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After the Whisky Lounge last year I was a much changed person. Consuming high volumes of high volume whisky samples can do more than give you a headache the next day and a feeling of anxious worry, what did I do or say to some people that could or has been construed the wrong way?!
On reflection of last year’s event my friend, Bob (my leather jacket wearing Whisky loving comrade from last year whom my wife recommended join me because she was busy) and I started our day at 11.30am at the Fidlers Arm in the Grass-market with a steak pie rather than the coffee and Pork sandwich quickly devoured last year. After our hearty meal we meandered up to the Hub on Castlehill fashionably late at 1230ish as opposed to first ones in last year at 1200.01, we would take our time…this time.
It was another fine showing from the Whisky Lounge team, with a great variety of drams on offer and the same system in place as last year – your sampling glass (now with water dropper) and two white tokens. Bob, my Whisky drinking buddy, forked out the additional money for those prized black tokens which would give you those under the table special drams. I was really looking forward to the event this year because although it has the big companies like Diageo and you get your other big whisky brands like Highland Park, The Macallan, you also get to see what other businesses are doing like A.D. Rattray, Compass Box and Berry Bros and you know there will always be a little gem of a stall like the Diplomatico stall; which was handing out rum this year.
My favourite stand was the Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand which had some great malts and really enthusiastic ambassadors too. The dram I liked the most was the Craigellachie 23 year old which had a lovely warm smokiness. Also good were the Clynleish and the 24 year old Mannochmore. However, strangely enough my ‘must buy’ item was not a whisky - it was a Diplomatico rum which was 80% pot still. I like rum and I thought this rum was brilliant, so if you ever get the chance give it a go!
I decided to find out what all the fuss was about with regards to the Highland Park – Freya and utilised my black token for a sip. Not bad but with all the hype you come to expect a sparkler in the glass so it’s difficult to meet expectations.
The Whisky Lounge always feels like a reunion of sorts because you get to catch up with whisky friends from all over. It is also great to meet new people who share a common enjoyment of Whisky and because everyone is a bit tipsy it allows for a lovely relaxed environment. It never hurts to have a friend on the other side of the stall either…
When the day finished up around 4.30, Bob and I were surprised at how sober we were so we sauntered down to Mum’s where we had some tremendous sausages and mash and then completing our day in doctors with a pint watching the Man Utd game. It was a great day out because I had managed to keep notes on the handy ‘whisky festival map’ and I had not got so inebriated that the train journey home was not an horrific ordeal in contrast to last year. Roll on next year!!
The first part of this blog is being written by Bob, who partnered me at the Whisky Lounge this year.
I say Vol. 2 but I'm not 100% as the first volume is somewhat of a haze, up until I wake up locked in my own garage at 2am. It was with this in mind (that and a threat from my girlfriend that if I ended up puking everywhere I was sleeping in the bath) that I set of in search of a more restrained experience.
Volume 2 of the Whisky chronicles started out with some 6 string bass and a great steak and ale pie, it could only go well. After a grand start I set out with my whisky-brother, Gregor, to sample some of the finest and most delicious alcoholic beverages known to man.
The event started at 1200h but not wanting to appear too eager (and to cut down on drinking time) we arrived at 1230h, handed over our jackets (in my case two...don't ask, it's not exciting), grabbed some black tokens for the rarer whiskies and then headed upstairs. We followed our well trained noses straight to the whisky and got drinking.
Last time we managed to start our evening with really hairy chested whiskies which, while delicious, left our mouths tasting like peatbogs for the remainder of the evening. Not wanting to make the same mistake again we pointed our finely tuned palates to the lighter flavours on offer and moved through the event with a thirsty gusto for the remaining few hours.
There were many great showings from so many companies but the truly stand out appearances were from Indian Whisky (from Goa) that managed to shift my misplaced prejudice against any whisky that isn't Scottish. Light and fragrant with a fruity sweetness it wouldn't feel out of place with a Speyside label on the side. The non-whisky stands were great aswell, despite feeling slightly out of place, they offered a nice break from cask strength whisky when you needed to be able to feel your mouth again.
As this entry comes to a close I will let you all know what my black token went on, I'm sure you're all dieing to know. The General – Blended whisky (Stay with me here) 70% 40 year and 30% 33 year. Don't ask me any more than that I drank it quite late on.
Thanks for reading, Laters Taters.
The Littlemill distillery was rumoured to have opened in 1772 although it has been suggested it opened as early as 1750 which would make it the oldest distillery in Scotland. Had the distillery not been destroyed in 2004 this could have been proven or disproven.
A Lowland Malt distillery, it existed in a region where there are now only a few distilleries. Those still active include The Glenkinchie, The Bladnoch and The Auchentoshan distilleries. Generally Lowland malts are regarded as the lightest bodied Whisky, other characteristics include having a dry finish, tasting of sweet fruits and having a less intense aroma. Littlemill was located in the village of Bowling just North West of Glasgow in West Dunbartonshire which made it even more unique because it was so close to the border that it could have been named a Highland distillery. However, because it used a triple distillation technique which was common in Lowland distilleries it was more akin to a Lowland class whisky, where other regions in Scotland adopted a double distillation approach. However, after a time the owners eventually adopted the double distillation approach.
