18 August 2014

Whisky Insiders Interview - Rob Allanson

William Grant & Sons

Global Ambassador for Grant's Whisky


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
Well I've now been the Global Ambassador for Grant’s Whisky for four months, early days but a very exciting time to join the team. Before this I worked for eight years with Whisky Magazine covering the industry.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Other than landing a dream job with William Grant and Sons, one of the things I was most proud of was the redesign of Whisky Magazine. This involved a few months of going to and fro, between me and Whisky Magazine’s Art Director Paul Beevis, and I am still incredibly impressed with what we came up with. It was a real marker in the sand for the magazine, "you know we're here and this is our direction and style". We just wanted to shake the physical nature of the magazine up a little, which turned out to be the biggest redesign to date in terms of lay out and paper stock.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
Well I think it was either Highland Park or Bushmills Black Bush, both were favourites of my grandparents and parents so that was what was in the house. I remember being bowled over by the taste sensation, hot, spicy and sweet.

What does whisky mean to you?
For me it is quite a lot of things about marking moments and occasions, where whisky becomes part of the mix rather than taking centre stage to friendships. There is nothing better that pulling out something special and sharing it with a good friend. Those moments should be a reminder to never lose the joy of things. The world and whisky are full of wonder and amazement; there are breath-taking things out there, just remember to pack a hipflask!

Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Well I would hope I am still working for Grant’s in this capacity, still out educating people and spreading the blended whisky word. There is nothing like that light bulb moment where someone finds something they like. I have seen this a lot when you tell people to add water to their whisky to reduce any burn they feel and then ‘bing’ they have found their way into whisky, it becomes accessible and understandable.

What was your last dram?
It was a Manhattan made with Grant’s Family Reserve, vermouth and chilli pickled cherries.

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Ah now, food and whisky, great bedfellows. I have done a few pairings and whisky dinners with my great friend and Dublin pub owner Seaneen Sullivan, but one she put together for a Grant’s Brand Ambassador workshop recently totally blew me away.

This was not your average sit down and dryly go through a range tasting interspersed with food, we served up Grant’s Family Reserve with soda water and bitters; and even revived the boilermaker using Brewdog’s 5AM Saint.

Seaneen worked with the drinks I had in mind and used the food to amplify and highlight flavours in the whisky. To be honest you cannot complain about candy floss with 18 Years Old Grant’s atomised over it.

Because I am lactose intolerant a lot of the chocolate and cheese pairings are out for me, unless they are goat’s cheese. So the pairing menu Seaneen put together was incredible and is now responsible for some of my favourite pairings. It was so well thought through, each element was balanced and a perfect fit with the whisky. Who can say no to bacon jam and Grant’s Family Reserve... rich, unctuous and deliciously smoky.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
There have been a lot to be honest, but the ones that always stand out are drinking with friends. Whether it is on the back of my dad’s boat watching the sun go down over Windermere, sitting under a sunset with a warming BBQ, smoking cigars and drinking setting the world to rights, sitting up late nights with friends on sofas just having fun, listening to music and enjoying life. All responsibly of course.

I did some recording in the Balvenie maltings with the band I play in. It was a very special few days doing things that I love; whisky and music. The whisky of choice was not what you might be expecting. It was an old Canadian Blend called Crazy Horse.

There also those moments of drinking in warehouses at the distilleries. They can never be replaced, and I heartily recommend them.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
I have a feeling that the grain category is about to become increasingly hot. The recent Girvan and Haig releases I think are just the start of something. People seem to be understanding it more and more; it’s almost like whisky’s version of rye.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Oh now that is a question. It changes dependent on the time of year, place, my moods and who I am with; also indoors or outdoors, cooking or eating. Too many combinations but thankfully there are a lot of expressions out there to help fit the moment. So I think the answer is to keep a well stocked cabinet.

The current house pour is Grant’s Family Reserve, followed by a new travel retail expression we have launched called Voyager. A little bit more peat that the usual Grant’s expressions. Honestly I think the answer is the one that is open on my sideboard. It can be anything from light and airy lowlanders to big sherry bomb Japanese whiskies and all shades in between including well made blends such as Grant’s.

Many thanks to Rob Allanson. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!

14 August 2014

Buffalo Trace Tweet Tasting

Continuing our hugely successful teaming throng of Tweet Tastings, we’re absolutely thrilled and delighted to announce that as part of Bourbon Heritage Month, on September 24th we’ll be sampling a bountiful bevy of belting bourbons, as we spend an evening enjoying the sipping splendour of Buffalo Trace.

