26 February 2015

Whisky Insiders Interview - Sandy Hyslop

Chivas Brothers

Ballantine's Master Blender


How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
I’ve worked in the whisky industry since 1983 and during my first year I showed an aptitude for being able to identify different flavours on the nose. Very early in my career I started nosing samples regularly but I also spent time in all areas of the whisky making process to increase my knowledge across the business as much as possible. It’s been an incredible journey!

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
As part of my development, in 1992 while working as a Quality Controller in Dundee, I was invited to spend one day a week with Jack Goudy, the legendary former Master Blender of Ballantine's. I spent more and more time learning from Jack and, after this period of apprenticeship, I was appointed Blender at the Ballantine's Headquarters in Dumbarton. Ballantine’s has only ever had five Master Blenders in its 150 year history which has given all of the Ballantine’s whiskies the advantage of great expertise handed down through the generations of Master Blenders. It’s a very special legacy to be a part of and I’m humbled by that every day.

Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
My first dram was back in 1983 when I started work at Stewarts Cream of the Barley in Dundee. I was given a large dram of very old cask strength first fill sherry matured Glencadam from the manager whilst visiting Glencadam distillery. The taste was outstanding: sweet, smooth and fruity. The distillery manager insisted I add some water to open up the flavour and fully appreciate the flavour. Glencadam distillery was associated with our brands and part of the formula for SCOB and was part of the group at that time.

What does whisky mean to you?
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than discussing Scotch whisky and I absolutely love to share my passion with people who appreciate Ballantine’s. I really enjoy the variety of my job as a Master Blender because I get to work across the entire whisky production process and interact with whisky fans and colleagues at all levels of the business.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
Continuing to enjoy creating the best Scotch: Ballantine’s!

What was your last dram?
My last dram was on Monday night whilst staying at our company house, ‘Craigduff’ in Keith. I travel to Speyside most weeks on a Monday and Tuesday to test the new distillate from all our distilleries. I enjoyed a glass of Ballantine’s 17 year old. It was superb and up to the usual standard with the signature delicate, balanced, sweet soft fruit flavours and a sensation of smoke. I am in the very fortunate position that I can justify this as homework!

Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I often add a good measure of water to my whisky to help change the dynamic of the flavours as well as the temperature, which can really complement lighter foods such as salmon. And always remember that American oak imparts a predominantly vanilla spice so a dish with vanilla flavours will really work as a pairing, too.

What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
A really special place for me is Glamis Castle just outside Forfar. Every year in July I meet up with some of my friends for a big vintage car rally. We stay in the grounds of the castle all weekend and there is nothing better than sitting outside in fantastic surroundings with old friends enjoying a large glass of Ballantine’s 12 Year Old.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?
We are always listening to whisky aficionados and appreciate that there is a real thirst for new products that explore the influence of wood and aging in whisky. So we’ll continue to look into new ways of impressing and engaging Ballantine’s fans and new whisky consumers through innovation.

What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without?
Ballantine's is my favourite whisky; it offers a unique drinking experience that is incredibly complex with layer upon layer of perfectly balanced, wonderful flavours. I drink my Ballantine’s with about 50/50 bottled water and also enjoy Ballantine’s 12 Year Old with soda in a tall glass with lots of ice.

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

25 February 2015

Win a bottle of Douglas Laing & Co's Rock Oyster

Following on from our Tweet Tasting and to tie in with the launch of Douglas Laing & Co’s new Island inspired blended malt: Rock Oyster, we’re thrilled to be teaming up with the iconic indie bottler, to offer one of our followers the chance of winning a bottle.

Paying homage the sea, Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster is a Small Batch bottling created using the finest maritime malts, including those distilled on the rightly esteemed Islands of Jura, Islay, Arran and Orkney.

Bottled at 46.8% and without colouring or chill-filtration, this small batch bottling has a maritime and oceanic character of sea-salt, sweet peat, smoke, honey and pepper.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is click here and email us your contact details along with the following phrase that dramming pays:

“I’d love to pour and partake in some palatable island hoping, so allow me to win a bounty of blendage in a bottle,
so I can rock on, with Rock Oyster”
*Remember to mark the subject line of your email with: #RockOysterComp

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


For more information on Douglas Laing & Co visit: douglaslaing.com
Competition closes at 23:59 on March 6th 2015. Entry open to over 18's & EU residents only.

9 February 2015

Quick Fire Whisky Tasting Notes #45

Benromach 100° Proof
Nose: Waves of peat smoke infused sherry, vanilla poached pears, baked bramley apples stuffed with honey and pecans, Nutella hazelnut chocolate spread, Waitrose banoffee pie, rum raisin ice cream, orange zest, McVitie's Jamaica ginger cake, sweet musk, struck match, crispy grilled slices of pepperoni and a defining damp oaky earthiness.
Palate: Gutsy grounds of white and black pepper, wood spice, coal smoke, dried banana chips, stewed prunes, sherry soaked cherries, Cadbury Bournville chocolate, warm treacle tart, pralines, Bonne Maman damson plum conserve, linseed oil, clove studded Seville orange, freshly chopped parsley and more of that damp oaky earthiness.
Finish: A full-on and feisty, right rollicking rollercoaster of a long, lush, lingering finish.

