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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Birmingham Whisky Festival

I was dreaming I was flying…

In actual fact I was flying. Flying down from the frozen North. Between snoozing, I was gazing down at the snow dusted mountains and villages across the UK.

Yes I (little Miss Spontaneous) had decided to squeeze in one last festival this year…well you would, wouldn’t you?

So, here I was in Birmingham for the festival. I had a little wander round Birmingham beforehand (to refresh my bearings.)

A little note of big thanks to Eddie and Vicky…you know why, and it was appreciated.

One of the first people I bumped into was Sorren (ocdwhisky) and then I think Mr. Boutique-y Whisky himself Dave. Had a nice chat with Jason (B Standing) and well there were a lot of familiar and friendly faces there, it was a whisky festival after all!

Hugs and greetings given it was nearly kick off time. So what was the first dram to be?

I decided to pop along to the Paul John stand to say hello to Shilton,  and I was very lucky to have been offered a sample of the new Kanya by Paul John which should be available in the New Year… Kanya believe it? I could and luckily other’s got to sample it too.

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I then decided to go for a wander round the hall… I have to say it was a bit of a shock seeing Sorren (#SOS – see Twitter) on the Diageo stand, but he was at home with Colin Dunn (lovely, funny man) and they were very busy…and I had a nice couple of samples poured for me at the Talisker…or should I say Diageo stand. I tried the Blair Atholl 23 year old and much later the Pittyvaich.

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I went and said hello to David and his lovely wife Wendy from whiskeytumblers…if you’ve never seen what they do, then why wait? They’ve also got a “snifter” now.

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I tried the Kilchoman Red Wine Cask matured which was nice. Then basically it was weaving in and out and sampling lots of other delicious whiskies.

Andy Purslow was amusing as ever and poured the Treacle Chest for me and later the Vanilla Burst and a couple of others too.

I also met Amy Seton and had a catch up…exciting times ahead for her.

I appear to have taken up residency at one of the small silver tables…the bloggers table 🙂 always a good spot to gather ones thoughts and take pics of what you’re drinking. And to stand and take in the delcious nose of a tasty dram and just smile…

Properly met the lovely Vicky Osgood who I’d very briefly met at the Whisky Exchange show in London.

Anyway it was mostly drinking whisky…you’re shocked. I can tell! 😂😂 but also meeting some new friends and making new ones.

And I hope those that got some of my delicious fudge enjoy it, and it’s not too long before “nom nom…it’s all gone!!”

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So…till next year.

Big hugs, Sarah x x

Paul John Whisky – Cask #1444

Last Saturday I was down in the rather beautiful Manchester Town Hall for The Whisky Lounge festival.

As it was getting very close to my time to rush off to the airport (boo!!) and so my final dram, I thought it would be nice to finish with the Classic. So I headed to the Paul John table to ask for sample (my bottle at home is still closed.) As it happened I was given a rather lovely dram from Craig instead.

This was the Paul John Cask #1444 this is a single cask – 59.7%

So I headed to one of the link bridges. Quiet and away from the crowds (it was a busy session) I could enjoy what was in my glass.

The nose offered lots of malty scents and barley. Hints of vanilla and ripe fruit. It was a fragrant sweet nose mingling with malted biscuits. Delicious honey sweetness  (in a place surrounded by images of worker bees seemed fitting.) Those lovely spices were really drawing me in, with a subtle herb influence too. After a while I got the most delicate hint of parma violets (wasn’t going to say that – but I did.)

A lot of spice initially greets your tastebuds. Oak and malt again. The woody hints are pleasant on the palate. Fruity sweetness and that soft herbaliness.. Malted biscuits. Full and smooth delicious mouthfeel coats the mouth.

The spice remains on the palate. It’s just toying with your tastebuds. A long finish with that delicious oakiness resting nicely with the remaining delicate spices.

Then it was time for an all too brief “see you later”…

As I was leaving I left some of my fudge with Sorren & Craig at the Paul John table, grabbed my bags and I was gone…

Thanks for the opportunity of trying this Craig.

Slàinte

Edinburgh Whisky Festival

 

Alternative title being “the other side of the table”…

I was invited to the Whisky Lounge Edinburgh by Amanda & Eddie to sell my fudge…so after making it I packed my lovely Balvenie hamper and Glen Moray bag and headed for Edinburgh on what was to be a swelteringly hot day.

I arrived at the really impressive Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. A friendly face greeted me, this was of course Mr Boutique-y Whisky the lovely Dave. So a quick hug and a hello and I went to pop my bags on my table. I saw Amanda who showed me where I could leave my case for the day, then after getting some directions my next port of call was a wee whisky shop on Rose St. And who would I find there? Well this would be Tom Thomson. A blogger and friend who I have tweeted with for 5 years or so, so finally I’d be able to say “hello”. A warm welcome greeted me as well as a rather delicious sample of a 25 year old Bunnahabhain. Lovely sweet caramel and toffee and then a deliciously smoky palate 🙂 whilst I was in the door went, and in walked Dave McKinnon and his stepson Graeme. Another hello, a hug goodbye to Tom and time to race back for the festival.

