It’s been a long slog, my whisky friends. Good to be back with you. Let’s have some fun.
Apologies, all. Something crashed here. Not sure if it was WordPress, Suffusion (the theme you’re used to seeing here) or a server issue. Pretty sure it was the second. If you’ve visited in the last day or so you’ll know the site looked as archaic as Pong or Asteroids for a bit. No idea what happened, but I think we’re on the up and up now.
Thanks for standing by.
Now…back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Wow. ATW just hit one million views. That means one million visits by people here solely for whisky chat (and endless drivel, offensive blatherings and inane diatribes). Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your thoughts along the way. It’s much appreciated, and a huge part of what keeps me sane. Slainte!
No, I haven’t given up.
Bear with me a little bit longer as I struggle to get this engine turning over. A busy few weeks and a lack of poetic inspiration have kept me from the keyboard for far too much of the last month and a half. Worse still, finding time to sit down in a controlled environment and properly taste some whiskies has been next to impossible. Things should be coming together in the next day or two.
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 47)
Bruichladdich Legacy 35 y.o. (Series Three)
Dalmore 18 y.o.
Four different Laphroaig Cairdeas releases
A few 25 y.o.’s
A couple SMWS releases
Do let me know if there’s something you want to see. I’ll do my best.
So… now that we’ve arguably offended nearly everyone in the wider whisky world with our NAS discussion (and will offend the rest with a few planned upcoming features), let’s get back to sharing the word on a few choice whiskies. What say?
Coming days we’ll tackle the following (in theory):
- Connemara 12 y.o.
- Ardbeg Kildalton (2014)
- Johnnie Walker King George IV
- Benromach Peat Smoke
- Bowmore White 1964
- Bowmore Gold 1964
- Bowmore Springtide
- Oban 14
- Bushmills Black Bush
- Talisker Storm
- Talisker 57 North
- Talisker 25 (2005)
- …and several randoms, indies and whatever strikes my fancy.
We’ll also share the word on the last couple Dram Initiative club events (Alberta Distillers with Norm Little; Bowmore with Iain McCallum and our year end wrap-up event at Moxie’s Downtown) and last week’s killer Ardbeg TracTOUR dinner event with Charton Hobbs/LVMH.
Oh, yeah…and some early bits of planning for Islay Trip 2015 (14 months away!). Wife just gave me the final green light to lead a ragtag crew of fine folks across the pond again. Bring on the peat reek!
Few other bits and pieces planned, but we’ll get there when we get there.
In the meantime…sincere thanks to all for all of your feedback, contributions to discussions, insight, shared thoughts on whiskies and ongoing encouragement. It’s appreciated more than you know.
I talk too much. And write too much. I’m not as verbose as some I know (Hey, I’m looking at you, ‘Caner!), but I certainly have the gift of gab. This comes in handy at times, but does drag along its own baggage as well. Case in point when I sit down to share a few tasting notes here on the site and feel obligated to spin a l’il web of words in order to flesh it out a bit and pad the background info. Perhaps we can all agree that the Malt Madness site and the Malt Whisky Yearbook have covered this stuff way better than I ever will. I’d suggest both as indispensible resources.
So why am I telling you all of this? Simple. Because it affects all of us here on ATW.
Here’s the thing…daylight’s a wasting. So many whiskies, so little time. What it boils down to is that I can go on trying to find the syllables to cough up 500 word posts, and struggling to avoid repetition and verbal diarrhea, or…I can cut down a few of the less…errrrr…exciting reviews to a size we’ll call ‘micro-reviews’. This should allow me to publish a little more frequently, if all goes well.
Some write-ups will still be in the style of my regular, witty, irreverent and occasionally cheeky self. (Did I forget modest and humble?) Y’know…long, meandering and likely to have you skipping to the tasting notes at the end (if that even). It will depend on the muse, to be honest.
This is something I’ve debated for a while now. Let’s try it out and see how it goes. Feel free to let me know your thoughts as the first few go up.
