So I had this plan right….

…and it was going to be great.

But like most of my great plans, this one didn’t quite work out as planned.

I never make New Year’s resolutions, ever!

However, maybe it was the whisky, the food or more likely the company, at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) on Hogmanay, I made kind of a joint resolution with Nicole that we’d try and attend at one tasting a month or organise at least one society share a month to get the most out of our memberships.

The net result of this is an average of 2 “tastings” a month for the first 6 months of the year. So, I’ve been lucky enough to taste an awful lot of good whisky. I mean some truly spectacular whisky.

I’ve not been alone in tasting this whisky. For most of the tasting I’ve been to it has been with my joint resolutionist, Nicole. There have been a few with my fellow EH10 founder, David and also our newest recruit, Niall. I’ve also been lucky enough to attend a few with Tom from Tom’s Whisky Reviews, someone that has forgotten more about whisky thank I will ever know.

So, rather than bore you all with all my favourites, I had hoped to get all the above named involved to put together a list of all our favourite drams for the first 6 months of the year.

The first part of my plan to get the input went kind of well. When I say well I remembered to ask 75% the group for their favourite dram. I forgot to email Tom to ask him if he’d mind providing something! Not off to the best start then.

The second part of the plan didn’t go much better. Everyone works and has commitments, so 5 days to think of the best drams, possibly re-taste, put something down and send it to me was a little hopefully of me, especially when one of those 5 days had 3 of us brewing our own beer at Krafty Brew in Leith.

Throw in a visiting family member, a birthday and (of course) work, I realised that I’d probably not given anyone nearly enough time.

EH10 Whisky Society LogoAnd to be honest, I’ve spent more time this week designing our new logo and the label for our EH10 Whisky Society beer. Yes, we have our own beer now!

So after all that rambling what you’re getting is two of my favourite whiskies, until I can beg and plead for my fellow whisky drinkers to provide me with their favourites. Then you’ll get our 2015 highlight reel.

Last year I was all about Speyside, I couldn’t get enough of anything from Speyside, Glenlossie specifically, it was all just so so good.

But since the turn of the year, it’s been all about peat for me. I cannot get enough of peaty whisky at the moment.

With that in mind, my number one pick for 2015 so far is….

SMWS 124.42 – Peat Freak Heaven

This was one helluva a dram and probably one of the few and truest examples of a 12 year old Port Charlotte I’ll taste this year, maybe even ever. It was incredible, by far and away the best Islay whisky I’ve had this year and one of the best I’ve had ever.

That could very well change though if the society keep producing bottles of whisky like my number two choice.

SMWS 29.161 – A bodega is burning

I had to think long and hard if this was better than my number one choice, I wavered for a bit then decided it was an incredibly close second. This was quite simply Laphroaig at it’s finest and when the society keep bottling gems like this, there is going to be another one soon that will be even better.

There are so many other stand out whiskies this year, but none have made such an impression as these two have. If the next 6 months provide as many good whiskies, I’ll be a very happy man, probably drunk, but definitely very happy.

Before I go, I have to say a sad farewell to one of the most incredible SMWS Ambassadors I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. She has been an incredible host, picked some amazing whiskies I’d never have contemplated trying and a joy to talk to when I’ve been in Queen Street. All of us at EH10 wish you well for the future Antea and hope this is farewell, not goodbye. You will be missed!




Did someone say Whisky Stramash?

…unfortunately they did and rather than a Stramash it was it a bit of a damp squib.

I like drinking whisky.

I like going to whisky events and tastings.

So, I was quite excited about going to my first ever Stramash on 24 May at the Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh.

On reflection I can come up with is two positives:

  1. My drinking companion (Nicole – who loves a big sausage)
  2. Pickering’s Gin (I’ll come back to this shortly)

I’m still trying to figure out why it was such a let-down and three possible reasons come to mind:

  1. Was it a complete lack of any interesting new whiskies to sample?
  2. Was it the 10ml samples? (I mean come on, how are you supposed to get an impression from a 10ml sample.)
  3. Possibly a complete lack of atmosphere in the venue?

In the end it wasn’t just one of these things it was a combination of all three, complimented by some of the least friendly, uninterested staff I have ever come across. I should quantify, not all the staff were like this but some were bordering on obnoxious and seemed put out by you asking a question.

I still can’t figure out why they had to spend 10 minutes telling you what the whisky tasted like when they could have just poured you a sample and let you find out for yourself!

Oh, best not forget some of the most unmemorable whisky at this kind of event. There was no real stand out whisky to be tasted.

Don’t get me wrong there was some nice whisky on offer from Laphroaig and Bowmore, as well as a slightly interesting new bottling from Highland Park. But nothing I’ve not had before and nothing I would run out and buy.

That being said the corner between the Bowmore/Laphroaig stall and the Yamazaki/Auchentoshan/Highland Park stall was a great spot for getting a bit of space and easy access to some of the better whisky of the day.

Maybe, I’m being overly critical, I’d just attended back to back tasting at SMWS Queen Street (@SMWSQueenStreet) which were both fantastic, incredible whisky, excellent food and similarly good quality company.

So I’ve had to ask myself, had I set the bar too high for the Stramash? – I don’t think I did!

Where my expectations to high? – I really don’t think they were!

One thing I have taken from the Stramash is a change in my attitude to gin. It took a bit of prompting by Nicole for me to try some. I’m glad she did convince me to try it.

In my head up to this point, all gin tasted like Gordon’s, awful!

Pickering’s gin could not be further from that and it was such a pleasant surprise. So needless to say I’m going to explore gin a lot more carefully going forward now. If I develop a bit of a gin habit, it’s all Nicole’s fault for convincing me to try it!

So, first time at the Stramash will quite probably be the last. This will be confirmed in the next few weeks at the Edinburgh Whisky Solstice and this summer’s Whisky Fringe and seeing how both these measure up against the Stramash. Last year both were excellent and a class above my experience of the Stramash, so may make the decision not to go back next year a lot easier.

Massive thanks to Nicole for accompany me to yet another tasting/event and convincing me gin is not evil after all.


4 June 2015