Full details to follow, but if you fancy sampling a lush line up of liquid americana lovelies, register your interest by emailing your name, daytime delivery address and Twitter handle via the contact tab, remembering to mark the subject line: #BuffaloTraceUK

The closing date to register is August 28th, and if you are registering to take part please make sure that you will actually be free on the night!!!

This particular tasting is open to UK residents only!

Even if you're not one of the selected Tweet Tasters, it'd be great to have you following all the night’s dramfotainment. So we look forward to seeing you over on Twitter on September 24th at 7pm BST via hash tag #BuffaloTraceUK

Until then Happy Dramlaxing!

For more information on Buffalo Trace visit: buffalotrace.com

4 August 2014

Whisky Insiders Interview - John Drake

The Lakes Distillery

Distillery Manager


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I’m actually relatively new to the industry. I’ve only been in my current role since April this year, when construction got underway at The Lakes Distillery site. Prior to that I had been studying towards a Brewing and Distilling Post Graduate Diploma at Heriot Watt University.

I have been involved with Lakes Distillery for some time before that and thanks to my colleague, Master Distiller Chris Anderson, I was lucky enough to spend some time at the Dewar’s distilleries, Aultmore and Aberfeldy.

My involvement in the industry came about unexpectedly, in 2009 we bought a house on Islay, completely unrelated to the islands whisky heritage, apart from the fact that it’s in Lagavulin bay! On exploring the island I was given a dram of Ardbeg 10 Year Old, and it worked some magic on me. So I then visited all the distilleries on the island and was left thinking what a fabulous industry it would be to work in.
Upon returning home from a trip to Isaly, Paul Currie (our founder and MD) was on the front of the local paper, announcing his plans to build a distillery here in the Lake District. I arranged to meet him and the rest as they say is history!
I embarked on the best course available, Heriot Watt Post Graduate and began involvement with Lakes Distillery design meetings. Now we have a fully installed distillery, from dry goods plant and boiler room, right through the mash house, fermentation plant, still house and spirit collection tanks, all the way to cask filling and warehousing. All of which are currently being connected prior to commissioning by our mechanical contractor Musk Engineering. Soon we’ll be distilling whisky, gin and vodka. The plant is looking fantastic, very, very exciting times!
What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
It's happening now! The construction of our distillery in a former Victorian model farm on the banks of the river Derwent and Bassenthwaite lake. We are building a piece of whisky history, and it develops daily in front of us, thanks to some terrific people with tons of experience in the industry and to our contractors who are transforming our old derelict farm into a distillery, visitors centre and bistro.
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
It was Bells. I followed the whisky path of many of my generation, I over indulged the first time I tried it, suffered badly as a result and was put off whisky for a very long time. It's amazing how many people did the same.
What does whisky mean to you?
It's obviously very important to me and is the product of an industry that I have somehow managed to secure a career in. I do reflect on how lucky I am on a daily basis. My time spent at Dewar’s made me realise how passionate and conscientious distillery workers are about their jobs and I think it’s due in part to the fact that they are making something for people's pleasure. I think that distillers and their teams take that responsibility very seriously and that reflects directly in the spirit they make. The process and maturation are critical, but people make spirit and some of theirs finds its way into the glass.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?
Five years from now will be a very important time for Lakes Distillery. We’ll have a warehouse with 4500+ casks in it, so we will have good idea of how our wood policy has developed our spirit and we will be able to begin to consider releases that may well have been maturing in some unique ways, or develop different finishes. We’ll also have a good indication of what the character of our main malt whisky will be.  I can't really consider being anywhere else, who wouldn't want to work with super people in a distillery tucked under Skiddaw on Bassenthwaite Lake!
What was your last dram?
My last dram was a 15 Year Old Glen Deveron from Macduff. Nutty as can be, very good!
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
Ardbeg 10 Year Old with smoked sea trout and brown bread, always a winning combination.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
It has to be whenever I'm on Islay. Ardbeg old pier or after a dip in the Big Strand!
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
I believe that developments in maturation technologies will be necessitated by availability of oak. If changes in Bourbon regulations occur allowing a second fill perhaps, then that will have a significant impact on our industry. I don't doubt for one minute that our industry will cope with such a change, but it will need to adapt and be creative.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Aberfeldy 12 Year Old, it's a 'worldie'!
Many thanks to John Drake. Who will be the next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!

30 July 2014

Tomatin Tweet Tasting

Not only are we thrilled to announce our 51st Tweet Tasting, we’re absolutely delighted to announce that on September 3rd, we’ll be hosting a very special event with our friends at the Tomatin Distillery.

How special you ask? Well we can’t spill the beans just yet on what will be a Highland hootendrammy of a night, but let’s just say that there may well be a new launch weaved into the proceedings.

