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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Walsh Whiskey Twitter Tasting

I was very lucky to have been chosen to take part in the Walsh Whiskey tweet tasting. Why? Well because this is a distillery I’d seen on Twitter, but I’d never had the opportunity to sample their whisky until now. So I guess I was more than a little intrigued.

From their website…

“Our family is dedicated to continuing to play a central role in the revival of Irish whiskey as one of the world’s most appreciated spirits. We are doing this through the recreation of some old recipes from the 19th century, Ireland’s golden era of whiskey distilling, and also through the introduction of innovative new expressions for new palettes in a new era.

We are passionate for both innovation and attention to detail. Detail in our choice of location for our distillery in an area blessed by the ingredients and climate to make world-class, premium whiskey. Detail in the creation of a distillery for distiller, visitor and whiskey-drinker alike – where manual operations reign supreme over machine so that innovative small batches can be crafted to perfection.

We believe that our passion, innovation and attention-to-detail make a real difference to the enjoyment of people who choose our whiskeys and so they drive our family’s dream to create a legacy of whiskey excellence”.

Bernard & Rosemary Walsh

So what were we being treated to? We had two drams of The Irishman Irish Whiskey and two of the Writers’ Tears Irish Whiskey.

The first dram of the evening was the Writers’ Tears Copper Pot which is a unique vatting of single malt and single pot still whiskeys. These were distilled in copper pots.

The nose delivers very delicate spices. Luscious vanilla and cold apple crumble. Drizzles of honey. Banana foams 😳 sometimes I wonder about what I’m sensing but that’s the one that fits. Honey and caramel started to then develop more now. Loving the spices.

The palate is nice and smooth with a nice coating in the mouth. Sweet and spicy with some ginger. Lovely gentle warmth in the back of the mouth from it. Lovely hints of oak too. And vanilla, then there’s a slight creaminess too and hints of cereal. Hard to describe. The finish, erm the spices are yummy and it was going down well.

We then moved onto The Irishman Irish Whiskey Vintage Cask Strength 2017. This is bottled at cask strength of 54% abv. and it was matured in first fill Bourbon casks.

The nose is interesting. Quite spicy but not. A very slight hint of vanilla. But fruity & sweet, and there’s a nice amount of wood and an older scent which is nice too. The palate… ooh now that’s a mouth full but that’s nice. Delicious rich fruit and the spice balance so nicely. Feels a bit oily on the palate. Lovely oak flavours again. Definitely feels smooth. Moving on, the finish and hmm this is nice that warmth and spice and hmm I like!

Then it was back to the Writers’ Tears and the Red Head. This is triple distilled in select Spanish sherry butts which were seasoned with the finest Oloroso sherry.

Spicy on the nose and fruity too. Quite orangey. There’s something oddly soft about the nose fragrance wise that I’m having trouble describing but I’m enjoying.

Then the palate…hmm that’s nice. The oak is just lovely again. I do love the taste of wood! The spices and sherry influence is delicious, it’s smooth and coats the mouth nicely. There’s a creaminess / smoothness to it again. With a wonderful warmth on the finish with hints orange and oak once more.

Our last dram of the evening was the Irishman Founder’s Reserve Marsala Cask Finish.

Quite nippy on the spice front. Vanilla and sweet fruits. Bits of fruitella red fruits. Fresh.

It’s palate gave mmm the same fruitella red fruits which are still there but taper off quickly. Palate seems to dip a moment but leaves oak in place of the sweetness. I’ll be revisiting this one as I had an attack of sneezes mid way.

However, what an introduction to Walsh Whiskey…it was definitely the thing to pique my interest and draw me in.

Many thank again to Walsh Whiskey and Steve Rush for this tasting. It was fab.

Slàinte

Dewar’s of Aberfeldy Distillery – Tweet Tasting

Wednesday 22nd November, the Dewar’s of Aberfeldy Tweet tasting was finally here. I think there was a whole lot of us eager to take part in this evening, and we were all waiting with excitement as to what delicious drams we were going to try…

This evening we were going to sample three whiskies firstly the 12 year old, then the 2001 single cask #21444 and finishing with the 1999 single cask #5.

The 12 year old – Nose, this had a lovely soft fragrant nose. Honey, caramel and a little orange with delightful delicate spices, then lovely vanilla with a slight creamy sugar. The spice is showing itself more now. And then a little fudge. This was new to me (the whisky and I really was enjoying the flavours.)

The palate had a lovely smooth feeling on mouth. Getting some lovely oak flavours. Rich caramel and vanilla and that hint of orange and the gentle warmth of the spices….yum! And the finish was lovely, loving that spice just warming the throat as you savour the remaining flavours on the mouth.

