scotchodysseyblog.com

scotchodysseyblog

GlenDronach – New Releases

GlenDronach 1971 VintageIf the maxims of my single malt creed are not crystallised by now, I’ve no doubt the style in which I report the fourth batch release of single cask vintages hailing from the GlenDronach distillery, Aberdeenshire, will clarify a few items of my faith.

Independently-owned by the BenRiach Distillery Co., GlenDronach has for a long time been a cult make enthralling devotees with its bruising muscularity and rich fruitiness, enhanced by diligent sourcing and filling of prime sherry casks. Since new management introduced their singular philosophy to the range, beginning in 2008, this sub 1.5 million litre-per-year distillery has enjoyed resurgent fortunes. A veritable spate of special wood-finished malts in the 14/15-year-old region, though modest when compared with the quantity escaping from partner distillery BenRiach, conveyed diversity while the re-mixed 15yo in the core range garnered 90 points in the latest Malt Whisky Companion. Add to this innovative marketing ploys such as the Cask In A Van tours of Belgium and the revamped visitor centre with hand-bottling facilities and it is plain that those responsible for GlenDronach care passionately about reconnecting with pre-existing enthusiasts in addition to winning new fans for the brand. Their strategy for achieving this is simple but powerfully effective: invest time and expertise hunting out those stocks which demonstrate GlenDronach at its GlenDronach-y best.

Enter, therefore, six single casks which span the age spectrum from a formidable 40-years-old to an energetic, ebullient 17-year-old. All six were exclusively matured in either Oloroso sherry butts or Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheons. One of the latter housed GlenDronach spirit since 1971, endowing it with spicy notes, dark berries and coffee aromas with Mediterranean fruits on the palate.

There is something intoxicating about excellent single cask bottlings from Sherry butts. I would put this down to the increasing scarcity of the wood itself and how few spirits can withstand such highly-tannic attentions for a meaningful length of time. I must confess to being sorely tempted by the 1992 vintage with a nose which promises ‘complex toasted oak aromas with an almost earthy presence’, together with ‘treacle nuts and wild honey’. The palate is said to provide ‘a solid platform of sherry spiced fruit and toasted nuts with a surreal balance of vanilla and honey’. At 59.2% abv., there is enough depth to explore, too.

The other issue concerning sherry-matured whiskies is their asking prices. While not excessive in anyway, that 1992 is £80 and therefore on the farthest reaches of what I personally am prepared to pay for a whisky right now. The 40-year-old is £430, however, which is altogether very reasonable indeed (if you aren’t me). The other vintages are the 1972 (£385), the 1989 (£89), the 1990 (£83), and the 1994 (£70). Single casks are by their very natures finite entities, and the 1971 puncheon yielded a respectable 582 bottles. The 1971 butt coughed up just 464. Available internationally, each market can offer only a percentage of those totals and Loch Fyne Whiskies, in the UK, are expecting their contingent soon.

I have still to visit the GlenDronach distillery, but their commitment to releasing characterful, individual drams means I am very much looking forward to what I might find when I finally get there.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Exclusive Distillery

What do Edinburgh and St Andrews have in common? The answer is, I know where all their whisky shops are, and I have been harrassing staff in every single one of them in the last fortnight. A Fringe Festival visit with mates and a partial move-in were all the opportunities I needed to browse, faun and covet the latest whiskies available but, as my money is promised to others, I regrettably can only confess lustful glances at the Kilchoman 100% Islay (£80) and a Signatory cask-strength Dalmore 1990 (£60).

Dalmore Distillery-exclusiveIt is on the subject of The Dalmore, in fact, that I intend to expand. I don’t often receive phonecalls from people in distilleries but I certainly look forward to them because almost invariably it is good news. I lifted the phone on Thursday and found The Dalmore distillery on the line, the same distillery that has recently undergone a significant overhaul of their entire visitor-dedicated operations with the renovation project for the visitor centre beginning in March this year, and now with the official announcement of a distillery-exclusive bottling.

