Champagne Isn’t Just for Celebrations: The Whisky Exchange Champagne Show 4 November, 2022

What do I have in common with debutantes who made their entrée at Queen Charlotte’s Ball in 2022? We both drank Champagne at One Great George Street, near Westminster Abbey. Although, judging by the photos, I had a much better time at The Whisky Exchange Champagne Show on 4th November than they did at their famous ball earlier this year. I probably had much better Champagne, too – and a much more varied range from famous producers and new or not so familiar ones.

I loved last year’s Champagne Show there and discovered some great lesser-known producers, as well as beautiful Champagne from the likes of Taittinger, Laurent-Perrier and Perrier Jouet, amongst others. The talk then was all about organic and zero dosage (sugar). This year was very different with 17g dosage (sugar) Champagne specially created for indulgent afternoon tea. I love decadent afternoon tea in hotels and the Gosset Petite Douceur Rosé Non-vintage (NV) Extra Dry Champagne was superb, 17g wasn’t too sweet at all but a beautifully-balanced Eton mess in a glass. One of my favourite bottles of the day and it’s on my shopping list to enjoy over Christmas.

When you go to whisky festivals, you ask about ABV, most of the Champagnes I tried had a seemingly universal 12% or 12.5% ABV. The use of spittoons is de rigeur. As a whisky drinker, the ABV sounds low but I’m convinced those bubbles are dangerously alcoholic when consumed in quantity – one glass of Champagne has the same effect on me as three drams of whisky. Bubbles.

As ever, I used my own spittoon, a large-necked water bottle but there were long spittoons between stands and smaller ones on the stand, plus water carafes. I refreshed my mouth and glass between each pour, it’s so important to stay hydrated and keep the palate fresh. 

The show was set in the stunning Great Hall with paintings and gold details on the walls and ceiling, huge chandeliers sparkled overhead and it was the perfect setting for drinking Champagne. It was interesting seeing where the trade buyers from hotels and restaurants went and I sampled the Palmer & Co. Blanc de Blancs after hearing they serve it at a top London restaurant I’ve wanted to visit for years and the gentleman who worked there was keen to drink it at the show as he’s too busy in the restaurant to have the opportunity. It was interesting viewing that famous restaurant’s wine menu when writing this blog and quietly ticking off how many of the bottles listed I’d tried at the show. Very impressive and I hope to dine there soon.

There were at least 100 different Champagnes on offer at the show and I tried over half of them. I didn’t get the chance to go to every stand and chose to skip those, at least initially, where I’d tried their wine before but it was interesting trying the new vintages and confirm my previous good opinion. There were also the new annual special releases, with one being released just the previous week, the Millésimés, and talking about how circumstances affected the harvests with 2012 being such a difficult year because of the weather that one producer said that grapes other than 100% Chardonnay had to be used for the first time in one of their bottlings. In my mind, 2012 was a glorious year with the London Olympics but, talking about the harvests, I recalled the rain and the cold at the events. I’m sure 2022 will also prove to be a challenge because of the excessive heat, heavy rain and storms. 

There were masterclasses available for those who wanted to learn more about Champagne in general, different houses or specific issues relating to the wine and its production but I wanted to focus on sampling it. My go-to style for lunchtime Champagne is rosé but I’ve noticed that the colour has become very subtle. When it comes to colour, I’m an extremist, I want my rosés to look like crushed rose petals or strawberry coulis but salmon was the main colour of the day. Beautifully delicate but not a feast for the eyes with a couple of clear exceptions – Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé NV Champagne and Laherte Frères Rosé. They’re the colour of summer.

It does feel strange to be writing about the Champagne Show in a cost-of-living crisis but everyone’s budgets and needs are different. We’re generally brought up to think of Champagne as a special occasion indulgence, especially at Christmas, New Year and other celebrations but the array of wines on offer reminded me that Champagne is for all occasions and there were bottles for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, drinking on their own and with friends, for dinner, launching boats and, of course special occasions. I wrote tasting notes for every glass I tried and some included comments about when they’d be ideal – lunch, brunch, enjoying by itself but not necessarily held back for celebrations. Champagne isn’t just for Christmas, it’s quaffable and refreshing and there are times that you just want those bubbles to lift you up or to keep the mood going – like when I got Wordle in one the other day. My word? Dream and Champagne is a dream drink but it’s also a lot more affordable than it used to be, comparatively – again, I acknowledge the cost of living crisis. I’d rather spend my money on a quality everyday bottle of Champagne than on buying Blue Twitter, for example. There were plenty of bottles in the £30-40 region, an accessible level for many, especially with Christmas coming; not just for the big day itself and New Year’s Eve but buying for gifts or special dinners and parties. When buying multiple bottles, cost is key and Collet’s range, for instance, was great value.

I’m old-fashioned, I know most people have phones but I also have really lousy eyesight and would love a printed price list but was grateful that every stand had a QR code which opened the list of most of the bottles on offer and their prices – all of which were available to buy at The Whisky exchange shop outside the first-floor hall. Prices were also available just by asking at the stands or the shop itself. The QR code also has the advantage of storing the Champagne Show bottle list on the phone, a handy record of what’s available to buy afterwards. Prices ranged from a half-bottle of AR Lenoble Brut Intense (Mag 17) at £19.95 or a full-sized Collet Brut for £31.95 – actually one of my favourite bottles of the show – to Charles Heidsieck Charlie NV at £425. I’m sure there will be people who would have thought to look at this to help them decide what to try. In fact, I feel I let myself down by not checking until writing this blog but I’m also impressed that I bought the cheapest full-size bottle because I loved it, without realising it was. I did actually query the price when I bought it as it felt too affordable for its quality.

Quality was the theme of the show, both for the old houses and the new. There were also some great labels which really stood out – Champagne Chavost had wonderful colourful labels depicting the wine being made by the co-operative and featuring the church at the top of the hill in the village of Chavot, which also forms their logo. The artwork is very folky style, human and very much of the land. Whilst the members of the co-operative which was formed in 1946 originally sold their grapes to larger Champagne houses, this is their own series of bottles and those distinctive labels attract interest. I enjoyed all three wines on offer at the show and the Blanc de Meunier Brut Nature really stood out, one of my favourite Champagnes of the show with its raspberry, gooseberry, apple and lemon meringue pie notes. All of their bottles are sulphite-free and zero dosage.

The same distributors, McCarthy and Mitchell, also showcased the Champagnes of a 27-year-old  former nurse who took over the vineyard when her father retired and has created wonderful wines under the Manon Boutillez-Guer banner with its eye-catching labels, colourful swirls in different colours, depending on the wine. I liked how the patterns of the labels were cohesive but each had a very clear voice. My favourite was the bronze swirls of Manon Boutillez-Guer Rayon de Lumière Chardonnay Brut Nature.

It was good to see new voices, including female ones. I really liked the Champagne and the moulded bottle itself for Duval-Leroy Femme Brut Grand Cru, the house now owned by a woman and also having a female Chef de Cave, the name of the bottle celebrating the women’s achievements.

I loved the three bottles on offer by Valentin Leflaive which is named after the 17/18-year-old son of the Leflaive family who are renowned for their Burgundies and this is a new direction and a legacy for him after he expressed interest in joining the family business. My favourite was the Valentin Leflaive Avize 16 I 40 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs and I’m excited to see what they produce in future. They’re all about transparency with the numbers in the name revealing, firstly the vintage of the wine – 2016 in this case but older vintages are blended in – with the second number showing the amount of dosage (sugar) used. 40 means 4g. The labels are crisp, modern and cool, a very modern look.

Special mentions for Lallier which was bought by Campari two years ago but is being marketed in such a way that it retains its small producer feel. I loved their flagship bottle, R.018 which stands for Reflection of 2018 as 70% of the wine was from their 2018 harvest, the remainder from reserve wine and it’s beautiful – the nose was full of spring and the palate had lemon galore – homemade lemonade, lemon cheesecake and lemon sorbet, plus peach sorbet, strawberry mousse and strawberry blancmange. Ideal with lunch or afternoon tea.

My last glass of the event was intriguing and, with last pour called, I didn’t want to miss out on a very stylish – does anyone say ‘hip’ these days? – branding of Mumm, their RSRV range. I finished with their delightful rosé and only wish I had had a few minutes more to try Mumm RSRV Blanc de Blancs but it was good to end the superb show with a bottle of rosé that I’d happily buy, one for drinking on its own, with a meal or sharing with friends. Or just enjoying on the sofa by myself over a few days.

I loved The Whisky Exchange Champagne Show and the chance to sample such beautiful examples of the wine and, thanks to using a spittoon, drink safely and try a fantastic variety for all Champagne-drinking pockets and occasions. You must go next year.

Champagne List

These are the 51 bottles I tried at the event, my favourite ones are in bold and the Star Bottles in bold italics but they were all good wines, some just suited my personal taste better. I have tasting notes for all of them so contact me if you’d like to know more. All of the Champagnes listed are available at The Whisky Exchange shops and online, as long as stocks last.

I bought two bottles which are perfect for long lunches with friends, the Collet Brut and their Demi Sec with their wonderful red berry notes. I can see myself enjoying a glass with friends at a picnic at Hever Castle – or just in my own garden. Beautiful quality at a very good price, they are special bottles but not just for special occasions. I’m still very surprised that Collet’s entry level Brut was the cheapest full-sized bottle of the show as it’s so full of flavour with that perfect level of effervescence.

  1. Gosset Grand Reserve
  2. Gosset Grand Millésimé 2015
  3. Gosset Petite Douceur Rosé
  4. Frerejean Frères Premier Cru Brut
  5. Frerejean Frères Oremier Cru Extra Brut
  6. Frerejean Frères Rosé NV
  7. Frerejean Frères Cuvée des Hussards 2012
  8. Drappier Millésimé Exception 2010
  9. Collet Brut
  10. Collet Brut Art Deco Premier Cru
  11. Collet Brut Rosé
  12. Collet Millésimé 2014 Premier Cru
  13. Collet Demi Sec
  14. Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve
  15. Duval-Leroy Rosé
  16. Duval-Leroy Femme Brut Grand Cru
  17. Duval-Leroy Blanc de Blancs
  18. Champagne Chavost Blanc d’Assemblage Brut Nature
  19. Champagne Chavost Blanc de Meunier Brut Nature – best label
  20. Champagne Chavost Blanc de Chardonnay Extra Brut
  21. Domaine La Borderie De Quoi Te Méles-Tu? (Translation: What are you talking about?)
  22. Domaine La Borderie Trois Contrées Brut
  23. Manon Boutillez-Guer Trait de Caractère Blanc de Noirs Brut
  24. Manon Boutillez-Guer Rayon de Lumière Chardonnay Brut Nature 
  25. Manon Boutillez-Guer Prise de Vue 2012 Chardonnay Millésimé Brut
  26. Domaine La Borderie Douce Folie Extra Brut Rosé
  27. Taittinger à Reims Brut Reserve
  28. Taittinger Prestige Rosé
  29. Taittinger Nocturne
  30. Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blance (2012/2015)
  31. Laurent-Perrier Millésimé 2012 STAR BOTTLE
  32. Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle No. 25 Grande Cuvée
  33. Valentin Leflaive CV 17 I 50 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs
  34. Valentin Leflaive Le Mesnil sur Oger 16 I 50 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs
  35. Valentin Leflaive Avize 16 I 40 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs STAR BOTTLE
  36. Devaux Millésimé 2009
  37. Devaux Rosé
  38. Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage 
  39. Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut
  40. Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs
  41. Palmer & Co Grand Terroirs 2015
  42. Palmer & Co Rosé Solera
  43. Lallier R.018 (Reflections of 2018)
  44. Lallier Blanc de Blancs
  45. Lallier Grand Rosé
  46. Laherte Frères Rosé
  47. Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs
  48. Bérêche et Fils Brut Reserve
  49. Charpentier Terre d’Émotion Rosé
  50. Champagne Jacquat Mosaique Rosé
  51. Mumm RSRV Rosé Foujita

All of the Champagnes mentioned can be bought in-store or online at The Whisky Exchange, whilst stocks last (https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com)

Dates for your diary
Keep an eye on The Whisky Exchange website for details of future shows, including the Old and Rare Whisky Show and the Whisky Show itself (https://whiskyshow.com), but you can book tickets now for:

The Whisky Exchange Cognac Show, London 10th-11th March https://cognacshow.com/london/

London Dramming: The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show, 30th Sept-2nd Oct 2022

It was great to be back at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show at Old Billingsgate, near London Bridge for all 3 days and have the chance to try drams we might not otherwise have the chance to sample – or afford. The vibe was very relaxed and happy, a far cry to last year’s which, whilst I loved it, was also the first event for most of us since lockdown, too many people still not able or willing to be there, and felt different accordingly. This year’s was fun and full of talk. I didn’t actually see anyone really drunk, possibly my first ever whisky festival where no one’s fallen down at my feet after imbibing too much – or is it simply that I’ve lost my drunk magnet?

London dramming for The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show which took place in Old Billingsgate, seen on the left-hand side of the photo near the boat. Photo taken over the River Thames from London Bridge

We could hug again, people were sharing glasses and there was a real buzz to the show. I probably had as many hugs as drams and it was wonderful to catch up with so many friends, both in the trade and fellow whisky lovers from all over the world.

