Dramboree 5 – I blame Jon and The Dram Team

Hopefully the title had you thinking “huh?”

I’ve called it what I did as they were the main influence in my deciding to buy a ticket and go. Well we all like a giggle don’t we? Or should I say “we all love trying new whiskies, don’t we?”

Maybe it should be “a lost weekend in a hostel in Aviemore?”…

So I was packed with my bottle for the table and my fudge for willing mouths, and I was Edinburgh bound… eventually. Signalling delays had meant I had missed the first train but as I had planned ahead there was plenty of time to get there. I decided to have my first dram of the day while we approached Inverkeithing and as my stash was packed in my case I decided to see what they had on board. Not a lot it seemed. The Auganocean (guess) didn’t fit the bill so I decided on a wee old favourite the Highland Park 12 year old. Upon arrival in Edinburgh and ignoring a tweet about “batten down the hatches Edinburgh” I attempted to meet up with Jon and Tom. Bonus was I also met Chris and Jamie from The Dram Team and lovely Amy Seton too. So we set off for one of the Robert Graham’s shops before a brief visit to look in the cage at Cadenhead’s. Brief note, always accept the proffered magazine and don’t respond with “obviously they’re popular” at the large pile. Still my cheekiness and a smile got me off with a laugh.

Shortly after we headed for the coach station to gather the troops of whisky brethren together. I was kindly offered the job of driving the coach, however being two drams in I gladly declined the offer. So all aboard the bus and we were Aviemore bound. Woo hoo!

Back of the bus banter was refreshing and I soon found myself at ease… and the array of delicious drams most definitely helped the miles just disappear, GlenDronach 2002 Batch 8 PX Sherry Puncheon, and then another Batch 8 the 1992 cask #145 Oloroso Sherry Butt. A brief comfort break in Pitlochry and we were on the last run to Aviemore as we headed through the Drumochter Pass and past Dalwhinnie Distillery. We soon found ourselves at the hostel and cases put away and bottles on the table it was a chance to mingle…a few faces I already knew and a few who knew my face and some new faces to know too. So I think the rest of the evening went a little like this…a whisky tasting and receiving our Dramboree 5 glasses and badges to identify who we were. Then later we all introduced the bottle we brought along. These could be something you’ve wanted to try because they are nice or totally evil drams… I brought Douglas Laing Old Particular Glenrothes 12 YO. We all set about tasting things we fancied, I tried the Glen Moray Peated Port cask finish which was rather lovely and it also brought me a lot of humour on Twitter… If you saw the tweet you’ll know what I mean 🙂 Compass Box Morpheus delighted my palate as did Dickel on the second dram. I tried some lovely SMWS whiskies too, 35.52 Lush, divine and exotic and 73.84 Tug of war in a meadow, I guess these were to build up a friendship with my palate again after subjecting it to Fujikai. If you haven’t “been” there then do give it a try… If I’d ever got close to a post game rugby players sweaty cup then I imagine my initial scent sensation would be “Fujikai”. However, I nosed it, I sipped it and believe that my face said it all as I took one for England and swallowed. It was interesting to see some extremely old looking bottle of Haig’s and I’m still not sure where they had been hiding. I gravitated to the lounge for the lost souls…humorous banter and some music and a chance to swap stories of who we are and what we like, the added bonus was the question “I’m going back to the table, anyone want anything?” to which I handed over my glass with a “surprise me”. All good and most welcoming as it was someone else’s choice.

I think I went to bed at 1:30am.

Saturday was an earlyish start and after brekky a walk down to Loch Morlich, love this area of Scotland. A fresh morning and the beautiful views to just lose yourself in for a moment or two. Breathtaking! We then all met up for a blind tasting with the whisky guv’nor and the Science of Peat with Mark and Kate from the Manchester Pyromaniacs manchesterpyromaniacs.blogspot.co.uk a fun and interesting look into heated whiskies including a blind tasting, and I managed to guess one to, the Laphroaig and won a fab Boutique-y Whisky canvas of the Back to the Future Sale label of the Williamson 6 YO Batch 1 bottle. A welcome addition to my other framed cards at home.

After a quick wee dram (as you do) it was time to leave now gloriously sunny Aviemore and head to Forres, en route passing by a whole host of distilleries and had we stopped I’m sure a lot of money would have been spent. But first a stopping Rothes for lunch and the best flipping fish ‘n’ chips I have had in years. Fun and capers in the park with the human fish and then onward to The Benromach distillery. A whistlestop tour of this lovely distillery and an ambush on the distillery shop and we were all aboard the coach back to the hostel for a BBQ. So full of meat and and a happy day behind us it was time to mingle and share a dram or two or… well what ever you liked really. Prize giving for the best bottle and the worst and thanks applauded for a wonderful weekend it was time to wind down in the lounge for the lost souls and share a few giggles. One day I might explain why when asked what biscuit I’d be resulted in me saying “I can’t say (laughing), before sheltering my face behind a cushion”. Then it was time for bed as tomorrow we are heading home.

