Sep 122010
 

Greetings, Members, Malters and soon-to-be-members!

The Willow Park Whisky Club (not an official title) had its first official meeting on the 5th of September, 2010.  Though the Labor Day long weekend prevented several individuals from attending, a large handful came out to break a bottle on the proverbial maiden voyage.  Thanks to all of those (like myself) who lacked the foresight to book an extended vacation at this time and were able to attend.  😉

What happens in Whisky Club stays in Whisky Club.  Well…not really, but…suffice it to say…details will not be shared here for the masses.  The long and short of it was this…

We met, laughed and lingered.  A few glasses were shared from a selection of bottles while we discussed the direction that we would like to go from here.  The decision was made to have one more session as a ‘meet-n’-greet’ as so many were away this time.  Next meeting is Sunday, October 3rd at 7:00pm.  This is when we will sort out a few more details.

A few who came out were surprised that this was an open membership deal.  I think the assumption was that it was an invite only club.  Apologies if anything said here has led to that belief.  In clarifying…

Next meeting is Sunday, October 3rd at 7:00pm.

Anyone reading here…feel free to join us, and if you have others interested…bring ’em along! 

We will cap membership at a specified number, but until that number is reached, it is open to all.  The only criteria…you have to enjoy whisky and want to meet people.

Finally…October 3rd will be something of an Islay night, based on early vote.  I (Curt) will have returned from this land of peat and smoke only days prior.  I’ve been asked to spill a little bit about the trip upon return.  Should have some pics and maybe video to share.  (Anyone care to do the powerpoint work?)

So…spread the word and round up your colleagues.  What is whisky without friends?

Until next update…Slainte!

Aug 282010
 

The vast majority of what we at ATW purchase comes from Willow Park Wines And Spirits.  Great selection…helpful staff…and close to home.  Not only do they bring in the best whiskies (and all else), they also put on the best damn events as well.  If you’re local, and care to come out, you won’t regret it.

See ya at some of these:

15 September 2010 “Last Chance Whiskies” (with Andy Dunn)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Come and join Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing for a whisky event like no other!  Taste some limited edition last chance whiskies from – Springbank, Gordon & MacPhail, Cooley Distillery, Bruichladdich and other top whisky producers.  These are rarified whiskies that you don’t want to miss.

30 September 2010 “Bourbon Night”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Willow Park’s first bourbon tasting was a great success.  Join us again as we explore more of the interesting history and depth of flavor that made this Kentucky spirit famous!  A carefully chosen line up of only small batch and single barrel editions will be tasted to experience the diverse flavors that bourbon has to offer.  Hosted by Willow Park Wines & Spirits whisky expert Brice Coates, our guests will enjoy paired appetizers and sample a fantastic selection of rarified bourbons.

6 October 2010 “Murray McDavid & Bruichladdich”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Selected by Jim McEwan, Murray McDavid bottlings come from some of the oldest distilleries around and are considered to be a new take on the world’s best spirits!  They are chosen for their individuality and diversity and we welcome you to come and join us for a memorable and informative evening.

20 October 2010 “Wild Turkey”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

With 28 years of experience, Edward Freeman Russell knows a thing or two about bourbon.  As the son of renowned Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell, and the fourth generation Russell to work at the Austin Nichols Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Eddie is of unmatched pedigree in the bourbon industry.  This class is one of a kind and you don’t want to miss it!

27 October 2010 “GlenDronach” (with Alistair Walker)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

In 1826, the GlenDronach Distillery became one of the first licensed distilleries in Scotland.  Since then, GlenDronach has been producing some of the most revered scotch whiskies in the world.  They earned a reputation for producing richly sherried single malt scotch whiskies.  Please join us as Alistair Walker from the GlenDronach and BenRiach Distillery launches a rare 25YO single cask, exclusive to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, and walks us through a number of extraordinary scotch whiskies from the two distilleries.

2 November 2010“Glenrothes at the Rimrock” (with Ronnie Cox)

          Tickets:  $125          Doors:  5:30pm

Join Ronnie Cox of Glenrothes fame in the Rimrock Room of the Palliser Hotel for an evening of sublime whisky and gourmet food.  The four course meal will begin with cocktails at 6:00 and feature Select Glenrothes expressions to accompany the chef’s creations.  Tickets are extremely limited and include valet service.  A night not to be missed or soon forgotten.