Train strikes caused some issues over the 3-day event but the tubes were still running, including at Bimber’s stand with Camden Town and Tower Hill proving to be particular favourites

As ever, I carried my own spittoon with me (an empty water bottle with a wide opening for ease of use) but saw more drams poured out than spat out in the official spittoons, always disappointing to see such waste unless it’s a dram that just doesn’t appeal. Hold it in your mouth, swirl, but not too long or the spice can overwhelm with younger drams, then spit. That way, you get to try more whisky safely. This is not a show for endless dramming, it’s one of quality and, yes, there’s also quantity available with around 800 drams included in the ticket price, plus the Dream Drams and secret, under-the-counter drams. There were officially 1,000 drams in total on offer over three days. 

I enjoyed every dram I tried but would have loved an extra day. I keep thinking of the stands where I meant to return – Woven and Douglas Laing amongst them – or never reached at all – saké and Sliabh Liag Distillers/Silkie Whiskey, included. But I did try a fantastic and varied selection, from new make to 45 year old whisky, and used a different notebook a day to record them all after last year’s debacle where I lost my notebook with tasting notes for every dram I tried that day. Fortunately, only my first day’s notes and not all of them but I wasn’t going to take the chance again. I write tasting notes for every dram, as well as taking photos, to record what I’ve sampled and the quality of the writing is generally a good indication of when it’s time to return to the hotel, the handy London Bridge Hotel again this year.

Time got away with me and I didn’t have the chance to return to sample more but I loved the bottles of blended whisky from new indie bottler, Woven, that I tried on the first day

The queue

The day starts in the queue. Not quite as impressive as the recent queue to pay respects to the Queen, and it was a really slow start this year, possibly because of the train strike on the Saturday which meant trains ended early on Friday and several people had to miss the show because they couldn’t guarantee getting there or back, but the usual culprits were in position. I arrive early so I’m there and can relax but no mad dash to the show shop for me as soon as it opens and that’s a big issue with the queue. There are those who arrive early to head straight to the shop, intending to flip bottles. Their business but I can’t help but feel that it’s not in the spirit of the event if all some people do is head to the shop, buy those rare and/or profitable bottles, then leave immediately, as happens. 

On the last day, two young men, not known to fellow whisky people from what I heard, queued overnight and, when the doors opened unexpectedly suddenly, raced to the shop, almost failing to take a glass en route. I hope they at least tried a few drams before leaving. On that last day, the queue of adults weren’t given the previous days’ warning not to run to the shop as it’s dangerous and it was like watching Black Friday sales – grown men ran, racing each other to the shop to pick up… I have no idea but there were rumours of hard-to-find Japanese whisky for sale. I’ve never seen anything like it and hope The Whisky Exchange change this next year – to award medals to the first three who reach the shop without accident or incident! An assault course, possibly, jump over casks to reach the shop and swim through angels’ share, maybe. 

Being serious, though, I would love the system to change, for everyone to try the show drams before just buying the bottles. I think sampling the drams, then being given tokens to buy them, would be better but the reality is that it’s down to individuals to do what they want. We are, after all, adults, although it didn’t look like it when they literally ran to the shop. I just wonder how many of those first-in-queue bottles are opened and enjoyed, not just flipped immediately for a profit.

The label of this special Clynelish show bottling was designed to create awareness of climate change and more is revealed as it warms up. A fantastic dram that led me to try several older Clynelish drams there

I eventually went to the shop but on the last day after retasting one of The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show bottlings, the Clynelish 11 year old, a surprising favourite for me as it’s not a distillery I’d particularly rated before trying that bottle – but which encouraged me to try more Clynelish at the show and I’m now a fan. Keep an eye on their website or in their shops in case there are any unsold bottles which make it to the shelves https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/search?q=whisky%20show%20clynelish

Queue drams

One of the highlights of queuing isn’t just the chance to catch up with friends, as well as make new ones, and actually have time to talk but to share and enjoy queue drams. The rules of the show are strict – no empty dram bottles are allowed. We’re not allowed to take drams home, they must all be enjoyed at the venue. However, drams are taken to enjoy in the queue. I took hip flasks containing whisky I hoped most people there wouldn’t have had the chance to try, one with SMWS The Tar Pit 9 yo blended peated whisky and the other had Sutcliffe & Son The Exceptional Grain which has aged grains from 5 distilleries, as well as packing three little cups so people could try them – and a stylish/pretentious/irresistible (delete as appropriate) Glencairn travel set for me to try others’ drams. It’s a sign of how generous and kind the whisky world is when you see what’s on offer in the queue and my Star Queue Dram was Thompson Brothers Tullibardine 28 year old with The Grainman Carsebridge 33 year old a close second.

Show bottlings

The question in the queue is always where someone will go first – it’s not always the shop. On my first day, it was straight to a stand that gets busy early, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show stand (not their onsite shop) with special Whisky Show bottlings, as well as TWE exclusives. I’d read the email and website so knew what was on offer but not how much they cost. Regardless of the price of the bottles themselves, I wanted to try the complete set of 5 drams for the experience. I hope next year’s email also includes prices so I know whether to get excited or not! It was fantastic to see bottles under £100 again after last year’s disappointment and I hope to see the same in future. I tried all show bottlings, including the Imperial 26 year old. It’s a treat to be able to try the old rare drams like this, a highlight of the show. My complete list of drams is at the end of this blog.

The 5 Whisky Show special bottles, including the Linkwood 16, my first dram of the show. The labels reveal their designs as they warm up

The theme of this year’s show was From Grain to Green and 4 of the 5 whisky show bottles on offer had special labels to raise awareness of the climate crisis we’re facing, only my first dram of the show, the Linkwood 16 year old didn’t and I liked the symmetry of my dramming with both my first and last drinks of the show being from the same distillery. The warmer it gets, the more details are shown on the otherwise solid-looking black labels. I know it’s an important message and a clever idea but they have no shelf appeal which is such a shame. I love labels, they’re artwork which influence what I want to try, if not buy. Had I seen them in a bar, I wouldn’t have been tempted. Too clever this year, perhaps but, once warmed as the room heats or even by my warm hands, the designs were great and the Clynelish label depicts a stylised London Eye behind the Elizabeth Tower, better (albeit wrongly) known as Big Ben. The rest of the time, they’re just black blobs. For most people, though, that won’t matter, all that’s important is what’s in the bottle. I’d expected to want to buy the Ledaig 2006 which was matured in a sherry butt for 15 years and it was beautiful with its Aga smoke, rubber bands, cherry, Vimto, salt water taffy, dry spices and chocolate notes but, at £175, over budget for me, although not a bad price comparatively. It was tempting, though, a very unusual and delightful Ledaig, it was clear why it had been chosen as the show bottling over another cask. I also tried a TWE exclusive Ledaig 15 year old at the stand which was more classic with its notes of ash, seat salt, bonfire on the beach, medicine cabinet, herrings and some raspberry jam on the side. A really lovely dram but the show bottling was the standout for me.

Ledaig 2003 15 year old show bottling, the labels front and back (as here), designed to raise awareness of the climate crisis – and a beautiful, unusual Ledaig

The 5 show bottlings were, in order of recommended tasting:

  1. Linkwood 2006 16 yo hogshead #801604-5, 56.5%
  2. Imperial 1996 26 yo hogshead #1053 and #1189, 51.5%
  3. Clynelish 2011 11 yo barrel #800273, 58.7%
  4. Ledaig 2006 15 yo sherry butt #13, 54.7%
  5. Caol Ila 2013 9 yo hogshead #315159, 57.3%

    Where to go first

Some start on stand 1 and work round systematically, others do what I did my first time there, have a list of drams they want to try – something I gave up trying very quickly because there’s always something to discover and I’m easily distracted by shiny things! I spoke to people who headed straight for a very specific dram or Dream Drams so they wouldn’t miss out, to stands they wanted before they became too busy (Bimber was a popular choice at the front of the queue where I was) and others just went with the flow, seeing what appealed or which stands were free.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s stand was always packed but, with such quality drams on offer for their 10th anniversary, it’s hardly surprising. I loved this Clynelish 25 year old

Day 2 saw me choose between Bimber or That Boutique-y Whisky Company as my first stop. Bimber won as it wasn’t as packed at that point, and Day 3 was a dash to the cloakroom with my bags before heading to Diageo and Adelphi/Ardnamurchan for Dream Drams. I’d left it too late by then for the Adelphi Mortlach 1986 34 year old, as I had for Berry Bros. & Rudd Girvan 1964 58 year old on the first day.

I knew who I wanted to see but was open to trying anything that appealed. I’d have loved a Day 4 but, being there for all 3 days at least meant I didn’t feel I had to race around frantically on a single day, trying everything in sight as I’ve done at one-day festivals, but could take my time. Do I have regrets about missing out on some stands and not returning to others? Absolutely, but I also loved what I did try and knew my limits – and stuck to them, helped nobly by using a spittoon which, along with drinking plenty of water when rinsing my glass between drams, enabled me to try more whisky safely.

Layout

The show was spread over two floors with the second floor having three areas – whisky, Irish whiskey (although there were Irish whiskey stands elsewhere) and the Flavour Zone which contained different spirits and saké. It’s a great idea to have other spirits, especially rum which has so many similarities to whisky and it was a great way to tempt more whisky drinkers to try tots whilst there. Foursquare Isonomy 17 year old was the Star Tot for me, a beautiful fruity tot with rhubarb, bananas Foster, apple Danish, raisin Danish and overripe bananas, plus a perfect balance of spice. I particularly enjoyed the Whisky Show Flavour Selection stand which included rums from the likes of SBS and Privateer, as well as other spirits and aperitifs, such as Jean-Luc Pasquet Pineau des Charentes Blanc.

The Whisky Show Flavour Selection stand offered an opportunity to try different spirits and aperitifs, including rum and Pineau des Charentes, a great alternative to sherry or even wine, especially in the summer. It was one of my favourite discoveries earlier in the year at The Whisky Exchange Cognac Show

Strangely, the qualities I love in rum, those wonderfully rubbery notes from the esters, are my least favourite when drinking whisky but festivals like TWE Rum and Whisky Shows mean that we can try all styles and discover what appeals most. There were some great rums there and I hope people took the opportunity to sample them. I ran out of time so missed out on trying saké, Cognac and more rum but really enjoyed what I did try and I’m glad I took the time out to eat the meals included in the ticket price on each day and caught up with friends whilst giving my nose and palate a rest from continual drinking. A few sleeve sniffs were needed to refresh my nose once or twice each day but those meal breaks were essential and the boxed food this year was the best I’ve had at drinks festivals.

Masterclasses

TWE Whisky Show isn’t just there so we can try drams of all ages and prices, from nations across the world, both blended and single, malt and grain, plus other spirits. We go to be informed, whether through masterclasses, private tastings or speaking to the Brand Ambassadors at the stands. 

I decided not to attend any masterclasses this year, partly because I’d been to so many wonderful ones during lockdown and beyond. I attend in-person tastings at Cut Your Wolf Loose in Brighton regularly and belong to several whisky clubs – and I didn’t want to take time out from choosing from the hundreds of drams on offer in the hall but it was tempting to sign up for some of them. There was a great choice, as well as free talks on the main stage.

I was also lucky enough to be invited to a private tasting of Fettercairn 18 with Whyte and Mackay’s Master Whisky Maker and Blender, Gregg Glass, and hear about Scottish oak, which I’ll be covering in a separate blog. One of the sights of the show was Gregg showcasing his passion for Scottish oak so memorably…

What the well-dressed man is wearing: Gregg Glass beautifully illustrating the importance of Scottish oak at the Fettercairn stand

As ever, I learnt a lot. I also wish I’d had more time and some stands weren’t as busy so I could ask more questions. It was fascinating speaking to new distilleries and indie bottlers like Woven and Ardnamurchan and also discover the latest bottlings of more established ones, including Elixir and Glen Moray. I loved That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Christian Drouin Calvados 21 year old and would have loved to have stayed at their stand for a while, working my way from left to right. Where else can you try an old and wonderfully coloured Dutch dram (Millstone 25 year old) alongside a 25 year old Clynelish and the aged Calvados?

The Whisky Show is a great place to discover more about the newer distilleries, including one of my favourites, Ardnamurchan. I love this recent dram and it was a delight to try the adventurous Ardnagherkin which I actually enjoyed, as well as Adelphi’s Ardnamurchan-High Coast blend, The Sändebud

Dream Drams 

I’m a huge fan of the Perfect Measure glass which we received at the show every day and which I always use for tastings at home. As the name suggests, they’re the perfect shape for nosing and tasting, and a Dream Dram token worth £10 was inserted in each glass on entry. More tokens could be bought from the show shop and the Dream Dram stand itself for £10 each and a whole wealth of dream drams were on offer, ranging from a single token to 35. In terms of value, 1 token covers bottles with RRPs of £500-999, 2 tokens £1,000-1,999, 3 £2,000-2,999, all the way up to 35 which equates to £34,000-34,999 which you could exchange for a 50 year old Karuizawa. 

And that’s the thing about TWE Whisky Show, we all have different pockets and, for some, that £350 for 35 tokens is great value for such a rare dram which, if you could even find it elsewhere would be far more expensive. 

I was very lucky to try a number of Dream Drams – with thanks to all the lovely people who gave me extra tokens. One of the most impressive in terms of distillery was a 30 year old from the long-closed Brora before its regeneration, a truly dream dram for many and so incredible to have the opportunity to try it. It really was history in a glass.

