Inside the Bottle: A Year of Smiles (and Whisky)

Well as another year draws to a close and we eagerly await 2018 and all the wonderful opportunities and moments that it will bring, it is time to have a little look back on this year…

And what a year!

I think I will do my review by month as I feel each month brought its own reward and experiences…and memories to look back on.

January saw me heading down to the Principal Hotel in York for the “Final Three Drams Live”. If you are not aware of what this was / is then Ben Bowers @adramaday is the man to look up, he reviewed 366 drams in 366 days and raised a staggering £7,000 for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (A Dram A Day Live Finale) whilst being a father / husband and working too!

It was a wonderfully fun night and the atmosphere was…well I guess the word is  heartwarming to say the least. Whisky fans and whisky novices alike were there, Claxton’s Whisky were also there for the evening with Adrian and Sorren (ocdwhisky) pouring samples…Claxton’s had collaborated with Gauntleys of Nottingham to release a bottling with some of the proceeds going to two charities. Me? I brought whisky fudge to sell, and my trademark smile. I also had my first whisky discovery of the year. Yes, this was the Claxton’s Glenrothes 1997 – 19 year old Claxton’s Glenrothes 1997 – 19 Year Old It will always be a very special dram…

What happened in February? Well I guess this month was about iheartwhisky fudge. I already had my food training certification and was working on a logo. I had sketched up a design, and that with feedback from Twitter and a kind offer to draw up my design I was up and running with my wee heart floating in a dram. A logo was born and many thanks to John once more for the offer to assist me.

img_3093

March was Newcastle Whisky festival and twitter tasting month with That Boutique-y Whisky Company where we enjoyed the Loch Lomond 19 year old, Secret Distillery #2 15 year old Batch 2, Mortlach 18 year old Batch 3, Glenrothes 25 year old, Batch 3 amd the Irish Single Malt #1 24 year old, Batch 1 That Boutique-y Whisky Company – Twitter Tasting. I really loved the Mortlach and the Glenrothes 🙂 The festival was good and as always it was nice to catch up with old friends Newcastle Whisky Festival

Ah…April and the official first batch of iheartwhisky fudge on the 7th April…this really does make me smile. A lot of hard work had gone into this, the checks and all the i dotting and t crossing done! What else? Ah yes, I buggered off to Bristol for the weekend for the Bristol Whisky Festival Bristol Whisky Festival This was to be an opportunity to meet some fellow tweeters and have a dram or two…I set off the day before the festival as for some strange reason Bristol is a total arse to get to. But thankfully the lovely Jo @alpacajo invited me to stay. It was a great day meeting new people and some that I had twittered with for a few years. Adrian being the oldest (in time) of those, then Jon and Chris (the Dram Team) and the lovely Colin Dunn and his megaphone antics. Of course there was the must-have Dave hug and the handing out of whisky fudge too! Then long chats in the pub or on the street with Jason B Standing and his now wife, apres the festival. A good day was had!

May was a chance to do a little something for charity. Bruichladdich were raising money for Marie Curie Scotland and a suggestion from a friend Sorren (ocdwhisky) to put my skills to good use (with support from Bruichladdich) I made Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (Heavily Peated) fudge and all the money (£200) raised was donated to the charity. I (we) also had a trip around the world with the Dram Team – Worldwide Whiskies, and the rather yummy Loch Lomond tweet tasting the Glen Scotia 25 year old was delicious Loch Lomond Tweet Tasting and the Balvenie one too 🙂 The Balvenie Tweet Tasting – The Craftsmen’s Dinner

June. The Other Side of the Table was the alternative title to the Edinburgh Whisky Festival blog I wrote… Edinburgh Whisky Festival I was off to sell my fudge at the Assembly Rooms on what was to be a swelteringly hot day! After the normal festival rituals had taken place – hugs from Dave and Paul and setting up my table it was time to dash off to meet another tweeter I had known for years but had never met, this was Tom. He let me try a lovely 25 year old Bunnahabhain and it tasted of sweet caramel and toffee with a deliciously smoky palate. I had the opportunity to meet Justine from Kask Whisky and Roy from Aqvavitae said hello too, Rob the Bruce was there and it really was fab to catch up with him.