I guess that all that’s left to say is thanks. Thanks for suggesting I go, thanks for eating and enjoying my fudge, thanks for the banter and giggles but mostly and more importantly thanks to those that run these weekends – Jason B Standing, Jonny M.

Thanks to all those that made this fun!

Sarah

iheartwhisky

Did I think this would happen?

My selling fudge that is.

I imagine we have all had moments and opportunities which we thought were within our grasp, yet they were dashed or snatched away before we were able to say “hey, no, I still want to try / need / have to do that!”

(Brief interlude to recall those times..)

This is probably what’s driven my determination this time. The what if I don’t try? So I’m trying.

I know people have enjoyed it. They’ve said so. I’ve got my business cards. Tomorrow I get a preliminary kitchen check. I’m already okay to sell it here and to the EU, so fingers crossed for the next step!

Something to call my own.

 

Inside the Bottle – Senses Teased & Stories Unfold

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my childhood recently…I think there are a couple of things Mum used to say to me that always come back and comfort me and make me smile.

The first is that being the seventh child Mum had decided by that point to stop using “baby words” like doggy, horsey, or whatever. She often said “I taught you to use proper words, and when you started talking, you didn’t stop”. The other memory I recall was being called a little helper by Mum (she of course used a Dutch word.) This stemmed from always tidying and helping others. Which of course I still do today.

I am the “if you need me and I can help, I will come running” type. I guess that’s why some offer me gardening and jet washing jobs? 🙂

Yet, the former is the thought that sticks with me most.

I love to talk.

It’s not always easy as sometimes the words stick in my throat…(as the old enemy raises its head and steals my confidence) but if you know me, really know the real me, then the words will flow.

Over the few years I’ve learnt when not to talk. And this stifles me.

I’ve written recently that there are some things that just encourage and beg the words to fall easy like from key to screen… or perhaps tumble gently from my lips as I’m stood telling you a story with passion, with grace, with excitement at an “I get that” moment… or with the hope you’ll listen. Just that. Listen.

I am going somewhere with this… the key in the excitement is the topic. I’m never going to wax lyrical if I don’t need to. Some things can be said more succinctly if it’s something we have all probably tried or experienced, why? because of that. If I stumble upon a new burger that let’s for arguments sake say it contains a most delicate and intriguing array of spices that when you’re served it, it actually piqued your interest and got your senses craving what’s in front of you. Then I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you about the restaurant and the waiter who laughed as I dropped my napkin, spilled my wine, or returned a smile.

I’ll tell you its colour, its texture, how juicy it is…how it took me back to a time or a place or a daydream. I’ll tell you how it made me feel. I’ll tell you it’s oh so good as it’s waiting for me to sink my teeth in as a dribble of its juicy centre falls to the plate. Because, after all, who wants dry manky meat in a run down cafe?

I’d convey all this in the hope that it would excite you enough to go and find one yourself because it’s something that makes me feel like I’ve found the Holy Grail.

But at other times a few words simply say enough. I went to McDonalds today. Had a double bacon burger. Never had one before. Nice and tasty. I’ll try something else next time. Or a delicious coffee, you know from Starbucks…need I say more?

If it hits the spot and we’ve mostly all had experience of it then to me describing it as it is is enough?

It all comes down to confidence, and the subject…if I have the time and I know people will listen, then I will tell you a story, and regale you with details and, sights, sounds and scents. I will smile and and share with you the moments that made me smile, the moment will then become a memory to look back on. And then hopefully smile again…

Am I glad Mum taught me how to speak properly? Yes, of course I am. Perhaps I just wish I had someone who wanted to hear my words…Whatever the case, I have a phone full of notes and moments, some I share(d) and some I shall keep to myself…

So I do hope you enjoy reading my festival stories, the odd tastings, mishaps and reads like this. I guess these all show the real me.smile

Inside the Bottle – Why Choose That Bottle?

I guess this is something that I think a lot about, especially when I look at the whiskies I have.

The why?

Initially I think it was from visiting distilleries and enjoying one of their whiskies, then it was maybe a suggestion from someone to try something different. Then there’s the old “it was on offer, so I thought I’d give it a bash!” (To note: this can sometimes result in a less costly mistake, yet still a mistake.)

Way back in my early twenties when I started to drink, I was a Rolling Rock, Diamond White, followed by JD and Diet Coke type of girl…this then went to some real ales, then developed into wine, then I completely stopped drinking for a good number of years. It seemed a bottle of wine would be opened but with early starts and travel the next morning there was no point in having more than a small glass. Then remembering you still had it a few days later and by then it wasn’t any good. So I stopped drinking.

