So, it’s been a while….

…this is because it’s taken so long to sober up after the Edinburgh Whisky Solstice.

Yes, the summer is finally upon us, sort of, and with that brings both the Edinburgh Whisky Solstice (20 June) and The Whisky Fringe (7-9 August).

After the disappointment of this year’s Whisky Stramash, I had high hopes for the Whisky Solstice. And it did not disappoint. Even the sun made an appearance to make what would’ve been an incredible day, almost perfect.

The Whisky Lounge and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) once again teamed up to put on an event in Edinburgh, taking a bit of a gamble in the process by making arrangements for an outdoor event in Queen Street Gardens.

It was a gamble that paid off by the bucket load.

For the afternoon we had a member’s tent, the main marquee with a fantastic mix of distilleries and independent bottlers, a BBQ put on by SMWS Queen Street, a bike selling alcoholic/whisky infused ice-cream and bars selling cool refreshing beer. All in the stunning setting of Queen Street Gardens.

All the exhibitors had a varied and good selection of free drams to try as well as the special white and black drams you could buy tokens for.

I think I can safely say within the first 15 minutes of arrival I’d had more interesting whisky than I did at the whole Stramash, such was the quality and selection on offer, and it didn’t take forever to get a sample.

There were numerous whisky highlights from the day including something very special from Compass Box, a cask strength Peat Monster. As good as this was, the stand out was the 21 year old Springbank.I don’t really need to say anymore than that.

SMWS’ bottling for the occasion was another cracking single cask offering, so much so I took a bottle of it home. A rather tasty 11 year old Clynelish.

SMWS 26.114 Grandma's summer jam receipe

For the evening we had the main marquee with live music, more ice-cream, whisky and a bar. (In the evening the bar wasn’t really needed but was used to very good effect).

If there was one disappointment (if you can call it that), it was a slight lack of atmosphere and people at the evening event. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a huge amount of fun, with an excellent band and plenty of fun to be had. It just needed a few more people and a little more atmosphere. Less blank spots in the memory banks would also help, especially the dancing bits. I’ve seen photos and it’s not a pretty sight.

I’m hoping my (incredibly) drunken ramblings to Jan from SMWS were taken on board for a repeat next year.

So what’s next I here none of you asking…..

This weekend (07/08-09/08) sees Royal Mile Whiskies annual Whisky Fringe take place at Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh. To say this event is popular would be an understatement it sold out this year in about 5 minutes. Thankfully we got tickets and will be attending again this year.

After a disastrous attempts at a live tweet from it last year, we had some whisky then gave up trying, we will be trying again this year, hopefully with a few more folk lined up to join in and tweet as they sample some whisky.

Like all my prospective plans this will fall flat on its face within 10mins of starting but we’ll try our best to do some tweeting.

An incredible surprise….

I had a message from SMWS Queen Street on Monday saying they’d had a letter delivered that was addressed to me, from New York. I know all of one person in the US of A, but they’d not have contacted me through SMWS.

So rather than wait patiently until after work I went along at lunchtime to pick it up. I’m so glad I didn’t wait!

A few months ago two teachers from New York were visiting Edinburgh for a conference at Edinburgh Uni. One of them enjoyed a dram and had had a recommendation to try out SMWS. They just so happened to visit when I was in doing “research”.

After sampling a few, they wanted to buy a bottle, which is reserved for members only. So being the only member standing at the bar, I offered to purchase the bottle through my account so they could have a memento of their visit to SMWS.

I never thought anything more to it until I received a letter thanking me. I’m rarely stuck for words, but when I read the letter I was:

picture of letter from Holly in New York

It just goes to show, small gestures go a long way even when they are to complete strangers you meet in passing from thousands of miles away.

Just to finish off….

A very quick shout out has to go to Rob and Sofia from Camden Brewery who with the help of the guys at Spit/Fire put on an incredible evening of fantastic beer, more lamb to eat than I have ever seen and beer/brewing based chat from guys that actually know what they’re talking about. Both John from Be3rcast and myself had a great night.

If you haven’t tried any beer from the Camden Brewery, I’d recommend you try it. Some truly incredible beers.

Just need to hope Rob gets a twitter account soon.

Until the next time….

Sláinte

Stuart

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!

Sláinte

Stuart