downtown

July 2nd, 2014

 

A little late on this one, but better late than never…

For the club’s year-end wrap-up we wanted to do something a little bit different.  Of course this was not a calendar year end, but simply a logical break point.  We opted to take the summer off in order to accommodate everyone’s vacation plans and such.  If, however, an opportunity had arisen in the meantime to put on a killer event I’m sure we would have happily been flexible enough to make it happen, but it seemed like a solid idea to take a couple months off for beer and sun, before diving back into the action with September’s Bruichladdich tasting with Jim McEwan.

For this ‘wrap-up’, we got in touch with the good folks at the Moxie’s Downtown location.  Manager Deryck Phimister is in the process of building the company’s whisky program.  I’d heard his name mentioned a few times and had a couple of Moxie’s event notices forwarded my way, so decided to reach out to Deryck and see if we couldn’t make something work.  With Deryck being as keen, knowledgable and…quite frankly…likeable as he is, this event came together quickly and easily.

The initial line of thinking that led to this less formal event was that we wanted to do something a little less labour-intensive for the committee, and have a gathering that would get the members interacting in a slightly looser environment.  Y’know…pints, food, whisky, mockery.  That kinda stuff.

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We are still a whisky club however.  So first things first, we had to pull together a few interesting malts for the occasion.  And, of course, put someone in front of the room to share a some insight on each of the drams we’d be trying.  The initial idea was to get someone other than me (or a formal speaker) up in front of the group for a change.  These poor sods have to listen to me preach at each of our gatherings, so it seemed an ideal time to see if we couldn’t drag a few members up and out of their comfort zones in order to enlighten the unwashed.

And surprisingly enough, there was no real arm twisting required to make it happen.

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First up we had the dirty Irish contingent (name withheld pending results of fingerprinting and legal investigation into his rather sordid character) get up and share a few words on a rather special 1973 Tullibardine; a distillery he has visited in his never-ending quest to ensure that it is indeed true that the Scots do in fact make better whisky than the Irish.  Was there ever a question?  The speech…great.  The whisky…almost as good.  😉

Next up, our resident caber-tossing Scottish expat Stuart shared all sorts of flowery tasting notes and sentimental poetic tripe about a lovely old Royal Lochnagar from Duncan Taylor.  In his earlier days, before moving to Canuckville, Stu used to work at the distillery.  While he confessed to some jitter before hand, the guy knocked it out of the park.  An absolutely natural speaker, and one we’re still trying to coerce into presenting a full range of Lochnagar for the club at some point. 

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Our third malt, a 17 year old single cask from GlenDronach, was presented by our mate, Joe.  Joe’s been involved in the whisky world for ages, and comfortably straddles both sides of the fence, as both an industry guy and just a goodhearted guy with a love of the good juice.  If you get a chance to visit him at Liquor Depot in Mount Royal, you’ll find not only a great selection of malts on offer, but a good conversation as well.

Moving into dram number four, a sexy 30 year old Carn Mor independent Caol Ila, the club’s ginger buddha, Scott, took the reins and led us through a bit about both the whisky and the distillery.  He was one of the handful of chaps who joined me on my last trip over to Islay in late 2012, where a visit to Caol Ila was part of the itinerary.  Much like me, I think he has a bit of a soft spot for the distillery. 

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Our final malt of the night (well…final official malt of the night) was one near and dear to my own shriveled l’il black heart.  Seeing as how we’d just dedicated an entire previous event to this particular distillery (and wouldn’t have a chance to taste it as a group anytime soon), and also because it was right in the midst of World Cup fever: Ardbeg Auriverdes. 

This malt arrived on our shores a couple months too late to be included in our Ardbeg tasting with Ruaraidh, but it’s certainly a top notch dram.  We figured ‘why the hell not?’ and yours truly ended up in front of the room after all.  I’ve spent enough time at the distillery to be able to lead one of their tours myself by this point, so it was simply a no-brainer that it would be me to talk about this one.

We closed out the formalities with a bit of an open forum for members to share some opinions, did a quick round of thanks and such, then dove headlong into pints and additional drams for the remainder of the eve.

Not gonna lie…a couple of those aforementioned bottles got revisited before the night was out.  And then were a couple drams of a damn decent 25 y.o. Brora to follow.  For whatever reason, we simply couldn’t convince Deryck to crack that Lagavulin 37 y.o. and pour a round, but there’s still time to twist that rubber arm. 

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Thanks to good people at Moxie’s, especially Deryck and Jeannine.  Your time and efforts were greatly appreciated.  I’m already looking back at this event with fondness and rose-colored glasses.  Hopefully we can do just as we hinted at, and work towards arranging something similar around the holiday season this year.  More discussion to come…

For those of you in Calgary looking for a great night out with good food and some very special drams, Deryck is hosting high end whisky tastings in the lounge once a month, on the first Thursday, I believe.  The venue is great, the cost is wicked low and the whiskies will be top shelf.  Feel free to get in touch with Deryck at cdt@moxies.ca if you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about. 

Until next…slainte!

 

– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:11 am