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When whisky is just not enough | Blog #118

“My wife Cindy and I recently came back from what is becoming the most intense and fun few weeks of the year.”

The task of choosing 25 unique whiskies for our Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar just got more exciting with the addition of a new product this year that required some additional hard work for the old taste buds.

“The time spent with our friends at Wemyss, A.D. Rattray and Malt Whisky Company to mull over the carefully selected lists of amazing drams was a treat.”

Our journeys took us from London to Edinburgh and then across Scotland to Glasgow, Kirkoswald and Stirling.  We are adding some extra sources for whisky this year and all will be revealed as we get closer to the release date. I must say that it’s fun to have some time behind the wheel on the left hand side of the road and despite the odd torrential downpour the weather was very kind to us as we wove our way through the lush green Scottish landscape.

Some real highlights this trip included time with our amazing bottler’s Craigton Packaging. Lugging my kilt all the way back to its birthplace was well worth it as Cindy, dolled up in an exquisite gown accompanied me to the Ben Charity dinner in Glasgow with Rachel and Kevan. A grand evening of hobnobbing ensued, with industry legends aplenty and the regaling of side splitting tales detailing the unique lifestyle in Glasgow.

Dinner at the Dunblane Hydro with the crew from Angel’s Share Glass was a stand out as well. The Kailyard restaurant at the Hilton Dunblane is world class and well suited to such a grand property. Watching master glass blower Tom make us a whisky angel ornament the next morning in their wee studio in Bridge of Allan was fantastic and it will be certain to take centre stage on our Christmas tree this year. Angel’s Share Glass is expanding so fast that they are building a new studio. You can check out their fun crowdfunding campaign here if you like whisky and beautiful glass.

Cindy Kissing the Blarney Stone ... twice! Cindy Kissing the Blarney Stone … twice!

With a couple of extra whisky sourcing visits thrown in our list was looking pretty good by the time we headed for Ireland to visit with the Hyde brothers. Being our first time in Ireland we were blown away by the hospitality and generosity shown to us. Staying at the amazing Hayfield Manor we were spoilt with an outstanding dinner and a tour of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. Cindy kissed it twice for good measure and is sure to have double my luck from here on in.

“Tasting their rum finish and the new 1916 was really exciting and we can’t wait to get them both over to Western Canada.”

Touring through the impressive barrel storage we were really impressed with the amount of whiskey that the Hyde’s have aging away for future releases. Tasting their rum finish and the new 1916 was really exciting and we can’t wait to get them both over to Western Canada. The weather in Cork was gorgeous and even allowed for a cigar and Hyde Rum finish combination on the patio after a fabulous walk downtown visiting some great bars . A pint of the local Murphy’s Stout was a must and of course I couldn’t leave without also adding a pint of Guinness as well. Just to top off a great side trip was the opportunity to meet with Jennifer Nickerson daughter of Stuart (Malt Whisky Company) and hear about Tipperary Single Malt Irish Whiskey that will be on it’s way to Western Canada shortly, stay tuned for more.

Fontana di Trevi Rome, Italy Fontana di Trevi Rome, Italy

No whisky (and more) sourcing trip is complete without a visit to magnificent old Roma and an afternoon with the Samaroli boys. It is always such a privilege to visit such an ancient and historic city. Our favourite scene this year was walking to the Fontana di Trevi at 2:00am after checking into our old city hotel. The fountain has been completely refurbished and looks amazing. At 2:00am there is hardly anyone there and taking in the spectacular landmark without the usual crowds was something truly special.

Next week we are off to Seattle for the first Whisky Jewbilee of 2016. Looking forward to trying some really unique whiskies and sharing some fun times with our mates Jason and Joshua.

Until then stay tuned for some delicious whisky reviews and more right here at Singlemalting.com

Cheers!

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.

Slainte!

The Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 1st Edition Part 5 | Blog #32

What do gypsy moths,  lost glassware, alcohol volumes and shipping deadlines have in common. They all almost stopped the 1st Edition Scotch Whisky Calendar from ever getting to market.

I could literally create a very long list of key moments over the past year where we had to overcome a project killing challenge. At a later date I will no doubt be able to tell even more of the story but for now I will just list four major obstacles that all threatened to derail the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar train. One which was in our control and 3 that were not.

Firstly after exhaustive proof reading by not only us but 5 other seasoned pro’s 3 of the 25 whisky labels ended up with the wrong alcohol volume upon their arrival in Scotland. Our Scottish Bottler’s Craigton Packaging did a great job in finding a local source to re-do the labels however this definitely held up the production time by almost 2 weeks. One other label was also left intentionally blank as the cask had not been tested when the labels were initially printed.

