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When I think back to my time at Stirling University I see a montage of caffeine riddled all-nighters in the computing labs, beer bottles on windowsills, the Wallace monument, ducks eating cheese, and the freedom of being away from home for the first time. It was also where I met my fiancée Dawn, so for me Stirling has a special place in my heart…cheesy yes but it was one of the best experiences of my life.
You can imagine my delight therefore, when Suzie Huggins invited me along to give a special whisky tasting at theUniversity’s Japanese Week; an event which celebrated Scotland’s cultural and artistic links with Japan. Both Dawn and I were honoured to be part of the week by serving Lady of the Glen directly after the symposium and were excited to learn more about Japanese culture, art and whisky.
In 1870 the Yamazaki distillery in Japan set out with the aim of producing domestic whisky specifically for the Japanese market. Unlike Irish, American and Canadian Whiskey, which is distilled using a variety of techniques, Japanese Whisky began as a conscious effort to recreate the Scottish style of making malt whisky (even the spelling is the same).
Global acclaim however was slow to surface and for years Japan fell victim to industry snobbery. The real turning point happened at the 2008 World Whisky Awards where Japan stunned the world by pocketing both of the top prizes - the best single malt whisky in the world and the best blended whisky in the world. In the 2011 and 2012 awards, it did the same again. No one could have predicted the success story that followed or that Japan would evolve into the 2nd largest producer of single malt whisky in the world.
With such an amazing reputation for quality and innovation we were more than curious to find out what the Japanese scholars thought of oor rare Scottish whisky. Luckily we were not disappointed by the reception we received from the dignitaries. The feedback was exceptional, especially with regards to our new packaging and Lady of the Glen was so popular that we had open up our reserve bottles (we only brought them along for an emergency and had argued before hand that we would not need them).
What really was fascinating was the cultural reaction to the colour differences between the malt and the grain whisky. The dark mahogany Benrinnes malt seemed to attract the Japanese gentleman, while the golden Invergordon really created a buzz amongst the ladies. This was also the case with tasting preferences; the Japanese women tended to opt for and enjoy the sweet vanilla tones of the grain, whilst the men preferred the stronger and fruiter sherry punch of the Benrinnes.
Aside from the fun and light hearted nature of the tasting session we also learned a very valuable lesson that night…Do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the passion and knowledge that other people may have for your product. This rang particularly true when we met Richard Lochead MSP and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (man in charge of Scotland’s whisky politics). This man knows everything there is to know about the Benrinnes distillery and we are pleased to confirm to him that we have taken note of his advice. We were overjoyed to hear that he thought our malt was exceptional and wish him all the best in the future. Cheers Richard.
All in all the night was a tremendous success and the Lady of the Glen team had a lot of fun and banter in Stirling. We would like to take this opportunity to say a special thank you to Brenda for being an absolute star throughout the whole evening and for giving us a run to the station at the end of the night. It was very kind of you Brenda. I would also like to thank Suzie for giving us this amazing opportunity and for my Stirling University tie, I will wear it with pride.
The Minimum Pricing controversy has been in the news a lot recently (BBC article) and I wanted to add my thoughts to the debate because I feel that as a member of the alcohol industry my opinion is relevant and so are yours as readers of this Whisky Blog!
I think that it is good that action is being taken to address the alcohol problem in this country. Scotland has one of thehighest alcohol related death rates in Europe and although it is going down, it is still an issue which needs to be addressed. However, I do not think that minimum pricing is necessarily the right way to do it. I have detailed below a couple ideas (some of them controversial) which I want your feedback on so we can share the debate.
Leave it Be – This is a simple one. As this article from the Scotch Whisky Association suggests Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is getting better and alcohol related death rates are going down. Furthermore, the research behind the minimum pricing has been called into dispute. Why not continue without minimum pricing and allow Scotland’s drink related trend to go down naturally.
Privatise the NHS – If the NHS were privatised and people forced to take out insurance - the cost of which is dictated by their health - would they take greater care of themselves and their drinking habits? Further to this point, if the Governmentno longer had to pay for the NHS there would be a considerable drop in tax; which of course would be cancelled by the health insurance equation. But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, the Government would no longer need to do health campaigns as health and drinking would not be their responsibility. The other side of the coin is that the divide between rich and poor could swell even more than it is. Do we really want to risk one of our greatest institutions to find out if this would be a success?
Reduce the working week and increase funding in recreation- British people work some of the longest hours in Europe which causes increased levels of stress and mental illnesses. Hell everyone knows someone that is burning out. What is the cure? Yep you guessed it, good old fashioned alcohol. In an age of Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and X-Boxes we have created a culture where people just sit at home and drink. We are being caged into our homes by the increasing cost of recreational activities; having a pint in your local, booking five aside pitches, bowling and even sitting in a café for a wee cake have become a luxury that many of us cannot afford.
How do you resolve these deeper cultural issues…pump money into transport to get people back in towns, subsidise gym/fitness memberships, social clubs and host more community lead events. Encourage people to move back into the towns by reducing cost of living in them. Ah but this is just too obvious. The powers at be will not make these changes in a Britain of cuts. Interesting thought though.
Everything in moderation including moderation itself – Like Tam we have all been in a situation where we have been a blethering, blustering, drunken blellum. However, common sense is a given and being aware of your own drinking habits is fundamental to this whole issue. The government cannot force people to be sensible and I would rather not live in a nanny state which punishes the majority because of the actions of an ever evolving minority that is drinking less and less anyway.
