Whisky + Arthur's Chat + You = Money for Parkinson's Research

This in from Arthur Motley.
Good Cause. Good Event.

If you are on Facebook, you can read it here.

I am hosting a series of whisky tastings in Edinburgh every Monday from July 20th until the end of August (except the 10th).
Location: The Saint (a great new Stockbridge pub from the people behind Bramble Bar)
Street: 44 St Stephen Street
City/Town: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Those dates then:

  • 20th July – Beginners
  • 27th July – Beginners
  • 3rd Aug – Specialist (some rarities!)
  • 17th Aug – Beginners
  • 24th Aug – Beginners
  • 31st August – Beginners
  • Why would you do such a thing?
    I went to university with James Bowthorpe, who is cycling around the world. See more at http://www.globecycle.org/ or find out exactly http://whereintheworldisjames.com He is not doing this to break a record (but GO JAMES GO!) but to raise money 1.8 million for Parkinson’s Research. He’s a third of the way round the world but what with cycling 120 miles a day he’s not finding the time to
    fundraise (I know, it’s just plain lazy) and is some way off his target. I felt it was the least I could do, given that he’s gone all heroic on us.

    What’s a whisky tasting?
    Each night will have 5 delicious whiskies and probably the odd bonus thrown in here and there.

    I chat, explain each dram and tell hopefully funny anecdotes. It’s pitched to the interested beginner drinker so you need not know anything about whisky (that’s the point). It will be informal, relaxed and entertaining.

    Who the hell do you think you are?
    I am web and whisky manager for http://www.royalmilewhiskies.com, a respected Edinburgh retailer. Before that I bought whisky for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, and have also written the odd article here and there. Although tasting presentations are not part of my job I’ve had fun presenting my favourite drink in places as diverse as Glastonbury Festival, The Guardian newspaper and The Tinners Arms (my Dad’s Cornish pub). I have no loyalty or commercial connection to a whisky brand, which means I can say what I like (no marketing guff tonight thanks!)

    …Sign me up! How do I attend?
    It’s £20 a ticket and we have capacity for 25 people. If you’re interested click ‘Maybe Attending’ or ‘I am attending’ and I’ll get in touch a little nearer the time to explain how you pay for entry by a direct donation to the charity. The specialist tasting will feature rarer and more expensive whiskies so will be a little more expensive.

    I am using my own whisky collection as the initial pouring stock but am hoping that the industry and other whisky fans might be kind enough to contribute the odd bottle so I don’t give away my entire pension plan. I will if I have to though.

    For the sake of clarity, I am paying all my other expenses myself.

    - Why should the industry contribute?
    I know, us whisky workers are endlessly approached for bottles for charity events. That’s why I’m not directly hassling contacts I know well and hoping kind industry people will come to me. That’s Plan A anyway, don’t make me come get you.

    - Why should whisky collectors contribute?
    Michael Jackson was the foremost beer and whisky writer of his generation but sadly died in 2007 of Parkinsons Disease (any malt fan knows this). With his enthusiasm and talent he did as much as anyone to turn whisky into the valued commodity it is today. Collectors and drinkers who were inspired by MJ to hoard a few single malts have a lot to thank him for. You could go the hassle selling all your bottles on ebay and make a buck or two, or you could send me a bottle and I will attempt to make other people fall in love with malt. More expensive/rare bottles will be used in a rarities tasting to maximise the amount of money we can raise. MJ was an exceptionally kind person.

    If you’re interested in donating please e-mail me on bumpmotley@gmail.com

    Glenglassaugh to release bottled new make spirit

    I’ll let you know what I think once I get a chance to sample some.

    The Glenglassaugh Distillery Company announces the release of their first entirely new product since re-opening the distillery in December 2008.

    A Limited Release of 8,160 individually numbered 50cl bottles of new make spirit are available under the title “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name™”.

    As Managing Director Stuart Nickerson explains:
    “8,160 bottles is the entire output from a single mash. We felt it was an interesting concept to turn normal practice on its head and, for the new spirit, release a single
    mash rather than a single cask. We’re excited by the result and we think this is a world first, offering the connoisseur and enthusiast a different insight into distilling
    practice and flavour development.”

    As required by EU legislation, the product is described as a Spirit Drink and, in deference to the law applying to Scotch Whisky, does not carry the Glenglassaugh name in the branding. Instead, the “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name™” is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the restrictions applying to the new make spirit that, after three years, can carry the distillery’s name and the descriptor ‘whisky’.

    “We believe “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name™” offers something new to the market,” says Nickerson “and we are delighted to release this expression in
    acknowledgement of the interest aroused by Glenglassaugh’s re-opening.”

    “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name™” will be available internationally from leading specialists at a RRP of £30 for a Limited Release of 8,160 50 cl bottles at 50% abv.

    NYT WTF?

    And for your reading pleasure, might I give you the stupidest analogy I’ve seen in quite some time…

    Some Scotch drinkers like single malts, while others prefer a blend.