Summary: I could quite happily wax lyrical all night about this bountiful, belting and beautifully balanced Benromach, but if I had to keep my thoughts short and sweet, I’d have to say “it’s a thing of pure dramming beauty!”

28 January 2015

Douglas Laing & Co Rock Oyster Tweet Tasting

As we continue our teaming throng of Tweet Tastings into the New Year, we’re absolutely thrilled to announce that on February 25th, we’ll be teaming up yet again with our good friends at Douglas Laing & Co, to help celebrate the launch of their brand new island inspired blended malt; Rock Oyster.

In addition to the new bountiful belting bottling itself, tasters will be in for a real treat as they will get to sample all island distillery component parts that make up this latest sea inspired, small batch release from one of the UK’s leading Scotch whisky specialists.

Full details to follow, but if you would like to take part in what promises to be a dramspanker of a night, register your interest by emailing your name, postal address and Twitter handle via the contact tab, remembering to mark the subject line: #RockOyster

The closing date to register is February 6th, and if you are registering to take part please make sure that you will actually be free on the night!!!

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 February 25th at 7pm GMT via hashtag #RockOyster

Until then Happy Dramlaxing!

For more information on Douglas Laing & Co visit: douglaslaing.com

16 January 2015

Quick Fire Whisky Tasting Notes #44

Cutty Sark 33 Year Old
Art Deco Limited Edition
Nose: All the freshly polished oak and leather wares of a stately home study, sherry soaked sultanas, Luxardo maraschino cherries, vanilla infused poached pears, grilled peaches, toffee apples, coconut ice, Cadbury’s Crunchie, Parma violets, espresso coffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, wood smoke and the subtlest suggestion of alpine freshness.
Palate: Grilled pineapple rings, pink grapefruit, stewed prunes, clove studded Seville orange, coconut rum, toasted walnuts, sugared almonds, chocolate covered coffee beans, cherries jubilee, Green and Black's vanilla ice cream, burnt caramel, white pepper and a wave-ette of wood smoke.
Finish: An affluently alluring, decadently delicious and opulent oozing, long, lush, lingering finish.
Summary: When it comes to the consistency and quality of their blends, it has to be said that Cutty Sark are always bang on the money. From their £20 standard bottling to this premium £650 offering, there really is a bountiful blended belter in the range to suit every budget. But by jiminy if you get the opportunity to sample this particular Art Deco inspired release, grasp and grab it with both hands, as you’ll be in for one heck of a dramspanking treat!


6 January 2015

Win Tickets To Whisky Live London 2015

Hootendrammy! It’s very nearly that time of the year again, when Whisky Live rolls into London.  After selling out in 2014, the world’s premier whisky tasting event returns to the stunning surroundings of the Honourable Artillery Company in the heart of the City on the 20th and 21st of March.

In addition to the multitude of exhibiting whisky brands from all over the world, there will also be a whole host of other whisky based dramanagins including masterclasses, food pairings, cocktails and live entertainment.

This year we’re thrilled to be teaming up again with Whisky Live London to give away two pairs of tickets to this year’s dramstravaganza. To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is Click Here and email us your contact details along with the following phrase that dramming pays:

"Whisk me away to Whisky Live London to discover and enjoy a dramspanking wealth of whisky wares”

*Remember to mark the subject line of your email with either: Whisky Live Friday or Whisky Live Saturday depending on which day you would like to attend.

If you’re just too eager to secure your tickets before they sell out, and why wouldn’t you, we’d like to offer all our readers a 10% ticket discount to this year’s event. Click Here to buy your tickets remembering to add discount code: WW10 when checking out.

We'll be there on the Friday evening, and it'd be great to share a dram or two on what promises to be a great weekend of whisky in London!
For full details and updates visit: whiskylive.com

Competition closes at 6pm GMT on Monday March 16th 2015. You have to be aged 18 years or over to enter. No cash alternative available. Competition winners will have to provide own transport/accommodation.

22 December 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We’re now taking some time out to enjoy Christmas and New Year, but before we do we’d like to say thanks and raise a glass of something suitably festive to all those who have followed and supported us over the last year.

We’ll be back in 2015, with a feisty flurry of new whisky reviews, more Whisky Insiders interviews, even more Tweet Tastings and a whole load of passion fuelled dramspankery. We’ll also have a few exciting announcements, so keep your eyes peeled!

So in the meantime we’d like to wish each and every one of you a Merry Dramlaxing Christmas and Happy Dramspanking New Year!