We then moved onto the 2001, cask #21444 The nose… hmm wood and a slight hint of leather a lovely nip of spice. Soft wisps of vanilla too, a little orange. It’s a bit like the scent you get opening an old book but the spice is more spicy now with lovely vanilla. The palate woah mamma! Spicy! I was a little chilly earlier, not now. Delicious fruit. Burnt sugar and some orange again. Warming the palate deliciously. Its finish hmmm I like this. Creamy goodness and probably custard (before the national shortage). Maybe a little custard danish. A little drying but different, in a good way.

And the last sure to be delight of the evening the 1999 single cask #5. I was quite sure that this was to be another delicious delectable treat. How did it go? Hmm ginger, caramel and sweet spiced fruit cake. Vanilla smells nice with a touch of treacle…The palate delivered a nice rich mouthfeel which was quite viscous. Good bitter dark chocolate…a sumptuous taste. Rich mixture of fruits (cake mixture) still getting the vanilla. What a finish, the fruit remains and there’s a delicious oak again. Just delighting the palate. Slightly dry but nonetheless good.

And my verdict? I loved cask #5 and well they’re all fab to be honest. A great start to my journey into I really must go and visit.

Many thanks to Steve and Gary and Dewar’s of Aberfeldy for a wonderful tasting and of course to everyone else online that evening 🙂

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Slàinte, Sarah 🙂

Drinks by the Dram – Whisky Advent

Wednesday 15th November saw us willing participants gather together (so to speak) for a twitter tasting which saw us being privileged to have a ‘sneak peek at the jolly treats within”  Drinks by the Drams Whisky Advent Calendar.

The five we were going to try were as follows:

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak – SMSW 40% vol.

Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky – Single Grain 40% vol.

The Lost Distilleries – Blended Scotch Whisky 51% vol.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky – Swedish Single Malt Whisky 41.4% vol.

Kilchoman Sanaig – SMSW 46% vol.

First up was the Macallan the nose was initially sweet and juicy fruit. Some gentle spices. Fresh on the senses. However the initial burst of senses on the nose then fairly settled down… can’t say this is a good thing. I am perhaps more used to a whisky that I can smell from the table or beside me, just teasing me to have a nose and then a sip. Yes it’s probably because of the strength of it, but that’s a personal preference. The nose then started to give a little hint of cereal. The palate has quite a light mouthfeel (maybe I’m used to my cask strength delights) definitely getting some oats and spices. Slightly bitter. Quite a short finish with a little warmth.

We then moved on to the Bain’s Cape Mountain, it starts off  very light on the senses. Soft caramel is there then as it is left to open there’s a slightly nuttiness and vanilla. Very soft. I was getting the scent of those little caramel logs (chocolate covered) circa 1976… maybe you know what I mean if you’re a child of the 70’s… The palate was very smooth. Nice sweetness but not overly so.

Next up was The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 10 the nose gave lots of woody notes… some vanilla, perhaps some chocolate sprinkles. This was taking time to open up. But some things do… And that is okay!

I’m (I was) almost getting the scent of fresh earth after a rain shower…Now the palate, initially it evoked the scent of putting a candle out with a snuffer…waxy. Being met with sweetness and spice which seem to fit so well with a hint of heat and wood. There was a delicious dark chocolate and a peppery hit too, it’s waxy and warm and tingling on the tongue. The spice just sits so well with the sweetness… I’m getting pencil shavings. A rather lovely dram. The finish had a hint of warmth and the sweetness just giving itself to your palate to enjoy a little longer.

Then we tried the Mackmyra Brukswhisky (The Swedish Whisky) this gave a gentle mix of smoke and caramel with some gooey sweetness. A quite perfumed fragrant nose with vanilla and some raspberry. The palate was slightly dry. Peppery and with a bit of cereal. Some nice warmth hitting the back of the mouth as you swallow.

Last dram of the evening was the Kilchoman Sanaig (Sanaig, a small rocky inlet located north of the distillery) and the name of this addition it was matured in Oloroso sherry casks. The nose weet smoke and TCP and a lot of it… some salt and leather, smells like a saddle. Must find my crop (was the comment on the night..) On to the palate, there was a  big hit of smoke and heat on the mouth. Yet a citrus sweetness to it. Quite smooth on the mouth but a nip of spice, quite drying yet there was something encouraging my mouth to water and it ain’t Opal Fruits.

Thanks to Steve Rush and Drinks by the Dram for the samples an opportunity to take part on the evening.

Slàinte, Sarah 🙂

Spirit of Speyside 2017 Tweet Tasting

The 12th July saw us taking part in the Spirit of Speyside 2017 tweet tasting on Twitter #Dram17

This is my long overdue review…but it’s here at last.

Although Speyside is very close to me I must admit I’ve never been to the Spirit of Speyside festival, this is something I’d like to rectify in the future. I have however had the pleasure of visiting all but two of the distilleries we were about to sample whiskies from, so I knew I was in for a treat.

The first sample of the evening was the Aberlour A’bunadh a delightful whisky. I think one that raises a lot of questions over which batch is best…but hey, what is life without some polite and honest discussion?

The nose gave delicious sherry, spice and sweet deliciousness. Lovely sweet fruits and maybe a hint of fudge (this led to some exploration for me.)

Palate was delicious too, with spice and touches of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. A delicious robust dram. 

We then moved onto the Tamdhu Batch Strength 002. Having tried this one earlier in the year I again got that bread scent on the nose, this was mixed with cinnamon and spice. I was getting some nuts covered in caramel with a touch of vanilla to round off this sumptuous offering. A lovely rich palate with a hint of pepper and the oak that came through gave this a wonderful taste. Deliciously slightly tingly (spicy) but warm finish which mingles with the vanilla.

Cragganmore was our next dram. This was the 2004 Distillers Edition.

The nose is floral and creamy with a hint of nail polish remover. A light almost watery mouthfeel with this sample. This has a gentle a smokiness with a good amount of sweetness. Not sure if I was getting white pepper too? This had a light smoky finish.

We then moved back to Aberlour for the 12 year old. Again a lovely fresh nose. Juicy apples, vanilla and softly fragranced. Perhaps a little chocolate too. Most inviting. Lovely smooth palate with a good amount of spice. Dark chocolate and spices again. A little nutty.

With finish was delicious with the spices giving some warmth while the dark chocolate remains.

 The Glenlivet 18 year old was next. Initially a slight hint of sulphur, yet once it had opened a fruity freshness began to develop with some sweet spices. This accompanied with vanilla, floral notes and toffee. The palate delivered sweet vanilla fudge, bitter chocolate laced with wisps of caramel and a slight creaminess.

The last dram was now upon us and this was the Glenfiddich 15 year old. I’m taking note to hopefully go back and visit next year again. This has a lovely sticky, caramel nose. Some milk chocolate and vanilla with a drizzle of honey.
The palate was sweet, yet not. It offered cinnamon and spice and lovely wood noted with a delicious mouth feel.

So a wonderful evening of delicious whisky from a stunning area of Scotland. An evening spent with friends too. That’s never a bad thing.

Huge amount of thanks to Steve and the distilleries for this delicious and delightful tasting.

Slàinte
Sarah

 

The Benromach – Twitter Tasting

Sadly I had to duck out of the tasting at the last moment. However, I’ve finally had the chance to catch up with a brace of Benromach.

And what a treat!

I’m not sure what order they were sampled, but I chose the Triple Distilled, then the Château Cissac.

Benromach Triple Distilled

50% vol

A little smoke and vanilla. Apples and orange on the nose.

Palate is quite punchy but smooth. Really wasn’t expecting that. Smooth and a little viscous. Malt flavours come to the fore. Oak and dark bitter chocolate too. Some lemon or definitely a citrus fruit. The smoke still making itself known in the background.

Delicious finish with the dark chocolate remaining.

Château Cissac

45% vol.

Again a certain amount of subtle smoke on the nose. Fruity again…galia melon mingling with the smoke and juicy apples. There’s a delicious oak coming through with a delightful orange scent. The palate delivers too. A lovely richness in the mouth coupled with a good grind of black pepper. There’s a yummy dark chocolate bitterness, vanilla too. I do love the oak on the palate too. The finish is delicious and reassuringly good, and temptingly warm.

Thanks to Steve Rush and Benromach for including me on this tasting.

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Sarah

Heaven Hill UK Tweet Tasting

On the 4th July myself and a host of other tweeters joined together for an evening of bourbon from Heaven Hill UK. hmm just realised the # I used read #HeaveHillUK…D’oh missing the N!

First to sample was Evan Williams Extra Aged, the nose gave rich sweet honey and caramel yet slightly minty, probably like Pacers if you’re of that generation?! Sweet hint of vanilla and a dash of oak and banana. Palate is quite punchy, caramel, burnt sugar and that minty-ness remains with some spices too. Dry and bitter finish.

Next to try was the Old Fitzgerald Larceny, toffee and fresh baked bread, caramel, vanilla and soft sugar. A touch of cinnamon. On the palate, sweet and a tad doughy a little peppery and some wood too, quite dry on the finish.

Now to the Bernheim Original. Honey and freshly made buttered popcorn / buttered white toast. Sweetex. Sweet and inviting on the nose with a touch of vanilla and a drizzle of honey and maybe a little fudge (it worked well in fudge too.)  Lovely palate sweet and caramel / toffee coming through.

And last but not least the Rittenhouse. The nose delivers honey and a touch of oak, slightly fresh note too. Palate spicy and sweet and a bit tingly. Some delicious bitterness though.

My favourites on the evening were Larceny and the Bernheim. Having just sat with them again, I dare say I enjoyed the Rittenhouse too.

Thanks to Steve, and Heaven Hill UK for the chance to take part and for the samples.

Sarah