Then I guess my interest in a relaxing drink started again with a glass of wine and maybe a dram. This was to be Jura. Origin and Superstition, Elixir when it was released. The wonderful Jura 21 year old and the Diurach’s Own bottlings. And I guess that and bottles of beer I was sorted. Yet the last couple of years the ale started to slide and red wine started going to my head more easily so slowly but surely whisky started to make more and more of an appearance.

This takes me to the here and now.

Now I tend to read websites and learn what might be worthy of trying, or from friends and acquaintances.

Visiting distilleries still leads to new discoveries, as do the whisky festivals that I attend. Having the opportunity to sample so many different whiskies under one roof, pouring away the odd one that just doesn’t deliver and savouring those that just leave their mark. And from that, then seeing what else is out there.

It’s becoming an interesting journey developing an appreciation of what I want to spend my hard earned cash on, and my time with.

I think from reading my blog you’ll know what some of my favourite distilleries are, as well as independent bottlers. So, long may it continue…

Inside the Bottle

Inside the bottle seemed like the most suitable title… I think?

So what exactly do I mean?

Well I guess it comes from being a newish blogger, and someone who does have a lot more to learn when it comes to describing the hopefully wonderfully alluring and delicious whisky in my glass. When I say orange and lemon, I probably meant tropical fruit… but then is it mango and papaya? Or an old school plimsole, rubber and iodine and peat.

How to describe these wonderful discoveries will often fox me, and in some cases the words will fall easily from key to screen, or tumble gently from my lips as I describe a dram that just excited my senses oh so perfectly… But sometimes I will be plain old stumped. And I cannot say that this is a bad thing, I can only see it as part of the journey. We all started somewhere. Didn’t we?

The colour of the whisky from the delicate feint golden hues through to the darker shades of the wonderful sherry casks. Then the texture and the legs of the whisky… something I enjoy, yet don’t tend to mention. And some of them have given me wonderful photo opportunities as I have left the dram to open…

I have let some whiskies sit a while in one glass and then poured it in to another, then nosing the empty glass. It is all about learning and challenging yourself.

The nose.

Some whiskies take a long time to explore and enjoy, I love the ones that when poured give you a delicious tease into what lies within… but just wait, let me open up. And these are the ones that make me smile. Why? Because I know that there is something special awaiting me, something that has been sleeping for on some occasions many, many years and then it is there in front of me.

The vanilla, sherry, treacle, fudge, plums, jams, aniseed, sea air, dying fires, leather, tobacco, furniture polish. Hairspray, and whatever comes to mind and the way to put it into words.

Others don’t need as long. Also age isn’t necessarily always the key thing.

(Now the tad off track)

I know I was left without ID tags on me when I was born (two baby girls were left in our respective cots in a corridor without our Mum’s names on (and Mum chose me) but I am sure I am not Sarah Rockefeller) so I buy what is within my budget, and then sometimes treat myself to a sample which might be out of my grasp. These have appeared on my “radar” through the wonderful power of twitter and reading blogs, and I have had “I really need to try that” moments, which have paid off splendidly as I excitedly break the seal and gently open them…

(And back in the room)

Palate.

Then the “wow” moment comes, the “yes I get that”, the “ooh bugger I wish I had a bottle of this” moment as my mouth accepts that first sip. How it feels and what it gives, that fullness and exploring what I smelled on the nose, the almost chewy fruits and utterly fantastic acceptance that I have tried it. Ones to add to the memory bank.

Others leave me scratching my head asking myself what I’ve missed.

Finish.

Sitting there. Enjoying what I have in my hand or sitting on my coffee table still being teased but the wonderful aroma, having sipped it and then the pleasure of the finish. Was it long?

Other questions arise. Is it dry, oaky? Spicy, short, spicy, peppery, bitter, sweet? Time will tell on these comments too.

Others have had me rinsing my palate with a glass of water.

All I know to be true is there are some whiskies that I have tried that have been less than memorable, thin and have smacked of sulphur and have not been on my rush back to list. Then there are those that have just been so damn good that I eke out that last remaining amount that I have. To have it just a little while longer.

Anyway, I hope my words and descriptions develop into something more as my experience develops and forms as I continue to be part of live twitter tastings and converse with friends and acquaintances.

Feel free to comment and maybe even challenge me with a ‘did you mean…?”, or a “spot on!” these give me the confidence to keep on blogging.

I’m always happy to learn.

SlĂ inte

Sarah

 

Claxton’s Glenrothes 1997 – 19 Year Old

It seemed fitting to purchase a bottle of whisky from a bottler based in York, a place where I have had many a whisky discovery. Benrinnes, That Boutique-y Whisky Company and Paul John to name but a few.