A rare chance to sample Brora, on offer at the Whisky Auction stand, which had an array of old and rare drams available to try

Under-the-counter drams

There are drams on display, Dream Drams and those secret under-the counter-drams and it was a sheer delight to try so many of the latter, including Copenhagen Distillery’s Emmer in a schnapps cask which, even before hearing what cask was used, took me right back to long ago holidays in Denmark where I used to drink the Danish spirit. Copenhagen’s Angelica Gin was also superb and I’d love a bottle. My favourite under-the-counter dram was one I misread as a 13 year old but the wonderfully dark Adelphi Blair Athol was a 21 year old and an absolute treat to try and try again – definitely one to source at auctions if you can. It was one of my favourite drams at the show, not least for that fabulous Guinness colour.

Tasting notes recall memories for me and I couldn’t immediately place the unusual flavour of this wonderful under-the-counter dram from Copenhagen Distillery, then all these images from childhood holidays in Denmark came rushing back and I realised it reminded me of schnapps – I was then told that it’s in a schnapps cask

Clothes and accessories

A little aside here, but I wanted to pay tribute to a few of the clothes and accessories I saw at the show which led to some interesting conversations with those wearing them. First up were the best shoes of the show, worn by the gentleman from Suffolk who, along with his well-accessorised friends, is always one of the first in the queue on the first day. Beautiful shoes and I was impressed (and envious) by the sheer amount of whisky pins they were wearing. True whisky lovers and a delight to see such well-dressed men so early in the day. 

I also stopped another man during the show just to praise his beautiful handmade shoes which sparked a conversation with him and his friends and much appreciation. My own shoes, incidentally, were green Converse but didn’t compare to a great pair I saw someone wearing at a stand, resulting in another initially non-whisky conversation. They’re conversation openers.

I admired a shiny whisky pin, discovered that Karan and I have a friend in common, and I’m now the proud owner of a very stylish Nanyang Whisky door-shaped pin and, like all the other cases, we had a great conversation and shared love of whisky. I also noted Gary Mills’ shirts which grew more alarming/colourful (depending on taste) by the day!

And then there was the other Gary’s T-shirt. You can talk to someone on social media for years, say ‘hope to see you at the show’… and later realise that not all of us use avatars with our faces – mine are dogs or bottles, depending which platform I use – and I probably wouldn’t recognise him at all. Then, I saw a fantastic Warhol-style Star Wars T-shirt, got talking and said that he really needed to visit Iain Allan at Glen Moray and say that Fi sent him, which is how we came to know each other’s names and talked some more. It was so great to meet him and, were he wearing a different T-shirt or if I’d focused purely on the drams and not people’s clothing and accessories, we’d never have met at all. It was such a lovely moment.

Festivals aren’t just for the whisky but the people who share and drink it and I loved conversations started by admiring what others were wearing; simple and genuine compliments which turned into connections. I might have to find some extra special Converse to wear next year, though. I wonder where my sequinned vintage snow leopard ones are which, on showing them to a friend one Black Friday in Vegas shortly after buying them, saw a man call to me across the bar, sharing his own admiration for them. I’m glad I’m not the only person to notice such things.

It’s all in the detail, this beautifully designed Nc’Nean bottle is eye-catching and reflects the quality of the whisky within

Conclusion

It was a superb three days. I loved meeting everyone, discovering more distilleries and try some superb drams and other spirits in an accommodating and convenient venue. It definitely benefits from having 3 days, I’d like a 4th but that’s not really practical, unfortunately. 

Would I have done it differently? No, I got the balance right. You can’t try everything and of course I wish I’d been able to get to all stands and back to those that I intended but I loved every single dram I tried and can’t wait to do it all again next year (29th September-1st October at the same venue) when, hopefully, there will be no train strikes and the London Marathon is back to its springtime slot.

The Star Dram of The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2022 for me was, like my second best dram, at the Elixir stand, The Single Malts of Scotland Director’s Special Bunnahabhain 43 year old. It’s an absolutely superb dram

The two Star Drams of the show, like last year, were both from the Elixir stand, The Single Malts of Scotland Director’s Special Bunnahabhain 43 year old, followed by Port Askaig 45 year old. Superb drams and an honour to have the chance to try them, which is what makes the event so exciting and informative. We get to try drams we wouldn’t normally be able to find or, in many of our cases, afford. I absolutely loved it.

Distilled on Hogmanay in 1968, this incredible Port Askaig aged for 45 years was my second top Star Dram of the show

Swag

I was fortunate enough to be given some non-dram treats – as well as over-the-counter, under-the-counter and very under-the-counter drams – with thanks to everyone who poured them for me. I managed to lose or destroy 3 whisky pins en route to the show (don’t ask!) so was keen to amass more.

Whisky pins: Ardnamurchan, Glen Scotia and Nanyang Whisky

In turn, I gifted my Writer’s Tears whisky pin to the very nice man at their stand as he didn’t have one (and I have a spare, thanks to their Tweet Tastings!)

Tasting book: Ardnamurchan

Pen: Douglas Laing Big Peat, complete with a Batman-style Big Peat light

T-shirt: Compass Box Flaming Heart. Fantastic design and feels like a gig shirt

I love this Compass Box Flaming Heart T-shirt as much as the dram itself. The indie bottler is all about transparency and, on the back of the T-shirt, it lists the whiskies used in the blend and their exact proportions

Drams

I recorded every dram I tried, including the queue drams. I also brought my own pipette bottles with Larkfire water to try drams with and without water where possible.

Non-whisky drams/tots are italicised and my star and top drams of the show are in bold

Day 1

Queue drams

  1. SMWS The Tar Pit 9 yo blended
  2. Talisker (no more details given)
  3. Springbank 14 yo Burgundy cask, 57.3%

Show drams

  1. TWE Whisky Show bottling Linkwood 16 yo, 56.5%
  2. TWE Whisky Show bottling Imperial 26 yo, 51.5%
  3. TWE Whisky Show bottling Clynelish 11 yo, 58.7%
  4. TWE Whisky Show bottling Ledaig 15 yo, 54.7%
  5. TWE Whisky Show bottling Caol Ila 9 yo, 57.3%
  6. TWE exclusive Ledaig 15, 53.4%
  7. Woven Experience #9 blended whisky, 46.1%
  8. Woven Superblend
  9. Dingle Mezcal cask finish 2017/2021, 66.16%
  10. Dingle Batch #6, Port cask maturation, 46.5%
  11. Dingle ‘Samhain’ Moscatel cask finish, 50.5%
  12. Dingle PX cask 2014, 59.6%
  13. Shortcross Rye & Malt Irish Whiskey, 46%
  14. Shortcross Rye & Malt Irish Whiskey cask strength, 66%
  15. J.J. Corry Tequila cask finish batch #3, 6yo, 50%
  16. J.J. Corry Fino cask 200 2, 52.53%
  17. Mackmyra Reserve peated new make
  18. Jean-Luc Pasquet Pineau des Charentes Blanc, 18%
  19. Privateer Navy Yard Barrel Proof Rum, 54.4%
  20. Privateer Thick as Thieves Rum, 56.2%
  21. Fettercairn 18 yo, 46.8%
  22. Laphroaig 19 yo, cask #20/538 #3?
  23. Jura 1990, bottled 2020, 46.5%
  24. Adelphi Ardnagherkin, 6yo, 59.9%
  25. Adelphi The Sändebud 6 yo, 58.9%
  26. Adelphi, Blair Athol 1997 21 yo, 57.2% (the fabulously black one I misread as being a 13 yo…)
  27. Ardnamurchan AD/09:22 cask strength, 58.7%
  28. Elixir The Single Malts of Scotland Speyside Distillery 25 yo, 52.6%
  29. Elixir The Single Malts of Scotland Director’s Special Imperial 32 yo, 42.7%
  30. Elixir The Single Malts of Scotland Director’s Special Bunnahabhain 43 yo, 41.4%
  31. Brora 30 yo bottled in 2010, 54.3%
It was great to meet Graham and Fay Coull at last after years of talking online and at tastings, and find out more about Dingle’s direction and exciting new casks

Day 2

Queue drams

  1. Cask Share Benrinnes red wine cask
  2. Cadenhead’s Miltonduff -Glenlivet 14 yo
  3. Balvenie red wine cask
  4. Carsebridge 33 yo
  5. Springbank 18 yo
  6. Thompson Brothers Tullibardine 28 yo
  7. SMWS Glentauchers 8yo for Swedish market
  8. Clan Denny Dumbarton 48 yo 1998
  9. The Grainman Carsebridge 33 yo
  10. Raasay private cask bottled on 22/2/22

Show drams

  1. Bimber Platinum Jubilee Bourbon cask, 51.8%
  2. Bimber Tower Hill Palo Cortado cask, 58.7%
  3. Bimber Camden Town Amontillado cask, 58.5%
  4. Bimber Peated Ex-Bourbon, 61.7% (1 of 7 casks going into their Peated botte)
  5. Bimber Dunphail Commemorative Founders’ Release Fino cask, 55.7%
  6. Paul John XO Brandy 8 yo, 46%
  7. Paul John Mithuna, 58%
  8. Never Say Die Bourbon Barrel #2, 56.4%
  9. That Boutique-y Whisky Company Christian Drouin Calvados 21 yo, 41.5%
  10. That Boutique-y Whisky Company Millstone Batch #5 25 yo, 46.5%
  11. Loch Lomond ‘Irish’ grain New Make (70% malted, 30% unmalted)
  12. Loch Lomond ‘American’ New Make (70% malted, 30% rye), 63.3%
  13. Berry Bros. & Rudd Inchgower 2009, 52.4%
  14. Berry Bros. & Rudd Staoisha 2013, 56.7%
  15. Berry Bros. & Rudd Ironroot Distillery Bourbon 2018, 61.2%
  16. Stauning Floor Malted Rye Whisky Sweet Wine Casks, 46%
  17. Stauning Smoke, 47%
  18. The Irishman The Harvest, 40%
  19. Cadenhead’s Ben Nevis 2012 9yo Manzanilla cask, 57%
  20. Celtic Whisky Distillerie Gwalarn Celtic Whisky Blend (Britanny-based distillery), 40%
  21. Celtic Whisky Distillerie Glann Ar Mor, 46%
  22. Celtic Whisky Distillerie, Kornog
  23. Ardnamurchan AD/10:22 Madeira cask
  24. Adelphi Blair Athol 1997 21 yo, 57.2% (repeat dram)
  25. Adelphi Bowmore 25 yo, 54.2%
  26. Adelphi Foursquare 15 yo, 61%
  27. Morrison Mac-Talla Red Wine Barriques, 53.8% 
  28. Carn Mor Glentauchers 2011 10 yo, 47.5%
  29. Glengoyne Legacy Chapter Three, 46%
  30. Glengoyne 21 yo, 43%
  31. Glen Moray Amontillado, 57.5%
  32. Glen Moray Amarone, 55.6%
  33. Dunphail The Dava Way Dailuaine Cognac butt 13 yo, 50%
  34. Dunphail The Dava Way Orkney Distillery 17 yo, 60.3%
  35. Deanston 2000 Organic Whisky, 50.9%
  36. Whistlepig Piggy Back 6 yo, 48.2% 
  37. Whistlepig Maple Syrup
  38. Gordon & MacPhail Tormore 1993, 54.5%
  39. Glencadam ‘The Remarkable’ 25 yo Batch #2, 46%
  40. Mars Komagatake 2021 Edition, 48%
  41. Mars Maltage ‘Cosmo’, 43%
  42. Glenturret 12 yo, 46%
  43. Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries 2021, Blended Chichibu & Komagatake, 53.5%
  44. Port Askaig 1968 distilled 45 yo, 40.8%
  45. Elixir: Seaweed and whisky cocktail
  46. Elixir Single Malts of Scotland Glenrothes 31 yo, 53.2%
  47. Port Askaig 28 yo, 45.8%
  48. An unrecorded dram in a Jean-Luc Pasquet Rouge Pineau des Charentes cask 

Day 3

Show drams

  1. Adelphi Archive Clynelish 1997 18 yo, 55.5%
  2. Adelphi Caol Ila  10 yo, 51.1%
  3. Laphroaig 10 yo Sherry Oak Finish, 48%
  4. Compass Box Ultramarine, 51%
  5. Compass Box, Flaming Heart 2022, 48.9%
  6. TWE Whisky Show bottling Clynelish 11 yo, 58.7% (repeat dram)
  7. Milk & Honey Christmas Treat, 49%
  8. Milk & Honey Apex Ex-Alba cask, 53.4%
  9. Wire Works Necessary Evil Finish (stout cask), 51.3%
  10. Wire Works Whisky Small Batch, 46.2%
  11. Wire Works UTC dram, 55.4%
  12. Nc’Nean Organic Huntress 2022, 48.5%
  13. Nc’Nean Organic Quiet Rebels: Lorna, 48.5%
  14. Copenhagen Raw Batch #2, 51.6%
  15. Copenhagen Refined Batch #1, 54.9%
  16. Copenhagen Rare Batch #3?, 60% STAR DRAM OF THE DAY
  17. Copenhagen Emmer, 62%
  18. Copenhagen Bay Leaf Gin, 45%
  19. Copenhagen Angelica Gin, 43%
  20. The Whisky Baron Staoisha, 56.7%
  21. Mezcal Siete Misterios Doba-yej, 45%
  22. Foursquare Exceptional Cask Isonomy 17 yo, 58%
  23. Foursquare Exceptional Cask Sovereignty 14 yo, 62%
  24. Foursquare LFT White, 62%
  25. Foursquare Private Cask Elysium 12 yo, 60%
  26. That Boutique-y Whisky Company Boutique-y Birthday Blend 10 years, 46%
  27. That Boutique-y Whisky Company Clynelish 25 yo, 47.1%
  28. Cadenhead’s Caol Ila 34 yo, 51%
  29. SMWS Ben Nevis Smoky Plumes and Salted Prunes 78.61, 66.9%
  30. Diageo Port Dundas 25 yo Muckety Muck, 45.5%
  31. Diageo Clynelish  20 yo, 200th Anniversary Release, 57.3%
  32. Gordon & MacPhail Strathisla 25 yo bottled for 1977 Silver Jubilee, 35% ABV/70% proof 
  33. 1970s Glen Grant 10 yo, 35% ABV/70% Proof
  34. Port Askaig 45 yo, 40.8% (repeat dram and 2nd Star Dram of the show)
  35. Elixir The Single Malts of Scotland Reserve Casks Linkwood 10 yo, 48% 

Total – 114 drams + 13 queue drams

What’s in a name? I will admit that, whilst I love grain whisky, I was inspired to choose this Port Dundas 25 year old Dream Dram from Diageo partly because of its name – Muckety-Muck

The next event by The Whisky Exchange is the Champagne Show on 4th November which has sold out but there might be returns if an expected train strike is declared so it’s worth getting in touch or keeping an eye on the website. The show offers a chance to sample over 100 different Champagnes and discover more about the industry, including its plans for the future and the environment, attend masterclasses and meet fellow Champagne lovers, plus buy a wide range of great bottles at The Whisky Exchange shop. I thoroughly enjoyed it last year. Just don’t forget to use the spittoons!