In truth, The Dalmore is somewhat late on the distillery-only scene. While it has been flogging achingly stylish and ancient bottles of whisky from auction houses, companies such as Diageo and Edrington Group have been rewarding dedicated individuals who have taken the time to venture to their distilleries with a unique bottling that encapuslates their visit. Such whiskies – whether already packaged or as part of a hand-bottling initiative – are not gimmicks. For those who are passionate about provenance and the total spectrum of a distillery’s nature, a pilgrimage to the distillery itself is essential to gain a more complete understanding of the place. It is not enough simply to drink the whisky: they believe that only by approaching the site, sensing its flavours, learning its history, observing and even participating in the production process as generations have done before them, the true extent of the whisky’s personality will be revealed and will enhance the tangible product. The distillery-exclusive, then, is not the sole reason for making the journey; rather, it is adopted as an embodiment of particular values and sympathies, purchased to express one’s conviction that whisky is so much more than what is in the bottle.

This is why visitor centres – and well-appointed, imaginative and sensitive visitor centres in particular – are so important. They induct the visitor into the workings and heritage of the distillery, and provide a rubric from which to commune with it. Visitor centres demonstrate with particular power that this whisky could not be made anywhere else. Single malt Scotch whisky is a located entity: place and people matter.

The Dalmore distillery, on the shores of the Cromarthy Firth.

The Dalmore distillery, on the shores of the Cromarthy Firth.

I applaud Whyte & Mackay, therefore, for twigging on this point. Yes, the sales figures across international markets are impressive – record-breaking, even – but none of it would have been possible without the buildings and passion spread over a few acres on the Cromarthy Firth. As my informant told me: ‘we had an Italian gentleman visit us the other week, and there he was sitting in the manager’s office enjoying a dram of the 1263 King Alexander III and I said to him: “there really is nowhere better to drink The Dalmore”.’ I was assured that there were aspects of the new visitor facilities found ‘nowhere else in Scotland’. The extent to which this is fundamentally true is neither here nor there; the critical sentiment is that the company have put sufficient investment into this far-flung, beautiful part of Scotland. The local community are encouraged to make a fuss about their distillery again and impress upon visitors how much the surrounding culture impacts upon the spirit which you will find throughout the world.

With this new single cask release, every fan of The Dalmore is implored to bring their passion home to Alness, Ross-shire, where it was made possible in the first place. To visit a distillery with the attitude of a devotee is to reveal an affinity for the locality and community, to manifest and recognise a relationship with the distillery which was inspired by the social and environmental traces the origins of a whisky invariably superimpose upon it. It is a reconnection. ‘Come to The Dalmore distillery,’ this latest launch declares, ‘and discover there this unique, limited whisky which epitomises all the qualities you hold to be unique about The Dalmore in general.’

It is time to re-establish the link between bottlings like these, a decoration for the few, and the distillery on which a whole community and legacy was built.

It is time to re-establish the link between bottlings like these, a decoration for the few, and the distillery on which a whole community and legacy was built.

It is my belief that Whyte & Mackay recognise that, in these euphoric times for whisky, authenticity is crucial. If you premiumise your product then your front-of-house facilities and experiences on offer must mirror this. I am hopeful that now The Dalmore, like its arch rival The Macallan, will endeavour to make tangible for the visitor the marketing and image-making associated with the brand. With the interest that the ultra-premium releases have generated, people arrive at The Dalmore expecting to be physically enfolded in this notion of the superlative: the best, most-exclusive whiskies demand a corresponding attention to detail in the demonstration of the plant that created them. The Dalmore has a lot to live up to as it strives to put the style back in to the substance.

There remain just under 250 bottles of this 20-year-old single cask ex-Sherry Butt, from an initial limited release of 450. The strength is 46% abv. and the price is £150. Reservations can be made with the distillery, but purchasers must collect their bottle from the distillery itself.

Posted in News, Whisky Tourism | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Burgeoning Benromach

A recent press release moved me to meditate on what G&M could stand for in addition to ‘Gordon & MacPhail’. With respect to their malt whisky distillery, Benromach, it could also signify ‘Growing & Multiplying’.

Mmm... Honey-nut cornflakes...

