Toronto Whisky tasting

Mackenzie House in downtown Toronto is hosting a beer and Scotch
tasting Feb. 8 from 7 – 9 pm ($50, participants must be 19 years or

Todd McDonald, Director of Spirits for William Grant and Sons
(PMA Canada) leads the tasting of oak-aged beer and Single Malt
Scotches including
Glenfiddich 12 YO Single Malt, Glenfiddich 15 YO Single Malt and Glenfiddich
18 YO Single Malt.

Traditional Scottish foods, including a delicious
haggis, will also be served.

The event is a fundraiser for Mackenzie
House, the former home of Toronto’s first Mayor, William Lyon
Mackenzie. The
1840s Greek Revival row-house is lit by
gaslight, which is sure to lend a moody ambience to the event.

register call 416 392 6915. Mackenzie House is located at 82 Bond
St.(east of Yonge St. and south of Dundas St.).

Annual Whiskey Tasting: 2007 edition

In December 2007, I held my annual whiskey tasting – and that’s right, that’s whiskey with an "e" – since, for the first time, I served all non-Scotch whiskies.

This party is an annual event to which I invite friends – many of whom are NOT whisky geeks, but have over the years, developed an appreciation for, or at the very least expressed an interest in, whisky.

Some, like my friends Jeff, Neil and Edward, are big fans of whisk(e)y; some come for the camaraderie,  while others just come for the abuse.

In another switch from tradition – because I have so much to choose from – and because all attendees had designated drivers or rides, I had an extended tasting flight – consisting of a flight of core six expressions, as well as a secondary flight of four whiskies.

Our Primary flight

Preludium:05 Single Malt Whisky

Brand Web site
Parent Company: Mackmyra Svensk Whiskey
48.4% alcohol
The Scotch Blog story

At first, on the nose, this stuff is light and elegant. Nothing more than a hint of smoke, but the tantalizing smell of dried berries. The alcohol is a little dominant on the palate, and definitely affects the nose once you’ve tried it – as the spirity notes are highlighted.

Reacts well to water – and a sweetness falls into place. The finish is a little harsh. Coming along nicely.

Tullamore Dew Blended Whiskey

Brand Web site
Production site: Midleton Distillery (Pernod Ricard)
Brand Ownership: Cantrell & Cochrane
40% alcohol

I get a lot of corn on the nose, but in a pleasant and unassuming way. The taste is quick and clean and unoffensive in every way – but also doesn’t bring a lot of complexity to bear. Finish is light pear/diluted apples. Again – unoffensive.

Don’t bother adding water – the whiskey may disappear completely.

Regardless, this is my official Irish easy-drinker. A great introduction to the world of whisky – primarily due to that inability to offend.

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Ask The Collector – January 2008

Every time there’s a story about an expensive whisky at auction, our email goes up. Often with throughly uninteresting bottles. Here’s the latest batch.

People never cease to amaze me with their inability to follow simple directions.

There are ground rules, but lots of people do not read them.

So, from now on, I simply have a link to the Ground Rules – which, if you want an answer, you are still expected to follow…

Read the Ground Rules HERE.


And now another installment of our very popular “Ask The Collector” column in which Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange answers questions about the value of collectible whisky.

We generally respond to questions within a day or so (completely
dependent upon Sukhinder’s schedule).

Remember, when you are in London, you can visit The Whisky Exchange in Hanwell or at their satellite shop at Vinopolis near the Borough Market. And of course you can always visit The Whisky Exchange on-line.

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Serge is going to War…

…and he wants you to join him.

Serge, Malt Maniac and the man behind Whisky Fun has apparently been burned by thieves selling fake whisky on sites such as eBay.

I’ve been caught myself (at least four bottles I think within one year) and that really hit a nerve! That’s why I decided to expose all forgeries (or even possible forgeries) on Whiskyfun’s main  page and to simultaneously archive them on this central page.

Serge tells me:

We need to get rid of these people. It’s not for the collectors but for the ‘little guys’ who think they can buy old bottles for relatively cheap and end up with owning USD 3.000 worth of… valueless fakes and may think that the whole whisky world is plain rotten.