Blair Bowman was there with his book and it was great to say thanks to him for signing my book! There were men in the street shouting “love your fudge” and also the gentleman towards the end of the day declaring “I love you – I’ll come back” and he did – all that from trying a piece of my fudge 🙂 and thankfully his wife smiled despite his declaration…

Afterwards we all went to the SMWS and I discovered another lovely whisky – namely Opera in Sequins 30.95 a 26 year old Glenrothes.

Hello July! July was Dramboree 5 and despite some hesitation on my behalf I decided to go ahead and buy a ticket and disappear for the weekend…armed with fudge and a bottle of Douglas Laing Old Particular Glenrothes 12 year old for the whisky table at the youth hostel. The group were to meet at the bus station in Edinburgh for the coach journey to Aviemore. Once I arrived in Edinburgh I met up with Jon, Jamie & Chris (2/3 of The Dram Team), Amy Seton and Tom (for a bonus dram.) It was a fantastic few days and hilarious at times too, and I am glad I swallowed my shyness and went for it Dramboree 5 – I blame Jon and The Dram Team

August was a quiet month, but I managed to get some blogs written under my “Inside the Bottle” theme…. Inside the Bottle – the Contents 

September was festival month 🙂

First up was the Manchester Whisky Lounge Manchester Whisky Festival  which segwayed nicely into Distilled 17… I was in Manchester for the Friday evening session and the Saturday early session. It was another good un, I met Greg from Great Drams and some other tweeter mates. Some lovely drams were sampled too! Yet, it was sadly too soon before I was being hugged and bidding “see you soon” before dashing off to the airport for a flight to Inverness. From Inverness it was a bus journey to Elgin for Distilled 17 Distilled 17 Had a wonderful tasting there with Graham Coull from Glen Moray Distillery to celebrate their 120th birthday celebrations and I sat alongside Andrew from Andrew’s Share. Oh and I was selling and delivering whisky fudge along the way.

London was my destination in the beginning of October for The Whisky Exchange Show The Whisky Exchange Show (TWE)  I had secured a pass for the Trade Day on the Monday, but due to flight costs etc. travelled on the Sunday. It seemed the sensible thing to buy a ticket and go on the Sunday too… Thankfully I had Adrian, Jon and Steve Prentice to keep an eye on me. What’s the worst that could happen? Too much whisky? Me? I hardly touch it… Ha ha. Had a lovely little chat with Mark Gillespie from WhiskyCast where we had a fudge for Glencairn glass exchange and he interviewed me for his podcast (yes the one where I sound like a chipmunk on speed..) Met Emily Chappell 🙂 Oh and I had a hug and a chat with Charles MacLean… all photographic evidence has been destroyed 😉

Monday was fab too! the bloggers breakfast with Billy Abbott was fun! And it was nice putting faces to names again and let’s face it, whisky for breakfast is always a good idea! Glen Moray Iain and Emma were there at the event, and it was good seeing them both as well as friends from Dramboree 5 and new ones too! Fudge made an appearance once again…and I was handing out boxes with “nom nom…it’s all gone!!” in the bottom of them and this is bound to be lucrative for Sorren (ocdwhisky) and to note, Geordie owns the Twitter version 😂

We then enjoyed the rather delicious Happy 5th Boutique-y Birthday evening with Dave and some good friends…Happy 5th Birthday That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Then later in October I was off to York for the Yorkshire Whisky Festival and I was going to sell my fudge. I was really looking forward to this one, this was the first anniversary of attending festivals for me and it was York 2016 that did it for me… It was a fun day! It was also a bloody cold day…but some internal central heating was taken. Whisky.