Mmm... Honey-nut cornflakes...

Data tells you only so much about Benromach. With an annual capacity of only 500,000 litres, it is the smallest on Speyside and if you are figuratively-minded, like me, then it is natural enough to suggest that its diminutive size is reflected in its marginal situation: the mega-giants of the region have banished the little runt to the extreme outer fringes of Speyside. However, since G&M’s take-over in 1993 the distillery has constructed a positive asset out of – and indeed exaggerated - its non-conformity. It is, geographically, a Speyside malt whisky but tastes like no make to be found in the glens feeding the river with spirit today.

We speak of expressions when dealing with whisky, and Benromach boasts so many it would have the Old Wives muttering darkly in reference to the perils of changing winds. With Organic whiskies, heavily-peated malts, drams distilled from Golden Promise barley and plentiful wood finishes, however, Benromach’s repertoire of guises has in fact contributed massively to ensuring that its personal wind is set fair.

Benromach Hermitage Wood FinishThere are now three more examples of this littlest of all little gems to savour the first of which, the Wood Finish Hermitage, continues in the same vein as the Pedro Ximenez and Sassicaia finishes of previous years. The finish, 22 months in French oak casks from the Rhone valley, brings out citrussy and berry flavours. (£31.25)

Just seven first-fill Bourbon barrels from 2001 have been vatted together to create the 2001 Cask Strength, a 9yo whisky with plenty of spice and Benromach’s signature light peatiness. (£40.50)

From the pre-G&M days comes the 30yo, matured for three decades in first and refill Sherry butts. I hear this boasts lots of ‘warming festive hints of sherry and spices’. (£149.99)

‘The Benromach portfolio now offers an expansive range – something for a variety of palettes,’ said Michael Urquhart, Joint Managing Director. ‘These latest expressions really demonstrate the skill of our master distillers in maturing and distilling the single malt. While different in taste, they all have that recognisable Benromach quality which comes from our unique whisky making process, which involves using the finest Scottish malted barley and pure spring water from the Romach Hills.’

I said it last year, after my fabulous tour of the distillery, that this was one to watch. I find that, at this precise moment in my whisky exploration, I crave those boutique, original and distinctive drams and Benromach’s titchy size brackets it with the likes of Kilchoman while its select offerings align it with Balblair and the independently-bottled single casks from all around Scotland. I am very keen to try the 2001, ticking all of my personal whisky boxes as it does: first-fill Bourbon, cask strength, non-chillfiltered and a punchy, old-style spirit.

As the photo shows, with Benromach you feel as if you could tuck the distillery into your pocket. With relatively scarce supplies of each of their whiskies, buying one has the same feeling: it is as if you are savouring a more significant chunk of a distilling enterprise - something you cannot say of those mega-giants.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Odyssey Projects

Hope, anticipation, expertise, confidence. How quickly these disintegrated into mystification, disappointment and despondency. In January, I had a career to kick-start and three months’ playing Pied Piper in a Scotch whisky distillery could do just that. Sadly – and mystifyingly – my numerous applications to the biggest companies generated only one response, which was to say that they had no vacancies at this time. The rest may as well have vanished into an administrative abyss. Couldn’t someone recognise the initiative and consequent potential of a young man who had planned and pedalled his way around the Scotch whisky industry? For many months I was sceptical, until Inver House Distillers made a second unexpected and charming approach.

The Balblair distillery, Ross-shire. It will look better in July.

The Balblair distillery, Ross-shire. It will look better in July.

The abiding impression of the whisky world for me is that it exists thanks to countless resilient, interconnecting and genuine personal relationships. When Inver House invited me along with other bloggers to tour their leading single malt brands, I recognised this commendable way of conducting business through time spent with Cathy James in addition to Malcolm, John and Gordon, the distillery managers. Inver House and their exemplary personnel recognised the profound, obsessive enthusiasm of we amateur journalists and I like to think that this is why, following an unsuccessful response to a vacancy at Balblair in March, they offered me a week’s work experience instead.

