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.

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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

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A Day at Glen Moray Distillery

Well it wasn’t “just” a day at Glen Moray Distillery, it was a day at their first Christmas Fair…in the cooperage and yes I was delighted to have been invited up to it.

I was going up to sell and chat about my whisky fudge, seeing as I make it, and if you didn’t know that already, then where have you been?! I had made the following: Glen Moray Elgin Classic Sherry Cask Finish, Glenfiddich 12 year old, Laphroaig 10 year old #009, Caol Ila 12 year old, Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 57, and GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 5 or 6.4kg of the above.

So early-ish on Saturday morning (after sleeping in) I boarded the train to Elgin full of eager anticipation for the day ahead. A lovely journey on the train passing a fair amount of distilleries on the way…gotta love living in Scotland 🙂

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Upon arriving at the distillery I was dropped off at the cooperage and I went to find my table to set up. I met and chatted with fellow stall holders (a lady who made yummy scented candles and the Rotary Club to my right.) I then popped round to the Spirit of Speyside stand to say hello and introduce myself to John Blyth – the new festival manager. I said hello to Graham and Fay as I went to get a coffee and a rather yummy pigs in blankets and cranberry combo… late brekky / brunch and bloody lovely! Drool!

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Then the fair started.. What a setting! All adorned in festive decorations, with blues and golds and twinkling lights setting the scene for the day. The Angel’s Share hanging seductively in the air around the distillery…just wait, there are some delicious drams maturing.

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I sold a lot of fudge and chatted and smiled the day away, I met the lady from Cairngorm Leaf and Bean and bought some Mountain Brew coffee. I also bought some of the latest Bottle Your Own from the distillery, this being the 2007 – 10 year old Port Finish (4 year finish) 57.1% abv. I think fate intervened as I realised I had bottle number 11 🙂 with bottle 12 being bought for a friend. Then another bottle to keep, the 1994 Sherry Cask Finish. You can hear a round the table tasting of it here… Podcast by This is My Dram. I have already had the pleasure of one bottle and this one will stay closed for now… and picked up the Marsala finish and Bordeaux finish paid samples too. I went to say hello to another face I recognised and who recognised me too, James Campbell – Chairman at the Spirit of Speyside Festival and had a lovely chat about..yes you guessed it, whisky! Hee hee. Who else? There was lovely Jeanine and her hubby and also Mr Distillery Bikes and his wife. Nice to see you all.

Then it was time to go and hear the choir sing carols and watch the Christmas lights being switched on. The local brass band and choir in perfect harmony.

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I must add, that everyone who works at the distillery that I met were happy, funny and welcoming, so refreshing to see and so nice to be around for the day. A lot of local businesses enjoyed a wonderful day and so did everyone else, from very tiny babies to those of older years. A day for all.

So, I guess that all that’s left to say is this, there is a lovely distillery you MUST visit. It is in Elgin. It is the Glen Moray Distillery. They have some absolutely wonderful whiskies for you to fall in love with…

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Sarah 🙂

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

Sibling Rivalry – The Dram Team

Sibling Rivalry it’s all part of family life eh? Well on this particular evening it was a battle of ages between these six drams, we were about to sample Glen Moray, Old Pulteney and Glenfarclas siblings. So who would come out as favourite? The elder or the younger? Well I guess there was really only one way to find out, sample them.

First up are the 12 and 15 year old expressions from Glen Moray from their Elgin Heritage range.

The 12 year old nose, lovey soft floral fragrance yet has a depth to it too. Just drawing you in for another sniff. Lovely toffee, vanilla and a bit of milk chocolate. Definitely a freshness to it. Now the 15 year old, lovely and fresh too but with some delicious spice and a note of frangipane and toffee and a delicious hint of oak. Going back to the 12 again and there is a thick creamy custard note (it’s been sitting a while now.) The palate on this delightfully light and fruity with that vanilla and it’s quite lightly spiced too. The 15 is that bit thicker on the palate with a sweetness and lovely spice again. Both are wonderful but I think the 15 just pips it to the post. Just.

Now to the Old Pulteney twosome. The 12 year old at 40%, and the 17 year old at 46%. I do like the Old Pulteney so it is nice to try them again.

The 12 year old on the nose is lovely and fresh like line dried linen with a sea breeze, a slight hint of fresh orange rind with vanilla and a pinch of salt and a the scent of oak.

And the 17 year old? A more robust nose and briny with it. Warm leather and a slight tanginess accompanies a bar of Mr. Toms – so that’s nuts in sugar and it smells delicious! I think there is a bit of a pine freshness there also. The palate of the 12 year old is slightly dry with a hint of vanilla and a bit of cream, soft whipped with a drop of this in it would be fab. Theres a slight spicy caramel to it but it’s sweet. The 17 year old is smoother on the palate, that nuttiness remains albeit lightly, and again it is sweet and fruity and really delicious with a long finish that just has you savouring the whisky.

Lastly we moved on to the Glenfarclas and the 10 year old and the 25 year old.

Up first is the 10 year old and the nose is quite buttery and a bit malty too. Toffee entices you a little with light spices and a little cream and honey, and the 25 year old? A richer nose on this one, the sherry really coming to the fore, Christmas pudding and bitter rind and really quite full on the nose. The 10 year old palate is light yet sweet with some cinnamon dancing on the tongue with lovely vanilla and the maltiness is there also. Against the lovely sherry on the 25 year old which really draws you in, some bitterness from dark chocolate yet rather yummy. Yes there is a difference in them but they both have their own merit, whether 10 years or 25 years old.

I based my thoughts on the Glenfarclas 15 year old that I really do enjoy.

A lovely selection of drams from some of my favourite distilleries. So thanks guys for another interesting box of delights!

And to all those who took part on the night – hello!

Sarah

 

 

Whisky Fudge

On the June 17th I’ll have a large box or hamper with 30 boxes of whisky fudge and heading along to The Whisky Lounge festival in Edinburgh. A thrill to have been invited, and another opportunity to meet some amazing whisky folks!

I’ll be taking along a few favourites, Glen Moray Elgin Classic Sherry Cask finish, Caol Ila 12 and lastly GlenDronach Batch 5 fudge…so if you’re popping along do say hello and feel free to buy a box.

See you then!

Sarah