As always, folks…thanks for reading and dropping the occasional line. It is appreciated. Sincerely.
Well…another Year Come And Gone. Let’s hope all of us have both taken something away from it and made our mark upon it.
It was an interesting whisky year for yours truly. While I neither traveled abroad in search of that elusive ‘grail’ dram, nor got to taste any really special new Port Ellens (both hallmarks of a great year), I did manage to mine a hefty lode of whisky moments (and bottles) that will linger for years and years.
2013 saw the milestone launch of The Dram Initiative, a new whisky club here in Calgary doing things just a little bit differently (and, I like to think, quite spectacularly). This little enterprise is being helmed by me, Maltmonster and a couple other great whisky mates. I’m rather proud of the efforts put forth and the results achieved already. Some great personal memories were made with whisky world ‘celebs’ Dave Broom, Davin de Kergommeaux, Wille Tait, Anthony Wills, James Robertson, Jim McEwan and others. But to be honest…most of the truly special memories were private little affairs with close friends and good bottles.
Memorable events attended include all of the afore-mentioned Dram Initiative club nights, the Willow Park Whisky Fest, Andrew Ferguson’s epic Ardbeg Double Barrel tasting, Bruichladdich with Jim McEwan at Willow Park (always a treat to see him) and a couple of great private tastings at my place and friends’ homes. To all involved…thank you.
Now…let’s talk about some of the year’s most memorable drams. Just so we’re on the same page, I’m not calling these ‘best of the year’, nor am I offering up any sort of ‘award’. These whiskies are simply the malts that resonated with me; ones I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.
Amrut Greedy Angels – Man, what a shitstorm this one caused here on ATW when I posted my notes and thoughts on it. The argument centering around not whether or not the whisky was great (which it was), but whether or not Amrut had done the ethical thing in releasing this (they did). All drama aside, this was one of the bright spots in an already bright year for my personal tasting opportunities. Knockout whisky. Huge kudos to our friends in India. Special shout out to Ashok Chokalingam, Amrut’s global ambassador for coming out in the face of some less than pleasant words being bandied, and responding like the gentleman he is.
Ardbeg Double Barrel – These two 1974 Arbegs (casks 1745 and 3151) were tasted at the Southern Alberta Pioneer Hall with a great group of folks, and all due to the guiding forces of Andrew Ferguson at KWM and the fine folks of Charton Hobbs. The whole evening was simply magic. One of those memories that will burn brighter and brighter as the years roll by. As for the whiskies themselves…best Ardbeg I’ve ever tasted. And that is saying something, considering the esteem I hold this distillery in. Achingly perfect whiskies.
Compass Box The Last Vatted Malt – Tasted right near the back end of the year. This was a surprise that came right out of left field. My good mate, J Wheelock, was kind enough to share a couple ounces of this celestial spirit. I literally sat back stunned when I first nosed and tasted it. An absolutely brilliant concoction by Mr. John Glaser. Good friends doeth good deeds for good friends, and Mr. Wheelock just earned himself oodles of brownie points on the karmic wheel for his generosity of ‘spirit’ here. Thanks, brother.
BenRiach 1983 – Tried a couple of great BenRiach 1983s this year; one exclusive to Kensington Wine Market and another that was part of the distillery’s annual run of releases. Almost a toss-up as to which one was a better dram, but let’s just say I’d be happy with a glassful of either. The little beauty shown below is not the KWM exclusive. I believe there may still be some of this one left on the shelf, if you care to go pay a visit to Andrew in downtown Calgary.
BenRomach Kensington Wine Market Single Casks #126 and #246 – Speaking of Andrew…here’s another pair of gems from his shop of wonders. This may seem like an odd selection, being as they were only 8 and 9 year old whiskies respectively, but Man…they came out of left field for me and knocked me out with how great they both were. I’ve since sent several people I know down to KWM to nab bottles of their own. Very impressive drams from a distillery I’ve not really tried anything too memorable from in the past. To all who were involved in cask selection…well done.
Brora 30 y.o. Old & Rare Platinum – Dear god, but this is a brilliant dram. Bottled farmyard. If it weren’t for the Ardbeg mentioned above, this may very well have been my personal favorite whisky of the year. Price makes this rather prohibitive, but a single taste is enough to make anyone rethink their spending ceiling. With Brora getting scarcer and scarcer on the ground, this was a great encounter.
Tullibardine 1965 – Not one of my top whiskies, by any means, but the mix of setting and surprise factor were enough to elevate this one up a couple notches. Deep and redolent of gorgeous fruits…some tropicals…and an advanced state of maturity all aligned to make this a real winner. This was followed by a ’62 Tulli which simply couldn’t compete wit the depth of this old beaut.
Jura 1976 – I have a bit of a soft spot for Jura. This is a distillery that I used to actually turtle away from. Having said that, I’ve watched the malt get better and better over the past few years. Now it’s sort of that underdog I can’t help but root for. If they continue on their current trajectory the sky is the limit for Jura (and yes, cynics, this will take a while yet, but they will get there). Either way…this 1976 was a truly special whisky. Having the opportunity to pop it (and many, many other Juras) in the company of ‘Wee’ Willie Tait…priceless.
A.D. Rattray Tamdhu 42 y.o. – A bottle bought by a mate of mine, Lance (he of The Lone Caner fame), for an evening of discussion over ‘Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’, this one knocked the socks off a few of us. Wow, what a whisky! I think the surprise factor helped it notch an extra point or two, but it truly is remarkable. Especially at the price point it was retailing for. Sadly…gone before I could scoop one, though I dearly wish I had managed to put one aside, if for no other reason than the sentimentality associated with a good night with good friends. Sigh.
Lagavulin 21 – While now akin to buying gold bricks, this special release was just that. Remarkable really. The previous edition earned almost universal raves, which is contrary to what a couple local mates think of it (apparently a bit of sulphur aboard?). Either way, this was a damn fine dram from Islay’s most refined of distilleries. Man, what sweet harmony of sweet and smoke. Divine. Oh yeah…and disgustingly overpriced. Oh well.
So many more great ones I could list, but we’ll leave it at that and let the reviews here on ATW speak to the others. Hopefully 2014 brings much more of the same.
To all my mates who shared drams with me (both mine and theirs)…Slainte. It’s not the same game without you. Thanks for being who you are. To those I’ve yet to clink glasses with…believe me when I say I look forward to the first opportunity to do so. To those of you who just pop in for a bit of light reading…many thanks. Your comments are a great reward for any time invested. They more than make it worthwhile.
All the best to all for a beautiful, and dram-filled, 2014!
– Words and pics: Curt
Just a quick note of apology for all of the recent downtime on ATW. If you’re reading this, obviously the site is up and running, but unfortunately it’s been a very hit and miss couple of weeks, as many of you are aware.
I’m not gonna get into the details (suffice it to say it is/was out of my hands), but let’s just cross our fingers the worst of it is behind us. I have loads of reviews waiting for publication, but I’ll spread them over the coming days.
Thanks for your patience and for all of the kind words in support. It IS appreciated.
Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan celebrates 50 years in the industry of making whisky today. Unbelievable. From very youthful and humble beginnings to being the figurehead of one of the world’s most exciting distilleries…quite a journey, Jim.
From the whisky loving faithful to you…Many thanks and a heartfelt congratulations.
Here’s hoping you keep doing what you love for some time to come.
All the best from ATW.
– Words: Curt
– Image: www.scotch-tasting-bums.com
Greetings, ATW readers.
Forgive my long time absence from mere discussion and opinion pieces. I have no excuses, simply explanations. I have a day job…beautiful kids…a stunning (and ever patient) wife…a liver to worry about…and…my focus has been elsewhere of late. Namely…in blitzing the site with whisky reviews.
You may have seen a very honest and articulate question bandied my way by a ‘whisky mate’ here on the site. The exact post, for those that care to read it, was here. I wanted to take the answers I was preparing there and put them front and center because I feel they are relevant, insightful and allow me an opportunity to share a bit of history and a few bits of advice.
