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 special were paying penance at the Fentimans stand and other things that made me and others smile.

Then 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.

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.

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 and Heather. Meeting Edwin Milner and his friend too.

Then 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 

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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

Inside The Bottle: Opinions and Choices

Sometimes you have too much thinking time…or perhaps you have the time to think, to just kind of question things?

Anyway something that’s been making me ponder for more than a while is opinion, or opinions, maybe even choices and decisions? We have the opinions that are given to us. Sometimes we ask for opinions and others? Well they’re foisted upon us on us in such a manner that it’s akin to staple gunning you to a sheet of plywood. Then choices? Can’t please everyone! Ouch.

Stay there. Listen. And accept.

But should we? We all have our own opinions – would the world not be a boring hideous place if we all agreed, all felt the same? Things change. Tastes change. People change.

Variety is the spice of life…or so they say.

I feel this blog covers many areas of my life. I’ve spent many years being agreeable for the sake of peace…and I rather feel this really isn’t all that healthy or in my best interests. This is true of whisky and how or what we perceive it to be, or what our palates allow us to taste.

I have sort of touched on this in other blogs too. The fact that we have to in some cases learn or be brave enough to just speak as we find, or type as we taste.

There will always be that one person (or group) that has / have a well honed / well seasoned sense of nosing and tasting. There will be those who quietly reflect on what is in their hand and test and tease themselves in order to understand and learn what a particular region / distillery / grain / wood / finish gives them. I think I might fall into this category. Then we have the (assuredly) confident, who do have a far better sense of what they are experiencing, who have probably had the pleasure of sampling many whiskies over many years. The type of person that you can learn from. Take tips from. But have no fear, I am sure they question themselves too (on occasion)?

We perhaps have the “I know I am right” brigade too. Those who instinctively pounce on other’s opinions. Those who feel the opinions and choices of others are automatically incorrect and they must let you know. And you WILL listen…

Things change. People change. Tastes change.

I used to loathe some whiskies… I had a few awful bottles over the years. They gave me nothing, and were quite uninteresting and unpalatable drams.

Then.

Now. Well now I have had a few different expressions or bottlings and this has allowed me to in some cases have a complete turnaround. On occasion this has amused me as I feel I might have missed out on some interesting tastes and moments… Hindsight eh?

Now to digress..

I think the crux of this piece is that this is all* a journey… It should be a journey of discovery & adventure. It should be intertwined with friendship and joie de vivre. Spit out that which taints your (whisky or otherwise) palate and embrace the delicious offerings that want to delight you. Be spontaneous.

Try Fujikai. Don’t try Fujikai. Cherish the last drops of whisky in a memorable bottle…or don’t. Love Jura or hate Jura (yes, I’ve seen the ones that don’t like it, however I DO.)

I am a lapsed fan and a proud Diurach.. Pass me a bottle of the 21 year old and sit with me in front of a fireplace on a Winter’s night and I am sure I will rekindle my smile. Love peat or hate peat. I’ll keep popping back to it. Because some days call for it. Some call for the wonderful comfort of a beautiful “sherry bomb”. But it is our choice. Variety as I said is the spice of life.

Whether we are ladies or gents, we all have a place, and a voice. Just be kind.

*Life in general. This is not a dress rehearsal. Cock up. Laugh. Smile. Live.

 

Inside The Bottle: Me Again…

with my little heartfelt blogs…honestly it’s one of the places where I can just say what I feel. And I like that.

So what’s occurring?

Well although I’d had the go ahead to make and sell my whisky fudge (in case there’s someone that has missed this) I hadn’t had my full ranking (which is okay as there had been preliminary checks.) Today was the day for that to happen. And guess what? I passed with flying colours… Am I happy? Yes.

Am I smiling? Yes.

Always smiling.

Life might be hard. It might continue to throw stinky stuff at us, but we have to push through it. I’m fully aware that I’m not the only one too. We get up. We affirm to ourselves that we’re worthy. We share experiences, and through that feel comfort. This bolsters us to carry on. But carry on we must. Anyway, I digress.

I guess I just wanted to share some fab news. I’m sat smiling as I’m writing this. I’m glad I have a few of you behind me…pushing me forward. So as always, thank you.

Me x