For more information, go to https://champagneshow.com/london/

The Whisky Exchange Champagne Show in Westminster is a chance to sample different styles of the wine from 100 bottles, including from lesser-known or smaller producers, and discover more about Champagne, plus attend masterclasses, before the festive season

To buy a Perfect Measure glass, visit The Whisky Exchange shops or go to https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/p/46180/perfect-measure-whisky-glass-in-gift-box

My Whisky Show began and ended with drams from the same distillery, Linkwood. I look forward to returning next year

New Distillery: Retribution Distilling Co. Whisky and Rum

The word on the street, literally on the street outside The Whisky Exchange’s Rum Show at Glaziers Hall near London Bridge this July, was that Retribution Rum was from an exciting new distillery and I needed to try it. I expected great tots, which I got, but, on talking to owner and distiller, Richard Lock, I also discovered plans to produce whisky and tried an 8-months aged bourbon cask new make and I was hooked. Dare I say it, it felt Bimber-esque, this was the same feeling I got when I sampled early Bimber at The Whisky Lounge in May 2019, just before the spirit was officially whisky and before there was any huge hype about it.

I’ve always regretted not joining Bimber’s Founders’ Club which is why I was excited to hear that Retribution Distilling Co. has clubs for both its whisky and rum. The former had three levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) but, regretfully, I left it too late to join at the £50 Bronze level which has now sold out. The Cask 001 Rum Club is also a great deal at £90 and, if you have the funds, I’d recommend joining both clubs so you don’t miss out on these quality spirits and all the extras that the clubs offer members, including early access to releases and a chance to sample new make and the first rum and whisky casks.

The distillery is based in Frome, Somerset and uses local barley. It produces gin and rum whilst new make spirit is currently being matured and will officially become whisky in 2024. The rum world is excited about their tots which are beautiful quality and I was lucky enough to try their White Rum and two 11-months aged samples of their casks 001 and 002, two very different tots thanks to different bourbons being used but both perfectly balanced, even at this stage. 

Whisky Founders’ Club

Whisky Founders’ ClubBronzeSilverGold
New make spirit10cl (2 x 5cl) at 40% ABV20cl at 40% ABV1 x 20cl at 40% ABV
1 x 10cl maturing spirit from cask 001 at 1 year
1 x 10cl maturing spirit from cask 001 at 2 years
Bottle10cl (2 x 5cl) cask 0011 x 70cl cask 0011 x 70cl cask 001
1 x 70cl special release
Entry into draw for bottle 001 of cask 001
Gift voucherNo£20 for online shop£50 for online shop
Plus 10% off online shop for life
Early access to pre-release spirits and special releasesYesYesYes
Special extrasNoNoEarly option to buy private cask, with 5% Founders’ Club discount for the first cask
Afternoon for 2 at the private distillery, including a tasting in the cask store, with the tour and tasting conducted by Richard Lock, the owner/distiller. The distillery is not open to the public 
Founders’ membership cardYesYesYes
Name on Founders’ page of websiteYesYesYes
Founders’ quarterly emailYesYesYes
Price£50 (sold out)£195£500

Cask 001 Rum Club 
The rum has already been distilled and cask 001 will soon be laid down for a minimum of two years. 

I loved the 11-months aged sample of cask 001, which I tried at The Whisky Exchange Rum Show, with its banana toffee and liquorice notes on the nose and barbecued pork and banana skewers dipped in hoisin sauce on the palate and will be joining the club to ensure that I get a bottle, as well as a chance to try the spirit as it matures.

Cask 001 Rum Club
Bottle1 x 10cl of rum at still strength, straight from the still
1 x 10cl of 1 year old rum at cask strength
1 x 70cl bottle of 2 year old rum of cask 001
Online shop discount15% discount code for all rum purchases from the online shop
Membership cardYes
Early access to special release rumsYes
Quarterly emails about the distillery, including details about their rum and whiskyYes
Price£90

There are already products available to buy, including Retribution gins, white rum and spiced rum. I really like Retribution White Rum. I wrote brief tasting notes at the Rum Show, admittedly not ideal conditions for getting the full flavour of any spirit but it still showcased the quality of the spirit.

Retribution White Rum

Colour: Clear

Nose: Rubber, plimsolls, banana, biscotti, underripe peaches, ripe Mirabelle plums, erasers and Kinder chocolate eggs

Palate: Wow! Earthy, woody and rich banana fudge

Available to buy for £36 for 70cl, https://www.retributiondistilling.co.uk/shop/white-rum

Soundings New Make Spirit, 44% ABV
Made from local barley floor malted by Warminster Maltings, plus a 17-day fermentation period at the distillery in Frome, Somerset using brewing and malting yeast.

Colour: Clear

Nose: Soft and gentle farmyard funk, silage, laundry softener on fleece blankets, hot nutmeg butter melted on corn-on-the-cob, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and baked apples studded with cloves and dusted with demerara sugar

Palate: Soft funk with autumn orchards and petrichor, Bounty bars, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Lindt milk chocolate rabbits, plus chai tea and buttery cinnamon rolls

Finish: Hay fading to gingerbread cake, followed by clove balls and butter ball sweets 

Verdict: So quaffable neat but you could also make daiquiris with this, a surprisingly easy-drinking new make

Available to buy for £40 for 70cl, https://www.retributiondistilling.co.uk/shop/new-make-spirit

New Make Spirit, aged 8 months, 46% ABV
Maturing in a Jim Beam quarter cask, officially becoming whisky in November, 2024. These were the brief tasting notes I wrote on the first day of The Whisky Exchange Rum Show. I would normally let spirits sit, covered with a whisky coin, for 30 minutes before tasting but it was still a very useful experience and confirmed that Retribution is one to watch – and to join their Founders’ Club.

Nose: Chalk dust, bricks, agave, petrichor, silage, Liquorice Allsorts and coconut mushrooms

Palate: Grass, biltong and beautifully buttery – I loved it

Everything about Retribution Distilling Co. shouts quality, including the logo; I love the bottle shape in the sideways R where the ship sails and the tear-shaped drop of liquid above that bottle. It’s beautifully done. I’m really excited about this new distillery, I just wish I’d become a Bronze Founder. Time is never our friend when it comes to joining clubs like this. Act now, don’t regret later.

If you love Bimber, you’ll love Retribution whiskies. I highly recommend their rum, too. You’ll have the chance to try their new make at the English Whisky Festival in Birmingham on 19th November, its very first in-person festival. To book tickets, go to https://www.exploringenglishwhisky.co.uk/english-whisky-festival-birmingham-2022/ and add CHOOSE10 in the promo code box for a 10% discount (at the time of writing). 

To discover more about Retribution Distilling Co., visit https://www.retributiondistilling.co.uk/about-us

To join the Whisky Founders’ Club at one of the two remaining levels, go to https://www.retributiondistilling.co.uk/whisky-founders-club

To join the Cask 001 Rum Club, go to https://www.retributiondistilling.co.uk/cask-001-rum-club

Rebel Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bourbon, 50% ABV

The very first Tweet Tastings I did with The Whisky Wire involved three bottles of Rebel whiskey. Full-sized bottles. This is the life, I thought, generous people send whole bottles of whiskey or whisky and you write a few carefully considered words on Twitter in return. Alas, I was half right but I’ve loved all of my Tweet Tastings since, though the bottles have shrunk in size – but the experience and discoveries haven’t. I’ve really enjoyed discovering more of Lux Row Distillers’ brands, as well as Rebel Bourbon.

What has also developed is the Rebel Bourbon range and I was delighted to be sent a sample of Rebel Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bourbon to review. It’s been distilled and aged in charred oak barrels for 10 years in Bardstown, Kentucky by those proud rebels, Lux Row Distillers.

Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown, Kentucky

Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the world with the first distillery founded by a Baptist minister back in 1789 – Elijah Craig. He’s credited (rightly or wrongly) with developing bourbon and there are now 11 distilleries in the town, including Lux Row Distillers, home to several brands, such as Ezra Brooks and Rebel Bourbon.

As a fellow rebel, I was excited to try this small batch whiskey but I wanted to see if the DNA which I’d tasted in their other bottles was clear after the 10 year ageing process. And, even ignoring politics and the pandemic, what a decade it’s been here, from a Jubilee and the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 and, another Jubilee in 2022 plus, for the first time in 70 years, there’s now a King on the throne in the UK. Meanwhile, in the US – and I’m not including politics here – Utah banned happy hour (discounted drinks) in 2012 and the US Mint produced a new series of coins called American Women quarters, starting with Maya Angelou, in 2022 – as a very amateur (and cheap) coin collector, I was particularly excited about this. Isn’t it time for a series of coins commemorating the greats in whisky and whiskey production? There are also a lot of major events, changes and discoveries in the last decade in both of our countries, some best discussed (or considered) over a dram or two.

But what has 10 years in the cask done to the liquid? Has the rebel been tamed?

Rebel Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bourbon, 50% ABV / 100 proof, £94.99 for 75cl

Colour: Chestnut

Nose: Rich vanilla, vanilla fudge, vanilla latte, roughly hewn oak chopped with a sharp axe by a leather-clad woodsman, liquorice pipes, Liquorice Allsorts coconut rolls, orange blossom honey, cologne mint, autumn orchards, musk and dunnage

Liquorice Allsorts coconut rolls on the nose

Palate: Smooth, chewy and mouth-coating, it’s rich with vanilla and oak, dark chocolate ginger thins, chocolate hazelnut spread, liquorice fudge, vanilla latte, hay and acorns.

Finish: Oak spices on the finish with ginger tea, aniseed balls, clove balls and butterball sweets, plus Christmas greenery

Butterball sweets on the finish

Nose with water: Orange essence, vanilla fudge, vanilla hot chocolate, warm soot, oak logs, ginger, cough candies, orange and cranberry tea, cherry wine and candle wax

Palate with water: Water introduces more oak spices with a hit of ginger, cardamom, mace, star anise and cloves, plus wood varnish and orange and vanilla essences

Finish with water: The spiciness fades to reveal char and softer chai tea, plus more of that decadent vanilla on a long and lingering finish

Personally, I prefer it without the water but it’s always worth trying and seeing what’s revealed. I used Larkfire Water which is very pure, introducing water but no extra taste.

This isn’t just a new bottle of Rebel Bourbon, the DNA is there but cranked up to max with extra oak and vanilla for an eminently quaffable bourbon. It’s a beautiful dram for rebels and traditionalists alike. Perfect for cold autumn nights – and under the Christmas tree.

To buy a bottle, go to The Bottle Club https://www.thebottleclub.com/products/rebel-10-year-old-single-barrel-bourbon-100-proof-whiskey-75-cl?utm_source=google&utm_medium=paid&utm_campaign=18029183935&utm_content=&utm_term=&gadid=&gclid=Cj0KCQjw1vSZBhDuARIsAKZlijRk5GysTttvPMeEDI8CoK2LJnk6vo-RPu33VmgdsB1XqNzTvWrb56kaAqy1EALw_wcB

To discover more about Rebel Bourbon and their range, visit https://rebelbourbon.com

With thanks to The Whisky Wire and Chapman Poole PR for the sample.

Raw Spirit: Douglas Laing’s Strathearn Distillery The Heart Single Malt New Make Spirit Drink

One of the most interesting tastings I ever did was actually a two-parter with NEWAS (North East Whisky Appreciation Group) where Karl Glenn arranged for us to sample 12 new makes – the raw spirit. This is the DNA of the whisky, some might be diverted to make gin but others grow up to become drams. I loved that tasting and really wish all of the spirit we sampled were available to buy but was delighted to have had the chance to try them, especially those which I wouldn’t have been able to try otherwise, possibly outside of distillery tours, if that.

