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.


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.


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. 


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. 


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. 


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 if you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about. 

Until next…slainte!


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:11 am
Sep 182014

SMWS 1.172 “Sophisticated, Delicate And Feminine”117

55.7% abv

Score:  89/100


This feels wrong.  So wrong.  Naked Glenfarclas from a refill hogshead.  Unlike pretty much all of the distillery’s output, there is no sherry influence here (unless they built this hoggy from cut down staves of a disassembled butt, but I doubt that.  Or…maybe this hoggy held sherry at one time?  Also doubt it).  Either way, seeing Glenfarclas this exposed feels sorta like walking in on someone in the shower.  Perhaps I should also add that for an anorak such as I, it gives the same perverse sort of thrill.

Whisky geeks will most likely be all over a malt like this.  It ticks all the right boxes for the purist.  Big natural cask strength, no added coloring, no chill-filtration, bottled at a suitably mature age and well labeled for clarity.  But most importantly, it’s a unique malt in that it offers up something different for all of us to natter about in our infinite geekery by breaking the distillery’s stereotype and showing us a very different iteration of a much loved theme.

To me, this is exactly the kind of release that makes whisky exciting and keeps it fresh.  It is a 19 year old bottling from an outturn that yielded just 230 bottles.  But pushing aside the inherent awesomeness of all of the meta associated with this one, let’s discuss the actual ins and outs of this particular expression.  Its 55.7% abv delivers flavour by the spadeful, and instead of those exceptional leathery, dried fruit and Christmas cake notes so typical of Glenfarclas, here we’re treated to more ripe fruits and deeper spice notes.  

I wish more folks out there, especially the really devout Glenfarclas fans, could have an opportunity to try this one, but unfortunately that’s the nature of not only the SMWS, but single cask bottlings in general.  This one just happens to be even more exclusive than most single cask releases out there, as it is only available to SMWS members (or was, as I assume it is now long gone). 

If you get an opportunity to try this one, do so.  Highly recommended.

Nose:  Earth.  Candy and floral notes.  Let’s call it Turkish Delight-ish.  Orange jelly.  Grape jelly.  Stewed peaches and apples in baking spices.  Canned pears.  Pie crust.  Very firm oak notes.  Dry cinnamon sticks.  Moist tobacco.

Palate:  Very tangy arrival of fruits and jelly candies.  Quite lush.  Clean wood, but slightly bittering around the mid to back end.  Allspice and candied ginger.  Ever eaten flower petals in a salad?  This latter note may help contribute to that bittering influence.  Some orange zest and pith.  More apple sauce. A touch of honeycomb.  Very un-Glenfarclas.

Thoughts:  Arguably the most apt name I’ve ever seen on an SMWS label.  This one definitely exemplifies all three adjectives.  Also…decent tasting notes on the bottle.  I can’t say I disagree with much of it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:01 am
Sep 122014

At the risk of wading into something I want no part of…

Man…there have been some seriously acrimonious words bandied about in public of late, and all over differing views relating to whisky and whiskey. I confess that I love a good discussion or debate as much as the next guy, but there are some lines that are being crossed right now, and I have finally reached a point where I feel I have to say something.  

This forum here on ATW has always remained open and willing to embrace views of polarity. I have NEVER censored a comment, and I like to think that’s because those of you who do choose to comment here are highbrow, respectful and intelligent individuals. I thank you for that, and for making what I do easier and infinitely more enjoyable. To be clear…nothing that has been posted here on ATW, or to me personally, has sparked this post. A little birdie told me you’d have to look elsewhere to find the proverbial straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

So…as you may have noticed, I’m a fairly passionate guy when it comes to protecting the things and people I love. I have my own views, and occasionally I get up on my soapbox too, but I also pride myself in knowing that I don’t intentionally aim to harm an individual. Unfortunately, in recent days I’ve read one too many exchanges of outright name-calling, mudslinging, personal insults, etc related to what others believe or have done in the name of their whisky point-of-view or actions (inactions even?).

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with any of the instances to which I’m referring, count yourself lucky, continue to behave and I’ll be happy that you didn’t finish reading this post. And apologies, but I simply refuse to repost, or even directly refer to any of these instances, lest I lead anyone else to read what I think is embarrassing public spectacle and shameful denigration of others. Apparently some folks out there need to do a little self-reflection and recall what their mothers likely tried to instill years back: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

What happened to reasoned criticism? Intelligent debate? Common courtesy? At the end of the day there’s nearly always a way to make your opinion heard and your voice resonate in an articulate and respectful manner that would make people want to hear what is being said. The outright vitriol and brutish attacks I’ve read recently have literally made me absolutely disregard everything else these individuals have to say. How do you take seriously the words of a petulant infant? That’s how it comes across. You may have good points to make, but I won’t be listening.

