Seasonal Joy & Craft Whisky


First of all I forgot to mention last month the winners of categories I helped to judge in the SLTN Awards back in November. I helped on Whisky Bar of the Year and the two restaurant awards, Casual Dining and Fine Dining. It was a clean sweep for Glasgow in all three categories. As a non-Glaswegian I can say there was no agenda there! The one that matters to us here is Whisky Bar of the Year which went to The Bon Accord on North Street. They’ve come within a whisker of winning a few times and they’d introduced some great new developments since they last entered in 2013 so were worthy winners. A close second was The Pot Still, also in Glasgow. I do hope they try again. If you’ve not seen who all the winners are yet, a full article can be found at .

Despite it being the end of the year when we’re all thinking about time off there are still new whisky expressions being launched. It’s also awards season with Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky announced recently and the Whisky Advocate annual awards in the US too. The Whisky Advocate ones announced so far are on as they drip feed them at one a day. The Icons of Whisky winners can be found at – yes they do call these the 2016 awards – or I will comment on only a few to say that Ardbeg are deserving winners of Visitor Attraction of the Year and I’m delighted to see Dr. Bill Lumsden as Master Distiller / Master Blender of the Year. On the off-trade side two well-known names in Cadenhead’s (multiple outlets) and Royal Mile Whiskies (Online Retailer) were winners. Cadenhead’s have been of great help to me this year and the folks at Royal Mile Whiskies, whether in-store or online, continue to be great people to deal with.

One of the Icons awards is for Craft Distillery. No disrespect at all to the winner as I heartily applaud that venture. It’s the word “craft” I find annoying and I see others are still getting hot under the collar about it too in some of the online postings I’ve read recently. I have to agree with Stephanie Macleod, Master Blender at Dewar’s who politely stated in an interview/discussion a while back, that all distillers practise craft, as in the love, attention and care they put into the ingredients and production. They wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t. It’s just that some are much bigger than others and maybe use more computers for certain parts of the process. Really, we’re meaning very small operations so can we please get away from “craft”. Size does not imply craft. Would artisanal be a better word? Or micro-distillery? That has less romance about it than craft which has us harking back to centuries past and some warm, fuzzy notions of smaller and more local being better. It’s not. It’s just smaller. Large and small take good care to craft their product. End of.

Recent happenings on the whisky scene are new packaging for Tomatin whiskies; all three of Benriach Distillery Company’s distilleries have taken awards at the Malt Maniacs awards and the launch of The Kingsbarns Distillery Founders’ Club. This is open to only 3,000 people worldwide and gives investors a chance to sample the first few years of bottlings from the new distillery, starting when the spirit first matures in 2018. The welcome pack on joining also includes a sample of the new spirit which showed great promise when I tried it back in January during their first month of distilling. All for only £500. Not a bad way for a whisky enthusiast to spend some money.

Tomatin new packagingRange smaller-1 (2)

As far as new expressions go, we have Aberfeldy 16 Year Old from Dewar’s. It’s at 40% abv, finshed in oloroso sherry casks and priced at about £62 per bottle. I do like Aberfeldy and look forward to trying some next year. It’s not one of the samples sent when I tasted a number of expressions from Dewar’s Last Great Malts collection, of which this is one. Royal Salute has launched The Age Collection featuring ten distinctive blends with the youngest containing whiskies 21 years or older and the oldest containing whiskies at least 30 years old. Only 21 sets are available globally and price is $40,000. Not in my Santa letter, then. Lastly Glenglassaugh released Batch 2 of its Rare Cask Series. There are 8 malts in the batch from 36 to 42 years of age. Maybe more on some of these in January if it’s a quiet month.

Now I’d just like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and an absolutely brilliant New Year. Back in January, refreshed and ready to roll for 2016.



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