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Singlemalting #227 – 6th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Day 1 – Auchentoshan 17

Welcome everyone to another December Scotch Whisky adventure.

It is so exciting for Cindy and I to be able to bring you our 6th edition this year. So many amazing people helped to make this happen and so many delicious whiskies are in store for those of you that managed to snaffle one of the only 500 available.

As always you need to grab your tasting glass that just happens to finally be the ubiquitous Glencairn. Every edition boasts a different glass and this year we pay homage to the most popular Scotch whisky glass in the world. You would be hard pressed to find any Scotch whisky drinker that did not have at least one of these kicking around in the cupboard. For those that love collecting Glencairns and have been waiting for us to get around to this little gem – you’re welcome 🙂

This edition the Collector’s lapel pin is also matching the Indiegogo pink as we used their crowdfunding platform for the first time to raise the funds needed for production.

Also newly launched is the Augmented Reality app. You can download it on either your Android or Apple device and then activate it and point it at the calendar and boom a wee 3D adventure ensues. All the details of the app are found on the inside of the right door on the envelope.

We always start off each edition with something a little special for December 1st and this year we are so pleased to showcase our feature distillery (the one on your postcard). Auchentoshan is as some of you know a favorite of mine as it was the epic dram of the night on my first evening in Scotland with the 1976 Sherry Cask. Finished that bottle last year sadly but what a whisky it was.

Auchentoshan is a lowland distillery that triple distills all of its spirit making it unique in the Scotch Whisky landscape. With a lighter and grassier style of whisky, Auchentoshan has been a great entry for many trying their hand at Scotch for the first time. In fact the very first Scotch that my wife Cindy had in Scotland was the Auchentoshan three wood at the Bow Bar in Edinburgh.

Auchentoshan was built in 1800 and was part of the Morrison Bowmore stable along with Bowmore and Glengarioch. Sold to Suntory in 1986 it is now part of the much larger Beam Suntory group that merged in 2014.

Auchentoshan means corner of the field and with it’s close proximity to Glasgow has been an accessible tourist attraction for whisky fans.

Secret Spirits Auchentoshan 17 Year Old – 1st Fill Oloroso Sherry Cask – Cask 12184 – 54.4% abv – Lowlands

Colour:           After 17 years I would have thought that there might be a bit more colour, however as we have discovered every cask is completely unique. Just a hint of reddish amber that might lead you to think perhaps this could be a sherry cask.

Nose:            Wow cherry cola. A hint of medicine cabinet and fresh bandages that can definitely be a cherry colaesque type of smell. Been a while since I nosed this directly from the barrel and oh boy it’s taking me back to Scotland in May. I do recall thinking it was really a unique nose for an Auchentoshan and here I am reliving the moment.

Palate:           The Oloroso note comes through nicely with a little of that toffee sweetness. A little fernet note is the earthy quality that could be stemming from the medicine cabinet I got on the nose and also carries the cola theme along for the ride. Auchentoshan is quite often described as “grassy”. This cask is certainly providing an earthy element after 17 years working away on this whisky.

Finish:            Just a touch of dry sherry finish and a lingering soft layer of dark cherry. This is a pretty complex example of triple distilled Single Malt. Great balance on this. Not even contemplating adding water here but go ahead and experiment, just be gentle.

What a great dram to start of our 6th edition journey. I have been wanting to include an Auchentoshan since we started creating these adventures 6 years ago, so finally here we are fulfilling a dream.

For our 5th edition on day one we had the Single Cask Nation MacDuff 14 year old sherry cask. Something about kicking off with a sherry casked whisky that makes it feel like Christmas is coming.

As always we have some guest bloggers and Youtubers along for the ride.

For the 6th edition we have the boys down in New Zealand on Youtube at Single Malt Review. Whisky Whistle in Canada and Scotch Test Dummies in the US.

A fabulous bucket list item for me to kick things off for our 6th edition. Thanks to everyone for joining in on the Secret Spirits action and finding your way to this blog that is very busy every December and pretty much crickets chirping the rest of the year.

Tomorrow we have something delicious from our friends at A.D. Rattray as we head up North from the Lowlands and arrive in Speyside.

Fun times ahead everyone hold onto your Glencairns and buckle up.

Cheers

Singlemalting

Singlemalting # 166 – 4th time around

Another year quickly passed and I found myself back in Scotland again to help out with our mad production schedule for the 4th edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

I love being able to make last minute decisions and a cancelled New York trip due to potential Hurricane interference left me able to get on my bike and head to Scotland. Literally completing my Air Canada reservation by phone as I drove to the airport to just make my flight might be one of the crazier things I have done this year.

