Friday 9 November 2012

BenRiach Maltings reopen

Word came through this week that BenRiach's maltings have reopened.
Billy Walker, the company's MD, said: “From a commercial point of view, it makes no sense because the costs of producing malted barley are significantly more.  The reason we’re doing it is because we had everything in place and in fantastic condition.  Bolting the maltings onto BenRiach is a beautiful join-up.”
It brings to eight the number of distillers who malt at least a portion of their own barley.
Today, I have a meeting of Delph Pond Forum and can advise them that the group, of which I am the treasurer, has been successful in its bid for funding from The Co-operative's Community Fund.  The Forum is attempting to raise funds for interpretation boards around the pond giving visitors to the area and schoolchildren (as the park has been used by local schools as an outdoor classroom in the past couple of years) information about the area's flora and fauna.  We are gradually having the locals accept some responsibility for the area and to understand the importance of protecting the area's biodiversity.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Cutty Sark again at Lochgreen House

Tuesday night was again down in deepest Ayrshire, at Lochgreen House in Troon educating a group of Greek bartenders about blended whisky for Cutty Sark.  Our normal line up has been North British 5 yo, J&B, Cutty Sark, Dewar's White Label, Ballantine's & Johnnie Walker Red Label.  The guys and gals at Cutty see these as being what they call their "competitive set".
We've been doing these events for their overseas distributors and customers for about 18 months now.  Initially, I thought that they were being very brave, putting their juice up clinically against the opposition, but Cutty ALWAYS shows well.  The liquid is of fantastic quality.
The Greeks, from W.S. Karoulias, Cutty's distributors in Athens, wanted the competitive set changed, because they see the competition differently in Greece.  Thus, the line up this week was N.B. 5yo, Cutty, Dewar's, Grant's, Haig and J.W. Red.
Again, Cutty showed up wonderfully.  It is a long time since I last tasted either Grant's or Haig.  The Grant's showed well, but the Haig's flavour was flat, old-fashioned and exceedingly disappointing.
The group was quite knowledgeable, had a good command of English - sometimes one of the group has had to translate my words into Russian, Turkish or Portuguese and that adds to the length of the night.
We have dinner and then jump into a bus which takes us to Alloway, where we wander around the old churchyard and down to the Brig o' Doon where we drink Tam O' Shanter, Cutty Sark 25 yo.
It's a tough life...
Last night was a meeting of the Co-operative Area Committee in Stirling.  A relatively easy meeting, we dispensed £5,697.84 from the Community Fund to deserving organisations, but there were applications totalling over £11,000, so we had to disappoint some groups.
Today I found some tasting notes which had become buried in the paperwork on my desk.  I really must tidy it more regularly.  I will get them up onto the website within the next couple of days - I hope!

Thursday 1 November 2012

I know, I promised to be more proactive with posts, keeping them up to date - and I haven't posted since May.
It has been a very hectic few months, especially the past 10 weeks.
I have been continuing with the Cutty Sark Whisky Academy, educating their overseas customers (and a few of Edrington's staff as well) on a) the quality of the liquid that goes into the Cutty bottle and b) the importance of the blended category to the industry and the on-trade.
have tasted a considerable number of malt whiskies as a pre-cursor to the writing and publication of the next edition of The Malt Whisky File scheduled for March, 2013.  A large proportion of these have been revisiting whiskies I have previously tasted and updating my tasting notes.  Some have improved the quality of the liquid, some have slipped.
I took the whisky courses, The Scotch Whisky Trail Certificate course and the Advanced Whisky course out of the City of Glasgow College and held them in the premises of The Good Spirits Company in Glasgow.  I had to handle all the administration, copying of handouts, etc.  It involved me in a LOT more work, a bit more stress, but I think that I enjoyed it more.  At least Ithe students and I did not have to wade through the administrative morass which the City of Glasgow College created the past couple of times I held it there.  But I used two and a half reams of paper and 18/20 ink cartridges just for printing handouts.  These were things I had not taken into account when costing the exercise.
The entry level course was a big success with 25 enrolled.  (Really too many, I should stick to an absolute maximum of 22, but had held 2 places open for a couple of Tomatin's staff and, an hour after they advised they wouldn't be able to make it, Whyte & Mackay asked if they could enrol 3 of their staff.)  19 sat the exam with very good results - all 19 passed.  Despite the fact that I created this course in 1998 and have delivered it in an 8 week evening class format at least 20 times now, the colleges have never created a Feedback Form.  I did this time and, although almost all were effusive in their praise of the course, one suggested that I did not cover the basics sufficiently.  I will now make a wee change or two to weeks one and two.
My break-even point is 12 students.  The Advanced course was supposed to have 12, but one advised a week before it was due to start that he wouldn't make it.  We ran with 11, but I think that I lost money in doing that.  (Note to self:  be more firm with this.)
Deanston finally opened the visitor centre at the distillery in May and it seems as if it is doing the business.  I was there yesterday and the place was stowed out: cars parked everywhere, queues of people waiting to take a tour and the coffee shop had no free seats when I arrived at 2.00p.m. for a meeting.  The level of business they were doing meant that my meeting took place in several bits of free space at the till.
I have been attempting to get some golf in and had done well over the winter, getting out almost every week at least once.  Managed a round in the last week in June, no golf July or August and, over the past 10 weeks managed to fit golf in three times.
Maybe I'll manage to fit more rounds in over the winter, although, as I said above, I am supposed to be compiling the next edition of the MWF and the next entry level course starts on 14th January.