The distillery changed hands multiple times in its lifetime. It was closed in 1984 and re-opened 1989 and again it closed in 1992 only to be destroyed in 2004 to make way for residential property, this was despite it being a listed building. You can view its destruction here through this Youtube link. The last distillation was in 1992 and now there are only limited casks available mainly through Independent bottlers.
The Lady of the Glen offering is from a Bourbon cask, number 16 and it was distilled February 27th 1992. The main themes which come from the variety of independent reviews are that it is a complex dram, with soft fruits on the nose like pineapple and melon. On the palate there is a heat, which makes way to sweetness and then fruits of pineapple, banana and lemons. Finish with more sweetness of candy and then spice.
If you would like further details on the history of the distillery and where I retrieved my information please view the below links.
For the past three months my blogger apathy has taken hold despite there being many interesting and important business milestones taking place for Hannah Whisky Merchants since the beginning of the year.
I believe the most important of these milestones took place recently - obtaining support through the The Prince's Trust (if your interested to find out more about them click here). At the beginning of February I did my usual of phoning my local Business Gateway to see if they had any support available (a monthly task I undertake to the probable annoyance of my business Gateway advisor). My advisor duly informed me there was nothing for my type of business. Shortly afterwards, perhaps uncannily, a young lady phoned from the Fife Business Growth Fund of The Prince's Trust to ask if I need help to which responded affirmatively. She suggested they could help me get the support I required and I was put in touch with a Princess Trust Executive who over the course of February and early March patiently helped me with a thorough application, assisting with my business plan, cash-flow and forecasts (very monotonous, but incredibly valuable and important stuff). We shared a number of coffee lunches where he helped me get my application over numerous hurdles until it was finally accepted and then it was to the panel with me - where the final decision of my support would be taken.
Probably the most frightening part of this journey is the conclusive part - the panel meeting. It all comes down to one interview, one chance and bizarrely I found out on the day that a member of the panel had the same name as me - Gregor Hannah. This was unbelievable for me, considering I was under the impression there were only three Gregor Hannahs, one being a Pro-golfer in England, a Youtube guy and then me. This panel member had somehow slipped through the cracks of my online searches. There was also another Greg on the panel, but this pales in comparison to the Gregor Hannah coincidence.
Well...I managed to persuade the panel though my presentation and Q&A that my business idea was a viable one. Perhaps it was my George Clooney charisma, my water-tight business plan and forecasts or alternatively the cask strength Benrinnes Whisky samples I provided the panel swayed their decision. Regardless, I am grateful and I felt a wave of relief that the panel was over. When an organization like the Princess Trust, not your best friend or family, informs you they believe in you and your idea and that they want to help support you it fills you with immense pride and joy because you know they aren't doing it to be nice but because they believe it is actually a good idea.
On the train home I celebrated with a can of gin and tonic from M&S considering my life now will be all about Whisky with little opportunity for gin thanks to the Princess Trust.
Thank you again to The Prince's Trust.
The next blog will be on the next Lady of the Glen release, the 21 year old Littlemill.
All the best,
Last November 2012 Hannah Whisky Merchants Ltd set out with a goal to bring exceptional and rare whisky to the market at a decent price. When we started we had no idea of the challenges and changes ahead but we wanted to take our time and grow our business slowly. I promised that I would never rush for the sake of profit and would never sell a product that was not up to our high standard and we’re still here one year on!
The biggest challenge we endured was not licensing or anything related to the Whisky. To be honest it was couriers! Trying to arrange couriers to arrive and find out where they were and give them instructions only to find they had been ignored was incredibly frustrating. There were other challenges too which you get which a business degree never prepare you for such as the legislation and number of organizations you need to work with to export alcohol (if anyone wants to know give me an email and I can save you about a week’s worth banging your head against a wall). With these challenges in mind and the pressure of expectation on your shoulders it came to be the only goal was to sell all my rare bottles of Whisky within a year.
I am proud to say that we achieved a large part of what we wanted to and some. We completed that export deal which was to Germany and we finally managed to get our bespoke whisky bags. After the Whisky bags were complete it was only a matter of weeks and we had sold the majority of our Invergordon and every single bottle of our Benrinnes. I felt a great sense of pride selling my first malt cask and thank you to everyone who purchased one of the 86 bottles.
For me the biggest change this year was becoming a married man. My wife Dawn, whom I married at Dalserf Church in the Clyde Valley on 7 September, has been my rock through this entire venture. She sat up to the wee hours preparing many a shipments after doing her day job as well as planning our wedding. Without Dawn Lady of the Glen just would not exist, so thank you to my beautiful wife!
Next year looks really promising and I’m incredibly excited about launching more releases for Lady of the Glen. We have an exceptional 19 year old Caperdonich which will be available before Christmas. This one will be a little more expensive but it is an absolute delight on the palate and really optimises what Lady of the Glen is about; selling rare and high quality Whisky which makes for an ideal unique gift.
I will sign off by saying wrap up warm, eat plenty of oranges and enjoy the run up to Christmas folks. Thank you all for your continued support.