At this stage Minimum Pricing will not impact on my prices directly and I think it will be difficult for any government to gauge its real impact as figures already suggest alcohol related deaths in Scotland are going down.
The beauty of Whisky is the sense of community that surrounds it. Whisky tastings with friends are really fun and it can be done anywhere and all you need are couple bottles of Whisky to share. But, there is also that comfort you get when after a long week you have a quiet night in with a good book and a delightful wee dram.
I look forward to hearing your feedback and stoking the fires of debate on the issue.
As we brought in the bells for January 2013 I couldn’t help but wonder what this year would bring and although I know its going to be a tough journey I am excited by the challenge. So far I’ve travelled between Edinburgh and Glasgow more times than ever before, tasted great whisky and met wonderful, passionate people from all over the world.
The main goal we have this year is to ‘build the brand’. Since launching in December 2012 our sales have been mainly internet based, either by people calling or ordering through our website. We intend to grow organically through word of mouth however it was really nice of the Miss Whisky team to do a little interview with me, thank you Miss Whisky.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by John Reynolds to attend a Whisky tasting at the Scotch Malt Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. We tried five Whiskies accompanied by some amazing cheeses – the goat’s cheese and Talisker was mindblowing! Overall my personal favourite was the Clynelish, which had lovely sea smells and flavours (it would be great to find a cask like this for our range). The great thing about Whisky tastings of this nature is that it brings together people from their professional environments into a relaxed atmosphere where they can enjoy a couple of drams.
In order to learn a bit more about the industry and clarify our own Whisky knowledge, the Lady of the Glen team booked two places on the Scotch Whisky Experience course. The Scotch Whisky Experience is owned by the Scotch Whisky Industry so you can anticipate there will be a big player bias to an extent – most notably the pushing of Diageo distilleries and blends. The course content consisted of the whisky creation process, history, whisky sampling and all this is clarified with a test at the end (this comes immediately after consuming 5 drams...interesting!) You also get too see the worlds ‘biggest Whisky collection’ as accredited by the Guinness Book of Records. This was kindly collected together by Clive of Brazil and was purchased for an undisclosed sum. Overall a worthwhile experience.
Well that’s it for January and we are on course to have a great year. Feel free to send me your emails and keep watching for updates on twitter and our website for upcoming events we are attending.
February has been such a quick month. Not only are Lady of the Glen another month older but I’m 6 months closer to getting married!!
For Lady of the Glen you may/should have read on twitter that February has been a research driven month as we prepare to take Lady of the Glen to the next stage of the business plan. It’s all about special flavour at Lady of the Glen and at the moment we are getting samples of some really great stuff to compliment that. We should hopefully have the finished article out in the next three to four weeks.
Unfortunately, we had to pull out of a trip to Birmingham to attend the Whisky Birmingham Festival. This was a very frustrating experience and despite the support from Amy Seton at the event we were unable to persuade Business Gateway and other organizations for support. This brings me to my main point and that is the lack of practical support available to businesses in Scotland.
It could be a lot better and there are three ways I would improve this,
Make networking events and courses accessible to everyone i.e. if people are working full time jobs and running their businesses part time the course should be after 5pm and lets make the courses in a central area/town not in the middle of nowhere
Provide small financial grants to cover costs for attending business events which are of a benefit the organization or cover membership to things like your Local Chamber of Commerce
Don’t discriminate businesses based on the owners age and their working profile
I’m pleased with the steady increase of twitter followers and the great reviews we are getting through our social media. We are still in the Balerno Konect magazine and a few other media outlets.
We will be sending out our quarterly newsletter soon for all you members who have been waiting for it and we have response regarding the samples we sent out to some members.
In other news it was National Women’s day yesterday and mothers day tomorrow, so I heartily recommend you get the special woman in your life a Lady of the Glen orientated treat. But, aside from the product push, International Women’s day is very important because it helps draw attention to women which is a notable issue in the Whisky industry. Women are a market sector over patronised I feel, especially with crude assumptions about ‘let’s create a new line with sweeter products because women like sweet things’. In actual fact, research shows men are more inclined to like sweet drinks. Furthermore, women are generally under-represented in the industry, recruiters should address this. Miss Whisky has two a part article which helps express this better than I could.
Lastly, we at Lady of the Glen were distraught to learn about the poor show at this Whisky firm and we have lamented together this terrible, terrible news. We are working on the Pibroch.
First off I would just like to say thank you for all of your e-mails. Having just launched this month we are thrilled by the positive feedback and support we have received from both industry experts and Whisky lovers alike.
As independent bottlers we believe that Whisky flavour is all too often overshadowed by age and regional stereotypes; that somehow the age on the bottle will dictate how good the dram will be. We want to change that! Before we even consider buying a cask it has to meet our criteria: it must be rare, it must be of exceptional quality, and most importantly, the intricate flavours must dance and excite on the tongue. A beautiful Whisky should never make you flinch.
Lady of the Glen will always offer rare, high quality cask strength Whisky but once a cask is gone then it is never coming back! We have endeavoured to provide accurate and relatable tasting notes on every Lady we sell and have numbered every bottle so each one is different and collectable. Recently Lady of the Glen was reviewed by Edinburgh Whisky Blogand we feel that their positive review is a great endorsement of our Whisky and what we are trying to do.