Having John MacDonald phone up and regale me with tales of his appearance on the latest series of MasterChef, of Hollywood having moved in to Edderton to shoot a whisky-related film, and would I like to come up and potter about the place for a few days, astonished and delighted me. I rarely jump about the house whooping and cackling, but it seems the prospect of five days in one of the cutest and most picturesque distilleries I have come across – and not to mention one which produces a very delicious dram, too – has that effect on me. I agreed straight away.

I shall be shadowing the folk on the production side of things and getting my hand in with regards to the tourism operation. Balblair offer two tours daily, led by either Julie Ross or John himself. I hope to play my part in conveying the romance of the place – and shifting a few more units – during the week. As John assured me, ‘there’s always plenty to do.’

So, my encounters with whisky continue to evolve and move forward but what of last year? How am I making use of my experiences and memories? An on-going project of mine is the writing-up of my 2010 Odyssey into a continuous, comprehensive form. Progress is steady, but the process is highly rewarding. The twelve months of maturation my memories have undergone have done them a power of good – I could not have known how profoundly each of my journey’s moments had afixed themselves to the fabric of my mind. It is very special to sit down to write and to find myself gasping instead at what, with a little effort, I recollect. I shall let you know how all of this is getting along over the next few months.

Much to keep me busy and engaged, therefore, and plenty more to make its way onto the Scotch Odyssey Blog.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rearranging the Furniture at Jura

The other week my kind of press release landed in the Scotch Odyssey inbox. Rather than the latest ‘world’s first’, small-batch, or otherwise whimperingly expensive release, Isle of Jura dropped me a line to say that the finishing touches to their brand new £100,000 visitor centre have been made, just in time for Feis Ile 2011.

The new VC from the inside. There looks to be a bit more room to mill about, debating what to buy.

The new VC from the inside. There looks to be a bit more room to mill about, debating what to buy.

Not much more than a year ago I was in the previous incarnation and couldn’t see anything wrong with it. The visitor felt cosseted beneath the low ceilings, with lots of wood and unusual expressions of Jura single malt crowded onto shelves, between books and perched over doors and windows to catch the eye and confirm that you were nowhere else but in a distillery. There was not a great deal of room to work with but I felt Whyte & Mackay, the owners, had fitted it out well. Nothing in the whisky tourism sector stands still for very long, however, and further imagination, time and money has been dispensed on the precious few square metres that shall accommodate you, should you venture across. (And I would highly recommend it).

I’m especially interested in how the brand people have endeavoured to bind the distillery all the more closely with its local community and the history of its location. Allegedly, the refit sought to incorporate ‘the island’s legends and symbols, reflecting its literary, cultural, and mythical heritage in West of Scotland folklore’ and the ideal aesthetic to do this was believed to be a ‘traditional Hebridean bothy’. 

Whether earnest of playful, the critical point is that those trying to convey the Jura ethos to the numerous brave souls who visit from all over the world have seen the value in provenance and what it means for an industry to have hung around for some 200 years lending not only economic opportunity but also identity to those living close by. The Jura distillery was created to prevent the last of the Diurachs from upping sticks and moving out and that there is a stable population on the island today who may wield such an appellation is in part attributable to its foundation which I find to be an extremely powerful circumstance. The marketing has caught up with this reality: those who work in the distillery, either on the production or tourism side, by geographical necessity live on the island, too. The resulting whisky and how it is celebrated is thereby an expression of these local people who face and overcome local challenges to constitute a significant facet of this global product.

The new tasting table and display cabinet.

The new tasting table and display cabinet.

I would argue that such an intimate and time-sensitive quality will make itself evident following any time spent around Scottish distilleries but Jura’s new visitor centre attempts to spell this out with the pictures of honoured Diurachs on the wall and a tasting table granting access to some of the rarer vintages. People and spirit are combined in what the press release hopes will be an ‘authentic’ manner, making for an ‘authentic’ and worthwhile encounter for those who have overcome many miles and perhaps a choppy Sound of Islay to get there. Not having seen the finished article with my own eyes, I cannot suggest how tastefully this time capsule has been realised. Just remember, though, that it is not a Hebridean heritage centre but rather a vehicle for brand consciousness and I see no reason why the distillery should not have a bit of fun with those landscapes, artefacts and personal histories which contribute to it.

