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Month: January 2015

4 Cities in 5 days, a Whisky Journey | Blog #59

January is a whisky month! Even more than the ramp up towards Christmas and the frenzy of shoppers grabbing special bottles for their loved ones, January is one of the busiest whisky months of the year.

If you are getting into whisky and want to experience an opportunity to try some really amazing drams and get some great insights from really knowledgeable people, then attending a whisky festival is your next step.

This past week has been a blur and not because of the number of delicious drams imbibed. Starting on the 13th of January I made the trek to the Red Deer Golf and Country club for the MS Society Whisky Festival. The inaugural year for this festival it was a treat for the 90 odd people that came along and had quality one on one time with a host of excellent whiskies.

Being able to meander around the room and try whiskies that you have never seen or always wondered about is golden if you are on the journey to greater whisky discovery.

The pass around nibblies were fantastic and one lucky winner took home a whole table of great spirit donations in the raffle to raise money for a great cause. Big thanks to Blair at Liquor Crossing for partnering with the MS Society to get the event up and running.

January 14th and on to Edmonton for the MS Society Whisky festival held at the Delta South.

A much bigger show now that it has been going for a number of years. A show of this size needs a careful plan if you want to get around and try a good number of drams. The temptation is always to be drawn to things you love and drink often.

I would urge you though to adopt the opposite plan and only try whiskies that you have never had before.

This is really what these festivals are all about. The chance to try new and amazing whiskies and maybe just find something that will become your new favorite. Edmonton had it all, luxury Lexus cars sprinkled through the ballroom, Bagpipes and Scottish Dancers entertaining the whisky loving crowd and a great array of Silent Auction items to tempt everyone into bidding for something awesome for their collection.

I think I can speak for everyone there that we loved every minute of it and were completely spent after satisfying the educational yearning from the appreciative crowd. A big thanks to Dave and Steve at Vines of Riverbend for initiating and working with the MS Society to bring this festival to Edmonton and make it such a vibrant growing event every year.

January 15th and back to Calgary for the longest running independent whisky festival in Alberta.

The MS Society again the supported charity. Held at the Jack Singer Concert hall lobby, it is a grand venue with two levels of whisky tables, chandelier lit high ceilings and a very relaxed feel. Great food and a vast array of silent auction items are highlights along with a well attended VIP masterclass.

The Calgary festival was the brainchild of one of the most well known whisky personalities in Calgary, Andrew Ferguson from Kensington Wine Market. Andrew was integral in making the first Calgary festival a reality and subsequently Edmonton and now Red Deer festivals have spawned giving much more opportunity for whisky enthusiasts to try great new offerings every year from Southern to Northern Alberta.

Regardless of which city you live in you owe it to yourself to get along if you haven’t already to the 2016 festivals.

One day to catch my breath on Friday before an early start Saturday morning the 17th January for the flight to Victoria.

In it’s 10th year, Victoria is one of my favorite festivals and by far the longest running independent festival in Western Canada. Started by the Victoria Single Malt club and run ably by Lawrence, Iain, Jonathan and his team of volunteers, it is the most well run and amazing festival I have had the privilege to be a part of.

Missing the first year I have, except for a hiatus in 2014, been a regular presenter at the Victoria festival with this being my 8th time in the beautiful capital of British Columbia behind a whisky table. It was great to be back again this year and see a lot of new and familiar faces. Such a knowledgeable group of attendees who try each whisky with interest and enthusiasm. If you like to be educated then the massive array of masterclasses offers some schooling in everything from specific distilleries to Chocolate and Whisky pairings. Held at the magnificent Grand Pacific Hotel next to the Parliament building on the harbor it is an inspiring place to experience whisky nirvana.

If you do get a coveted ticket and attend some masterclasses, careful pacing is required to get through the entire day and still be getting something from your abused taste buds at the 10:00pm close on Saturday night.

Shared between two rooms with a sumptuous room of delicious food snuggled in between you can do a circuit regroup with some whisky soaking nibblies and then get back at it in the next room. Rinse and repeat as often as you can and then collapse back in your beautifully appointed room overlooking gorgeous Victoria Harbor.