Had some lovely drams, the Glen Moray 30 year old from Murray McDavid and also the Boutique-y Whisky Mortlach and a rather delicious sample of the Paul John Oloroso from Sorren’s personal bottle, and I am surprised he had time to stop as the stand had a really busy day! A Year of Festivals…and Friends I met the terrible twosome – Andy & Stu from This is My Dram and we sat and had a little chat about fudge and music and all that, and it was great to put faces to names, and I was recorded for a bit in their podcast. Lovely seeing friends again and sharing fudge and hugs and avoiding flying objects…and my absolutley gorgeous whisky tumbler was collected from David & Wendy. I love it! Especially with the 2017 hallmark “S”… Smiley Smoggy, Sarah.. Smiles… you get the drift! And of course the lovely and very hardworking Abbie & Chris from Cooper King Distillery – exciting times ahead for them and I wonder where in the world their still is at the moment?

November. Well I had a last minute “to hell with it moment…” as in a few days before the event I decided to go the the Birmingham Whisky Festival with the Whisky Lounge it was fab seeing lots of all friends and some newer ones too, all the lovely Whisky Lounge posse – Eddie, Gee, Guy, Vicky etc. etc. Jason B Standing and Ruaridh from Fentimans (he will forgive me one day.) Then I met Nichola and John from Newcastle who as they were leaving might have blamed me for their purchases from Whiskey Tumblers..ha ha! Birmingham Whisky Festival #SOS

And now it’s December and I was off to Glen Moray distillery for their first Christmas Fair and it was a lovely day. Graham and Fay were the wonderful welcoming hosts. In fact the whole team were a lovely bunch. It was lovely seeing Jeanine and her hubby again too A Day at Glen Moray Distillery

My Glenfarclas Advent Calendar is keeping me busy throughout December, a dram a day means a little blog a day, and I like doing that. Can’t beat looking forward to finishing the day with a whisky in your hand 🙂

I must say a big thanks to Steve Rush for the times I have been chosen to partake in tweet tastings. I feel very very lucky and I really do appreciate the the opportunities and the experiences of more than a few new distilleries.

Thank you to all of you who have bought whisky fudge from me…I appreciate it so much and your pics and comments really do make me smile!

If you have made me smile this year, then thank you. I hope I gave the same to you also.

George – thank you for being a friend.

Whisky (life) should be fun, full of exploration, challenging tastes, sharing moments and light hearted banter and thankfully we have that – this is a journey…. and the odd hug will never ever go out of fashion 🙂

Big hugs – Sarah x x

Advertisements

Inside the Glenfarclas Advent Calendar: Day 6

Hmm a delight for day 6 in the shape of the 15 year old. I have to say this is a delicious favourite of mine. And rightly so.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the distillery a couple of times now. It’s only an hour or so away. And it’s nice to be there knowing the whiskies they produce are fantastically good. You never know maybe Whisky Santa will make one of my dreams come true… anyway I digress. Onto the sample…

The nose is gentle spices and sweetness. It’s delicate and inviting. It’s hints of sherry and succulence. There’re sprinkles of cinnamon and butterscotch too and it’s delicious. The palate is rich and full of spice. Sherry flavours tease the palate and the richness meets malt and oak.

Well done day 6. You made me smile 🙂

A Year of Festivals…and Friends

Today I attended the Yorkshire Whisky Festival hosted by The Whisky Lounge.

Maybe this doesn’t mean a lot to anyone but me, but this is the anniversary of my first year of festivals. And it’s been a good year.

It has been a year that saw me setting up iheartwhisky fudge. It’s been the year I started to write and accept advice and support and the courage to just write what I feel. A lot of this is in the “Inside the Bottle” pieces. Glimpses of me. Glimpses of my insecurities and an insight into a new confidence that I’m slowly building. A year of discovering new whiskies through twitter tastings. And I’m so grateful & appreciative of that.

Today was a day of fun and laughter. A day of learning things that made me smile and a day where the friends I hold dear were.

From my first dram of the day the Ben Rinnes 21 year old… to having absinthe squirted into my mouth with an atomiser and then enjoying a “morning glory” cocktail with whisky, ginger and absinthe. The things that made today fun were paying penance at the Fentimans stand (it’s NOT coke it’s COLA) and a few other things (flying cork) that made me and others smile.

