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Singlemalting Whisky Blog # 130 – Scotland Forever Part 2

What could be more fun than sourcing 25 unique Scotches every year along with a new tasting glass, pin and booklet? The answer is of course to launch a new product so you can source 12 amazing rums, a skull glass, pin, map, chest and ship in a bottle.
The funny twist to this reality is that we were able to source most of the Rum’s from Scottish independent bottler’s. Scottish bottler’s have been working with single cask rums for a long time and there is a surprisingly large amount of rum casks aging away in Scottish warehouses. With aging profiles typically well advanced before the casks hits Scottish shores, many are bottled straight away or transported in drums to preserve the snapshot in time of when the rum was tasted and transported. More on this later when I get right into the mechanics of building a rum adventure in a chest.
Before I could roll up my sleeves at Craigton there was the small matter of connecting with long time Whisky mate James Cowan and sneaking in a round of golf and soaking up the excellent Cowan hospitality. Thanks James and Kerry for another fantastic visit. One special little moment was having a dram of the 1973 Auchentoshan Sherry cask that James and I had shared over a decade before on my first night in Scotland. Having since procured a bottle I was able to use my trusty Whisky Connoisseur Travel Kit to make sure that we could relive the moment.
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Auchentoshan 1973 Sherry cask – delicious
My week at Craigton is becoming a yearly event as the team throws itself into full Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar mode. This year with some frustrating hold ups and delays from all facets of production I found myself a few weeks early to actually help out with the third edition run.
Getting back up in the warehouse though and going through left over 2nd edition parts was great fun. There were a bunch of slightly incomplete 2nd edition calendars that needed various bits and pieces and I was able to scrounge through the empties and find everything I needed. As with any production it is always wise to over produce which means we have a ton of leftovers. For those collector’s out there the good news is that we have been able to complete more 2nd editions which we will release in very limited amounts over the coming years.
Also coming to the UK and select European markets will be some Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar mini packs. Made up of 6 random whiskies from all editions these packs will be a lot of fun for a fraction of the cost. Sorry Canadian and US customers given the revolving nature of the whiskies and subsequent alcohol volumes it would be impossible to import these into North America. This will probably be released in 2017 or 2018.
Taking my daily commute through Glasgow to and from Craigton was really cool as I do not normally  drive to and from work operating mostly from home when I am not on the road. Upon my arrival it was not long before I had a fresh cup of tea in hand from the amazing and energetic Rachel. I was always feeling excited about what I could do to help get everything done and no doubt a big part of it was helping to create some magic for whisky lovers out there.
So long story short all 2nd editions that can possibly be created have been and the stage was set for the third edition to hit the production floor. Great week and a big round of thanks to the Craigton packaging team for their hard work and enthusiasm.
With all that warehouse work done and dusted I was able to finally find some sunshine for my third round of golf in Scotland in over 10 years. On a day trip to Ayr I got onto a lovely course with Single Cask Nation founder Jason’s brother Murray. Wow what a fantastic day and topped off no less by Lobster dinner at the local hangout. The sun shone for almost the first time since my arrival and hitting the green off the tee on the par 4 18th hole was certainly a highlight for this barely passable golfer.
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Scotland spoils me so much I can hardly wait for our first 2017 trip at the end of January.
Next blog we talk about another fabulous Whisky Jewbilee in Chicago and the first presentation of our brands in the US.
Until then
Scotland forever
Slainte
Jonathan

I’ve Lost My Marbles! | Blog # 60

Ever tried something really special? Perhaps it was the setting, or the company or the quality of the dram itself. A combination of all three could make it one of those cherished memories to last a lifetime.

So it was with my first night ever spent in Scotland. A whisky newbie at the time I arrived with my wife Cindy in Edinburgh to be greeted at the airport by a young and passionate James Cowan who was the brand ambassador for A.D. Rattray.

After a delightful dinner down by the waterfront and Cindy tucked away in our lovely B&B room it was time for James and I to head out to some whisky haunts.

I could regale you all with the details of the entire evening, however my focus is on one particular dram. Our last stop for the night was at the trendy nightclub Tiger Lily. Scanning the back bar for an interesting dram we spied a 1973 Auchentoshan. Distilled on the 14th of March 1973 it was bottled on the 8th of July 2005 a mere two months before my visit. Coming from a single Sherry Butt and bottled at a cask strength of 55.5% it was a very unique offering.
We decided to split the dram as it was 25 pounds for one ounce.

The bartender grabbed a tumbler and filled it to the brim with ice and was about to pour our lonely ounce when James and I in unison cried out “no ice”. With disaster averted it was poured into a clean tumbler and passed across the bar.

Auchentoshan Distillery Scotland Auchentoshan Distillery Scotland

Auchentoshan, a lowland distillery that triple distills its Single Malt is very much stylised as a fresh grassy and floral dram that is perfect for breakfast or anytime you want to savour the delicate side of whisky.
This sherried cask of Auchentoshan is another beast altogether.

Tasted for the purposes of this blog again in the comfort of my dining room using a Reidel whisky glass.

Colour: Violin bow resin with burnt red highlights.

Nose: Soft expensive sherry and sweet dried figs with caramel fudge, more dried fruits emerge, apricot, prune and marmalade. Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Palate: Rich palate filling and expansive. Deep backed leather chair with mahogany inlay, dried fruit in abundance and a backbone of semi-sweet to dry sherry. Lasting finish of aromatic suptle citrus potpouri. All of this at over 55% wow. This is a sherried whisky lovers dream.

Water: A burst of caramelized bitter orange takes over and extends the finish even more.
For a 32 year old whisky that started life so delicately this was a fantastic sherry barrel/s to still have so much fruit and balance.

It was an impressive dram to end the night on way back almost 10 years ago. I thought of course that I would never taste it again until back in Calgary later the next year I stumbled across a bottle at Varsity Wine Merchants. I had never spent even close to the $750 price tag on this whisky a decade ago so after a little haggling I became a beaming happy buyer lovingly cradling it my arms. Money well spent.

The fun part of this is that the bottle I had in Scotland was a 700ml and quite often with a limited bottling you don’t see it in any other size. The bottle I picked up in Canada was part of the release that went to the US and was a 750ml version. Amazing that something so limited would be split into different bottle formats. Awesome!

So why the marbles? For a dram of this magnitude in both dollars and deliciousness I only seldom crack it to pour for the odd occasion. As air gets at it over the years it does oxidize and lose its fruit and complexity. To stave off father time I replace the whisky with marbles keeping the precious liquid right at the top of the bottle neck. This keeps the amount of air to an absolute minimum and allows for the full enjoyment for many years to come. I would highly recommend this losing of your marbles for any special drams that you want to keep going for years and years.

 

James later went on to work for Benriach in the far east and currently works for Sazerac in Europe as their brand ambassador. Thanks James for that first night in Scotland, it will never be forgotten.

Jonathan & James at the Stronachie Distillery ruins.

Write in and comment on one of your most memorable whisky experiences.

Slainte!