This week featured the regular monthly whisky tasting at the Abbey. This month presented by Graham McKay from the Independent Bottlers Carn Mor [Morrison and McKay]. When you consider the Independent Bottling business certain points are important.
Their bottlings can be as small as one large cask or barrels purchased from several distilleries. They need very good contacts at distilleries in order to identify when a distillery has surplus whisky and is prepared to sell this at an advantageous price to the Independent Bottler. They also need excellent blenders to make the most of the whisky available to them.
The whisky tasting this month featured whiskies from two distilleries owned by the Ian Macleod organisation. There was an initial introduction by Bruce Borthwick representing the distillery owners. Bruce showed us the bottles which would be used in the tasting and gave us some basic background regarding the whiskies on the show.
We started with a blended malt whisky, “The Feathery.” This is blended using sherry casks and has the distinctive sweetness associated with this. The name refers to an early form of golf ball comprised of leather stuffed with feathers. A nice starter dram to get the evening underway!
What I learned about Whisky is not summed up in one line.
I learned about legislation and how this is different from continent to continent. It helps to understand the legal limitations that are set to Whisky and Whiskey. It helps to understand how this legislation limits the flavours that are able to be produced by American and Scottish producers. It helps to understand the economics of reused casks from the USA and how this limits the Scotch Whisky Industry. This is a partly self-chosen limitation based on available of reasonably priced casks.
The morning of Friday 17 November, dawned cloudily, but also chilly, as we made our way into Edinburgh and the Abbey Whisky Bar. On arrival at 8:30 am, we all had a nice bacon roll and coffee served by the owner Steve.
The mini-bus arrived and fifteen of us took a seat for the trip North to Aberfeldy. The first problem being to get out of the city! Not a small achievement with the seemingly everlasting roadworks everywhere. Eventually, we crossed the new “Saltire Bridge” and drove over into Fife. As the miles rolled by the scenery changed from rolling hills to a high hill with deep glens with lots of forests as we made our way into Perthshire.
The time passed quickly and soon we arrived at Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery.
Wednesday, October 25, featured the regular whisky tasting at the Abbey. This time there was a new twist as this was to be a “blind tasting”. The abilities, or lack of them, of the Whisky Group members, would be tested by trying to identify five whiskies without being told the name of each. In October the presentation was given by Mark Davidson of Royal Mile Whiskies on the High Street.
Having had a nice meal consisting of an Applewood cheeseburger, salad and chips followed by a lemon cheesecake I felt up to the challenge. So onto the tasting itself.
Looking across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Arran from the Ayrshire mainland on a clear day fascinated me as a child. Trips to Arran with my family and school excursions felt like I was a million miles away from anywhere.
On a rare Scottish sunny day, the Isle of Arran resembles the Caribbean with palm trees dotted around and blue shimmering seas at every turn. Arran is an Island I had grown to love and that love affair has never ended. It has only got stronger since the Isle of Arran Distillers were born.
It’s a familiar story really, two lads decided to drum up a few friends to start their own whisky tasting club ‘Real Men Drink Whisky’. Besides sharing and discussing their private collections with each other, they also attended organised whisky tastings. This is were the ball started rolling and things got a bit different…
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