Those who have a calendar will be able to spot this as it is the only whisky that has the alcohol volume hand written by the awesome staff at Craigton.

When we initially went to market with nothing but a picture and a concept we were able to secure 1600 calendars worth of pre-sales. As time went on and production and other events pushed everything back we realized that in order to make sure we could get everything to market in time we would have to settle with 400. It’s a good thing we did……

So with newly minted labels and a looming deadline things became very stressful as we realized that the drop dead shipping date was quickly approaching. The final hurdle to having the whiskies released and ready for shipping was the signing off on the paperwork so that the in-bond alcohol could leave the bottling plant. It was at this stage with multiple emails and phone calls and seemingly very slow progress we received word that all the 50ml mini’s had to be ready for pickup the next day or we would miss the boat and our chance to sell into the market before Advent began.

As it was, our shippers Containerworld would have to do something extraordinary by picking up the shipment and load it into the container then onto the ship the same day (pretty much unheard of). I sent a last email to all concerned stressing that it had all come down to making this deadline and went to bed not knowing if it was all going to be done when I woke up the next day. To say I had a fitful sleep would be putting it mildly.

At 3:30am I sat bolt upright in bed and reached for the iPad only to see no emails from the UK as yet even though their day had already begun.

Falling back to sleep I managed to get through till 6:30 and with fear and trepidation I opened my email to find………..CONFIRMATION that everything shipped. My wife and I shared high fives, hugs and tears of joy. I don’t ever think I have gone from being asleep to being so completely wide awake in my life.

So with the whisky now safely on it’s way to Canada we turned our attention to the calendar boxes themselves that were on the water and due to arrive in Vancouver from China within a few weeks. The timing of everything coming together was crucial, in the background we had the Spiegelau whisky tumblers shipped from Ontario to Edmonton to have the 1st edition logo added before then shipping them to Connect Logistics to await the arrival of all the other components.

Imagine my surprise when in the middle of a freak Fall snowstorm in Calgary I get a phone call that the completed glasses are about to be delivered to my home rather than to Connect in Edmonton.

Well after diverting the truck to its rightful destination it was delivered to the wrong receiving area and so they were swallowed up for over a week before finally being found.

Know that when you take your first sip of the Day 1 whisky that your 1st Edition glass is extremely well traveled.

So onto the calendars themselves. having allowed an extra month of time in making sure that they would be at Connect in plenty of time we were set to become so very very thankful that we had that time available to us. Upon reaching the Vancouver port it was discovered by the Canadian Customs Port Authority that the ship in question had a Gypsy Moth infestation.

It was immediately quarantined and sent back out to international waters for the crew to rid the vessel of said infestation before they could return for unloading.

These things don’t happen quickly and it was almost 3 weeks later that the calendars were unloaded and on their way to Connect in Edmonton.

So now Connect had the job of putting together the various pieces for each calendar as well as inserting the correct whisky into the correct alcove. Just so you get the full picture below is a list of everything that had to be added to the calendar before it could be placed in its box ready for sale.

Attach hand written numbered sticker
Insert Brochure
Insert Launch Party Invitation
Insert Postcard
Insert Christmas Card
Insert Whisky Tumbler
Add 25 whiskies in their correct positions (note that the numbered alcoves are scrambled just to make it more fun) 🙂
Attach bar-code and alcohol volume sticker

Connect Logistics did a great job in putting this all together but in order to maintain quality control only one person was allowed into the “calendar quarantine area”. The entire process from receiving to hitting the warehouse and being available for sale took another agonizing 2 weeks+. Our initial aim was to have the calendars available at the end of September at the latest with our emergency only backup plan being the end of October. The first calendar allocation was available for retailers on the 28th October and 76 cases went out to stores that week. Talk about using every single day to hit a deadline.

I can sit back now and report that every single case has been accounted for and ordered and already most retailers have sold out. By the time you are reading this there will be very few available on shelves so I hope you have yours safely tucked away waiting for December 1.

I could and might possibly write a book about this whole fun ride at some time in the future when I can divulge more about some of the additional challenges we faced. This has been an all consuming passion to bring this 1st Edition to you and what makes me most happy and fulfilled is to see the glimmer of childlike expectation and excitement when I see someone look at a calendar for the first time and scurry to the till with one of 400 safely tucked under their arm.

This one is for you my whisky loving friends!

See you on the 1st December for whisky No. 1

Your taster of secrets

Jonathan