I’m a huge fan of drinking new make for its own sake and wish more distilleries would bottle theirs to enjoy in its own right, as well as to showcase the base for their drams. It would be so interesting to do a blind tasting where you match the new makes to the finished liquid. What elements have continued through to the bottled spirit? Can you recognise the new make in the finished dram? It’s one of the reasons I love new make, it’s full of potential.

Indie bottler Douglas Laing’s long-held ambition to open their own distillery has come to fruition with the acquisition of Highlands-based Strathearn Distillery whose Heather Rose Gin I’ve long enjoyed, especially mixed with Artisan Drinks Co.’s Violet Blossom Tonic Water. The distillery had previously produced a very small amount of whisky but wasn’t known for it when Douglas Laing bought the craft distillery in 2019.

Douglas Laing’s Strathearn The Heart is sold in a 20cl bottle, a chance to sample the raw spirit whilst waiting for the whisky to come of age. It’s interesting that it’s clearly being marketed on the label as part of the established firm and I’m curious to see if that will change when the actual whisky’s bottled. My first ever bottle from Douglas Laing was a 20cl Big Peat and I’m hoping they produce their own whisky in that size, it’s a great way to sample and share drams.

Situated in Methven, near Crieff, Perthshire, Strathearn is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and its logo is the acorn. I love its dual symbolism – from little oaks, mighty acorns are grown and those symbolic oaks are cut down, dried and become whisky barrels. It also suggests that, whilst it might be a small distillery, even using 50 litre casks (octaves) instead of the standard 500 litre butts or 250 litre hogsheads, its whisky will be impressive.

The distillery itself was launched in farm buildings in 2013 and was bought by Douglas Laing in 2019. For those who, like me, love Strathearn gins or their Dunedin Rum, they will still be produced by a new business, The Whisky Garden Ltd, run by Thomas Burke, formerly of Strathearn Distillery until its acquisition by Douglas Laing.  It’s notable that the logo clearly carries the date of the distillery’s foundation, not its acquisition, which makes it almost a decade old.

Transparency
The bottle’s clear label contains a lot of information about the ‘single malt new make spirit drink’ as its called, ideal for those wanting to know how it’s been produced. I’m interested that they didn’t just call it new make, but it’s going to appeal to non-whisky drinkers this way, especially the vodka market and can be enjoyed the same way, as well as neat. The following details are on the label:

Distiller: Angela Brown

Barley: Maris otter

Yeast: Dried distillers

Fermentation Time: >120 hours

Batch distillation: 1,000 litres

Bottled: April 2022

Bottling strength: 63.5% ABV

Volume: 20cl/200ml

The label also has tasting notes and the acorn logo. There’s an oak disc bearing the logo tied around the neck with string and I was impressed that the stopper uses an alternative to cork. My only complaint is a very personal one, I find white writing hard to read but it’s used to stress that this is a pure, clear liquid. I just wish I could read the tasting notes to compare them to my own after trying it!

Tasting notes for Douglas Laing’s Strathearn The Heart

Colour: Clear 

Nose: Farmyard funk, glue, neoprene knee support, Deep Heat spray, overripe bananas, warm compost, silage, strawberry blancmange, butterscotch Angel Delight, vanilla custard, rhubarb and custard sweets, Nutella on a warm roll dunked in a bowl of café au lait 

Palate: Spicy palate with crystallised ginger, aniseed and clove balls, the rubber of a baby’s dummy and a piping bag with icing, freshly cut grass, toffee apple, warm custard with brown sugar, corn dogs, pickle juice, rosewater and vanilla essence

Finish: The finish softens and warms with chai tea and a bowl of warm custard

Nose with water: Tins of Ambrosia rice pudding, tapioca and custard, foam bananas, pickle juice, prickly pear jam, rubber ball, 1970s varnished wooden tennis racquet, Aero and Wispa bars,  plus batteries and linseed oil

Palate with water: Ester heaven! Glue, rubber washing up gloves, overripe bananas, pear juice, sweet pointed peppers, rosewater, vanilla café au lait, beignets, nutmeg, ginger balls, aniseed twists, cough candies, Hopjes sweets, sweet potato fries and decaf Coca Cola

Finish with water: Winter mix, Army & Navy sweets, decaf Coca Cola and banana jam

Conclusion: A few drops of water really softens and opens up the new make. A beautiful dram and a very solid grounding for a whisky. It’s going to be so interesting to trace the new make in the ageing whisky and I was trying to spot what we should still expect to see in the whisky when it’s bottled. Obviously, casks will make a difference, especially octaves which draw so much from the wood because of their size but I’d hope to see the sweet and fruity notes expand with some spice but, where the funk lies, that remains to be seen as all new make is funky, it’s the nature of the raw spirit.

As well as enjoying it neat, possibly even chilled, this would be a fantastic alternative to vodka in a Bloody Mary or to gin in a Dirty Martini. It will also appeal to people who love high-estered rums, especially Jamaican white rums, as well as whisky drinkers.

I have a small selection of new makes and Strathearn The Heart is a welcome addition.I love Douglas Laing’s independent bottlings, including their Remarkable Regional Malts series. To try their first product from their own distillery is exciting, especially as this is something they’ve wanted to do for decades and they’re finally realising their dream. I’m really looking forward to trying their whisky and to see where they go with it – the DNA is clear and it’s good.

Douglas Laing’s Strathearn The Heart Single Malt New Make Spirit Drink is available from the Douglas Laing website for £17.99 for the 20cl bottle, or for 10% less if you sign up to their newsletter. 

With that offer, you might as well buy a few more discounted bottles from the indie bottler-turned distillery owner to save money in a cost-of-living crisis and stay warm in what’s bound to be a cold winter. Well, that’s my excuse – https://www.douglaslaing.com/products/strathearn-s-the-heart?_pos=1&_sid=5652e80c0&_ss=r 

Review sample kindly provided by Douglas Laing with no editorial input.

Great Tots: The Whisky Exchange Rum Show 2022

Whenever I go to a drinks festival, I try to discover the star dram – or tot in the case of The Whisky Exchange Rum Show which was held at Glaziers Hall, near London Bridge 22nd-23rd July, 2022. It’s a great, accessible venue with good transport links (train, bus and tube) and conveniently near both The Whisky Exchange’s Aladdin’s cave of a specialist shop in London Bridge and Borough Market.

Glaziers Hall, near London Bridge, is a great venue for drinks festivals like The Whisky Exchange Rum Show

Borough Market

I love this busy food market which has changed hugely from when I first used to go there. It features in Bridget Jones’s Diary, the empty market she prances through en route to her nearby flat, if memory serves. The emphasis has changed over the years but still acts as a regular food market to many, as well as offering specialist stalls, including cheese, oysters, all things chilli and spice and wines. I always buy Belgian beers there from Utobeer. The market also has a hot food section with different stalls offering hot food from around the world, including Iraq, India, Vietnam, China, Japan, Singapore and a host of other nations. sadly, not much choice at breakfast so I ended up in the stylish Roast restaurant which is above the market and prices are comparable to the market stalls themselves, albeit with seating and no queues for the toilet. Something to remember next time The Whisky Exchange hold an event on the south side of the Thames at Glaziers Hall or even over the river for their Whisky Show.

Borough Market is ideally placed to eat before The Whisky Exchange Rum Show – and full of tempting treats

Glaziers Hall

Home to three of the great guilds, The Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass but also Launderers and Scientific Instrument Makers, it has a main hall on the ground floor with two further rooms upstairs, one of which overlooks the Thames and London Bridge, and a landing which was host to the most intriguing stand of the event – a blending bar run by Black Tot Rum in a special room created for the event. More about that later. For those who need it, there’s a large lift between the floors and a very comfortable-looking throne right by the first floor door.

A Rum Do

I loved the Rum Show, I’d been to the virtual one previously but this was the first time in-person. There were masterclasses running throughout the two days but I gave them a miss because my focus was on trying as many different rums as my nose and palate allowed – aided by my homemade spittoon (empty water bottle with a large opening – so stylish!) – and talking to the producers and bottlers who were there from around the world, including the UK. This was very much a world rum event, as well as rums from all over the Caribbean, there were also rums from Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Taiwan and other countries.

There were rums from around the world, including Denmark and the Caribbean

There was a wealth of rums available, over 200 were included in the ticket price, plus extras using the Dream Dram tokens for bottles up to £499, one token being tucked into the Perfect Measure glass on arrival, along with a ticket for a free cocktail. I opted for a daiquiri with a friend on my second day and wish I’d spotted the bar sooner. Extra tokens could be bought from The Whisky Exchange shop in the main hall for £5 each, if desired. There were also some very interesting under the counter tots if you were lucky. And I was.

I was there to discover easy quaffers for regular use, as well as that elusive dream tot. I also wanted to catch up with friends and just talk rum. The show had a lovely, mellow vibe. No one was racing around but everyone was taking their time, no sense of being rushed into finishing tots and moving on and everyone was just friendly. It’s why I love drinks festivals like these, it’s an experience, not just a place to drink. And it was so interesting discussing the state of the rum world, finding out what people are doing next and also comparing it to whisky which feels like it’s overpricing itself and people are looking for the next, affordable thing to drink – rum and, as I found out at the last Whisky Exchange festival at the  same venue earlier this year, Cognac.

Let’s Get Blending

The very stylish blending room, specially created by Black Tot Rum

There were some great rums around. Admittedly, some of my tasting notes became slightly similar as I sought out rums which stood out from traditional rum notes – caramel, butterscotch, dark chocolate, spice, vanilla and ester notes of banana and rubber. It’s why I found Black Tot Rum’s blending room so fascinating. It looked like an old-fashioned apothecary’s shop but with brightly coloured shirts (thanks so much for mine!), music and laughter. It was so upbeat, I loved it. There were three sections in the specially-made ‘room’ on the first floor landing area. On the left was the tasting area where we were lucky enough to have a preview of the then yet-to-be-released Master Blender’s Reserve 2022 which I thought to be even better than last year’s bottle, one of my star tots at a previous rum festival. 

Opposite that was a tasting section of the four rums featured in their Finest Caribbean Black Tot Rum (46.2% ABV) – Jamaica (3 year old), Barbados (5 year old) and two from Guyana (aged at 3-5 years, and unaged). We tasted them separately and were then given a label and told to write our own blend. I’d expected to say 98% Jamaican and then balance it out with 2% of something else but, whilst heavily-estered on the nose, the palate was much calmer, ideal for blending. We were told what per centage of each had been used in their own rum and then wrote our own. We took the label to Head Blender, Oliver Chilton, on the other set of tables who wisely didn’t even raise an eyebrow as he made up our blends into very generous 100ml bottles and quickly sealed it with wax so we couldn’t immediately taste it and demand to go again.

A chance to become a ‘master blender’ in Black Tot Rum’s blending room

I wish it hadn’t been as busy on the first day so I’d have been able to try it twice – or even been intelligent enough to opt for their own version to get a free 100ml bottle of their own rum but that would probably have counted as cheating. Okay, would definitely have counted as cheating, as well as a lost opportunity. I really must try my own, distinctly non-master blender rum but am slightly worried about my balance! 

The official recipe is:
35% Barbados rum
40% aged Guyana rum
20% unaged Guyana rum
5% Jamaica rum

My recipe is:
10% Barbados rum
32% aged Guyana rum
20% unaged Guyana rum
38% Jamaica rum

Ester-heavy but what an incredible opportunity! It was a fantastic, eye-opening introduction to blending and I loved the old-fashioned pharmacy-style bottles on the blending desk.

My signature ‘Black Tot Rum’, still sealed but I’ll be brave and see where I went wrong soon!

More Than a Rum

I find events like the Rum Show very educational, none more so than Saint Benevolence Clairin Rum from Haiti. We were told that this was the most important rum of the show and it is – it also tastes great but every bottle you buy, 100% of the profits go to Haitian charities to address their health, education and infrastructure needs and help fund the country’s potential which, according to an article in the New York Times, has been repressed to the tune of an estimated $21 billion when Haiti was forced to pay ‘reparations’ to the slave owners they overthrew in 1791. Haitians even helped to fund the Eiffel Tower thanks to this obscene ‘debt’. Whilst they repaid the 2022 equivalent to $560 million, they lost far more in potential and Saint Benevolence is helping the community to regain control of their future. It’s also a great tasting white rum, as well as providing employment to Haitians and helping their future. 

Nose: Earthy, grassy, leafy, lemon drop sweets, blackcurrant Chewitts, brambles, beeswax furniture polish, sawdust and oyster shells

Palate: Meaty, Fisherman’s Friends, Panda liquorice, Hopjes (Dutch coffee sweets) and black pepper

To discover more about the oppression of Haiti by forced payments, read https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/05/23/world/haiti-france-ransom

And to help the people of Haiti whilst treating yourself to a very quaffable rum, go to https://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/p/59902/saint-benevolence-clairin or visit one of their London shops, including London Bridge.

The Future of Rum

There were established blends, as well as independent bottlers. I loved the Velier Magnum Series with Elliott Erwitt’s photographs, the Mount Gay was my favourite of the four I’ve tried, three at the show. Foursquare had a large stand opposite and Bacardi were there, as were Skylark with their impressive portfolio, including Saint Benevolence, but there were also new distilleries either standing there or visiting and it’s really exciting talking to them about the future of rum. It will be interesting to see what Shaun Smith, formerly of Cotswolds Distillery and White Peak, produces at Nottingham’s ‘The Modern Rum Company’ (I think the name’s changing) which is owned by Lewis Hayes of Black Parrot Bar, which I have been told is one of the best rum bars in the UK, so a great pedigree for the new distillery.

