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When Scotland Calls one must answer… Part 4 | Blog # 80

Righteo then … 4:30 can at this point be called sleeping in. Up and on my way to Craigton Packaging again on my way out of town to Dunblane. A last minute survey of all the finished calendars and some much needed paperwork sorted and it was time to get underway.

Craigton Packaging Crew Craigton Packaging Crew

Team photo’s, hugs and farewells were passed around at Craigton and I am very much looking forward to being back again early next year as we plan the 3rd edition for 2016. A big thanks to the entire team for an exceptionally good job.

Bridge of Allan is a really beautiful little town not far from Stirling and also happens to be the home of Angel’s Share glass. Secret Spirits is featuring the beautiful hand blown Pot Still water dropper in this years Collector’s Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and will also be bringing in the entire array of Angel’s Share glass whisky accessories for Christmas.

I found the tiny Angel’s Share studio up a winding lane and spent some time with Tom and his protege Bee who was busily making angels wings. Each Angel’s share piece is lovingly hand made and it was a treat for me to watch some glass blowing as in a way Angel’s Share is invigorating what has been a dying trade in Scotland.

Angel's Share Studio Angel’s Share Studio

Not wanting to disrupt a very busy production schedule it was time to move on down the road to the Angel’s Share office where Karen (Tom’s Daughter) and Mark were busily packing orders.

Their tiny start up has in a few years grown so large that they are literally bursting at the seems and are in dire need of a larger space.

Tom and Karen from Angel's Share Glass Tom and Karen from Angel’s Share Glass

Angel’s Share Glass make everything from whisky cocktail stirrers to whisky pipe glasses and of course their two famous items the water droppers and whisky angels.

It’s so great to be involved with such a quality small business like Angel’s Share and get to meet yet more fantastic people like Tom and Karen. Passion for making something truly unique that enhances the whisky experience could be a tag line for Secret Spirits and Angel’s Share. No wonder we came together to help whisky lovers have even more whisky fun than they thought possible.

Off to the village main street and a really yummy lunch at Jam Jar. My mistake was ordering what I thought were two appetizers. Thanks Karen for helping me out with the Mussels.

You can check out all the Angel’s Share Glass offerings that will be available in Canada here on the Secret Spirits website.

Lucky enough to get a room at the Dunblane Hydro I nestled in for a lovely evening overlooking the expansive grounds at the Kailyard restaurant. Such a lovely old building full of history and Scottish tradition I know Cindy will want to come back here and I won’t mind one little bit.

Off to Edinburgh tomorrow…. forecast for multiple glasses and a very high chance of whisky.


Scotchy Scotch Scotch Part 2 | Blog #64

Edinburgh Castle

What’s better than a lazy day taking a train through the lush Scottish landscape from Glasgow to Edinburgh on a sleepy Sunday?

Afternoon Tea Edinburgh

Day 1. Well after settling in to our hotel we made good use of the lobby lounge to relax and have afternoon tea complete with scones, jam and cream while looking at the splendid view of Edinburgh Castle. Amazing!

Some of you may have read my blog# 60 that covered the experience of my first night in Scotland. Well, I wanted to replicate it a little with Cindy getting in on the fun. Cindy, being the organized one, had a wee travel umbrella that had come in handy quite a few times but alas it was not big enough for both of us so with night setting in and a steady rain falling we grabbed a nice Tartan brolly to complete the set. Armed against the Scottish weather we strolled along the cobble stoned streets towards West Bow and the Bow Bar.

With the picturesque street lamps playing their light on the shiny wet cobblestones, Edinburgh looked like something right out of a Charles Dickens Novel.


Arriving safe and dry at the Bow Bar, Cindy and I both grabbed a dram to toast the success of the first leg of our trip. Cindy’s dram of choice was a Glendronach 21 Year Old and mine was the proprietary bottling of Tomintoul 16 Year Old. Both delicious and cockle warming drams. The other truly fun part of spending time at lots of different Scottish bars was “Real Ale”. A big part of the craft brewing scene in the U.K. that can’t be missed is hand pumped ales and cask aged ales that are a must to experience some really yummy beer. Hand in hand with the many drams were an accompaniment of fab local real ales.

A pie and a pint at the Castle Arms was just the ticket to end a fun evening in the old city.

The Wemyss crew...all rugged up! The Wemyss crew…all rugged up!

Up nice and early ready for more difficult whisky tasting duties, this time with Wemyss Malts at their “arctic office” that had lost heating the night before. Without giving anything away we tasted some really exceptional drams with Jacqueline, Emma, Ginny and Susan. The Wemyss family has a long and lavish tradition with their fingers in many different business pies. Wemyss Malts, although a junior company compared to some of Wemyss exploits, has become one of the most important, acting as the face of Wemyss to consumers all around the world.

Perhaps teetering on the edge of losing my professional non-bias outlook on whisky for this years’ calendar, it was decided that I should take some of the whisky samples back to Calgary to try them in a less romantic setting 🙂

All of these intense tasting and negotiating sessions invariably lead to some sort of amazing dining experience. Jacque, Emma, Cindy and I braved some very chilly and windy conditions pushing into the breeze for a mere 200 meters that felt like a mile to The West Room. Yummo is all I can say after a delicious Real Ale and a crisp Gewurztraminer with some fabulous company. It was really great to get to know the team at Wemyss a little better. I am so excited to be working with such amazing companies and all I can say is that calendar owners this year are in for a real treat. Sadly, we had to leave the Wemyss team to don more jumpers and get back to their daily duties.