I’ll start this review with an excerpt from the Claxton’s website:

In the early years of Scotland’s ancient and most world-renowned industry, many merchants bought single casks of whisky and bottled them as they were, preserving their unique character and flavour. As a family-owned, independent company bound to no single distiller, Claxton’s proudly continue this ancient tradition by hand-selecting individual casks that reach only the highest benchmark.

The marriage of wood and spirit in a cask creates a unique flavour and aroma. As each release of Claxton’s is bottled straight from a single cask, this individuality is preserved and no two bottlings are ever completely alike. This means each release offers the opportunity to discover rare whiskies with exquisite and truly individual tastes which may never be repeated in quite the same way again.

At Claxton’s, the approach of bottling whiskies in their most original form is born from generations of exploration and appreciation of ‘Uisge Beatha’ (the traditional Gaelic term for whisky, meaning water of life). Not a single precious drop has been chill-filtered or has any added colouring, preserving the original flavour of the whisky. Every release is only bottled when the balance between cask influence and spirit is perfect, no matter how long this may take. Claxton’s value quality of taste and aroma above all else…”

This particular cask is from The Glenrothes distillery which can be found in the heart of Speyside, and I am really getting in to these whiskies, which is really quite handy for me.

REGION: Speyside
DISTILLED: 28/04/1997
CASK TYPE: Sherry Butt
CASK NO: 1610-7154
NO. OF BOTTLES: 669

53.7 ABV

I first tried this whisky a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to spoil myself…to see if it was as memorable as I recalled it to be.

Well you would, would’t you?

Firstly the colour is gorgeous and deep, you know its been in a sherry cask.

I did let this dram sit a while for it to open up…

The nose just draws you in, it’s that “sherry bomb”, your senses are treated to rich stewed fruits, with caramel and a drizzle of honey. Dates, toffee and orange rind mingle with a sweet vanilla. There is a hint of caramel, a smattering of bitter dark cocoa and delicious Christmas spices accompanied by a touch of oak… I poured it in to a fresh glass at this point and there was the scent of leather and maybe a waft of tobacco in the empty one.

The palate is delicious. Sherry and rich chewy fruits and spices. That waft of tobacco I mentioned is there, with cocoa and that sweet vanilla and a few drops of bitter coffee. It feels slightly dry, but that’s good. It just delivers your mouth with such a rich fullness that you just need to sit quietly with it and enjoy…

It finishes warm and long, I had a “huh” moment here as how to describe the way it made me feel, the non edited version remains in my phone.

So, back to how it finishes, it’s good, it really is. That touch of oak and dark bitter sugar, a slight pepperiness, and a lick of liquorice…this is why I wanted to try it again, and I am happy that I did. I just needed to see if it was as good as I remembered it…and it is!

Thank you for giving me a sample.

And a brief note to say it was lovely meeting Adrian too, and being able to thank him in person for the bottle they sent me back in November last year.

SlĂ inte!

Seems to Be…

…but one reason I end up in York… Whisky!

I met a few lovely people when I was down for the Yorkshire Whisky Festival on the 10th September, one of them was Ben Bowers. At that point he was the person who answered my “hello Ben, where do I get the whisky holder things?” at which he kindly directed me down the escalators… Anyway I digress. This would be the point that I also learned about his epic mission to raise £5,000 for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund. One Man, One Year, 366 Whiskies. So I donated £36.60 as it is such a worthy charity that will help the lives of so many.

I then started making whisky fudge and sold some in my office and on Twitter and we gave him some more money, and through tweeting Ben too, when his Final Three Live was announced and he said it would be good if I could make it, I decided to head back down…this time with fudge to sell there. And sell it did some of the 250g boxes went for £10 too (a mere drop in the ocean.)

What a wonderful night, if Ben was nervous it didn’t show. The whole room was behind him. The live auction was brilliant to see, being there watching people eagerly bidding. The silent auction too 🙂 (except the part where I decided to check upon a bid that I’d emailed in, wrote it down, walked up to the table picked up the envelope… “bollocksed 😀 as I had written down the same bid) anyway long story short my bid was successful and I took the bottle home at the end of the night. Another to add to the collection.

It was lovely to meet Adrian from Claxton’s Whisky and try some of their wonderful selection… The Glenrothes 19 year old really did hit the spot! Thank you!

And Chris from Edinburgh, it was lovely speaking to you. And the Glen Kinky (Glenkinchie) really had me giggling… and I hope that if he reads this, that your wife enjoyed the fudge you bought her.

I’ll finish with this, I am glad Ben is continuing his fund raising and I am sure that he will continue to have everyone’s support.

And Ben, thanks for saying I should come down, it was just what I needed and just to add https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/adramaday

See you in 2018!

Sarah