There was the fist bump off the chap speaking to Dave on the Boutique-y stand and having to do a typical me thing…walking off giggling and leaving the moment there, safe in the knowledge a smile was evoked out of a daft situation. Then a delicious dram that many crave yet so few taste… Sorren went the extra mile and shared whisky from his personal collection, not any old whisky though. This was Paul John Oloroso and 1906 casks…a real ambassador for Paul John!! A delicious treat indeed. 

It’s been a day of new faces. Of well known faces, and the faces of friends. And an escape from egos and animosity and point scoring. Just stories and moments and kindness.

Lovely young Joe and the bottles of Salty Sea Dog. Selling fudge. Giving fudge to friends. It all made today special.

I could wax lyrical about the whiskies but this is to say thank you.

David Allison who makes the awesomely fab whiskey tumblers and his lovely wife. Great to meet you both. You have a very happy customer.

Vicky, Gina, Eddie and the rest of TWL crew, you were all on form and as epic as ever….

The ever so lovely Dave Worthington and his wonderful drams – thank you. Alex from Mackmyra – thanks for the hug. Dean from Murray McDavid…the Glen Moray was delicious. Meeting This is My Dram Andy & Stu and having a wee chat with them. Thanks both. Saying hello to Alistair. Meeting Edwin Milner and his friend too.

Then of course saying hello to Sorren – ocdwhisky and passing on his royalties for “nom nom…it’s all gone!!” lovely to see you and I hope you enjoy the fudge and the Paul John millionaires shortbread!

Abbie & Chris from Cooper King Distillery. Your enthusiasm and warmth is fantastic. You’re a lovely hard working couple who are heading into an exciting phase…I will come and see you soon!!

I feel sad there’s nothing on the horizon festival wise but I just have to wrap myself up in happy memories and hibernate till next year.

I travel a long way to spend time with friends. It’s worth every penny!!

Should anyone want a resident fudge maker to attend festivals…let me know.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”

Hugs. 

Sarah / Smoggy / Smiley x x 

The Whisky Exchange Show (TWE) 

Or of course I could go all youthful and say “Totally Wicked Event!”

My little fudge business gained me a ticket to the trade show on the Monday and I was really looking forward to it. Having a day free on the Sunday made one decision easy, buy a ticket for that.

So I did.

And this is how it went…

I headed for an early morning flight down to London and after getting off the wrong tube train (yep was going in the opposite direction) and on to the right one I was nearly at my destination. Thanks to Jon for keeping me right. I then quickly checked my bags in at the hotel and headed across the road to join the queue with a great deal of excitement.

And I was in.

First stop was Alex at Mackmyra – good to say hello to a friendly face and a kind offer of keeping an eye on my bags while I disappeared somewhere was kindly appreciated. I got my guv’nor hug and it was a good un. Said hello to the lovely Kat and met the ever so talented Emily Chappel.

Lots of familiar faces and lots of faces that recognised me…especially if they spot the back of my phone 🙂 thanks Christy (Bruichladdich) I enjoyed the Black Arts….but oops I forgot to come back for the Octomore…silly me!!

I had to head for the Elements of Islay stand to see what these little white boxes with hearts on contained having seen them on a photo. Yes of course these were boxes of Peat fudge and it was lovely to say hello to Myriam!

I finally had the chance to meet and say hello to Angela D’Orazio from Mackmyra. A wonderfully energetic, open & friendly lady.

I was lucky to have met Mark from Whiskycast who kindly gave me one of his Glencairn glasses, and I gave him a box of my fudge. Mark also asked me to say a few words for his podcast (and yes believe it or not I am quite shy..) So do feel free to have a listen to his Sunday show from the festival. Lots of interesting people. Then me…lol.

So the day went a bit like this…whisky, whisky, whisky…oodles of whisky…and I didn’t fall over once!! (Ignore what Twitter says..) So many delicious whiskies passed my lips.

Though I did nearly nod off in Wetherspoons as the clock tick tocked towards a late night…after a 4am alarm call it was bedtime.

What struck me about Sunday was the camaraderie of the whisky community.

So…yes. What a day! And guess what…there was Monday still to come.

