The heart of the project of course is the whisky.
The range and quality of the Scotch had to be impressive. Above all though, especially after looking at feedback on the Master of Malt calendar which utilized already bottled whisky and a lot of very familiar drams.
We wanted to have 25 completely unique whiskies the majority of which had not been seen before in the Alberta market and a lot of which had not been seen anywhere.
The build up to choosing the whiskies that would eventually become the map for the 1st edition began almost two years ago. Spending a lot of time at whisky events in both Canada and the US I get to meet a lot of people and have developed some great relationships over the years. One such relationship is with Samaroli. I met Antonio for the first time at the Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas and was impressed by their sometimes unique take on Scotch Whisky and their dedication to only bottling the very best casks.
Their whisky resides in big heavy black bottles reminiscent of something a vintage port would come in.
There are a few marketing reasons behind the dark glass. Samaroli like to release their whiskies at anything from Cask Strength right down to 40% depending on when they feel the balance is perfect. They never chill filter and the potentially cloudy whisky at lower alcohol levels will not put consumers off safely hidden by the glass. The bottle is unique and substantial and leans more towards their Italian roots setting them apart and giving them a point of difference.
After bringing back some samples from the Vegas trip it took another year before I met Francesco who was flying through Canada after a visit to the US. It was at that meeting that I first spoke with a whisky supplier about the calendar project.
Francesco was immediately engaged and could see the potential to showcase Samaroli and reach new consumers.
My first whisky source was on-board and willing to showcase some of their best whiskies. My plan was to have 3 suppliers in order to be able to have 25 unique whiskies from all the major whisky regions in Scotland and covering all Scotch Whisky styles.
A supplier very near and dear to my heart is A.D. Rattray. The first bottle of Scotch I ever sold was in 2006 and the introduction of A.D. Rattray into the Alberta market was some of the most fun I have had in this industry.
With completing new branding and the building of a distillery in Glasgow The Morrison family and A.D. Rattray have been busy to say the least.
The biggest challenge for an Independent bottler is always continuity of stock and in order to secure ongoing whisky for the future there needed to be a period of unavailability. The opportunity to re-launch the A.D. Rattray brands and showcase some exceptional casks came together for me at just the right time. I am really excited to have A.D. Rattray as part of the 1st Edition and cant wait to see the feedback on their whiskies.
At a meeting in Palm Springs with Industry legend Tim Morrison and his son Andrew the concept and plan for the calendar was laid out. The idea of “sampling” customers on their whiskies in a fun and unique way and then tying in the ability to seek out a very limited number of full bottles had them on-board.
So with two suppliers confirmed there was only one spot to fill.
Next week I will cover the long and almost fatal road to completing the whisky list.