Willie Cochrane, Distillery Manager, sums it up nicely: “Many of those who make the effort to visit Jura do so because of our fine whisky and the rich culture of our remote island. Having a visitor centre that reflects the history and culture of our island, whilst matching the quality of our single malt, will provide our guests with a truer experience of what Jura is all about. More importantly, they will hopefully be more inclined to buy some of our fine whisky and share the magic of Jura with their friends and family!” Mythology, malt, and marketing.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit of Unity

Whisky ‘News’  and the latest releases are ordinarily entities I leave to other bloggers, preferring to focus instead on the distilleries behind the products. On this occasion, however, I think you will agree that this is more than your everyday expression and Scotch Odyssey – with ambitions one day for a Japanese Odyssey – would like to join others covering this dram.

Seven ‘craft’ Scotch distillers are contributing one cask each from their warehouses for the purposes of blending the contents and selling the doubtless delicious result in support of the relief efforts which still continue in both Japan and Christchurch following the recent earthquakes. All proceeds from this unique blend, dubbed the Spirit of Unity, will go to those countries battling to recover from the dreadful infrastructural and above all human costs.

Arran, BenRiach, Bladnoch, GlenDronach, Glengyle, Kilchoman and Springbank will contribute their singular characters to the blend whose marriage will be overseen by BenRiach Distillery Co. Master Blender, Billy Walker.

The relationship between the Scotch whisky industry and that in Japan has been long-established: Masataka Taketsuru studied the art of whisky distillation in Speyside and Campbeltown during the 1920s - regions here represented by BenRiach and Springbank/Glengyle – before shaping the establishment of Yamazaki and founding Nikka. The outturn of this vatting is expected to be in the region of 2000 bottles, 1200 of which are reserved for the UK and the benefactors hope to raise around £50,000 from the sale of these almost certainly unrepeatable bottles.

Royal Mile Whiskies and Loch Fine Whiskies are already taking preliminary orders through their websites, with the batches due to be dispatched into their stores by the end of this month with an expected price of £59.

The Scotch whisky industry has endured some tumultuous times over its history in the shape of bankruptcy, over-production and global recession, but is now in a position to lend its strength to others. With this and many other contributions from all over the world we can hope that Japan and her distilling traditions will swiftly bounce back.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dalmore Gets Ancestral – Again

Making history is something The Dalmore brand does very well. This eclectic distilling complex on the Cromarthy Firth north of Inverness has released such sumptuous, sought-after and eye-wateringly expensive drams over the last five years or so that its imprint on the single malt landscape is certain to remain profound for the foreseeable future.

The latest release from The Dalmore.

The latest release from The Dalmore.

Basking in the mahogany glow of their iconic, ultra-premium, 50yo+ releases, however, has never been master blender Richard Paterson’s style. The cult status afforded by the 64yo, Selene and Trinitas amongst others grants them license to explore and mark their distinguished history. The distillery, in operation since 1839 and under the control of the Mackenzie clan for significant periods since then, has now come to the aid of their ancestral bonds: Castle Leod, seat of the Mackenzies since the early 17th century, is in need of care and attention. The Dalmore Castle Leod is part of the rescue package, with proceeds of the £100 price tag going towards the restoration of the building.

‘I’m honoured that Richard Paterson has created this extraordinary single malt in tribute to Castle Leod, which is both my home and the spiritual home of the Mackenzie clan,’ affirms John Cromartie Caberfeidh of the Mackenzies. ‘The castle is filled with rich heritage and history, but more importantly, it has stood the test of time, and I have no doubt that in years to come The Dalmore’s Castle Leod will equally be recognised as a timeless classic.’

The Dalmore spirit has been aged initially in American oak before an 18-month period finishing in Premier Cru Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from Bordeaux and the producer’s tasting notes are fairly wonderful, promising a deeply enthralling experience: ‘exhilarating romantic notes of Rose de Mai’ on the nose, with ‘flirtation’ promised on the palate together with a ’sensual fusion’ renders this a ‘passionate love affair’. If only my history lectures were quite this fervent. 