It is a privilege to be able to bring this Scotch Whisky journey to so many people each year and spending some time with the awesome team at Craigton Packaging makes it that much more fun.

Of course there was still some essential experiences that had to happen including an epic night at the Pot Still with my mate Stuart and a stroll along the Clyde in the fall Scotland sun.

Rainbow on the River
Got to do the Pot Still

Scotland is truly one of the most beautiful countries and I absolutely love getting the chance to go there as often as I do. We were really pressed for time to make the ship this year and the crew at Craigton put their foot down while being careful to detail to make sure that every calendar had all the goodies.

I managed to get a few videos of the action (or inaction when I was trying to video and label one handed)

Following a calendar down the line to was a fun way to see it all happen.

December 1st we get going with our 25 days of 4th edition blogging. This year for the first time our calendars are available in the US so we will be opening our community to a host of new members. I hope you enjoyed this little peak behind the scenes. A photo gallery is below for you to browse through at your leisure.

Every trip I see a different side of Scotland and these next two shots of the Clyde at dawn and my room at the Gleddoch Resort and Golf course make me eager to return.

Morning on the Clyde
Room with a view Gleddoch resort

So until next time enjoy the gallery below and see you all for December 1st and the start of another journey through the most diverse whisky landscape on earth.

Cheers

Singlemalting

Empty Boxes ready to be filled
Hand labelling
Spoiler alert that might be one of the whiskies
Capping
Lots of bottles
Lined up ready to roll
It seems like a lot of work
Christmas Day labeling with Embossed logo
Wax dipping by hand
Day 25
Unpacking and Stacking
In they come
Lets play pass the box
The Line
Insert whisky here
Barely a dent
Floor to ceiling calendars
Making a dent
Don’t look too closely
Panorama baby yeah
Check out my behind
Done and Dusted
Time for some shrink wrapping
On their way to Canada and the US
Job well done
I made this

Secret Spirits Scotland Tour – Blog # 158

G’day everyone and welcome back to the Singlemalting Blog. After my whirlwind blogging marathon leading up to Christmas I spent some down time back in the home country. Anyone who read the last blog knows that I had my day 25 calendar whisky on Christmas day in Australia a full day before you all got to have yours.

My journeys since then have taken me all over the place including my annual February trip to Scotland to choose the new edition whiskies and on the January Whisky festival train that is a highlight of every new year touching down in Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria. You can read about some of my adventures in these blogs.

Oh yeah whisky barrels that’s what I’m talking about

Having been pestered by many over the past few years to think about potentially organizing a Secret Spirits tour to Scotland I have relented and started putting something together. For those of you that think traipsing around the Scottish Countryside with yours truly and experiencing what it’s like to live in my world for a week of tasting, brokering, bottling, drinking and dining then maybe this might be just what you have been waiting for.

A Secret Spirits tour of Scotland would be a peek behind the curtain of how we put together our list of whiskies and where we go to source them. A stint at the bottling plant and distillery visits would all be a must. A touch of sightseeing and the odd castle or two along the way would also be on the docket. This would be no ordinary tour and plenty of inside industry treats and privilege.

Dumfries House

Some highlights would include a special exclusive hand blown piece of whisky glassware made by master glass blower Tom Young from Angels Share Glass in Bridge of Allen. Being part of selecting a Secret Spirits Barrel and guaranteeing your case of 6 bottles. Seeing the Edinburgh Military Tattoo as part of a whisky dinner extravaganza. A high brow dinner and history lesson at Dumfries House. Staying in top class accommodation and having all meals included, there would even be a day for either a round of Golf or a day at the Spa to soak up some Scottish relaxation. A trip up to Speyside and down South to Ayr means you will get to see a lot of the fabulous Scottish Scenery along the way. All you have to do is get to Glasgow and we take it from there.

Turnberry

We are trying to make it work for late August this year. There are only a maximum of 10 spots available so if you are interested to get all the details please email me at jonathan@secretspirits.com as soon as you can.

Thanks to John (you know who you are) for poking me many times about putting something like this together.

For a detailed itinerary and pricing just get onto the email address above and I’ll get right back to you.

I promise in the coming weeks that I will be back to normal programming as I have a lot of delicious whiskies and other assorted goodies to go through.

Cheers and here’s to an amazing year of fabulous whisky.

Jonathan

 

 

 

 

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

Scotchy Scotch Scotch | Blog #63

Wow! Great to be back in Scotland again … after a rainy bus ride from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow that took twice as long. We later learned that the Celtics were playing Milan and Glasgow was packed with football fans. For those that must know the game was tied 4 goals all.

