Saturday 29 October 2011

Good Spirit Company

Signed a few copies of Le Snob Whisky today at The Good Spirits Company in Glasgow's Bath Street. Spoke with quite a few maltheads and tasted one or two interesting whiskies. See Tasting Notes in my website for Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve and Wiser's Legacy.
Great not so wee shop; imaginatively and carefully laid out; looks and feels good, expensive, but friendly, serious about the product and crisply fresh.
Train from Stirling to Glasgow mobbed, standing room only and damed little of that. Return train Glasgow to Stirling equally crowded, but managed to get a seat. No sign of ticket inspectors/conductors in either direction, probably couldn't get through the crush of bodies. Laughingly, they announced over the tannoy as we were leaving Glasgow's Queen Street that passengers were not to block the aisle of the entrance doors. In that case, they shouldn't have let so many people on to the train!

Thursday 27 October 2011

Advanced Whisky course

I am tutoring the Advanced Whisky course at the City of Glasgow College at the moment. This week, the students had to present for 5 minutes on a whisky-related subject of their own selection. All the students' presentations showed very good levels of research into their subjects.
Alan Hall (who for some reason on Tuesday, I was calling Peter - must have been a senior moment or three) presented on Customs Officer Malcolm Gillespie. His presentation was entertaining and contained lots of detail, some specifics of which I hadn't come across before.
Ian Petrie presented on Advertising. He did a critique of half a dozen ads from magazines. His outcome of this was that, with the exception of Jack Daniels, they didn't hit their target audience of 20-35 years old. It's true that the JD ad was the only one which wasn't the "glass & bottle" style, but I felt that the Glenfiddich ad has moved away from it quite considerably.
Steve Richardson presented on Abhainn Dearg, the new distillery on Lewis. He had produced a Powerpoint slideshow with a lot of detail and included some historical facts of illicit distillation in the Outer Isles.
Bob Arnott also had a Powerpoint show, this time on the relative merits of Dunnage Warehousing versus Racking. It was a thoughtful presentation and pushed the oft-quoted reason of cost versus quality, but laid the question, "but should cost be the deciding factor?" and suggested that to mature whisky in large, central warehouses and not at the distillery, while not breaking the rules, was breaking the spirit of the regulations.
Jim Coleman posed the question: “Are Whisky Bloggers Important to the Industry?” As a whisky blogger, Jim may be biased, but he argued that most bloggers have no direct affiliation to any whisky company and so they are de facto independent. As such, they help to “spread the good word” and encourage enjoyment in all forms.
James Farrelly also posed a question. This time it was “Does Scotch Whisky Have a Future?” James had obviously done a lot of digging to obtain the statistics he argued with and his conclusion was that, “yes, it does have a future, but that it needs some generic advertising.”
Stefan Kah’s subject was German Whisky and he looked in detail at the many German whisky distilleries, most of which had developed out of fruit spirits distillation. He demonstrated their uniqueness and differences from the general acceptance of “what is a whisky” by sampling the products of two small distilleries including a smoky Steiger Wald which was coarse, rough and out of balance. He advised that most were very small, amateur producers and could not understand why Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011 had scored all of the German Whiskies he had tasted in excess of 90 points.
Jeff McKenzie caused us to look at “What Do We Expect From a Whisky?” His presentation was thought provoking and fitted in well following on from Stefan’s. He suggested that we all look for Scotch look-alikes and argued that each country should develop their own style of whisky.
Gary Ledgerwood’s subject was Prohibition. He looked at the fact that, during Prohibition, whisky was available as a medicine, the routes into the States, and shortcuts for the production of bathtub whisky. His conclusion was that the industry had “played it right” and that the fact that they had continued to supply U.S. distributors (whether legal or not) had served them well since then.
Jim Schultz argued that “Proof = Bravado & Rent”. He argued that high alcoholic strength (proof) = bravado as it makes us less inhibited and thus braver to say and do what we would have been reticent to say or do when sober. He argued that proof makes our kidneys work harder and that the alcohol is in our bodies for a short period of time and therefore proof = rent. Amusing and different.
All in all a very good demonstration of their understanding of the subject and good to note that there was no overlap, in that every student had selected a completely different subject. As a tutor, when setting a project for a number of students, I regularly expect that there will be a couple who will select the same or similar topics. This time, all different.
Naturally, there was ablind tasting after their challenges: Aberlour 10, Bowmore 12, Glenlivet 18 and Glenlivet 12 - in that order to confuse them. They all got the order correct and identified the regions and James Farrelly correctly identified Glenlivet 18.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Also on Glengoyne's Distilley Shop Oopening

I should also have said that the company revealed its new film to us. "Us" was a group of 20ish hacks and bloggers. Glengoyne has set up a large screen with speakers wrapped in plastic to protect them from the rain. The film, all 16 minutes of it, ran while we remained sheltered on the terrace of the visitor centre with the rain falling down between us and the screen. They even laid on a particularly delicate dropping of the leaves from the trees towards the end of the film. Very dramatic. I have to say that I enjoyed it greatly (and I see lots of these). It was relaxed, laid back, a little ireverent and pawky (look up a dictionary). There is, in particular, one little piece I would like to use in my lectures which demonstrates reflux particularly well.

Glengoyne Distillery Shop Opening

I really must get round to keeping this up to date on a more regular basis, a LOT has happened since June.
Anyhow, Friday evening saw the official opening of Glengoyne's Distillery Shop after a £500,000 (that was the figure quoted) revamp. It looks and feels better than it did previously, much fresher and probably better laid out, but half a million? I think that the figure was swollen in translation somewhere. Reading the press blurb, they have spent £300,000 on upgrading visitor facilities during 2011 in addition to £200,000 on renovating the Manager's House as an events space in 2007. That's where the £500K comes from.
The company also released 4 new whiskies (see my website for tasting notes):
The Glengoyne Distillery Cask, this is an first fill American oak hogshead, no. 1016 filled in June, 2000. The whisky is currently 60.7% abv and a bottle costs £75.00. To get one, you must visit the distillery and fill it yourself. A great wee gimmick.
A Single Cask 24 years old from cask no 354 of 1987 bottled at 54.8% abv.
A Single Cask 15 years old from cask no
and the Teapot Dram.
The Teapot Dram is the only one which will be widely (?) available, all the others are only available at the distillery. Great excuse to visit though!
Reviews from consumers - and the whisky industry - for "Le Snob Whisky" have been very good. They all seem to like its look and feel. My concern is that, due to its size (only 144 pages), I have had to leave out a lot of whiskies - and a lot of distilleries. I'll just have to wait & see what the reviews are for its content.