3 November 2010 “Whisky Festival”

          Tickets:  $85

Join us for Alberta’s premier scotch event!  A spectacular evening featuring a dazzling array of 100 plus single malts and premium spirits, live Bagpipers, and gourmet catering.  There will be many distillery masters present from all regions of Scotland, including:

Andrew Calder – Sales Director Burns Stewart Distillers

Katherine Crisp – Brand Manager Burns Stewart Distillers

Andrew Gray – Sales Director & Proprietor Bruichladdich

Alistair Walker – Regional Sales Director GlenDronach

John Glaser – Compass Box Founder & Whiskymaker

Mike Harrison – Glenrothes Commercial Manager

Ronnie Cox – Director Glenrothes

Ross EJ Hendry – Brand Manager NA Berry Bros

Alex Bruce – Owner of Adelphi Single Malts

Enjoy the Calgary Highlander Band and Scottish Dancers.  Fabulous hors d’oeuvres from Buzzards, Nicole Gourmet, Wildwood and Willow Park Golf & Country Club are guaranteed to enhance these flavourful whiskies!

10 November 2010 “Winter Warmth – Cask Strength” (with Andy Dunn)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Come taste some whiskies from top producers with Andy Dunn from Gold Medal Marketing.  These are sure to warm your toes on those cold – cold – cold winter nights on the prairies…. Wear your woolies!!!!

19 November 2010 “Exclusive Scotch Seminar”

          Tickets:  $50          Doors:  7:00pm

Willow Park Wines & Spirits invites you to join us for a very special evening of unique, truly superior Scotch Whiskies.  This single malt lovers event will feature single casks exclusive to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, as well as other sought after rarities.  Our guests will enjoy specially paired appetizers while discovering the interesting history and character of these malts.  Our star of the evening will be the Tullibardine 1966, a superior forty-two year old single barrel that Willow Park Wines & Spirits is proud to call our exclusive.  Come join us…

1 December 2010 “Macallan Scotch”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

The Macallan is the most respected and revered whisky in the world.  This legendary single malt has more awards and accolades than any other.  Join Brand Ambassador J. Wheelock to unlock the secrets of what makes this iconic luxury brand “the single malt against which all other must be judged”.  Guests will explore a selection of the two principal line-ups from The Macallan and learn more about what being a Master really means.

8 December 2010 “Christmas Whiskies Mini Festival”

          Tickets:  $25          Doors:  7:00pm

Please join Andy Dunn from Gold Medal Marketing, Rob White from Saverio Schiralli Agencies and Jonathan Bray from Purple Valley Imports – three of the most notorious whisky importers!  Check out their whisky recommendations for Christmas gift giving.

Aug 262010
 

September 5th is fast approaching.  Almost as quickly as summer seems to be slipping away.  No worries though, it simply means I’ll be able to break out a few more of those massive Islay whiskies we all adore.

Put your thinking caps on, ladies and gents.  This inaugural session will be where we define what the Calgary Whisky Club is to become.  Your ideas, thoughts and input are important.

This first session will be a meet n’ greet.  We’ll have a dram, make some friends and bang out some structure.  It won’t cost you anything more than your time to show up for this first meeting.

However

Be forewarned…there will be a cost associated with this club.  Every effort will be made to ensure the dent to our pocketbooks is as minimal as possible.  In speaking with David, the initial thought is that this contribution will be small indeed.  We’ll discuss further on the 5th, but rest easy…it will be next to nil.

Guest speakers are being debated and lined up already.  Interest is strong among those in the industry with whom I’ve spoken.

For those attending…hey…this club will hopefully become part of your new circle of friends.  That doesn’t have to mean that your old circle is excluded.  If you know of anyone who is passionate about whisky and comeraderie…bring ’em along.  This whole enterprise is about having fun and bringing something to Calgary that is sadly amiss right now.

Many of you know me.  My name is Curt.  Those that I have not yet met face to face…I look forward to it.

My counterpart, and the other kindhearted soul responsible for making this a reality, is David Michiels.  David is the whisky buyer for Willow Park.  If you’ve ever wandered around navigating the whisky wall at WP, chances are you were warmly greeted by David and led to something exceptional to take home.  If you don’t know him already…you will soon enough.

…and yes…those discount cards mentioned before are also in the works.  Let’s not forget…Willow Park is supporting us, so let’s support Willow Park in return.