Craigton Bottling Plant - Jonathan, Cindy & Kevan Craigton Bottling Plant – Jonathan, Cindy & Kevan

Day 1 and Cindy and I were up and early heading to Craigton bottling. Not until we had sampled the full Scottish Breakfast available at the Hilton Glasgow complete with haggis which Cindy worked on and a lovely bowl of creamy porridge covered in fresh cream and a healthy portion of Ballantines Scotch Whisky. Definitely a first for me. A big thanks to Rachel who picked us up and along with Kevan gave us the grand tour of the Craigton plant and helped to nail down some of the finer details in bottling so many wee 50ml bottles for the second edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

We spent some quality time cuddling old barrels in the Craigton warehouse – there were some decidedly yummy looking casks (no we didn’t try any).

Suffice to say that the bottling and packaging for this years calendar is in good hands with Kevan and Rachel.

Right, time for us to go source some whisky!

Picked up by Iain from A.D. Rattray we were whisked out to the “Scotch Whisky Experience” in Maybole, Ayrshire which is an interactive whisky experience and shop front for A.D. Rattray independent bottlers. Without giving anything away we looked at and tasted some mighty fine drams while scarfing down delicious sandwiches and cake.

The Scotch Whisky Experience - Maybole The Scotch Whisky Experience – Maybole

A.D. Rattray, as a lot of you already know, was my first foray into the world of single cask Scotch and it’s wonderful to still be working with them almost a decade later. Nick, Francis, Iain and the rest of the team poured on the hospitality and after some fierce negotiations a suitable list of whiskies was agreed upon and our journey to completing this years list had begun.

“After some fierce negotiations a suitable list of whiskies was agreed upon and our journey to completing this years list had begun.”

Time for some serious whisky drinking with our host Iain in all of his favorite Glasgow haunts. First stop was Stravaigin for a pint and dinner to get some fortification in place for the whisky to come.

“All I can say is this is a must for your next visit to Glasgow as the food is sensational.”

Off to the Ubiquitous Chip which is legendary in Glasgow for our first dram of the evening. Bruichladdich Bere Barley was just the ticket to get our palates off to a good start. Not wanting us to miss anything we were then off to The World Famous Bon Accord which is one of the best whisky bars in Glasgow. It was great meeting owner Paul and the team and we were even ushered behind the bar for an impromptu photo shoot. First dram on the bar was an A.D. Rattray Glen Grant 20 Year Old bottled exclusively for the Bon Accord. Yummo!

The World Famous Bon Accord - Glasgow - Iain, Jonathan & Cindy

We got to learn all about the ringing of the bell initially warning us of the impending last call then ushering in the last call and eventually telling us to get the heck out! While all this bell tolling went on we still had time for another dram and I chose a proprietary bottling of Glen Deveron (MacDuff) as I had never tried it before. Always great to try new whiskies.

By this stage Iain had split the scene to get a late cab ride home and Cindy and I were fortunately within walking distance of the hotel.

What a great first day in Scotland and our first in Glasgow.

“Ahem….. remember as you read this that Cindy and I were fully engaged in dedicated field work and whisky sourcing. Any resemblance to a “vacation” or fun junket is purely coincidental.”

Day 2 and we were once again escorted by Iain and his fabulous fiance, Zoe, who firstly took us out to the Southernmost Highland Distillery Glengoyne. Literally sitting on the Highland side of the road that divides the Highlands and the Lowlands the whisky is distilled on the Highland Side and then moved to the warehouses to age in the lowlands. Fun stuff.

A very pretty distillery, Glengoyne has an exceptional visitors center and tour which really shows in an easily understandable way the impact of casks and aging. I would highly recommend anyone visiting Glasgow to make the trip to Glengoyne. During the tour we did of course get a chance to try some whisky and the Glengoyne 12 Year Old was a nice easy dram to get started with.

“Back to Iain’s for some ridiculously good cheeses and a cleansing ale to round out an amazing time with the good folk at A.D. Rattray.”

More whisky to be tasted though, and so it was that Cindy and I closed out our Glasgow experience with firstly a visit to the un-named pub … seriously, it has no name! … where I broke protocol being that it was the best Bourbon bar in the city and had a Sazerac Rye.

(Later we found out it’s name is Chinaskis)

“This spot is brilliant with it’s candle lit tables and cozy but buzzing atmosphere.”

 

One last visit to the World Famous Bon Accord which just happened to be on our way back to the hotel. Couldn’t have planned it any better. It was here that Cindy had her first ever full dram of whisky ordering the Auchentoshan Three Wood. After my visit to Glengoyne earlier in the day, I just had to try something older from them and so had a dram of the Glengoyne 21yo in hand when Cindy and I toasted the success of the first leg of our 4 supplier journey.

On to Edinburgh for the next installment of Calendar Whisky Sourcing 101.

Slainte!