This year was a special treat for me as I was able to showcase the first edition Scotch Whisky Calendar to entice hopefully some new recruits to order the second edition this year. I was also pouring whiskies that were part of the 2014 mix. I was able to meet many people at all 4 festivals that were part of the lucky 400 that secured themselves a 1st edition last year. The joy in their faces and the fun banter and feedback made all the hard work so worthwhile.

Gosh, I love my life – I can’t even really say that it’s a job.

I will post a full rundown of the winning drams and feedback on the 1st edition in the beginning of March when we close the “rate your favorite 3” competition and announce the winning entry.

As I sit here in the Grand Pacific lounge looking out at the bobbing float planes and resident Grand Pacific ducks, I feel so completely blessed to be able to rub shoulders with so many amazing people during this past week and to pass on my passion and love of this wonderful drink.

I urge you to make one of these festivals part of your plans for January 2016. I look forward to sharing an amazing dram with you and getting to know you as a regular. See photos from all the shows below…

Please jump in with a comment about your festival experience in 2015. I look forward to getting into a very special whisky next week.


Red Deer Festival Photos

Edmonton Festival Photos

Calgary Festival Photos

Victoria Festival Photos

A Midwinter Night’s Dram Straight Rye Whiskey | Blog #58

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2015! As promised in Blog# 27 I am starting a series of blog’s on some of my picks for drinking this Winter.

First whisky is the appropriately titled “A Midwinter Nights Dram” from High West Distillery in Utah.

A blend of Straight Rye whisky taken from their Rendezvous Rye stocks and finished in French oak and Port barrels, Straight Rye whisky is a designation that tells us it was aged for a minimum of 2 years. I do know however that this is a 6 year old Straight Rye Whisky as stated in the technical details on the High West Web Site

It is made up of 80% Rye which is a very high Rye content along with a splash 10% barley and 10% corn.

Bottled at cask strength of 49.3% this is an unusual bottling for American Rye as it is very hard to find anything not cut to some extent.

So on this my first blog for 2015 and with a balmy -10c and snow outside (better than -30c a week ago) it seemed the perfect time to get a fire going and jump into a Midwinter Nights Dram.

Thanks goes out to Jane my former business partner for the gift of this bottle….much appreciated.

Tasted in the 1st Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler

So lets delve in. Stunning colour deep reddish and amber hues.

Nose: Instantly recognizable as rye with spices that envelop and caress. Waves of soft mulling spice and fresh vanilla bean. Just the faintest hint that this is higher alcohol but never burning or overpowering. This is a wonderful nose and I could just sit and smell it for ages. I wonder if High West could come out with a range of car freshning Rye spice pouches…. I’d be a customer.

Palate: Cask strength comes through a little more at first sip and activates the entire palate with layers of dried fruits.

Finish: Drier than most rye I have had before probably thanks to the Port and French Oak finishing. Hints of caramel sweetness from the corn and a touch of the complex barley note complement the rye.

Water: I added the tiniest drops which seemed to heighten the Vanilla but brought out more of the vegetal rye characters and diminished the fruits. For this dram the cask strength is the way to go in my opinion.

David Perkins knows his stuff when it comes to blending and finishing great Rye and Bourbon. This is another delicious expression and it is a pity that it is not available for sale in Canada.

As a caveat I did used to represent High West which I unfortunately no longer do. I have found their Rye and Bourbon releases to be some of the yummiest I have had and this Midwinter Nights Dram would be something that I would encourage anyone travelling to the US to grab if you are a fan of Rye.

I am unashamedly an equal opportunity drinker especially when it comes to whisky. There is a lot of Scotch snobbery vs Bourbon or Rye but for me it’s all about Whisky or Whiskey in all of its amazing forms.

Next week I will grab another of my whiskies to try this Winter and I think I will be going for something extra special.

Have a fabulous week and stay warm!

“Swift as a shadow, short as any dream.
Brief as the lightning in the collied night …” – Lysander

As fleeting as true love can be as described in this quote from A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, so to can a dram of delicious whiskey disappear. Thankfully, I still have almost a full bottle.