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

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.

Stuart

4 June 2015