    Leaf-eating insects had been thought to prefer a blend as well. Their olfactory receptors respond to a mix of volatile chemicals released by a plant and the insect moves toward it, a behavior called chemotaxis. But a study in Current Biology reveals that silkworms, at least, are more like single-malt lovers.

    You COULD read the rest, but there’s no other mention of Scotch.

    A Dram Come True (Event)

    The Vancouver International Writers Festival presents the seventh annual A Dram Come TrueSingle Malt Scotch Whisky Sampling

    Enjoy the superb, complex flavours of a variety of rare and distinguished single malts. Rare malts and other select items will be available at auction. Scotch experts will be on hand to enhance the experience.

    2009 Scotch tasting menu. (100kb PDF)

    Friday, June 5, 2009
    7:30pm – 10:00pm

    Vancouver – Location will be provided upon ticket purchase

    Tickets: $75

    To purchase tickets, please call 604.681.6330 or go to the site to order tickets.

    Proceeds benefit the Vancouver International Writers Festival. A tax receipt for a portion of the ticket price will be issued.

    Twitter, Anyone?

    If you like, feel free to follow me on Twitter where I talk about alcohol of all stripes.
    You can also follow CocktailGroove a mash up of some cocktail & mixology writers/bloggers and bartenders to get a steady diet of alcohol related knowledge.


    Cold as Ice

    This past weekend’s Wall Street Journal brought another installment in the age old question…Should I or shouldn’t I add ice to my Scotch?

    The story, by Eric Felten in his regular How’s Your Drink column, is entitled A Chill to Scotch Purists’ Hearts and includes a quote from yours truly:

    Mr. Paterson is hardly the only whisky purist to rail against the pernicious effects of ice in Scotch. Kevin Erskine, who writes about whisky at TheScotchBlog.com, says that when drinking Scotch neat “I may add varying amounts of water depending on the whisky, the weather and my mood — but never an ice cube.

    As anyone who regularly gets asked for quotes can tell you…that is NOT exactly what I said…It’s NOT a misquote, but I think he left the important part out.

    This is the full quote…

    Personally I never drink straight whisky of any sort on the rocks. (And by straight I am talking about without a mixer – not the American
    ATF designation of straight). When I drink it neat I may add varying amounts of water depending on the whisky, the weather and my mood – but never an ice cube.

    I will drink whisky mixed in cocktails – and for those cocktails that call for ice, I happily accept it. But I never drink it “straight” on the rocks. I’m not against anyone doing it – I just don’t see the point.

    I only want to clarify, as the edited version gives me the air of Scotch Snobbery – something that I rail against frequently.

    Eric goes on to explain why “purist” are ag’in it.:

    The purists’ complaint is that whereas a small splash of spring water seems to open up a whisky, releasing its full bouquet and flavor, ice tends to do the opposite. The tongue is anesthetized by the cold, and the whisky itself acquires a smoothness that glosses over the deeper complexities of the dram.

    This is my position – and it is not some silly machismo “Real Men Drink Whisky Straight” – it’s a practicality. As I have said many times…when “tasting” whisky (as opposed to “drinking”) – you want ALL the flavour to come through…and ice WILL dull flavours.

    There’s a REASON martinis are served ice cold – a glass of Gin (or Vodka) at room temperature is generally not the most pleasant thing…Whisky, on the other hand IS (or should be) delightful when tasted at room temperature.

    Bad beers taste better cold, because flavours are muted…but great beers are generally consumed a little warmer – to allow you to get every nuance.

    Such it is with whisky. But more so, I simply don’t want a glass of whisky-flavoured water.

    BUT sometimes…you want a cold drink…what to do? I have 2 solutions.

    1. Keep your bottle of whisky in the freezer. Cold without the dilution. QED.

    2. But perhaps a more interesting way is to use “Whisky Stones” from an American company called Teroforma.

    What the hell are Whisky Stones?

    They are small, square soapstone cubes meant to be stored in your freezer and added to your Whisky when you are in the mood for something cold.

    I first stumbled across the Stones on one of my favourite places to shop ThinkGeek…a catalog that sells crap for geeks..uh, like me.

    The stones are nonporous, and will impart neither flavor nor odor. More gentle than ice, Whisky Stones can be used to cool down your favorite spirits just enough to take the edge off without “closing down” the flavors.

    Designed by Andrew Hellman – as Teroforma’s co-founder, Andrew is not above taking credit for designing a stone cube…

    It was his idea that we transplant an age-old concept from Scandinavia, where they have been making and using whisky stones for years, and have it made in the US, taking advantage of locally sourced materials and local craftsmanship.

    Over 150 years ago, a Vermont farmer unearthed a sizable chunk of soapstone while tilling his field. Noticing the unique flexibility and thermal properties of the material, Vermont Soapstone was born. Still mined and milled locally under the watchful eye of owner Glenn Bowman, Vermont Soapstone was the perfect choice to make our whisky stones.

    Chill them in the freezer for 4 or more hours and toss them into your whiskey instead of ice. They cool things down just a touch without daring to come between you and the dram of your dreams. Simply rinse after use and store in the freezer.