Jacquline & Emma

The Hanging Bat The Hanging Bat

Given a free reign for the evening Cindy and I were well up for an early cocktail at Moriarty’s followed by beer Nirvana at the Hanging Bat. Suggested to us by a long time industry friend James Cowan, the Hanging Bat was amazing. Some seriously great beer on offer. My suggestion would be to do the tasting flight. Rather than lining the beer up on a tray as is typical of flights I was presented with 5 Hanging Bat bottle caps which I could come back to the bar and redeem anytime for my next tasty treat. Pulled pork and 5 truly exceptional half pints made for a perfect pairing.

Day 2 with Wemyss and we were up at the crack of dawn meeting Jacque for a train ride across the Forth Road bridge, which is something to behold, and then onto Kingsbarns Distillery after a lovely drive through fields of snow drops. Wind and plenty of it is a regular hallmark of the Kingsbarns Distillery location just down the road from the home of Golf St. Andrews. Kingsbarns owned by the Wemyss family was brainchild of Doug Clement who drove past the old Dovecot and stone building everyday on his way back and forth as he caddied at Kingbarns and St. Andrews golf courses. Doug started us on a very interesting tour and I have to say that they have done a fantastic job on not just the distillery but the visitors center and tour. If you are anywhere near St Andrews on your next visit to Scotland you absolutely have to go and check out Kingsbarns.

Click photo to play video…

The most exciting part of our visit was seeing spirits pour from the stills knowing that the very first cask was about to be filled. A privilege indeed.

Kingsbarns Distillery Kingsbarns Distillery

The tasting room is full of delicious Wemyss bottlings and we got to try some that I had never seen before. Wow really impressive casks. Nose almost pressed to the glass I salivated over the Loch Indaal Catch 1982 Bowmore 32 Year Old. Not enough left for it to make it into the calendar but we may be lucky enough to see a few cases come our way later this year. The Flotsam and Jetsam 1991 Glen Scotia and the Smoldering Hickory 1997 Bunnahabhain were both delicious.

Bolstered with some hearty soup and yet another local beer from the Kinsbarns cafe, Jacque took us back to Edinburgh but not without a visit to the Old Course and a stop at St Andrews beach so I could brave the near gale conditions to fill a mini with St Andrews sand for a friend. I can barely imagine what it is like trying to play golf when it is that windy. The course was full as the golfing faithful braved the nasty conditions to play at the mecca of the golf world.

Thanks Jacque for taking us on such a great journey and Doug for showing us what I know will become a sought after distillery. Can hardly wait till the first bottling rolls off the line. Sad for our time with Wemyss to end this time around as we had so much fun.

A little more time in Edinburgh and another supplier meeting all coming up on next weeks blog.



Off to Scotland for a wee dram or two!! | Blog # 62

So after almost a decade since my only visit to the home of all things Scotchy, my wife Cindy and I are about to embark on a “seek and secure” mission for the second edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

As you would have read in Blog #60, my first night in Scotland was something special. I have actually tried to work another trip into my schedule many times since then without any luck. Given how many cases of whisky I have sold in the past decade it’s amazing that 10 years have passed before heading back to the originating source for so much great whisky.

So on the eve of what should be an epic trip that will become the focus of my next 2 or 3 blogs I think it’s worth dipping into another notable bottle from my collection.

A.D. Rattray as many of you know was really what got me started down this path that has become a major focus for my life. So something old and unique was the thought I had when I dipped into the whisky cupboard to see what I could find.

A.D. Rattray 1969 Strathclyde Single Grain – 37 Years Old – Distilled on the 10th October 1969 and bottled on the 3rd of June 2007.

This was the first Single Grain whisky I had ever tasted let alone sold. Founded in 1927 The Strathclyde Distillery is a Lowlands distillery (as are most grain distilleries). Situated in Glasgow Strathclyde is now owned by Pernod Ricard and finds its way predominantly into the Chivas Brothers blends.

Tasted in a Glencairn whisky glass (the sort with the clean top edge as opposed to the less expensive option with the rounded lip).

Cask Number: 010722 – Ex Bourbon Barrel – 173 Bottles only.

Bottled at the cask strength of 54.4%

Colour: Tarnished Gold

Nose: Mercy me but that’s a fabulous nose. Tropical fruit – ripe papaya, coconut – hints of the 12 year old St Nicholas Abbey Rum from Barbados, toffee coated coffee beans, Dirty Banana.

Palate: Still hefty at 54.4% even after 37 years, firm oak but not overpowering, dried fruit platter, banana crisps, Macadamia, rich mouth feel and a touch tingly.

Finish: Certainly a lot going on here and freshens up on the finish with some lighter fruit character coming through with some coconut cream smoothing it all out.

Water: Lifts the fruit, freshly dipped caramel apple on the nose and really softens down the zesty tingle of cask strength into a more even palate. Again almost a tale of two whiskies with and without H2O. Delicious either way but today my preference would be straight up.

Single Grain is a rarity to find as only a precious few barrels are kept in the back corner of the warehouse to get to be 3 decades +. These are almost without question released by independent bottling companies like A.D. Rattray.

Personally I love older Single Grain whiskies. Grain whisky in general is certainly less complex than Malt however when it sits around for a few decades or more it definitely steps up to the plate.

Interesting to note that consumer interest in Single Grain has increased a lot since this A.D. Rattray Strathclyde came out almost 7 years ago. The 25 year old Girvan from Blog #46, that was the sole Single Grain in the 1st edition calendar, was the first whisky to sell out to retailers looking for the limited number of 700ml bottles available.

There is a very unlikely chance that any of these bottles of Strathclyde would still be on shelves in Alberta at this point. I do want to use this tasting though to maybe get you thinking more about trying some older Single Grains.

If you have had some experience with Single Grain let me know in the comments. I would love to get some feedback.

Over the next few weeks I will be regaling you with our whisky adventures in Scotland with A.D. Rattray, Wemyss Malts and the Malt Whisky Company and then in Italy with Samaroli.

Until then it’s up, up and away for now.