There are to be 5000 bottles of the Castle Leod released.

Richard Paterson (L) with John Cromartie Caberfeidh with The Dalmore Castle Leod.

Richard Paterson (L) with John Cromartie Caberfeidh with The Dalmore Castle Leod.

These are fairly exciting times for The Dalmore, as my ringing-round the industry reveals that they are also renovating themselves. The visitor centre and the plant itself is experiencing a thorough overhaul and polish-up at present which, if I am honest, was required to bring the visitor centre into line with some of its other competitors which, in the luxury market, means The Macallan. The former manager’s house was a quaint venue in which to begin the tour, but the fairly cramped and dark conditions did not display the magnificence of the various Dalmores enshrined within.

I’m excited to see how this highly idiosyncratic site is to be opened up: the still house in particular is a ‘jungle-gym’ of copper and piping which cannot very easily be re-shuffled. My sources tell me that, to commerorate this expansion process, there will be a distillery-exclusive single cask released which, I don’t mind telling you, I want very badly indeed.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Glengoyne Experiment

As one of the few independent whisky-makers in Scotland, producing some very lovely drams in a wide variety of styles as well as providing some mighty fine distillery tours in the process, I felt their latest release was worth a mention.

The first of four annual single cask releases - from the same cask.

The first of four annual single cask releases - from the same cask.

When I visited in May, it was self-evident that Glengoyne are not afraid to try something new. The distillery shop devotes an entire wall to single cask bottlings; some of these I listed in my write-up for the distillery and may still be available if you make the fourteen mile trip north out of Glasgow. However, it seems Stuart Hendry, Brand Heritage Manager, wishes to push the envelope still further and to that end 100 bottles of The Glengoyne Christmas Cask shall be available at the distillery on the 28th of this month (December, just in case there are some of you who are temporally challenged and have not been able to equate the wintery weather and the incessant Christmas commercials to a fixed point in the year).

This is, say Glengoyne, a world’s first. Instead of draining a whole cask at once for a single cask release, they shall draw off 70 litres at a time for the next four years to demonstrate how a whisky evolves within the cask. Personally, I love this idea. Mr Hendry knew the nature of us whisky enthusiasts when he said, ‘we at the distillery are able to taste caks as they mature, witnessing their highs and lows, their flavour peaks and troughs as they wind their way towards maturity. What if we were able to share that with our anorak-wearing whisky chums?’ I cannot take offence at the anorak label, having waltzed into The Glenlivet for my first ever distillery tour three years ago sporting a nice green one.

However, this is an experiment not just in a whisky’s flavour development, but maturation more generally. As an excellent article by Ian Wisniewski in the latest Whisky Magazine explains, the ‘headspace’ is normally sacrosanct, subject to the mores of maturation atmosphere and the occasional master blender’s valinch. The practise is not normally to remove such a proportion of spirit at any one time. The whisky world, therefore, in addition to Glengoyne aficionados, shall be monitoring the developments of First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butt Cask 790, filled in 2002, closely. Allegedly ‘rich, with hints of rosehip syrup, cocoa beans, oak and spice’ at present, ‘it still clings to the last of its spirited youth, but delivering plenty and promising much more.’

Glengoyne is not unfamiliar with the concept of single cask releases.

Glengoyne is not unfamiliar with the concept of single cask releases.

Available only at the distillery, this inaugural release is priced at £100. I only hope they do little sample bottles, too – that would be truly scientific, and mean that I might stand a chance of trying some!

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

‘Wish You Were Here’?

Jura 1

Are there any ‘coffee table book’ buyers amongst you? Ever wished that you could tumble into their pages and roam those enchanting landscapes? Isle of Jura, in partnership with VisitScotland, have launched a new photography competition to discover which places are particularly special to you. Where in the world makes you feel complete, awed,  Should your entry inspire them enough, they shall bring you over to Jura for a thorough look-around their most inspirational place. I hope my pictures communicate the wonder and splendour of Jura, and compel you all to root out some truly exceptional photographs from those SD cards of yours.