I’m an average guy. Just turned 35. Office job which is quite contrary to the rest of my personality. Music…tattoos…books…zombie flicks…guitars…an obsession with the mountains…that’s more the real me. I’m a rather intense sort who swings from obsession to obsession, all embraced headlong and with a singular enthusiasm. Sometimes they fade after a year or two. Othertimes not. Whisky is a case of the latter. It is an interest that has monopolized much of my spare time for a few years now in one way or another.
Contrary to what you might think…I don’t drink much. A dram or two once or twice a week. Maybe a couple on the weekend depending on plans and family time. And then the occasional tasting flight I arrange. One of the questions from ‘Skeptic’ specifically spoke to volume of consumption, mentioning a figure of medical recommendation to not exceed 100 ml a day. F*ck. That’s a lot of d(r)amage to the liver. I am nowhere near that and not a daily drinker, by any means. My nights of ‘blurring the lines’ are maybe once or twice a year. Otherwise…I’m sort of a well-behaved lad. Let’s face it…hangovers are not fun. Especially with kids.
I also don’t need a full dram to do my tasting/nosing notes and review. After enough practice, you don’t need a lot. Honestly. Sit in on a tasting flight with me (and yes…that is a sincere offer if you are in town) and you will see what I mean. The way it ‘usually’ works (a guide, not a rule) is I will pair up a few whiskies that logically associate, and bounce back and forth between them. Reviewing one whisky at a time is not ideal. If the opportunity presents, I will generally revisit the whiskies again at some point before publishing anything. These revisits nearly always align with what my first impressions were. It’s all about ensuring that each time you sit to nose whiskies, the conditions are favorable (i.e. you haven’t just eaten anything funky…your home hasn’t been spritzed with cleaning products or the smells of cooking…you don’t have a cold…etc). If any of the aforementioned may be a factor…I abort and wait to be in the right ‘place’. Otherwise, no matter how much you nose/taste, you’re still not gonna get what you need out of it.
I mention this, as it ties back to a recent bombardment of reviews here on the website. Just so we’re all on the same page…at any given time I have between 50 and 100 reviews in ‘draft’ format. They may have a complete write-up, but no tasting notes…or contrarily…complete tasting notes, but the muse has not yet whispered in my ear what exactly to say about the whisky.
This flurry of activity is not related to a period of heavy drinking. Nor is it indicative of a change in anything to do with my personal constraints. It is merely a refocusing of energies for a period here in an attempt to build up a solid database of reviews here on ATW. Why? Simply because this is a vanity project. I want you to come here and read. I want to share thoughts and opinions, and I want to interact. I met one of my best mates through running of the website (a previous site , that is).
How do I try as many whiskies as I do?
There are a few things I need to speak to in order to share a full understanding on this subject.
1) I do not get whiskies thrown my way from the industry, like some I know who specifically solicit this. I’m not averse to it, per se, but I also don’t believe in the concept of pushing for free sh*t. I find it uncouth and classless. I wasn’t built that way, and I don’t need to do it. If something comes my way…so be it. I know I will be honest and forthright with you, and it would allow me to try more, for own benefit, as well as share notes which will hopefully aid others in buying. HOWEVER…you can see by the spartan facade of the site, there are no ads…no sponsors, etc. I am taking in no revenue to do ‘the whisky thing’. All whiskies reviewed on ATW are: purchased by me…purchased by friends who share…samples provided from local retailers who simply want you to know they’re selling it…tasted in formal tastings…swapped samples with others.
I live in Canada. Our customs laws are so unbelievably rigid and archaic that we can not even ship alcohol from province to province, let alone between countries. (Yes, Canadian government…I’m taking aim at you *ssholes. Get with the f*cking times!) While I see samples (free or otherwise) being shipped all over to key reviewers and such…sadly…I am not a part of that.
