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Wee summary to date
It’s been a busy period for me personally; I have managed to get a new job, doing something outside financial services which is great and I’m getting ready for my wedding in September which is nerve-racking. With these events in mind I will have a two week honeymoon in September, during which Lady of the Glen will be inactive and in the future I might be relocating Lady of the Glen to South Lanarkshire. However, until then I can give an insight into what I’ve been doing.
My Whisky Hosting
A number of weeks ago saw me host my first whisky tasting at a friend’s house (Jonathan Dodsworth, good guy). The participants had varied levels of exposure to Whisky, so it was a great opportunity for me to get some hosting experience with a varied audience.
After an ice-breaker sensory perception game we began sampling. I selected my 24 Year old Invergordon Highland Grain (good response and was notably enjoyed with water and those new to Whisky) the 14 year old Beninnes Speyside Malt (more popular with the regular Whisky drinkers and was noted because of the cask strength kick). I then brought out some Jameson Irish Whisky (okay response and went down easily enough). Finally, I had a mystery Islay and this was really good because all though some people loved it, others felt it was the sort of Whisky flavour they had come to recognise and not like. The mystery Islay was good because it put everyone on the same level in that they could only go off their own taste buds and not their knowledge of what that particular brand normally tastes (so participants could not just rattle off some tasting notes they had read on a bottle before).
In advance of the tasting I read Dominic Roskrows whisky tasting article ‘I can taste a rainbow’. It was really helpful for me to engage the audience and spark reactions from everyone, by asking folks what seasons they tasted, colours everything…not bound by limitations of food flavours. I was happy because everyone was bringing creative and wonderful interpretations of the Whisky.
Lady of the Glen News
The product design. My goodness, it seems like an eternity I have banged on about this. We are almost there with it and once it is ready I will launch the complete ideal gift package. The gift package of Lady of the Glen will be the perfect present for a Whisky lover or newbie who wants something wholly unique and beautiful. Although the process has taken its time, I would not have done it any other way. I set out with goal to use an inventive Scottish design enterprise which held similar values to myself and it takes time to find these artists. I believe Bespoke Atelier is ideal.
Lady of the Glen is giving away free wild flower seeds with each delivery made from our website. With Bee populations dropping (According to the first Scottish bee health survey, the number of beekeepers experiencing loss increased by 40% since 2011-12). Action is required and I want to encourage customers to do everything they can to support their local bee populations. By giving away wild flowers we can at least give Bees more flowers to forage. Please visit The Bee Guardian Foundation website to find out what else you can do.
The setup is simple; fork out £25.00, turn up in your Sunday best, meet interesting and charismatic individuals, drown in a river of 10ml sample whisky from 16 different stands, get a free Glen Cairn bell shaped tasting glass, and generally have a whale of a time. Nothing beats the warm glow of a dram (or several over the course of 5 hours).
There are some additional extras that are not included in the price as during the Whisky extravaganza you also have the opportunity to sign up to do classes/courses. There is also special Whisky tokens for the under the counter Whisky at each stand if you are looking for something really special and I would highly advise getting these.
The day got off to a shaky start as my fiancée pulled out on me at the last minute and I ended up with a spare ticket. She suggested that I go with her friend Bob as he is “cultured, well read and won’t embarrass you” – her words, not mine!
I must say I was a bit sceptical about going to a 5 hour event with a practical stranger but I couldn’t have picked a better place to get to know the guy. And that is the selling point, the environment is warm, friendly and you can get to know the basics of anybody over Scottish Whisky. It may be cheesy but I met a lot of great people there and I will be going out with Bob again.
The stalls catered to the well known brands under the Diageo umbrella, but there was also a great selection of independent bottlers like Berry Brothers. I was particularly impressed by the knowledgeable gentlemen at this stall and by their impressive selection. Lady of the Glen was unfortunately not present at this event but in the future we will hopefully be a part of it and people will get the opportunity to sample our rare selection.
I also got to taste Artisan blends from Compass Box and there was a wonderful selection of non-scotch products like Balconescorn Whiskey. This tasted like popcorn! But perhaps my favourite stall was presented by Number One Drinks Company; it had a selection of Japanese Whisky that in one instance had sadly come from a distillery that had been destroyed. It is human nature to appreciate something more when we know that it is in scarce supply. I am glad that I got to taste a product that is not only exclusive but also very special.
If I was to do it all again I would follow this advice:
· Use your special tokens early so you can the benefit of them.
· Leave tasting the more heavily bodied and Islay whisky tasting to the end so your tongue and palate is not ruined. You will need a lot of water to wash of the Smokey peat flavours.
· Sign up to do a couple courses/sessions when you get there (the Balblair one I attended was really informative and fun)
· Know when enough is enough!!
My friend Bob and I thoroughly enjoyed the event and although some of the Whisky flavour drifted from our memories, we could still confirm to each other the next day that it was a blast! The Whisky Lounge (in association with The Scotch Malt Whisky Society) has a number of events touring across the UK this year. I actively encourage anyone who wants to learn more about Whisky to route one out and ‘gee it laldy’ for the day. I can hand on heart say that I cannot remember having so much fun.
Words of warning however, beware of the fresh air and your wives (or husbands) -as facing the armies of Mordor would have been easier than dealing with Dawn when I got home.
Scottish government failed objection to introduce minimum pricing.
Lady of the Glen news
You may know that Lady of the Glen is working on product development at this stage and that is why it can only be bought exclusively from the website. Hopefully soon we will have the product finished and Lady of the Glen can be presented as the ideal Scottish Whisky gift; bringing together Scottish design and style, with unique Whisky. We are very fortunate to have some talented Glaswegian designers working on our Whisky sleeve and we look forward to presenting this final product to you soon. Watch this space.
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.