But this isn’t just a call to arms – Serge is cataloging every fake he comes across on Whisky Fun. So, go read up on Serge’s campaign, get informed, and help stop putting money in the pockets of thieves and forgers!


Bushmills celebrates 400 years. Sort of.

Today’s story is a guest piece by whisky-guy extraordinaire, Ian Buxton.

If you’ll excuse the lazy national stereotype, no-one loves a party more than the Irish – and what better excuse than a 400th anniversary?

Bush_1608_boxI refer, of course, to Bushmills, which celebrates its 400th anniversary in April this year.  Except, of course, there’s a fair bit of the blarney in there (“blarney” is Irish for “marketing” I think).

The claim’s based on the 1608 licence to distil granted to Sir Thomas Phillips by King James’ representative in Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, the so-called Lord Deputy.  This allowed Sir Thomas or his servants (perish the thought he’d do any manual labour himself)  “to make, drawe and distill such and soe great quantities of aquavite, usquabagh and aqua composita, as he or his assinges shall think fitt”.

Problem is, Sir Arthur was just a royal servant looking to cash in on this lucrative new territory by replacing the old Catholic gentry with good Protestants, loyal to the crown and willing to pay ready money for such licences – in fact, only the previous month, he had granted patents to distillers in Galway, Munster and Leinster.

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Best of: Different is good

Originally Posted – December 12, 2005

You are “Different than Average”

deep dark secret is that I grew up in New York. Yep, in the city — not
Long Island or New Jersey. I went to Saint Mary, Star of the Sea, a
Catholic grade school in the Bronx on City Island, and to the Bronx
High School of Science. I am a “real” New Yawker.

I know people move from all over the world to New York so they can
spend 3/4 of their salaries to live in an apartment the size of a
shoebox with three roomies. The other 1/4 is apparently spent on Banana
Republic, Uggs and subscriptions to eHarmony. But, no, I turned my back
on all that and left.

I’ve lived in many places, but I now call Virginia my home — and it’s great here — but there are drawbacks.

Forget about landing a decent pizza. Bagels? Puh-lease. And no one here has ever even heard of a knish.

But the biggest drawback of all is that Virginia is a “Control” state – which means it has state-owned liquor shops.

It’s not that they do a bad job, it’s just that unlike a Binny’s,
Sam’s or Park Avenue Liquor, they just can’t carry everything I might
want to get my grubby hands on. They tend to carry the lowest common
denominator.  And since its a monopoly, there’s no specialty Scotch
shop to give me choices (believe me – if this was an option, I’d own

Imagine my surprise and joy to see a bottle of Bruichladdich 10 year
old on the shelves last week. I bought it for no other reason than to
prove there IS a market here.

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The Lazarus Syndrome

I recently had a chance to chat with Dr. David Thomson, who is the chairman of MMR Research, a professor at Reading University, and the new owner of the long silent Annandale distillery.

A brief history of the Annandale Distillery

Originally established in 1830 by George Donald & Co., Annandale was run by the Donald family until 1882 when it was leased to John Gardner. Alfred Barnard visited the distillery while it was under the purview of Mr. Gardner, and his impressions are included below.

In 1893, the expanding John Walker & Sons acquired a distillery called Cardhu (which is still a primary single malt ingredient in their ubiquitous blends). In 1896, John Walker & Sons acquired their second distillery – Annandale. But they didn’t hold onto it for very long in the grand scheme of things – mothballing the distillery in 1919 and closing it for good in 1921.

The site became a fram and the distillery itself has remained shuttered until this acquisition.

You can read more about Annandale in Brian Townsend’s Scotch Missed and in Misako Udo’s The Scottish Whisky Distilleries.

Barnard’s Take on Annandale (circa 1885-1886)


After resting and refreshing ourselves at
Dumfries, we resumed our journey southwards, P1000871
and made our next stoppage
at Annan, the capital of Annandale. It stands on the high road from
Dumfries to Carlisle, is a royal burgh, and one of the cleanest and
pleasantest towns we have seen in the Lowlands.