2) I started the website when I felt I knew enough (though still adorably naive 😉 ) to be comfortable publicly speaking about the subject. In hindsight, it was a little too early. I have learned ridiculous amounts over the past few years. I have been humble enough to admit where I was off course, and have righted the ship from time to time. An easy example? Like all newbies…I scored far too high initially. I have had to do a couple of massive ‘true-ups over the years’.
Anyway…where I am going with this is…I made some connections through the site. Those individuals have shared generously of their time, knowledge and yes…whisky. I have friends in much better positions of life than I am, and who have a genuine interest in just wanting to hang out with fellow whisky nerds. One of the gents I am closest to now is someone I only came in contact through because of my site.
3) I run whisky clubs. One is a private little invitation-only affair for a few of my literate mates. We gather and discuss a book and some great whiskies each month. The other is a new undertaking. An impressive affair coming together known as The Dram Initiative. This is a big formal public club. I am the guy that brings these things to life. From there…a select handful of my best mates and all ’round good guys work tirelessly with me to keep it moving forward.
4) I take the initiative to be involved in events. Commercial tastings, festivals, launches, etc. I travel to Scotland every couple of years to tour distilleries and whisky bars. I also host my own events, when there is nothing out there suiting my vision.
At the end of the day…the most important bit of advice I can offer? Share your whisky. Use the ‘pay it forward’ model. Remember those who shared with you, and try to do the same for others where you can. I like to share good whisky with good people and it seems to come back around. Good people have in turn poured lovely drams for me. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?
Finally…for those that say they’ll never try a Port Ellen or a Rosebank or something…all I have to say is…y’never know. 😉
Cost? Well…let’s be honest. This is an expensive hobby. I make a pretty decent salary, but not quite decent enough to afford all of the whiskies I taste and review.
You have to cherry pick your purchases. Why try every batch of a’bunadh, as mentioned in the question, when there are tons of other great whiskies to experiment with? Yes, a’bunadh is great and I do try to keep one around, but I will generally try one out of every 5-10 batches or so. There are a lot of great whiskies out there.
And yes…you will miss out on limited batches. I do all the time. Sleep easy knowing that there will always be another ‘limited release’ coming down the pipelines. Hopefully you and your mates can sort of coordinate efforts on this front. You buy the new ‘Glenwhatzis’…he buys the new ‘Glenwhynot’…she buys the new ‘Glenpricey’. Then…get together, crack ’em open and share. That way you don’t need to personally buy them all, but still get the opportunity to try ’em. Trade bottles when you get halfway or three quarters through. Buy some sample bottles and start swapping samples. Plan your club events (if you have a little group who gathers) around drams you want to try.
Open ’em up. F*ck the idea of collecting. Storing some for future years? Sure. Collecting, and not sipping? Bah! Open ’em…share with friends…collect the memories. That’s the important stuff.
I admit…I have a couple hundred bottles in my basement. This ‘hoarding’, if you will, is self-perpetuating. After you build up some stocks, you’ll find you can buy less, but buy better. The key is always to buy a little more than you drink. Keep yourself in the black, in other words.
Finally…some thoughts on ‘integrity’…
All scored reviews are my own. There are other bits on the site which have been credited to Maltmonster or Whisky Pilgrim or what-have-you. But for the most part…this is my own rambling, for better or worse. I say that so you understand there is integrity, honesty and consistency to the reviews. You may not agree with me, but hopefully, if you stick around long enough, you’ll see where I’m coming from.
I also try to use almost exclusively all my own photography. I think this adds an element of sincerity and validation that these whiskies really are being tasted…and really are being properly assessed. I’m not the best photographer, but I get enough in the frame to show that these pics are not stock images.
I try to stay humble (some days harder than others), as it lets others see you’re not in it for gain.
I’ve finally started using twitter. Come find me at @Allthingswhisky. Each time something new goes up here, I’ll let you know there.
Sincerest thanks to ‘Skeptic’ for his questions. They’ve allowed me to orate without it necessarily being from a soapbox.
Until next, friends…please keep comments coming. Your feedback is important. I thank you.