Monday had me arranging to meet Adrian, Jon and Steve for breakfast…then Jon had kindly enquired with Billy if I could join them for brekky number 2. The real one. The wet one. The whisky one.

Upon arrival at Old Billingsgate Market we queued for The Breakfast Club or the Bloggers Breakfast… chuffed to bits to see my name Sarah…was in fact Fudge Queen. I liked that a lot.

A thoroughly enjoyable breakfast of; an Irish Single Malt – 27 year old bottle by The Whisky Agency and The Whisky Exchange. Have to say I enjoyed this again having sampled it on the Sunday. We then moved on to the Frapin Cognac – 22 years old and again rather yummy. We finished brekky with a 40 year old Strathisla from Gordon & McPhail that was distilled in 1977 when I still ran about in short dresses and pigtails… a lovely chance to meet new friends…friends from Dramboree and some old friends too. And apparently I saved someone’s night… I won’t elaborate, but it was a nice story and I passed them another box of fudge for supplying breakfast. And thanks again Billy!

More hugs. More fudge & goodies handed over to a friend and off downstairs for the trade day.

This was to be another fine day of delightful & delicious whiskies. Some teased the palate deliciously. Others were sipped and forgotten (Starward on Sunday.)

Awesomely good Tomatin… deliciously divine GlenDronach Kingsman (sip of.) Tantalising Tomintoul 40 year old. Brilliant Boutique-y offerings… amongst others. I enjoyed spending time at the GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh stand too!

Then it was time to bid folks a “see you later”…

Dare I say it, “roll on next year!”

And in case I’ve not mentioned you above it was lovely meeting Steve Prentice, meeting old chums Jon and Adrian. The lovely Dave Worthington. The cheeky Colin Dunn, always makes you feel welcome and David too of course. Lovely guys.

Nice to say hello to Sorren again.. nom, nom…it’s all gone! 

The Brum posse…Chris, Jamie and Amy.

Who else? Mark (Whiskycast) and Angela D’Orazio and Alex at Mackmyra.

Eddie and Amanda and other happy faces from The Whisky Lounge.

Anna and Martin – and a big thanks to Anna (you know why 😊)

Jeanine – great to see you there and meet your hubby. Hope to catch up soon.

Also Andrew from andrews_share – nice to say hello and hand deliver a fudge order too!

Emma and Iain from the utterly fab Glen Moray distillery and the sofa mouse…

Who else? Shilton and Stewart – thanks for the drinks and nibbles. Stewart you’re a blast! Bumped into Craig and Jason too. And of course there was Kieran…who I abandoned mid sentence to rush back to my hotel. I’m sure I’m forgiven 😊

Ah yes, Andy Purslow had me laughing and thanks for that dram 😋

Team Bruichladdich were fab as well.

And I think that’s a wrap.

Sarah x

 

 

A Year in Words, Thoughts & Photos

So my first year as a wordsmith happened this weekend, so I thought I’d have a wee look back at what I’ve done, seen and experienced.

It all started with someone on Twitter suggesting I should try it. So lots of thinking followed with a “why the hell not?” So I started.

My first entry was after my visit to the Glen Garioch distillery in Oldmeldrum. Quickly followed by trips to The Benromach and Glen Moray Glen Moray Tour

There’s been fudge, festivals and smiles. I’ve been exploring my thoughts in my “Inside the Bottle” pieces. Perhaps too open? Perhaps too honest? Its been quite cathartic and if you have read any of them – thank you.

I have written about my festival trips from the first one last year at the Yorkshire Whisky Festival

Tastings with the Dram Team (memorable discoveries) Incredible Indies – The Dram Team and those I’ve been lucky to be chosen to take part in with Steve Rush The Balvenie Tweet Tasting – The Craftsmen’s Dinner

So many fab opportunities. Lots of fun, a hell of a lot of smiles. Great memories and a lot to look forward to.

If this is your first time reading my words “hello” and thanks for popping by. And to everyone else that has, thank you.

Big hugs as always – Sarah / Smiley / Smoggy x x

 

Distilled 17

So having left The Whisky Lounge festival in Manchester and hot footing it to the airport I was now off to Inverness airport. Destination Elgin and Distilled 17.

