Tag Archives: Dramatic Whisky

Whisky, WOW!

10 Oct

As readers may know, I have been looking rather forward to the stupendous sounding TWE Whisky Show for a while. Well, I’m happy to report that the fest did nothing less than “wow” me when I went on Friday.

Rows of whisky companies snaked along the walls and, as I walked in, it took a minute for me to take it all in. Where to start? Which to choose? Should I go for the familiar or aim for some newbies I’d not tried before?

Like a kid in a candy store, I felt overwhelmed by it all – but finally made the choice to head to the Number One Drinks stand to start. May as well start at the top, right?

A bottle I can't wait to try and get my hands on!

I was not disappointed. On show was a rather fabulous quartet of Japanese whiskies. My favourite was the Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu: flavoursome, with caramel and citrus notes, and a surprisingly soft bite given it comes in at a rather hefty 61% ABV. The bottle was only shown for the first time at Whisky Live: Paris at the end of September. With only 900 bottles due to come to the UK (out of 7,400 bottles made) I expect it will sell out quite quickly, but you can be sure Gwiltypleasures will be hanging around with her credit card at the ready when it does hit the shelves.

Next up, I wandered over to the Balvenie stand where Balvenie Ambassador Dr Andrew Forrester was chatting about the mix he and Malt Master David Stewart put together as the “Dream Dram” for the event. I tried it,  the Signature and the PortWood, all of which seriously pleased my palate, with the PortWood being my favourite (if post-drinks-event memory serves me correctly).

Next up was the English Whisky Company – the first whisky distilling company in England for more than 100 years. I was keen to find out more about this distillery based in Roudham (near Newmarket) and spent a long while chatting away to MD Andrew Nelstrop about how it came about. “Our family had been farming for 600 years and we got bored of sending our barley elsewhere,” he told me. And what a good idea that was. The two I tried (Chapter 9: the Peated Single Malt, and the Cask Strength) were both delicious. None have been chill-filtered and all have a slightly sweet flavour, which Nelstrop puts down to the hard water they use at the distillery. An English triumph indeed!

So, the only question then was, where to next? I’d seen so little in the first 90 minutes at the fest, but was already feeling the effects of the spirit – but, with not a sandwich or foodstuff in sight, I could only do the honourable thing and push on!

Glenglassaugh's Ronnie Routledge talks shop at his stand

Running in to Mark Thomson from Dramatic Whisky, we headed over to try a gorgeous Glenglassaugh  –  the Chosen Few (chosen by industry veteran Ronnie Routledge) was a smooth, 35-year-old oakey, appley whisky, which, despite its age, still came in at an impressive 49.6% ABV. Gorgeous! I also had a wee tipple of the Fledgling XB, a 1-year-old, straight out of the cask, taster – it was superb: caramel, soft fruit, with an aftertaste of apricot and camembert.

What followed is a hazy blur of many more delicious whiskies – unfortunately, by this point, my ability to take notes was fading – I know there was a ’78 vintage Balblair, a special edition Longrow Burgandy bottling from Springbank, an ’88 Glenrothes, and a few at the fantastic Compass Box Whisky stand. But after that, it blurs a bit.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t have been more pleased at the range of distillers on show at the fest – unless there had been a really large kebab stand waiting to hand me food as I left. Maybe something to think about for next time chaps? All in all, Gwiltypleasures were satisfied and many a whisky dream followed when I finally got myself home to rest my weary whisky head on my pillow!

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Dramatic Whisky

15 Sep

One of my favourite things to indulge in is whisky. Its diversity of flavours and smells makes my tongue wiggle in happiness with each sip and I am finding myself ever more keen to develop my knowledge of this gorgeous spirit.

Over the years of enjoying this drink, I can clearly say I have learned that whisky is dramatic. In fact, seeing as Mirriam Webster defines the word as “striking in appearance or effect” and seeing as whisky is, most often, both – especially the latter after too many top-ups – I was glad to stumbleupon someone seizing on this fact to promote greater education about the drink to the masses.

This person is drinks-industry veteran Mark Thomson, who heads up the aptly named company: “Dramatic Whisky“. Its goal: “To break down the stuffy, dusty walls surrounding the mystique of Whisky and allow everyone the opportunity to discover and understand this fabulous liquid…”

I was curious to find out more and, after an invitation from Mark, headed to one of his latest tastings at the lovely Liberty Lounge on Bell Lane, just down from Spitalfields market.

Some of the evening's whiskies stand at attention while Dramatic Whisky founder, Mark Thomson, sorts last-minute details in the background

I was not disappointed, nor were the 21 other people who, later, all seemed to compliment Mark’s lecture as they wobbled out the door.

But back to the start. The venue was perfect for the evening: trendy but cozy, all dark-wood, dark-banquettes and dark couches, mood-lit by flickering candles. The guests made small talk over the lounge music bubbling across the stereo and the whole place felt far from anything stuffy or old-school.

Soon enough, we got down to the evening’s main event: the tasting, which comprised six whiskies. Interestingly, Mark started us out – after a comedic talk on how whisky is made and its history – with a Grant’s, something I haven’t drunk since a rather unfortunate evening as an 18-year-old when I glugged a litre of the stuff with a friend during a beach party in England’s south. It put me off whisky for a good six years, and I was doubtful of trying it again. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised: it had nice caramel and vanilla notes, was smooth and left a subtle pear taste of the palate. This was certainly due to the fact it wasn’t any bog-standard Grant’s but a posher, sherry cask finished blend, and my memories of one of my worst teenage hangovers were not brought back. Putting this whisky first was part of Mark’s goal to de-snobbify whisky drinkers who think supermarket-shelf stuff is no good and I think it did the trick.

We continued with a light, young, appley Glen Moray; Penderyn’s delicious peated malt (still one of my personal favourites); a rich, sherry-casked 12-year-old Highland Park; a nutty, oily 18-year-old Highland Park; and, finally, a Christmas-cake-in-a-glass 18-year-old Glenlivet.

Throughout the event, Mark tried his best to get the crowd chatting and spent much time joking about the attempts of the evil English to control and regulate distilleries in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was an evening choc-a-bloc with interesting information delivered in a relaxed manner, using the latest technology (he brought up pictures to illustrate points on his iPad) in a fantastic hidden-away bar I was very glad to discover. There was even a large plate of flavourful Moroccan food to finish.

And finally, it was dramatic in as much as it was the antithesis of what many whisky evenings can be: older, stuffy, aristocratic and snobby. We had fun, drank lots and got to love new whiskies. Gwiltypleasures was definitely satisfied…she can only hope Mark will continue to get the “water of life” flowing to even greater numbers of the UK population…

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