One of the stars of the show for me was Retribution which is very exciting and will also be producing whisky. Their 8 month old new make was superb and I can’t wait to see where they go with it. Their White Rum is an easy drinker, a rum shelf regular both neat and for cocktails and I was impressed with their two 11 month old Bourbon barrel-aged rums and look forward to seeing where they go. The two different Bourbon had a clear influence producing two very different rums and they’re still a work in progress. Exciting times indeed.

Become a Retribution Distilling Co. Founder Member for their rums or whiskies. Definitely one to watch

Other names to watch include The Islay Rum Company, their Geal – Pure Single Rum was my last tot of the first day and was wonderfully vegetal, including grassy, beans, artichoke and agave notes, as well as ginger and dark chocolate. Notably not notes I’d expect to see in Islay whisky and I will admit that I was expecting maritime notes like the oyster shells in Saint Benevolence rum.

William George are based in the Netherlands and named after the brother founders’ grandfathers, William and George – also the names of future kings. Like Saint Ogun, I’m interested to see what they produce next.

Saint Ogun, a very quaffable blend from five distilleries from three countries – Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana. Esters galore and wonderful exotic fruit notes, plus cloves. I need a bottle!

Progresiva is a historic rum company, the first in Cuban history to be run by women, including the first female master blender in Cuba, and its co-owners (with the Cuban Government itself), Island Rum Company, are only the second foreign company that’s been allowed to own a business in Cuba, the first being Pernod Ricard. The rum, Ron Las Progresiva de Vigia 13 isn’t 13 years old or their 13th rum but the first of their blends they bottled – their 13th try. I loved the bottle which looks like a beehive, reminding me of vintage Lucite handbags, but is actually designed to resemble ripples from drops of water. The all-women team have been hugely influential and encouraged other women to enter the rum trade in Cuba and beyond.

Progresiva Rum bottles are shaped like drops of water creating ripples, just like their historic all-women distilling team have created ripples in the Cuban rum world, inspiring other women to enter the industry

Bottles and Labels

I loved Progresiva’s bottle and my tasting notes included Flumps, strawberry pencils and foam bananas, as well as sugared mice boot polish and malt. There were some great bottles at the show, including fellow Cuban rum producer, Eminente, and their crocodile skin-looking textured bottles.

I really enjoyed Admiral Rodney’s range and loved their heavy-looking stoppers on bottles shaped like ship’s decanters, designed so they won’t roll in storms. My favourite was HMS Royal Oak and fellow whisky – or that should be whiskey – lovers will appreciate Officer’s Reserve No. 2 which was finished for 9 months in Walsh Whiskey’s The Irishman Whiskey. It’s a great range and very accessible for whisky drinkers entering the rum world or just people who love rum. I also love how each label records the ships involved in the 1792 Battle of the Saints. History is an integral part of rum and it’s clear that it has a dark history, no one’s trying to deny that but, as Saint Benevolence and Progresiva Rum shows, rum also offers a very positive future which can change lives for the better.

Admiral Rodney rums: Ships decanters and historic battles, plus an Irish Whiskey cask rum

But one bottle stood out above all, Mauritius Dodo Rum. The rum itself is an easy, everyday quaffer and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some days, you just want a tot without breaking it down into tasting notes and it is very drinkable. It comes in two different bottles – an incredible one shaped like a dodo and, dare I say it, looking like the quality of glass you used to win at the end of Bournemouth pier in the 1970s – I won’t hear a word against my Romanian glass fish (aka wannabe Murano glass!) – and a smaller one which has a blue glass dodo in it. I checked eBay and you can buy an empty version of the smaller bottle for just £10 cheaper than a bottle containing rum. Just buy one with rum in it!

The most distinctive bottles of The Rum Show – Mauritius Dodo Rum! Fortunately, rum producers, unlike dodos, are increasing in numbers

My Star Tot

I had some great rums on my first day but the star tot remained elusive until my second day when I used my Dream Dram token. It was Tamosi Karaya, Port Mourant Uitvlugt 1988, 61.1% ABV. Tamosi’s names are based on pre-colonial Carib fables and mythology and Karaya is the moon – the tales are on the back of the bottles of these quality rums. It was one of my favourite stands of the whole event and I worked my way down the line of bottles, including their Tamosi Rum with the tree of life-type symbol on the front, a label style I can never resist, no matter what the spirit.

Nose: It’s meaty with redcurrant jelly, foil and baking paper

Palate: Buttered toast with Sandwich Spread, baking spices, cardboard and sweet potato fries. It’s a wonderfully warming tot

Add water and you getfatty lamb with redcurrant jelly, fatty lamb sausage rolls with perfect buttery pastry in a brown paper bag, baking paper and a hint of sulphur. It was just beautiful and a few drops of water really opened it up and revealed more of the meaty element. I loved it, it was the star tot of the show and, sadly, I couldn’t buy a bottle as they’d provided it from their own collection – but it is available at auction, expect to pay around £200-240.

I also loved their Tamosi Sawaku Bielle Premium 2009 which I was drawn to because of the stork-like bird on the label which is a series of stars over the Caribbean.

One of the star stands for me, with the Star Tot of the entire show, was Tamosi Rum and I loved their labels which tell the story of pre-colonial Carib mythology, including tales of the stars and the moon

I spent my second day’s Dream Dram token there, too, Tamosi Hiali Pere Labat Rhum Agricole 2013. It was my second star tot of the show, just behind Karaya but only just, with its sugarplum, wine and doughy notes. It was also my very last tot of the show and a fantastic way to end it. If you don’t already know Tamosi, check them out. I love not just the quality of the rums but the stories of pre-colonial Carib mythology on their labels. Heritage is such an important factor in rum.

Rums Tasted

I kept a notebook recording every tot tasted, as well as taking photos of many of them for more details, as well as a visual memory. I used a spittoon to enable me to taste more rums safely and, where needed, a few drops of Larkfire Water to open up the higher ABV tots. 

As with all drinks festivals, I cleansed my palate and glass between tots, ensuring that I stayed hydrated – and cleared my nose by sniffing my arm when needed, right until it told me to go home! There’s no point drinking for the sake of it when you can’t get proper tasting notes and that’s why I try to attend for two days so I can respect the bottlers and distillers by getting the most out of every tot or dram.

There were many rums I didn’t try because I’d already tasted them before or I just didn’t get round to them. As ever, the days after a drinks festival are filled with ‘Oh, I forgot to…’ and promises to do better in future! It also made me want to do more rum tastings, either in person or virtual and I really must look for a local rum club like the whisky clubs I’ve joined. Sussex Rum Appreciation Group, anyone?

The Whisky Exchange Rum Show was superb with a wonderful range of rums for all levels of rum drinkers, palates and pockets and it’s also a great venue. My only suggestion for future would be to have a small food area in the foyer where people could eat something to soak up the alcohol on offer, especially for the 12-6 session on Saturday, but I loved the cold meats stall there and still dream about the pork belly. It was a fabulous couple of days and just wonderful being back in London for it, visiting The Whisky Exchange London Bridge branch and enjoying Borough Market before the show. Although I could have done without the man sitting opposite me on the train on the way down talking about a dead body – I definitely needed a tot or three after that!

The meat was delicious but we definitely need more food stalls at spirit festivals to soak up all that alcohol and drink safely. I want a pretzel stand next time!

Future Events
I’ll be back in London again for The Whisky Exchange’s Whisky Show 30 September–2 October, this time crossing London Bridge to the North Bank at Old Billingsgate where over 650 drams (so far but expect that to rise nearer the time) are included in the ticket price, plus a chance to discover those irresistible old, rare and exceptional Dream Drams and attend masterclasses, as well as meet distillers and bottlers to discover more about whisky from around the world. For details, see https://whiskyshow.com

If you’d like to go to another large rum festival and can’t wait until next year’s The Whisky Exchange Rum Show, UK RumFest is 15-16 October at the @Ilec Conference Centre near Earls Court in London and has over 400 rums included in the ticket price, as well as Dream Drams – and a shop hosted by The Whisky Exchange. I loved it last year and am looking forward to going again this year to enjoy even more great tots. There are also masterclasses and a chance to talk to rum producers, bottlers and other rum lovers. To find out more, go to https://rumfest.co.uk

Tots List
I kept a list of the rums I tried over 2 days of The Whisky Exchange Rum Show, wrote tasting notes and quietly scored them to remind myself which I loved best and wanted to buy. Its full of very impressive tots, including my Star Tot of the whole show, Tamosi Karaya Port Mourant Uitvlugt 1998, now only available at rum auctions. The following list is in order of tasting:

  1. Black Tot Rum Master Blender’s Reserve 2022
  2. Black Tot Rum Last Consignment
  3. Compagnie des Indes Rum Trinidad 9 year old, UK exclusive
  4. Retribution White Rum
  5. Retribution cask #002 aged 11 months Jim Beam cask
  6. Retribution cask #001 aged 11 months Bourbon cask (Buffalo Trace?)
  7. Retribution new make aged 8 months Bourbon cask for their future whisky
  8. Damoiseau White Rum 40%
  9. Damoiseau Gold
  10. Damoiseau XO 6 year old
  11. Admiral Rodney Rum HMS Royal Oak
  12. Admiral Rodney Rum HMS Princessa
  13. Admiral Rodney Rum Officer’s Release No. 2 Irish Whiskey Cask (Walsh Whiskey The Irishman)
  14. Admiral Rodney Rum HMS Formidable
  15. Saint Ogun
  16. Renegade Rum Dunfermline Farm Column Still
  17. Renegade Rum Dunfermline Farm Pot Still
  18. Renegade Rum Old Bacolet Farm Pot Still
  19. Don Q Cristal
  20. Don Q Gold
  21. Don Q 151 (75.5% ABV)
  22. Don Q Reserva 7
  23. Don Q Gran Reserva Anejo XO
  24. Don Q Double Wood Rum (Oloroso) Sherry Wood Finish
  25. Don Q Double Wood Vermouth Cask Finish
  26. Bristol Classic Rums Venezuelan 12 Year Old 
  27. Bristol Classic Rums Dominican 2013
  28. Clairin Sonson (51.1% ABV)
  29. Velier Magnum Series Elliott Erwitt Saint James 2006 15 year old
  30. Velier Magnum Series Elliott Erwitt Mount Gay 2007 14 year old
  31. Velier Magnum Series Elliott Erwitt Foursquare 2005 16 year old
  32. Eminente Ambar Claro 3 year old
  33. The Islay Rum Company Geal – Pure Single Rum

Day 2, Saturday 23 July

  1. Black Tot blending bar – Guyana #2 – aged Diamond Distillery
  2. Black Tot blending bar – Barbados – Foursquare 5 year old
  3. Black Tot blending bar – Guyana #1 – non-aged Diamond Distillery
  4. Black Tot blending bar – Jamaica – Worthy Park 3 year old
  5. Black Tot Rum Master Blender’s Reserve 2021
  6. 1423 Single Barrel Station (SBS) Brazil 2013/17 cachaca-style, Pardin Distillery
  7. SBS Jamaica 2013 Worthy Park
  8. SBS Denmark Enghaven Rum Distillery
  9. SBS Venezuela 2006 C.A.C.D.
  10. SBS Antigua 2015 Antigua Distillers Ltd (also produces English Harbour)
  11. SBS Guyana 2012 DDL
  12. Ron La Progresiva 13 de Vigia Rum (bottle looks like a beehive)
  13. Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin – 100% of profits go to Haitian charities
  14. William George
  15. Bristol Classic Rums Barbados Foursquare 2011
  16. Bristol Classic Rums Jamaica 2009-21 Hampden DOK
  17. Bristol Classic Rums Trinidad 8 year old TDL/Angostura
  18. SBS French Antilles 2020 Port Cask Grand Arome Le Galion Distillery, Martinique, TWE exclusive
  19. SBS Mauritius 2010 Moscatel Cask Grays Distillery, TWE exclusive
  20. Renaissance Distillery 2018 Isle of Formose Fino Cask, Taiwan, TWE exclusive
  21. Le Rhum Agricole Blanc par Neisson
  22. Tamosi Rum
  23. Tamosi Port Cask Finish Rum
  24. Tamosi Karaya Port Mourant Uitvlugt 1998 STAR TOT
  25. Tamosi Tiba Panama 2008 undisclosed distillery
  26. Tamosi Sawaku Bielle Premium 2009 
  27. Tamosi KPM 1991, 31 year old – future release
  28. El Dorado Port Mourant 1999
  29. Angostura White Rum Reserva 3 years
  30. Angostura 7 year old
  31. Angostura 1824 Premium Rum
  32. Angostura 1787 15 year old
  33. Sugar House White Rum
  34. Sugar House Overproof
  35. J. Gow Spiced Rum
  36. J. Gow Revenge Rum 2018
  37. Arcane Grand Gold 
  38. Arcane Extraroma Grand Amber Rum
  39. Arcane Flamboyance
  40. Mauritius Dodo Gold Rum – bottle shaped like a dodo, smaller bottle has a glass dodo in it
  41. Tamosi Hiali Pere Labat Rhum Agricole 2013
  42. Plus a daiquiri 

Four fantastic rums. I had sampled the Velier Magnum Series Hampden before so didn’t try it again at The Whisky Exchange Rum Show because I was trying to taste rums I didn’t already know. I really wish I had as it’s a superb tot but there are only so many tots I can try at one festival – as I had to remind myself!

Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

It’s National Bourbon Day which means a quick trip to Kentucky via Ocado and a dram of Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon to celebrate.

Named after the National Park, Yellowstone Bourbon was first named in 1872, based on an 1854 bourbon produced by J.B. Dant Distillery. Thanks to its ‘medicinal’ qualities, it beat the Prohibition ban and continued to be produced and sold in the 1920s and, in the 1960s, Yellowstone was the best-selling brand in Kentucky. There were several owners over the years but it was time to bring it home to the original family.

In 2010, Stephen Beam, the seventh-generation master distiller in the Beam and Dant whiskey family, founded the Limestone Branch Distillery with the intention of resurrecting his family’s link to the Yellowstone™ brand and, five years later, around a century after his great-grandfather, M.C. Beam, sold his distillery to Yellowstone™, the brand was back with the family. 

Yellowstone Select is a mix of four and seven-year old Kentucky straight bourbons and the small batch whiskey is distilled at the Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky. Bottled at 46.5%, it’s a very quaffable dram and great value at £52 and, according to the Ocado website, you ‘may’ be offered free delivery for standard orders over £75 – so tempting to order two bottles to save money and get free delivery. For those who celebrate Father’s Day, it also makes a great present for good fathers with good taste. For those of us who don’t, we can treat ourselves instead!

The colour of apple juice, the nose has corn-on-the-cob with lashings of melted butter with a pinch of nutmeg and paprika, Jamaica ginger cake (also available from Ocado…), Bounty bar, Maltesers, cherries dipped in milk chocolate, pumpernickel sandwich with ripe tomatoes, sliced gherkins and spiced brisket served on an oak platter. It’s making me hungry!

Water softens the spices on the nose and increases the fruitiness. There’s a pecan wood bowl of ripe peaches, blackberries and cherries, Maltesers, Lindt chocolate rabbits, leather gauntlets, lavender soap and a beeswax-polished oak chiffonier topped with a silver bowl of potpourri.

Smooth and creamy mouthfeel and the rye is front and centre in front of the corn. There’s a buttered rye bread sandwich with seasoned pulled pork, tarragon mustard and gherkins served on a chrome dish alongside buttered corn, crème brûlée and dark chocolate truffles at an oak refectory table. There are oak spices with cinnamon, mace, black pepper, cumin and cardamom. The finish is spiced teacake with a choice of fig jam or ginger marmalade. It’s very more-ish. 

With water, it’s very woody with that lavender soapiness coming through, plus face powder and a big hit of rye with dark chocolate-enrobed ginger, chocolate maltshake and a long and lingering rye and spice finish which tapers to floral gums and gherkins, and leaves you wanting more.

Buying a bottle not only warms your heart and spirit but helps save America’s very first National Park, Yellowstone. I love their logo, ‘Preserve the Parks 1 Bottle at a Time’ as the distillery is donating a portion of the bourbon’s proceeds to NPCA (National Parks Conservation Association), a nonpartisan organisation seeking the save the National Parks for future generations. Buy two bottles and you’ll help them even more! 

To buy Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon for £52, go to https://www.ocado.com/products/yellowstone-kentucky-straight-bourbon-552783011 

With thanks to The Whisky Wire and Chapman Poole PR for the sample.

Mothering Sunday: Where’s the Whisky?

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and I won’t be celebrating it except to wish my wonderful mum an ironic happy day. I was brought up by her to dismiss the day as commercial rot, especially as it was so close to her birthday, sometimes even on the same day and we celebrated her properly then -– and every day because why should appreciating good mothers and making them feel loved be limited to one day? I could write an entire article about this – and actually have previously in my incarnation as a journalist – but that’s not the point of this post. Just don’t forget to tell your mum/guardian, if you’re lucky enough to have one and to have a good one, that you love and appreciate them. Mine buys me whisky. I love her! Those two sentences aren’t necessarily connected…

As a journo, I braced myself for the inevitable PR emails back in the day, each tenuous link to convince me to write about a product and link it to mothers so they could help increase their clients’ bottomline – Detox Your Mother. Treat Your Mother to Glossy Hair. Stuff Your Mother with Chocolates. Get Your Mother Tipsy with Rosé. The underlying message always seemed to be that mums needed improving, sweetening, mainly with something irrelevant to what they actually want. How about buying your mum something she loves or taking the time to ring your mum for more than 15 minutes and then only on her birthday, Mothering Sunday and Christmas? To treating her to a great bottle of whisky?

I always offer to take mum out for a meal on the day, as I do on other days but Mother’s Day has special menus and I love special menus. Interestingly, there aren’t as many this year and I’ve had emails from restaurants begging me to go as the tables haven’t filled up like normal years. How about having set Mothering Sunday menus, then, so you feel compelled to go on the day or you’ll miss out? The usual à la carte with possibly a glass of fizz and chocolates (whilst nice) thrown in just doesn’t cut it, no wonder tables haven’t been snapped up. 

And then there are the emails. Did you know that mothers are women and, therefore, only drink gin, rosé and Prosecco (not even any other form of fizz)? Now, don’t get me wrong, I love gin, rosé and most forms of fizz BUT I, like many women, also love whisky and this is what this blog post is about – yes, it took me long enough but I wanted to set it in context. This is a desperately disappointing Mother’s Day and I don’t even celebrate it.

Families were separated for two years, some never fully reformed because of the pandemic’s ravages and it made more people appreciate what they have, if they’re lucky enough to have one and a good one – mothers. Why hasn’t everyone gone all out this year? Where are the special menus, where are the whisky promos? In fact, where on earth are the emails from distillers, independent bottlers and specialist retailers trying to flog whisky to celebrate mums?

Shame on all the whisky distillers who also produce gin for forgetting that, yes, many women -–including mothers – love whisky and, instead, just try to tell us all to buy gin for mums this Mothering Sunday. They’ve missed a trick and they’ve also made me feel, as a woman, albeit not a mum, that I’m not seen. If only greyhounds bought whisky, I’d have hoped for some this Sunday but the messaging is clear – women don’t drink whisky, only gin, rosé and fizz.

BUT it’s not too late. Send those emails. Blitz us with the reminder that we love our mums and they deserve the very best: Sell whisky!

Wishing all those who celebrate a very happy Mother’s Day and I’m sending special thoughts and sympathies to those who can’t mark the occasion this or future years, including mothers whose children are no longer here or who can never be mothers. 

Pour a dram and toast the one you love this Sunday. If you’re a mother on her own this year, celebrate yourself xx

Flipping is Murder: A Short Story by Fi Shoop

Joseph hit the refresh button. It was almost noon, almost time for the latest distillery bottling to go live. There were only 216 cask strength bottles in the release, three casks in total, all finished in a Manzanilla cask and demand was expected to be high. Glen Malone has only been open for five years but the Glen Malone Appreciation Group on Facebook had over 30,000 members, including some of the original 100 Founders who helped finance the business, as well as 18,000 club members, people who paid a one-off £75 membership fee to have benefits, including early access to bottles. It had grown so fast, too fast some people in the whisky world had been grumbling, usually those who missed out on the new bottles, only to see them flipped at auction for at least three times their original price.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh and the launch was live. The website crashed. Refresh. Still crashed. And again and again and… it’s there. Cask #202, that was meant to be the best one, better than #203 or #204. He clicked on a bottle, added it to his basket and went to check out. Crash. Refresh. His heart was beating dangerously fast, that third coffee of the day didn’t help. Refresh again.

It’s all right, the bottle was still in his basket. Back to the checkout page and Joseph typed in his card number, knowing any other way would be too slow. That’s it, it’s his, he did it. But, what’s going on? Where did the bottle go?Joseph stared at the empty basket, realising that the whisky had been taken out, sold to someone else between refreshes. He was furious but throwing his phone just meant he needed a new phone. He’d lost the whisky.

A week later, he watched the bottles he’d missed go live at the latest whisky auction. They’d been flipped by people who cared more about money than whisky. They’d beaten him to the lots for a quick profit with no intention of ever opening the bottles and drinking the drams. He’d had enough. It was time to do something about it.

Joseph went to his whisky club for a tasting, expecting his fellow whisky lovers to be moaning about the flippers. Instead, he heard them boast about the money they were making, the multiple accounts they’d created to buy multiple bottles and, when he went home that night, he carefully collected the stone fruit lining his road. It was time to stop this and he knew just how.

The whisky club’s WhatsApp chat was busy and he targeted the flippers with bottles he knew they wouldn’t be able to resist. It meant losing some of his recent finds but it would be worth it. He put on disposable gloves and double masked, carefully wiped down the bottles before settling them into the inflatable sleeves used to protect them in transit – but with one careful addition, just a little something extra from the fruit: cyanide. A few drops in each line of the plastic sleeve before he inflated and sealed it. No one would notice, it would just look like condensation from the journey,. It was so common to see droplets in the sleeves, no one would think anything about it. Until it was too late. 

A quick trip to the busy city centre Post Office with his box of ‘olive oil’ – no need to add his address or a fragile label to the box as is needed when sending whisky through the post, nothing memorable – and it was done. There would be three fewer flippers at the next whisky auction. Cutting the inflated sleeve to remove the bottle was quick and easy to do, plus it didn’t risk damaging the label which trying to ease it out might. Every whisky buyer did it and who would ever think it could be dangerous?

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When the latest single cask Springbank was released, Joseph was ready but not fast enough and it sold out too quickly for him to buy a bottle. The Facebook fan group was full of people annoyed at losing out, with talk quickly turning to the inevitability of many of the bottles being sent directly to auction houses or ending up there within the week. Someone he knew from whisky Twitter boasted that he’d be doing exactly that. Five others said the same, refusing to apologise for their greed when confronted by angry collectors and drinkers alike. One said he’d bought three, one to drink, one to collect – and one to sell to pay for all three. A quick private message and more fruit was collected, another sleeve doctored, another parcel sent. Another few drams to celebrate the lost life of a fellow whisky drinker. A flipper. Joseph deleted the messages and used a different Post Office than before, in London this time. More murderous ‘olive oil’. More celebratory drams poured into a Glencairn, carefully nosed, tasted and noted.

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It’s easy to kill someone in a pandemic, you just mention hearing them cough or complain about breathing difficulties – or just stay silent and watch others quickly blame natural causes. Everyone had lost someone and the numbers continued to grow. When so many are dying every day, would a few more really make a difference? They did when you were running a whisky auction house and they were regular sellers, as well as buyers. Those bottles soon added up and it wasn’t only about the money, you got to know your regulars and who wanted what, even tipping them off  that something special from their favourite distilleries would be at the next sale. The trouble was, some of the bottles they’d intended to auction with him never arrived, those who’d contacted him to say they were going to sell them were later found dead. The auctioneer began to see a pattern, especially when four of the regulars had said they’d bought the sought-after bottles from the same person, something most whisky people would keep to themselves in case he went direct to that seller, cutting out the middleman, but they were friends, and he missed his friends.

He thought about going to the police but they hadn’t done anything when he’d reported theft from his auction house the year before. Just said there was no proof the bottles hadn’t just been dropped and he should claim it on his insurance – which would have meant higher insurance charges in future. Sentences were a joke, anyway, even if you did get a conviction. He just had to hope that he was wrong and no one else would die.

And then it happened again. Three more times. Each time, he’d been promised a sought-after bottle to sell by the victims, all traced back to the same seller, another of his regulars but one who was morose and certainly not a friend, especially with his anti-flipper diatribes and insistence that his auction house should stop stocking new releases for at least a year after they came out. He couldn’t afford to lose any more business, he had no choice now.

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Joseph followed the delivery van on his app, opening the door when the latest parcel from the whisky auction arrived. He had his list ready to compare descriptions with what was delivered, you could never be too careful. There were so many specialist whisky auctions these days, he was a regular at six of them but this was his favourite, despite the flipping issues. He checked each of the 28 bottles for leakage, neck level and for any damage to the box and label. Joseph stroked his long, bushy beard and smiled when he removed the last bottle from the box, a Bunnahabhain 1974 Samaroli Infinity, one of only 199 bottles produced. He’d been determined to win this lot but it helped that his fellow Samaroli collectors from the club weren’t still alive to bid against him. A lot hard won but he deserved it, murder is thirsty work. He put the Samaroli on the shelf behind his armchair intending to open it later, celebrate his win.

Writing in his tasting book that evening, he made a note of the details from the bottle. He poured a dram and let it sit for 30 minutes, covering his Glencairn with his club’s whisky coin to capture the aroma. He wrote a description of the dram in his book after tilting the glass to coat it with the liquid –  jasmine tea coloured with long legs. He nosed it and noted descriptions, images of the different scents filling his head with every sniff:

Nose – Almonds, slight bitterness, ground coffee, dark chocolate enrobed ginger, more of those almonds

It was strange as he usually got hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or walnut whips from Bunnahabhain but the rare 40-year-old independently-bottled dram definitely had almond notes. He took a sip, held it in his mouth for the requisite one second per year before swallowing and repeating. He reached for his pen after the third sip:

Palate – Almonds. Bitter almo…

The glass fell out of his hand as he slumped in his chair, his mind finally realising the significance of the bitter almonds. The doctored whisky soaked into his Bourbon-coloured carpet, the broken glass cradling the last sip of his favourite poison – whisky, but with just a little added extra.