Upon arrival and eventually gaining access to the airport (they’d forgotten to open the arrivals door) and waving down the bus to Elgin (it was leaving) I arrived at the Town Hall in Elgin. It was very odd being back at the venue. In a past life I’d been there for assemblies (I was once a Jehovah’s Witness.) Glad to be back under vastly different circumstances…

Having relieved myself of my case and a quick hello to Graham Coull I headed off for a dram. Where did I go? Glen Moray of course. A lovely warm hello from Fay and handing over a wee box for the master distiller I enjoyed a lovely 18 year old. It was soon time to dash off for “Happy Birthday Glen Moray” and a lovely tasting it was. Of course I especially enjoyed the 1994 Sherry Cask finish and the Mastery was a truly delicious dram. I was sat alongside Andrew of @andrews_share and it was lovely to meet him. It was also interesting to discover what prevents a lady from growing hairs on her chest…

I also met Justine @kaskwhisky And it was good to say hello, chat and share some more Aberlour A’bunadh.

Apart from a few more hellos it was time to skidaddle and head for home…

So “see you laters” done, I was off!

A great evening and a great finish to a fab weekend!

Sarah

Inside the Bottle – the Contents 

The contents? Ah now there’s a question.

I think this is borne out of a lot of thinking. A great deal of observing situations, and some crappy real life worries.

Firstly I must state this. my glass is half full. Of that there is no doubt.

However, there comes a point when you consider things. Take a long hard look at “things”… Proceed or stop.

This is another blog that’s been resting in my “draft” folder for a few months. Who’d have thought a certain bar would give me the clarity to finish it? Not me. Anyway.

You might be wondering what in the name of hell this has to do with whisky? Well quite a lot actually. And if you read on you might discover why…

I’ve spent a huge amount of my life being on the outside. The bystander. The one who responds to “I need help!” The one who would drop everything and run (though probably drive through the night to help people.)

Do I continue…

So about 3 years ago I decided to change that… I lost 5 stone in weight in 3 months (I have an underlying condition, so any loss is a ruddy hard task.)

I found a little confidence went a long way. I started travelling by myself. A scary thing to do. But I did it. I could get up when I liked. Stop and gaze in windows. Speak to strangers. Smile at strangers.  Tried things I never thought I would. Treated myself to things I wouldn’t necessarily do.

Then I stopped.

A dark cloud gathered above me. And I had to fight (alone) to get through it.

I reached out to some who gave me their harsh opinion in return. But I got through it. Eventually. I also had those that cared. And they know who they are and how truly grateful I am.

I then recalled some advice.

I sat alone seeing in 2016 and opened my Twitter account again. I needed the jovial, kind and dear friends I remembered laughing with. Along the way I’ve met some more.

So where does the whisky come into this? Well a lady I chatted with saw something in me. She listened. Through our long discussions and said I needed company. Friendship. Festivals.

The funny thing is, we both thought “music!”. So I decided to take her advice…albeit latterly and realised it would be whisky.

Well it’s nearly a year since my first whisky festival (first fudge too.) Oh and hell, might as well say nearly a year since my first blog entry…

And what a year.

It’s been a journey. I’ve met some truly lovely people. I’ve met some truly hilarious people. I’ve met some truly kind people. I’ve met some wonderful friends.

I went to two festivals (or probably three) last weekend. And guess what? No panic attack beforehand. A milestone.

I’ve found my voice and sometimes I even use it. I’ve found people want to come up to me and say hello. I’ve found that they’re interested in speaking to me. To listen to me. To hug me. To laugh with me.

And this has healed me. It’s given me confidence. My contents are happier. There’s a smile on my face. It’s not all been easy. But nothing worthwhile ever comes without a few bumps along the way.

So I will just continue on.

Hopefully you’ll all get the point of this. I am the bottle. And it’s not always the label that counts. I might portray that I’m strong (even say I’m strong), but those that take the time to see the real Sarah they know. And for that reason alone I say “thank you” x