Now I don’t for a minute believe we all need to be friends, or even to actually respect one another. Respect is something to be earned. I do, however, believe that everyone is entitled to a modicum of basic human decency. I may not like your opinion, but so long as it is an INFORMED opinion, and delivered in a respectful manner, I will listen to it.

So, listen up, keyboard warriors and internet mercenaries: It’s easy to hide behind anonymity and distance while lambasting someone for a tack that doesn’t jibe with yours, but ease does not make right. Bloggers, journalists, industry people, authors, distillers, all of us sharing the word on the drinks we love…we tend to become something of an entity, to a degree, and I think that strips the human element out of it for some of the readers (listeners). I think some individuals out there are losing sight of the fact that there are HUMAN BEINGS behind these whisky-related personas. These are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, parents and friends to others out there. Whether or not you disagree with their very existence should remain incidental to not being an outright boor to another person.

This is not a biblical ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘love thy neighbour’ thing. At the end of the day, we all look stupid when any of us takes the low road.

As I hinted at above, please don’t dig for the individual instances I’m referring to. Again…don’t reward bad behaviour. Instead, I’d only ask that you absorb the message I’m trying to get across. Differ, debate, get heated, what-have you. Just do it with a little class.

In summation: Before you hit ‘post’ or ‘send’ or ‘tweet’, maybe think twice. Leave the passion in your message, but skip the personal attacks. And for god’s sake…lighten the f*ck up. It’s a drink.


– Curt

 Posted by at 2:15 pm
Sep 092014

Convalmore 28 y.o.028

57.9% abv

Score:  91.5/100


This is an exciting whisky to finally get ’round to tasting and reviewing.  I’ve been wanting to do this one for a couple of years now, ever since it made its way into whisky lore and became a part of the cult canon.

Convalmore is another of those ethereal malts that only exist in print and tall tales for many of us.  The distillery was closed in ’85, not long after the rash of distillery closures that claimed victims such as Port Ellen and Brora, and as far as I know, the distillery was subsequently dismantled.  For shame too, if this malt is any indication.  Very few Convalmore OBs exist (two, proper; three, if you include the Rare Malts edition), and indies are nearly as scarce on the ground.  I think it goes without saying that if the opportunity presents itself, it is well worth making the effort to taste it.

This dram is held in very high regard by some incredibly gifted palates in the industry (Broom, Buxton and the bunch), and early reviews of this 28 y.o. malt helped to launch its reputation  far into the celestial stratosphere.  As you can imagine, that sort of ringing endorsement by gents I respect had me slavering for an opportunity to taste it.  My curiosity here was twofold; first, to try something from this now defunct distillery and second, to form my own assessment of the validity of hype for this collectible l’il gem.

On the more topical front, the plain jane packaging on this Diageo special release has earned more than a few comments over the years, and I must concede even I’m not immune to its ‘old tymee county fair’ look and subtle charm.  Keeping it simple compliments the rather uncomplicated whisky within.  Uncomplicated, however, does not mean without depth.  This really is a very elegant Speysider with enough going on in the glass to stay interesting for many long nosing and tasting sessions.

And while it never does quite reach the heights I had presupposed (my own fault, really), it is a really fine whisky nevertheless.

Nose:  Caramel candied apple.  White pepper.  Cinnamon.  A mix of citrus juices (orange, pink grapefruit, tangelo).  A touch of wax and oil paint.  White flour.  Soft white and milk chocolates.  Hot cross buns.  Vanilla.  Moist tobacco and clean soil.

Palate:  Beautiful mature waxy notes with a touch of char.  Strong and syrupy.  Tart and tangy fruit notes.  Very spicy…very chewy.  Rich in ginger, ground nutmeg and cinnamon.  Just a touch of fennel.  More juicy fruit notes, moving into more tropical flavours like tangerine and pineapple.  Mouth-coating and delicious.  The cask is still singing loudly here, but it’s clean and lovely.

Thoughts:  Bottled at an absolutely gorgeous age and state.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:32 am