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The whisky auctioneer watched the clock tick down and his latest auction went live. He smiled, knowing no more sellers would be dying this month. He’d ensured that that would never happen again. He poured a dram of the unadulterated siphoned off  Bunnahabhain 1974 Samaroli Infinity which he’d saved to celebrate his win, and watched the bids flood in for the latest flipped lots.

Persie Gin Tasting with The Spirits Embassy on 21st January

What better way to celebrate a New Year than to have another gin tasting with me at The Spirits Embassy on 21st January? I’ll be joined by the Persie Gin Brand Ambassador and we’ll be talking gin, cocktails and dogs, three of my favourite things. In the interests of equal opportunity, I should add that Persie also produce a charity Pusscat Vodka with £1 from each bottle for Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home to help support their work rescuing and rehoming cats.

As well as their 3 gins which we’ll be enjoying on the tasting, Persie Gin produce 4 dog charity gins (Spaniel, Labrador, Dachshund gin liqueur and Dog Days) and £1 from each bottle is donated to Perthshire Abandoned Dogs Society (PADS) to help support their work rescuing and rehoming dogs. I love this idea and would recommend adopting dogs (and cats!), my 3 greyhounds are my 8th-10th rescue dogs and they reward me with so much affection, it’s wonderful seeing them develop and gain confidence – and, in the case of all 4 of the greyhounds I’ve adopted, discover the sheer joy of toys. And sofas.

Persie Gin have a range of 7 gins/gin liqueurs and we’ll be tasting 5 of those gins in 30ml sample bottles and 5 different tonics in the following order:

  1. Zesty Citrus Gin – Walter Gregor Tonic Water
  2. Herby & Aromatic Gin – Walter Gregor Mint and Cucumber Tonic Water
  3. Labrador Gin – Walter Gregor Spiced Tonic Water
  4. Sweet & Nutty Old Tom Gin – Walter Gregor Scottish Raspberry Tonic Water
  5. Spaniel Gin – Walter Gregor Apple and Cinnamon Tonic Water

As ever, please chill the tonics beforehand and only pour half of each 30ml measure of gin into a glass – and no tonic yet. I treat gin tastings like whisky ones, so you get the best out of each gin. We’ll start by nosing it and discussing what we detect, not just the botanicals but other flavours and we’ll talk on Zoom and/or in the chat. I’ve had a sneak sip or two and you’re in for a treat! 

Next, we’ll sip the gin and talk about it – expect lots of memories of childhood sweets and favourite meals, as well as a tasting trip around the spice rack, greengrocer’s, garden and hedgerows. Then, pour half of the tonic into another glass and we get to nose and taste the tonic on its own before mixing them both and talking through the combination and the extra flavours that produces. 

At the end of the tasting, you can mix the remaining gins with the other tonics or hold them back to make the suggested cocktails – and don’t forget that there will be a special offer with The Spirits Embassy for the Persie Gins we’ve enjoyed on the night, exclusively for those who’ve bought the tasting pack.

Special mention to Walter Gregor Tonics for their quality mixers. This is a boxed set of 5 tonics, their original tonic water and 4 flavoured ones, each carefully matched to the gins. You can buy extra from The Spirits Embassy, as well as boxed sets of 4 of their classic tonic waters.

We’ll be joined on the night by Persie Gin’s Brand Ambassador who will talk us through the history of the company, their support for animal rescue and the gins themselves. I’m there for the tasting notes, cocktails, tonics and general gin talk.

Prices are for 50cl bottles, pre-discount.

Zesty Citrus, 42% ABV, £29.99 – Walter Gregor Tonic Water

Main botanicals: Juniper, orange zest and lime zest.

Gimlet! Sorry, as soon as I saw the botanicals, my mind went straight into Gimlet mode which is the obvious mix for this fresh and fruity gin. The traditional mix is equal parts but, when a citrus gin like this one is involved, I stick to 4 parts gin to 3 parts lime cordial. Fresh lime can be too harsh which is why I stick to the cordial – or mix lime juice and sugar syrup. The classic lime cordial is so much easier and I love the fact that this cocktail was created by a surgeon to keep sailors healthy. Disclaimer, do not drink Gimlets and sail ships!

40ml Persie Zesty Citrus Gin
30ml Rose’s Lime Cordial
Lime wheel, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, strain into an Old-fashioned glass and garnish with a lime wheel. I use Nim’s Fruit Infusions dehydrated fruits, such as lime wheels, for a more intense flavour and the sheer convenience of having them in the house. Store the packet in a tin or jar once opened.

We’ve had a Gimlet cocktail on these tastings before but I wanted to include it for this one because it’s such a great combination. In the interests of fairness and extra value for money, I’m adding a second cocktail

Vesper Martini

The literary cocktail, Vesper Martini

There could only be one vodka for this classic cocktail so beloved of James Bond but with updated ingredients which I’m sure he’d approve (disclaimer, he’s a fictional character drinking what was then a fictional cocktail named after a fictional spy – Vesper Lynd) – Persie Pusscat Vodka which has herb and black pepper notes and raises money for Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home. If you don’t have Lillet Blanc, you can use a dry Vermouth such as In the Loop Dry White Vermouth which uses lemon verbena, a perfect match for Persie Zesty Citrus Gin.

60ml Persie Zesty Citrus Gin
20ml Persie Pusscat Vodka
10ml Lillet Blanc
Lemon peel, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake – not stir – and strain into a Martini glass, garnishing with a large twist of lemon peel.

Herby & Aromatic, 40% ABV, £29.99 – Walter Gregor Mint and Cucumber Tonic Water

Main botanicals: Juniper, rosemary, basil, bay leaves and olives.

The botanicals conjure up Mediterranean scenes and you can mix this with Fever-tree Mediterranean Tonic Water. This would work perfectly in a classic Red Snapper, one of my favourite weekend brunch drinks.

Red Snapper
30ml Perisie Herby & Aromatic Gin
200ml Tomato juice
10ml Lustau PX sherry
10ml lemon juice
3 dashes of Tabasco
5 dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
3 basil leaves, ripped
2 olives, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shaker and strain over ice into a Collins glass, add the ripped basil leaves, stir and garnish with 2 olives.

Gin Rickey

Another classic cocktail for this herbal gin. You can replace the classic soda water with London Essence Co. Rosemary and Grapefruit Tonic Water or, if you want a kick, Double Dutch Cucumber Margarita with Chilli Soda.

30ml Persie Herby & Aromatic Gin
10ml Fresh lime juice
10ml Monin’s sugar syrup
Soda water, to top
2 lime quarters
Rosemary stick, to garnish

Pour the gin, lime juice and sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker full of ice, strain into a Highball glass, top with the soda water, add the lime quarters, stir and garnish with the rosemary stick.

Labrador Gin, 40% ABV, £31.99 – Walter Gregor Spiced Tonic Water

Main botanicals: Juniper, cardamom and coriander.

The first of the Persie Dog Gins we’re sampling. I love spiced gins and, suitably, they’re great in a Dog’s Nose Cocktail – 30ml Labrador Gin to 300ml/1 can of Guinness. It’s a simple but great long cocktail which I tend to make when I’m feeling rundown and need a boost – basically, during winter! You can use any big and butch stout, porter or brown ale, I use Guinness for its thick creaminess. You could also choose Kernel flavoured stouts, something like their Damson Export Stout would almost have a spiced fruit pie feel when you add Labrador or even Spaniel Gin.

Labradoodle Cocktail

The delicious Labradoodle Cocktail was created just for you!

I wanted to make a sherry cocktail and was going to use a nutty Oloroso but then saw a bottle a Palo Cortado on my shelf and realised that would be perfect. In terms of flavour, it’s between an Oloroso and Amontillado and makes for a great whisky cask. 

Santa brought me some maple syrup and, combined with the spiced gin and Palo Cortado, I knew that would make for a more sumptuous mix than a simple sugar syrup BUT if maple syrup is too sweet for you or you don’t have any, just substitute the sugar syrup. You can make your own but I use pre-made Monin’s Sugar Syrup, so much easier, especially if just mixing one or two cocktails.

30ml Persie Labrador Gin
45ml Palo Cortado
15ml maple syrup
15ml lemon juice
Orange wheel or peel, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake and strain into a Martini glass, garnishing with the orange wheel or peel.

Sweet & Nutty Old Tom Gin, 43% ABV, £31.99 – Walter Gregor Scottish Raspberry Tonic Water

Main botanicals: Fresh vanilla pods, almonds and root ginger.

Add the tonic and you’ve an upmarket (and alcoholic) Cranachan with a slight kick from the ginger, plus sweetness from the Old Tom style of gin, that historic slightly sweeter, old-style gin which used to be sold under the sign of a black cat through a hole in the wall. I’d dread to think what was actually served back then but this is a very stylish Old Tom Gin and deserves a very special cocktail.

Negroni
Let’s talk classics first, this would work very well in a Negroni. I use Old Tom gins in Negronis so they’re not as bitter as mixing the Campari with a London Dry Gin. I added In the Loop Semi-Sweet Red Vermouth which uses vanilla pods so is the perfect match for this stylish cocktail 

30ml Persie Sweet and Nutty Old Tom Gin
30ml Campari 
30ml In the Loop Semi-Sweet Red Vermouth
Orange wheel, to garnish

Pour the liquids into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake and strain into an Old-fashioned glass, garnishing with the orange wheel.

Gin & Fig Jam

I love Christmas,  Santa is very, very generous and I wanted to turn another one of my gifts into a cocktail, Gin & Jam cocktail, which isn’t made nearly enough and is traditionally made using raspberry or strawberry jam but look at the botanicals – vanilla and ginger are crying out for a fig jam, although I admit I was tempted to make it with Damson & Ginger Chutney!

30ml Persie Sweet & Nutty Old Tom Gin
5ml lemon juice
5ml sugar syrup
1.5 tsp fig jam
Half a fig, to garnish

Pour the first 4 ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice, strain into a Martini glass and garnish with half a fig, fresh or dried. Depending on how sweet your tooth is, you can always increase the sugar syrup to 10ml and, if texture is an issue, strain through a muslin cloth.

Spaniel Gin, 41% ABV, £31.99 – Walter Gregor Apple and Cinnamon Tonic Water


Main botanicals: Juniper, mace, cinnamon and bay leaves.

The second of the dog charity gins, this immediately made me think of apple pie. It works beautifully with the Walter Gregor Apple and Cinnamon Tonic but you can also mix it with Gusto Organic Fiery Ginger with Chipotle or a ginger ale. Like its fellow dog charity gin, Labrador Gin, you can mix it in a Dog’s Nose cocktail but I’ve taken it a stage further because spaniels are adventurous dogs!

Black Velvety Nose Cocktail

All dog owners know that dogs’ noses get everywhere and I love a Dog’s Nose Cocktail but I also love the rather dangerous Black Velvet cocktail (equal parts Champagne and Guinness) which I first saw in a black and white film as a cure for seasickness and I remember Morris Dancing after enjoying one of two many years ago – and, no, I can’t actually Morris Dance so, beware, this is not a cocktail for drinking if you have plans but it is wonderful! Taittinger Nocturne is a sweeter (sec) Champagne but you can use whatever you have at home/is in the shops

30ml Persie Spaniel Gin
100ml Taittinger Nocturne Champagne, chilled
100ml Guinness, chilled

This is a layered drink for those with a steady hand or layerer/back of a spoon. Pour the gin into a large, chilled fluted glass, using a layerer or the back of a spoon, top the gin with Champagne and then layer the Guinness on top of that. It will all mix when you drink it so don’t worry if you can’t or simply don’t want to layer it.

That’s 5 great gins and mixers, plus tempting cocktails but it’s even more fun if you take part in the tasting and join in as much (or as little) as you want. G&T in great company with your fellow tasters, Persie Gin’s Brand Ambassador and myself, Fi Shoop. See you then!

To take part in the virtual Persie Gin Tasting for just £20, including the boxed set of 5 Walter Gregor Tonic Waters, with The Spirits Embassy on Zoom (the link will be sent with the tasting set) at 7pm on 21st January, see https://thespiritsembassy.com/products/persie-gin-tasting-night

Postage for the tasting set is just £2.95 but, if you spend over £75, it’s free

Persie Gins are available on The Spirits Embassy website https://thespiritsembassy.com/search?q=persie*

To buy more flavoured sets of Walter Gregor Tonics for £8.99, go to https://thespiritsembassy.com/products/walter-gregors-mixers-selection-gift-pack-5-x-200ml?_pos=2&_sid=9ea801435&_ss=r or, for 4 of their original water for £4, https://thespiritsembassy.com/products/walter-gregors-tonic-water-gift-pack-4-x-200ml?_pos=1&_sid=9ea801435&_ss=r

The 12 Days of Christmas are over but Whiskies of Scotland The 12 Days of Christmas Gins sets are still available and include 12 x 30ml gins, 9 x Walter Gregor Tonics and an Orkney Gin Company glass. I love the whisky set and blogged about them on my Quaffed blog and will be doing the same for the gins. For more details about the set of great quality gins and mixers, see https://thespiritsembassy.com/products/12-days-of-christmas-gin-selection-box-2021?_pos=2&_sid=2ffc50c09&_ss=r

To find out more about PADS and to adopt a dog or donate, go to https://padsdogrescue.com

To discover more about Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home and to adopt a cat or dog or to donate, go to https://edch.org.uk

And keep an eye on The Spirits Embassy website for future gin tastings https://thespiritsembassy.com/collections/tasting