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks for clues to what will be popped open, poured and sampled on the night, but for now if you would like to take part in a tenaciously teasing evening of all things Tomatin, register your interest by emailing your name, address and Twitter handle via the contact tab, remembering to mark the subject line #TomatinCuatro

You need to register by 23:59 on August 8th, and if you are registering to take part please make sure that you will actually be free on the evening of September 3rd to take part!
Even if you're not one of the selected Tweet Tasters, it'd be great to have you following all the evenings tweet tasting dramspankery. So we look forward to seeing you over on Twitter on September 3rd at 7pm BST via #TomatinCuatro
Until then Happy Dramlaxing!
For more information on Tomatin visit: tomatin.com

23 July 2014

The One "A Bountiful, Belting, British, Blend"

It has to be said that with the belting boom of world whisky over the last few years, you could very easily be forgiven for partially taking your eyes off the ball, with regards to what's been drammed up and distilled right here on Blighty.

In fact whilst distilleries of both the "big boy owned" and "Independent" variety continue to thrive and grow in the motherland of Scotchland, further down south things have also been booming along nicely.

Up until a couple of years ago, the only notable whisky producing names in the UK outside Scotland were Penderyn in Wales, founded in 2000 and The English Whisky Co in Norfolk, founded in 2006. Now there is a plethora of new names on the Great British whisky map, made up of existing distillers and those starting from scratch.
From Healey’s in Cornwall and Adnams in Southwold to the Cotswold’s Distillery and The London Distillery Company, the ever growing list is proof if proof be needed, that we’re not only a proud nation of whisky drinkers, we’re now well and truly a proud nation of whisky producers!
One name in particular and one that would fall into the category of starting from scratch, is The Lakes Distillery in Cumbria. Founded by Paul Currie, who just happens to know a thing or two about whisky, having previously set up the Arran Distillery with his father in 1995.
Whisky production itself won’t start at the distillery until later this year, and when it does it’ll be a few years before anything can be bottled post maturation. So in the meantime and as with other newbies, a revenue source will be created through sales of their artisan, small batch ‘Lakes Gin’ and continuing sales of their unique British blended whisky ‘The One’.
The nose kicks off with waves of smoked infused heathery honey, vanilla fudge, a wedge of key lime pie and a distant wondering waft of a Moroccan spice market.
Things then get fruity and fresh with the arrival of granny smith apples, gooseberries, white grapes and a splash-ette of rose water. Followed by a bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut and a bag of Rowntree's Tooty Frooties.
The palate kicks off with a decadent mouth coating burst of Paul A Young’s chocolate salted caramels, followed instantaneously by a hearty slice of spiced treacle cake, covered in lashings of vanilla custard.
Feisty fiery oak, cayenne pepper, cardamom and toasted fennel seeds make for the next set of palatable pleasures, along with lychees, a handful of chocolate covered dates and something gloriously grain-esque.
The finish provides the perfect sassily spiced long lingering end to what was the consistent and cracking start of the nose and the middle of the palate.
All in all it’s a bountiful, big bang for buck, belting British blend, that makes a lot of promises on its initial nosing, and most certainly keeps each and every one, right on up to and including its final savouring sip.
Purchase Whisky, Wine, Beer and Spirits from Master of Malt

17 July 2014

Win a Bottle of the New Jim Beam Maple

To help celebrate the official UK launch of their new ‘Maple’ expression, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Jim Beam to give one of our lucky readers the chance of winning a bottle of their latest liquid americana innovation.

Jim Beam Maple which will be released later this month at a RRP of £19.99, is made with 4 Year Old Jim Beam bourbon and is slowly infused with maple. It makes for a perfect pour on its own, over ice or mixed in a long serve. As we always say ‘drink your whisky your way!’.

To be in with a chance of winning a bottle all you need to do is click here and email us your contact details along with the following phrase that dramming pays:
“By Jim Jim-in-ey, I’d love to beam me up
a bottle of maple, that could quite possibly end
up as a liquid americana staple”
*Remember to mark the subject line of your email with: JB Maple Comp

If you’re not already doing so follow us on Twitter via @TheWhiskyWire and RT one of our related competition tweets for another chance to win!

 Competition closes at 23:59 on July 31st 2014. You have to be aged 18 years or over to enter.
For more information on Jim Beam Maple visit: jimbeam.com/maple

15 July 2014

The Whisky Business From The Whisky Wire

We’re absolutely thrilled to announce that in addition to all the dramspankery here at The Whisky Wire, we’ve just launched The Whisky Business your one stop shop for all your copper-bottomed national and international whisky news needs.

For the latest news hop on over to thewhiskybusiness.com and for the latest updates via Twitter follow @TheWhiskyBiz