Please send any questions to uisgebeatha7@hotmail.com.

Again…

7:00pm Sunday, September 5th 2010

at

Willow Park Wines and Spirits

Until next Sunday…

Slainte!

Aug 262010
 

George Grant (from the long line of Georges and a John) flew in from Scotland for this one.  An absolutely brilliant speaker, George held an audience like a good comedian.  His real adeptness was noticeable in how much information he managed to sprinkle throughout a presentation that made you feel you were simply sharing drinks with an old friend.  While presenting several bottles from the Glenfarclas line, he regaled the ~100 strong crowd with humorous anecdotes and historical tidbits.  We were never less than fully engaged.

One tale in particular, about a double-booking which resulted in a ‘Three’s Company”-esque menage a trois snafu between George and two simultaneous tastings had us in stitches.  Another regarding a peat fire was nearly as entertaining. 

Oh yeah…and it helps too when the product you represent is exceptional. 

The whiskies themselves?  While I didn’t take detailed tasting notes, here’s what I can share (and vaguely remember):

Glenfarclas 10 y.o. – Smart and pleasant.  A little lacking in character when stacked up against all that followed but not bad.  No real finish to speak of. 

Glenfarclas 15 y.o. – A little sweeter.  A lot bigger.  Great whisky.  Lacking the youthful nip of the 10 y.o.  Very nice and highly recommended.

Glenfarclas 21 y.o. – Much bigger.  Smooth, syrupy.  Full of fruity notes and honey.  Nice long development. 

Glenfarclas 25 y.o. – Similar to the 21 y.o. but with a loooooooonger finish.  Nice mouthfeel.  Mature and deep without being pulled down by the oak that can often creep at this age.  Fantastic.

Glenfarclas 105 – Cask strength.  Ahhhhhh…this is how whisky should be bottled.  Warming.  Complex.  Rich.  Delicious.  (See review here:  http://www.allthingswhisky.com/?page_id=21)

Glenfarclas Family Cask – Richest and best of the bunch.  Not sure which year this was in their Family Cask Series, but dear gawd, was this good.  Great development into a nice long finish.

It was truly unfortunate that the fellow who was to sit next to us never showed.  So…in not wanting to insult our host, Mr. Grant…we took it upon ourselves to ensure his whisky did not go to waste.

We are no strangers to Willow Park’s adroitness when it comes to bringing in the best to present their best.  This night was no exception.

Final note…Instead of bogging this post down with details on the distillery’s history and practices, I am going try my best to nail down George Grant for an interview on ATW.  I’m sure he could put into words much better than I all matters of the Glenfarclas way.

Slainte!

Aug 132010
 

Lads and Lassies,

After a final discussion with our friend, David Michiels, at Willow Park…

The Calgary Whisky Club is finally a reality!

To any who do not know me yet…my name is Curt.  I, along with David, will be spearheading this adventure.

The inaugural meeting of this exclusive little enclave will be:

7:00pm    Sunday, September 5th, 2010

This rather informal gathering will be at Willow Park Wines and Spirits in Calgary South.

If you are interested, please confirm with me, Curt, at uisgebeatha7@hotmail.com in order to ensure a spot is held.

Membership will be limited to 40 people.  When our maximum is met, we will have a wait list.  Annual dues are yet to be determined.  Your input at the first meeting will help decide many details about this club, including (but not limited to):

  • Member costs
  • Dates and times
  • Format
  • Products
  • What you want to put in/get out of this club

While there will be a nominal fee associated, the benefits will far outweigh anything you put in.  Exposure to many new products, access to industry persons and their knowledge, discounts and exclusive opportunities at products…and most importantly…a social circle of like-minded individuals out to have fun.

To all involved thus far, thanks for your help.  To those I have yet to recruit into supporting roles…uh, sorry…and again…thanks for your help.

To any reps and industry persons…if you are interested in being involved in hosting tastings, providing samples for review or simply sitting in…please do not hesitate to contact me.  Once a month you will have a captive audience of 40 whisky drinkers just itching to sample and purchase your product from Willow Park.

Please hang tight for more information.

Until we meet in September…Slainte!

Aug 132010
 

Highland Park comes from a land full of mystery and rich in history and heritage.

 Established in 1798 on Orkney, Highland Park is the most Northerly Scotch whisky distillery in the world.  With its windswept moors, craggy outcrops and ancient religious sites, Orkney is a land rich in anecdote.  This, combined with the wind, rain, lightning, freezing ice, crushing waves and hail provide the perfect setting for home of one of the world’s best malt whiskies.