Jura 2

The Isle of Jura is launching a ‘Wish You Were Here’ online travel photography competition (www.isleofjura.com/wishyouwerehere) to find the world’s most inspiring places.

Budding photographers from across the world are being offered the chance to win an unforgettable trip to the island of Jura off Scotland’s dramatic West Coast. With a community of less than 200 people, the island is rich in history, myths, superstitions, dramatic landscapes, diverse wildlife and whisky, all of which have provided inspiration to photographers, artists and writers from across the world. Partnering with VisitScotland on the prize, winners will enjoy a once in a lifetime photographic experience on the Isle of Jura with expert advice from National Geographic’s Jim Richardson.

The partnership between one of Scotland’s premier single malts and the national tourism organisation comes during Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink where VisitScotland is using its worldwide marketing campaigns to inspire visitors to come to Scotland to experience our food and drink.

Each one of the three winners and their partners will enjoy a week’s stay in the exclusive Jura lodge, a VIP tour of the Jura distillery and island and a two day photography master-class from National Geographic’s Jim Richardson. All travel arrangements will be paid for and the winners will also receive an Olympus E-PL1 camera to capture images from their visit.’

Fancy it? I know from experience that Jura is a profoundly inspirational place indeed.

Competition closes 21 January 2011, and there shall be eight weekly prize draws until that date for the ‘Postcard of the Week’, the winner pocketing an Olympus FE-5050 camera. Upload an e-postcard onto the Isle of Jura website (you must register as a Diurach first), then badger your friends and family to vote for you. A panel of worthy judges shall select the winners from the ensuing shortlist. Check out the website for all of the terms and conditions.

Jura 3

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Battle of the Blends

Two whisky companies that are presently trying to make the public aware of the history and skills behind their products, as well as shepherd them towards their nearest good wine and spirits grocer, are William Grant & Sons and William Teacher Co. Both have new videos plugged into their websites and they are, in my opinion, worth a look.

Grant’s is pre-eminent in the blended whisky market, and they have an impressive range of products on offer within the blended sector, too: Grant’s Ale Cask, for instance.

Teacher’s hasn’t the ubiquity, and perhaps this is why their video is longer. They do emphasise their high malt content, however – 45% of your bottle of Teacher’s will be composed of some 35-38 single malts from all over Scotland as well as at least two or three single grains. The principal malt, as it has been for some time, is the very unique Ardmore.

When telling you about promotional films, I feel I ought to do it in pairs for a sense of balance. In addition, I have mentioned these two due to the strong educational element within them. I confess my knowledge of blending is shockingly limited, and perhaps this is because I allowed myself to be abducted into the “malts are better” militia when I first became interested in whisky. Thankfully, a little knowledge has come my way and I now know better. You don’t need to cycle round Scotland, however, to learn more about the variety of whisky whose global success made space for our favourite single malt distilleries, hitherto the work horses of blended brands, to express themselves. Someone quoted to me that for every customer who purchases a bottle of single malt, eleven others will buy a blended whisky. We are talking big business, and I applaud companies who are seeking to introduce further information into the blended sector: whisky scholarship having been appropriated largely by the single malts.

The Teacher’s video focuses on the company’s history, the whisky-making process and the variety of ways in which people can and do drink whisky. It isn’t heavy-handed, and Robert Hicks is a personable companion throughout. As an aside, in the UK I know that certain outlets stocked bottles of Teacher’s with an Ardmore Traditional Cask miniature included, introducing the blended whisky and one of the key malt components of it. Yes, 55% of the content of the bottle is grain whisky, and Ardmore comprises only a portion of the remaining 45% but still, I think that this is a nifty idea.

Grant’s offers a masterclass in the techniques employed to better evaluate whichever whisky you have in front of you. You may have heard it all before, but there are certain details that it is always worth bearing in mind when tasting your dram. It is the first in a series of short films from the owners of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, and these may well become the subjects of future videos.

Get some knowledge in you!

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment