Home » Archives for September 2015

Month: September 2015

When Scotland Calls one must answer part 5 | Blog # 81

Fantastic spa facilities at the Dunblane Hydro which must have helped me to get my clock adjusted as I managed to make it all the way to 6:30am.

A full Scottish breakfast after a dip in the pool is a great way to get the day started. On the road to Edinburgh I met up with Kevan from Craigton one last time as he couriered 2 calendars in his industrial sized saddlebags to Stirling Services so that I could bring something back to Canada with me and save me another trip into Glasgow. Thanks again Kevan over and above the call of duty.

Edinburgh was very very busy with the Edinburgh festival in full swing right through the month of August. Getting downtown was actually pretty fun and after enjoying driving on the correct side of the road and zooming around in my little 6 speed VW I was happy to drive as much as possible. I found a car park right next to the Wemyss offices and had a lovely meeting with Jacqueline. After a viewing of the Scotch Whisky Advent Collector’s Edition, the drams were out quick smart and I can tell you all that the first whisky to be officially chosen for the 3rd edition being released in 2016 is from Wemyss.

Only 24 more to go and next years list will be complete. This is where I normally insert the tough job comments but you get the idea.

A fabulous way to enjoy a working afternoon. Thanks Jacque for having me and for another round of amazing whisky. Seeing as I had such a rock star park, I thought I would wander around and find a place for dinner. There is never a shortage of amazing pubs in Edinburgh so it was no surprise to me when I saw a beautiful converted church now pub called the Ghillie Dhu just around the corner.

It took a while to get a table which was perfect for a stint at the bar and a lovely pint of real ale.
Can’t go past a great meat pie and peas and Cindy would have approved of the side of veggies.

Time to give back the car and in the morning, tram it into Edinburgh to take in some of the festival sights. The Fringe is a non stop hive of street performers of every description that work for donations only. Some really high class acting, singing, dancing and of course comedy lots of kilted comedy.

Scotland indeed calls regularly now and I know that for at least a couple of weeks a year I am guaranteed to answer.

I was able to enjoy all of the action before meeting up with my mate James and his daughters for Saturday brunch and another stirring whisky conversation.


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.


When Scotland Calls one must answer – Part 3 | Blog # 79

2:30 am again…..really. OK then into a somewhat grueling routine of early emailing, 5:00am workout, 6:00am brekky and onto Craigton ready for work at 7:00am.

With a hope to get the Canadian order knocked over by the end of the day we all got stuck in to what was now becoming a very well oiled production line. Getting a video of a calendar rolling through the line from start to finish was fun. The friendly banter and good natured jibes were almost endless as everyone seemed to be having a good time buying into the team atmosphere and a belief that we were making something really awesome.

Lunch time came around all too fast and it was time to head off to A.D. Rattray’s Scotch Whisky Experience in Ayrshire. Knowing that everything was in good hands I was still going to be back the following morning for any last minute finishing touches.

Finally the traditional Scottish weather kicked in as it absolutely threw down all the way out to Kirkoswald. Ducking inside as quickly as possible I was just in time for a lovely sandwich and a cup of tea before having a great meeting with Nick White the general manager of A.D. Rattray. With very fortuitous timing Tim Morrison and his son Andrew were also visiting from the US and it was great to catch up albeit briefly with such an industry legend.

With much needed whisky work out of the way and a showing of the Collector’s Edition to Tim and all the A.D. Rattray staff, it was time for some whisky. Nick pulled out all the stops and I had the absolute pleasure of trying some exceptional drams including a 50 year old Girvan Single Grain, a 20 Year old Macallan and a heavily sherried 1999 Tomintoul. I will do a more thorough tasting of each of these at a later date.

Kept to just a wee tiny sip of each with an hours drive back to Glasgow I was at least able to get enough to know that I would happily keep a bottle of each on the shelf. There is also the added benefit of a tiny wax dipped sample bottle of each that was specially prepared for me to bring back to Canada. A special thanks to Emily for putting them together.

No rest for the wicked and believe me when it comes to having whisky related fun there are none more wicked than yours truly. Back into Glasgow to hook up with Iain Croucher brand ambassador for A.D. Rattray. After fighting through some dire traffic Iain was able to get downtown and whisk me away for a quick pint and a dram before dinner. Mother India was the venue for some top quality Indian fusion. Absolutely fantastic if you love Indian food and a great place to just chat about all things whisky with a top bloke. With Iain on his way to Spain the following day and me hitting the jet lag wall we called a relatively early night.

Hoping for a wee sleep in before heading North to Dunblane for further Scottish adventures.


The Craigton Packaging Plant and our little helpers … and tons of minis!

When Scotland calls one must answer – part 2 | Blog # 78

Up at the absolute crack of dawn (2:30am) and jet lag was truly set in. The good news was the amount of time I had to get some work done, work out, have an amazing Scottish brekky and turn up at Craigton bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7:00am.

What a fun opportunity to be able to physically put together something that is near and dear to my heart.

With all the Craigton crew on hand after a touch of morning tea it was all hands on deck. I took up a spot fairly close to the beginning of the line taking each calendar and removing the face plate and taking off the handy ribbons that made production so much faster, checking it for the booklet, lapel pin, postcard, invitation and Christmas card and placing the hand numbered sticker on the inside left door. With all this done it then moved it down the line to start being filled with what really counts, the delicious whiskies.

Before the calendar got to me the pallets they arrived on had to be moved into the packing room and then the individual calendars removed from the outer box. Before I got my mitts on them, the calendars had the bar code and product information sticker attached to the bottom.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Packing Room

Every single bottle was hand labeled and the Christmas day whisky also had an embossed metal label applied, was hand corked and then wax dipped. To say that this is a labor intensive product would be an understatement.

The Craigton team jumped into the project with great enthusiasm and attention to detail. Nothing was missed with everyone focused on their task. Once all the whisky had been installed and an extra booklet page had been added, the Samaroli Whisky glass was snuggled into its silky alcove and the face plate and outer doors closed. Two calendars were then put back into the outer case which was glued and taped shut before going back onto an empty pallet.
Seeing a production line like this close up and actually being part of it is really quite fun.

Of course I was only a visitor but was soon treated like part of the team including the fun jibe’s and comments about how much longer it was taking with me “helping”.

For a few hours after the team left I was able to forge ahead and complete the remaining calendars on the table. It was nice to personally completely from start to finish work on quite a few calendars and have the table clear and ready for the next day.

After getting back to the hotel I was feeling a little weary from a distinct lack of sleep but could not allow myself the luxury of a quick lie down no matter how loudly the nice comfy bed was calling. Time to head out to a beautiful restaurant in Glasgow called Hutchesons, with Kevan and Rachel from Craigton. What an amazing evening filled with delicious wine, great company and awesome food. We kicked it off with some legendary Hutchesons cocktails and my manhattan was amazing. Kevan and Rachel preferred a Gin martini and they went down a treat. Kevan was left to order his own steak as Rachel and I shared a Chateaubriand. It was actually the scallops highly rated by Kevan that got us all there in the first place. Yep they were good.

Hutchesons Glasgow Scotland Hutchesons Glasgow Scotland

One of the joys of working in this industry is developing long term relationships with fantastic people like Kevan and Rachel. When I finally got back to the hotel at around 11:00 pm I had been up and at it for over 20 hours. We will see in the next part if the jet lag was starting to sort itself out or not.
Until then I hope you are enjoying this little snapshot into putting it all together.


A Run down the line at Craigton Packaging – Video …

Photos …

When Scotland calls one must answer … | Blog # 77

After all the fun and excitement of putting together the 1st edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar, Secret Spirits has been hard at work doing it all again this year for edition number 2.

You may recall some of the fun and games we had along the way in my blog #21,  blog #28 and blog #29 in 2014. There are always going to be challenges along the way and this multi-part series will help to give you some idea of just what it takes to bring such a labor and logistics intensive product to market.

There’s nothing like booking a last minute international trip and with less than a week before, I really had to take what I could get.

Early morning flights to Winnipeg then to Chicago and finally Edinburgh was the best I could do. I love Scotland and I love being able to create such a fun product so despite the multiple connections I was really excited to get on my way.

Almost as an omen of good things to come, United and Air Canada decided to do away with the Winnipeg leg and just go ahead and upgrade me to business class for a direct flight to Chicago.

What a great start to the trip and time well spent as I worked on some of the vision we have for cool stuff that Secret Spirits will be creating for your discovery, experience and drinking pleasure in the years to come.

A great little company in Paisley, Craigton specializes in smaller run bottling and single cask whiskies. Just the perfect place for Secret Spirits to partner with to put together an intricate project like the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

With the weekend of traveling safely tucked away and pretty solid jet lag fully set in, I was up well before I should have for the drive from Edinburgh airport to Craigton packaging in Glasgow.

Last year Craigton just did the bottling and we had everything assembled in Alberta. This year we wanted everything done in Scotland so that it would arrive in Canada completely in tact. The fact that we are launching into the UK market this year also meant that it made much more sense to do it all in one place.

The Scotch Whisky Calendar Room at Craigton The Scotch Whisky Calendar Room at Craigton

Craigton put me to work straight away as I raced around the countryside picking up last minute labels so that the final two whiskies could be bottled that same day. Fun to be back on the “correct” side of the road and thankfully the Australian part of my brain kicked in nicely and I felt right at home tooling around in my 6 speed manual VW rental.

With labels safely delivered and at least an extra day saved waiting for couriers we had made good progress. All the whisky done and one last piece to pick up on the way back to the hotel. Everything was set for a couple of frantic days to get enough calendars made to meet the Canadian order deadline.

Sitting out on a gorgeous evening sipping a pint on the quay looking over the river as the sun lazily dipped toward the water, I realized just how lucky I am to be doing what I absolutely love. Everyone else just thought I was lucky period. I was seeing the beginning of the Scottish Summer as the clouds of rain had only just parted for my arrival.

After dinner I took a leisurely half hour stroll through downtown Glasgow up to the famous Pot Still whisky bar.. Breaking with tradition, I decided to go for something unique and ordered both the Adnams Single Malt and also their Triple grain. I love to try something different and even though had previously represented Adnams beer in the Alberta market, I had never been able to try their whisky.

Adnams Whisky at the Pot Still whisky bar Adnams Whisky at the Pot Still whisky bar

The Single Malt was delicious and belied its youth with a lovely rounded balance that went down a treat. The Triple grain was good but seemed a touch light. I certainly didn’t leave any in the glass though and heartily knocked back both drams before making my way back down the hill to the river.

What a great first day. Next week I will really get into it, as mission Advent Calendar production truly gets underway.