Annandale, from whence the distillery takes
its name, is really the valley of the river Annan, commonly called the
How of Annandale, and one of the most garden-like districts in
Scotland. The soft bright landscape of luxuriant green, of clustering
foliage, of rich verdant pastures, gives to this valley the appearance
of English scenery. The river Annan, which rises in the Hartfell
mountains, runs a course of thirty miles through this valley into the
Solway Firth. We drove 11 miles from the hotel to the Distillery, along
a pretty country road, from which we diverged down a private
carriage-way, crossing a bridge over the Annan Burn, and found
ourselves at the gates of the works.

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Black Bowmore Competition

This in from Bowmore & Chunk.

Morrison Bowmore Launches Prize Draw to Promote Black Bowmore

BlackmoreDigital marketing agency Chunk has launched a new campaign for Morrison Bowmore, targeting Whisky lovers and collectors Worldwide who have been waiting with anticipation for the release of Bowmore’s oldest ever expression the now legendary Black Bowmore. In conjunction with its release one lucky winner will be drawn at random to win one of these limited edition bottles worth £2000.

Each of the 827 bottles have come from a single cask a vatting of 5 casks filled on the 5th of November 1964 and are individually hand numbered and come with a wooden presentation case.
Bowmore are offering a unique opportunity to own a piece of distilling history by launching a free prize draw to win one of these exclusive bottles. Entries are only open to those of legal drinking age in their respective countries and participants can enter online at

The prize draw is also part of the build up to the new Bowmore campaign which launches at the beginning of next year. The Bowmore Way website, which is aimed at Whisky enthusiasts, includes a host of never seen before lifestyle video tips, public debate and opinion, competitions and much more.

Ewan Morgan, Online Ecommerce Manager for Bowmore, said, “The Black Bowmore prize draw is just the first of many exciting campaigns on the Bowmore website. I’m sure this will help raise the online communities awareness of Bowmore as a premium Single Malt Whisky brand. This is new, exciting ground for us in many respects and we hope to run many more new and exclusive promotions in the near future.”

This is NOT a paid promotion.

This is a press release.

Paul Walsh Gets It!!! But does the rest of the organization?

I just finished reading an article in The Scotsman called More to exporting than bagpipes & tartan by Colin Donald.

It’s an article focusing on Paul Walsh – Chief Executive of Diageo and newly named Chairman of the SWA.

In the article, Mr. Walsh is quoted as saying:

think the reason that Scotch languished as it did in the 1990s was
that, as marketeers, we relied too much on the wonders of the product
and we communicated those wonders through – forgive me – bagpipes,
heather and tartan. Those are very important and relevant qualities but
in today’s world they are not enough to position the product to a
new-age consumer."

Mr. Walsh gets it. I’d like the opportunity to chat with Mr. Walsh, as I am impressed with his stewardship of Diageo – and the man has certainly turned a good profit for me as a shareholder.

What Diageo, as a marketing behemoth, misses is that marketing needs to be authentic – and authenticity can come from selling the Kilts and Castles. If you forgo that imagery, then your approach must firmly rooted in an authentic departure.

Despite what most CPG brand managers believe, branding is NOT the "Walking Man" or inexplicable brand extensions or even the product itself – instead a brand is that impalpable convergence between what you want a customer to think about your product – and what they actually think about it.

Brands are defined by consumers – not by the companies which produce them.

That’s a tough pill to swallow for all the marketing, advertising, and public relations people (and not just at Diageo) – who are absolutely certain that they can control the mind of the weak-willed consumer. They miss the point that a company can certainly influence how a consumer thinks – by clearly describing the qualities which differentiate a product.

Playing on the insecurities of the consumer – as so many marketers do – is not "life-style". Nor is it a long-term marketing strategy.

So while I agree with Mr. Walsh’s keen observation (and I don’t just say that because I’ve been saying it for years) that in order to be truly successful in the world-wide market, the perception of Scotch has to change – a move to life-style based marketing is a great start – but certainly not the only answer.

Life-style marketing is not a panacea – and, managed poorly such approaches can unfortunately degenerate into fad status. It can also become the basis for a very poor play-book. (Rap Stars & Alcohol, anyone?)

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