It was a wonderfully amusing day with lots of familiar faces, across from me was Paul Dempsey from Spey Single Malt and yes I got a hug… and amongst the other wonderful people I met was the lovely Justine Hazelhurst (Kask Whisky) and we have a few wee chats, and I might pop down for one of her events… Roy from Aqvavitae came past and said hello… I was on a stand next to a lovely pie maker from Mussleburgh whose banter was most welcome. I also met the lovely Whisky’n’Whiskers and her sister, again a lovely chat. David from Scotland Spirit spotted me and said hello… between times I was selling my fudge and it really was well received.  I looked across to my left and saw a familiar Tube Map and decided to go and have a look and met Blair Bowman and it was fantastic to say “thanks for signing my book “For Smiley” and to introduce myself.IMG_5650.JPG

Some were surprised there were a few choices of whiskies in the fudge and as ever the fudges I brought hit the spot. The Glen Moray fudge was extremely well received, as was the GlenDronach and the Caol Ila 12.

The wonderful and energetic Whisky Lounge – Eddie, Amanda and team were always on the go, and their passion and enthusiasm is evident amongst all of them. So refreshing to see!

Highlights of the day? I had a couple of men shouting to me in the street “Iove your fudge”, and the gentleman towards the end of the night who sampled a piece and declared “I love you – I’ll come back” and he did. And the old gentleman Dave who wanted to take my photo ha ha and then asked what I was selling and after sampling a piece went happily away with a box for himself. I sold most of the boxes full price but as the evening drew to a close I managed to sell the rest a little cheaper.

Banter, fun and laughter is the key to life…like meeting an old friend Rob (Bruce) It was so lovely to see him and catch up. And the lovely ambassadors from Fentimans, Mackmyra UK, etc. etc. Their love of their jobs and their humour is wonderful to see. And lastly the end of evening drinks.

So thank you everyone. A brilliant day and a fun evening. Truly a day of smiles, hugs and aching cheeks (upper.) And of course a few delicious drams…

Sarah x

 

 

 

 

 

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

Newcastle Whisky Festival

Last Friday morning with bags packed, a couple of whisky samples and whisky fudge I boarded the train to Newcastle.

With a book in front of me I sat and planned a little sample session and note taking of my Boutique-y Whisky Carsebridge sample, maybe an hour or so into my trip. Earphones in.. then came the message over the tannoy “blah, blah, DRY TRAIN, blah blah, NO ALCOHOL till after Newcastle!!”

Well my little bag of goodies wasn’t helping as the aroma of Paul John “Edited” and GlenDronach “batch 5” fudge teased me with their delicious aroma…the man opposite did say that had I shared my samples he wouldn’t have told anyone. Yet, the thought of being met at the station by BTP most definitely put paid to that plan. So I sat with The Angels’ Share by James Markert (good read) and let the miles slip by.

So I arrived in Newcastle. I’d been trying to recall how often I must have visited as a child, as I’m from Middlesbrough (smoggy – in case no one got that yet..) but having left the area at 10 years of age, a lot has changed.

Checked into the hotel. Changed rooms. Chilled, showered and off I went to the evening session.

So here I was, festival number three. Wristband on, glass, pipette, and tokens in hand I went in.

First of all I said hello to and dropped off some fudge with the ladies from Angel’s Share Glass – they had the GlenDronach and then later I handed the Paul John “Edited” to Sorren and Craig, seemed fitting 🙂

I went and said hello to the wonderful Boutique-y Dave and had a very warm welcome from him. It was also nice meeting Joe from Twitter and Paul from Speyside Distillers. Then I went to see Colin Dunn (lovely funny man) and David from Spirit Scotland and the man who poured me my first festival dram in York, the delicious BenRinnes 23 year old. It was nice having a chat and a laugh, and making them laugh at my ever so well thought out blog “ILOVEWHISKY” well it says it all 🙂

Said hello to the Paul John men and their wonderful array of whiskies and delivered the ugly duckling fudge that was in fact a swan with its slightly smoky finish.

It was also nice speaking to the lovely Gina as I escaped the older gentlemen admirers. Ed was lovely and thankfully a) not 30 years younger and b) not single.

So, I tried a few drams on my travels round, from Angels’ nectar (thanks Karen) very smooth and an easy drinker (the whisky) to the Quiet Man, also very smooth and although perhaps not for me, still a nice whisky. I had Talisker, Lagavulin, Paul John Bold, Peated, probably a #1906, some Mackmyra, TBWC, Aberlour A’bunadh and possibly (definitely) a couple more on my way in and out of the gathering. I also had some rather scrummy chicken curry and chips.

It was a lovely evening and then I headed back to my digs.

Day 2 was to come…

This was the Saturday session, big brekky time and off I went, with my luggage in tow. It was nice to pop back in and revisit some more whiskies, I had the lovely Caledonian from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, stopped by to say hello to Colin and David who thought I looked bright eyed and energised I then went off for one final dram as the place was absolutely packed.

So final delicious dram poured, fudge and business card handed over with a few remaining tokens and and all too brief farewell, I was gone.

But I shall return…