(from the HP leaflet available on tasting night)

Wow.  What a night.  Though Willow Park always puts together quite a do for these tasting events, this was a night of exceptional aesthetics, entertainment and of course, whisky.  We’ll get to that momentarily. 

Upon arriving early Pat and I wandered through the groaning shelves of whisky and rum.  (Should note…everyone’s flavor favorite in rum is back in stock – EH5 at $29)  After needling David a bit, he was able to get in the last laugh.  I made the mistake of asking him what was new in store.  As we wondered around, him pointing out exciting new product, my eyes hit a rich green tube on the top shelf.  I’m sure Pat will attest, I nearly leapt for it.  Laphroaig 18 year old (48%).  Dear gawd.   Without hesitation, David reached up and scooped the other two bottles for himself.  And just like that…gone!  As I debated spending the $102 for this gem, a few eyes followed me and a gentlemen came up to ask where I’d found it.  I knew if I set it down I’d never see it again.  I put it on hold at the service desk until after the tasting.  More momentarily…

At this point we headed down to the ‘ballroom’ below.  J. Wheelock, of Highland Park, our host for the evening, outdid himself.  The room was nicely done up in blacks, slates and greys.  Large visuals and a solid powerpoint iced the cake.  J. was an engaging speaker with a soft voice and a quick wit, prone to self-deprecation and humility.  Humor was splashed over much of his presentation.  The presentation itself focused largely on history and tradition.  Indeed Highland Park are a very traditional distillery. 

For those that have tried Highland Park, you should have an idea as to just how bold and beautiful a dram it is.  Believe me when I say that nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to taste.  Highland Park 12 has, of late, become my go-to bottle.  Beautifully balanced with just the right complexity.  It seems to please almost all of my moods and cravings.  After making our way through the six whiskies we tried this evening, I was blown away with how meager the 12 seemed in comparison to some of its big brothers.

What we tried:

Highland Park 12 y.o. – Balanced, bold and full of character.  Honey, fruit and smoke.  A little sherry and a bit of tobacco.

Highland Park 15 y.o. – More flowery than the 12.  Peat, hay, sherry, and orange.  Seems quite fresh for a 15 year old whisky. 

Highland Park 18 y.o. – Fantastic.  Peat and smoke (though not too much), creamy and sherried.  Fairly mellow.  Both Pat and I got a hint of Dill Pickle chips on this one.  Odd, but delicious.

Highland Park 25 y.o. – Stunning.  Truly Stunning.  Caramel and chocolate, smoke and fruit, toffee and salt.  Lots of sherry…and a hint of rich unlit cigar.  A favorite, for sure.  48.1%

Highland Park 30 y.o. – Again…amazing.  Peat and smoke, caramel and rich chocolate.  A bit of spice and wood.  Arguably the best nose of the night.

and as a special treat (from Jay’s personal stash)…

Highland Park Earl Magnus – Wow.  Bloody brilliant.  Buttery…rich in caramel/toffee/butterscotch.  Warm and smoky .  Some fruit and nut and hay.  A hint of sesame on the nose.  52.6%…but what a beautifully balanced whisky.  J. said it well…this one “has some personality”.  Only 5,976 bottles of this.  I don’t imagine it will go cheap, but worth every penny.  A true collector’s item.

As another class act on the part of Highland Park, we were told to take home our water glass from the evening.  This was in fact a nicely etched HP glass, perfectly shaped for whisky.  As a few guests opted not to take their gift home, Pat and I each ended up with a set.  As yet another bonus, in a room full of people, there just happened to be a couple empty seats next to us.  We were able to lift a couple extra drams of our favorites from the evening. 

I can say, in all honesty, this was the best tasting I’ve been to. 

Now…back to that Laphroaig…

When I returned to the counter to pick up this bottle (with wife’s permission…happy Father’s Day to me) I actually had to show ID before they would release it to me.  I was told it is the hottest thing they’ve had in store and has sold out everywhere.  As you know, tickets to the tasting are good for $5 off every $20 spent.  I managed to end up with four tickets, thus knocking $20 off this prize. 

This little gem is now at home, awaiting a day when (if?) I break down and open it.  This one will be beautiful.

A great end to a great evening.