    I tried them (in a nice glass of Maker’s Mark) and while they don’t transfer the cold as quickly as ice cubes would do, nor do they drop the temperature as much – they do work as advertised. And they look interesting sitting in a glass.

    Cool. But not wet.

    Available on the Teroforma web site they currently sell for $15 for a set of 8 until June 1.
    After June 1 you’ll get 9 for $20.

    I suggest you finally get your dad something he wants for Father’s Day.

    Diageo DOES Comment

    Diageo was kind enough to send this to me

    Dear Kevin,

    You might be interested to read Diageo’s response to the article published yesterday in the Scotsman which is referred to in your blog. The response came from Ken Robertson, Corporate Relations Director, Diageo Whisky and has been published today’s edition. Please see below

    Isabelle Thomas

    I would like to respond to the alarming misrepresentation in Thursday’s “Scotsman” newspaper of Diageo’s sponsorship of “The Gathering.”

    “The Gathering” is a commercial undertaking that required money from commercial sponsors to make the event happen.
    We believe approaches were made to a number of Scotch Whisky producers including Diageo.
    After some negotiation, Diageo agreed to sponsor the event on terms that are absolutely standard for any commercial sponsorship – exclusivity for Diageo whisky brands being a core part of the agreement as it would be in any brand sponsorship of any event.

    In fact, we did make a significant concession by including one of Scotland’s leading independent retailers who will have many non-Diageo Scotch Whisky brands for sample and purchase in the area set aside for Diageo brands and by allowing other whisky brands to take advertising space in the event publications.

    When we entered this sponsorship we were not aware of the plans for a Scottish Produce Market festival associated with “The Gathering.”

    This came as a surprise to us and we can understand the views of other producers who feel they have been denied access. Scotland’s whisky industry has a rich diversity of brands and cultures and these deserve to be celebrated – indeed as part of “Homecoming” they are being rightly celebrated in Scotch Whisky Festivals across the country this month. Festivals to which Diageo has also made a significant contribution working effectively in partnership with other whisky producers of all sizes.

    We believe that the organisers of “The Gathering” have done an excellent job in staging and presenting this event and we also believe that Diageo has responded positively with much needed sponsorship funding, without which this flagship event may well have foundered.

    Diageo and its predecessors in Scotland have a long record of positive investment in Arts and Culture in Scotland from major sponsorships of The Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Scottish Ballet and the new Museum of Scotland to support for Scottish traditional music through initiatives such as “The Nineties Collection.”

    Diageo is the single largest industry supporter of “The Homecoming” and just this month unveiled in Edinburgh the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky bottles and memorabilia, bought by Diageo from a Brazilian collector and brought back to Scotland as part of our commitment to Homecoming.

    Anyone visiting the Diageo Claive Vadiz Collection in the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh will notice that it contains Scotch Whisky brands from producers across the industry. In short is inclusive and representative of the industry. This is the way Diageo works. The impression given by The Scotsman does not reflect the value we believe we bring to Scottish life and culture.

    "No-one at Diageo was available to comment last night."

    This is not very cool.

    Homecoming bosses slap ban on whisky to keep major sponsor sweet
    Published Date: 14 May 2009
    THE centrepiece event of Scotland’s Homecoming celebrations is under fire after being forced to ban whisky products from its food and drink showcase. Independent producers and distilleries have been frozen out of The Gathering, being held in Edinburgh in July, despite organisers promising to promote small companies and home-grown products.

    But a sponsorship deal with the world’s biggest whisky company, Diageo, which is running its own showcase tent for its products, has led to the ban.

    One whisky producer which had signed a deal to take space at the event has condemned the move as “a complete nonsense”.

    It has also been described as “unfortunate” by the leading industry body Scotland Food and Drink, which is helping to organise the Scottish Produce Market. Officials insisted it was unprecedented for whisky to be banned from such an event.

    Read the full story at the Scotsman

    Abhainn Dearg

    I get a lot of Press Releases and random eMail…and as you’ve noticed, I haven’t been so good with the postings lately.
    I’ve been writing a new cocktail guide for a vodka company – but mostly I’ve been busy doing all sorts of other things.
    But the occasional email sparks my interest.

    Like one I received from Abhainn Dearg distillery today:

    Hi Kevin,

    Found your website and thought you might be interested in www.abhainndearg.co.uk the first legal distillery from the Outer Hebrides in almost 170 years.

    This is a tiny distillery and we are trying our best to promote it to the World, maybe you could help by posting the URL. If anyone would like an adventure to see us on the Isle of Lewis, they would be welcome!

    Kind regards,

    You know what I really like? getting an email from someone at a distillery and not some fancy PR firm (apologies to my friends at fancy PR firms).

    It has been nearly one hundred and seventy years since the last legal bottle of whisky was produced in the Outer Hebrides. Now a new era and a true Outer Hebridean Whisky has arrived, we think once you have sampled it, you will agree it’s been worth the wait, but it’s not quite ready yet! In May we will unveil the first of our range, just keep an eye on this website for further information, or register your interest via our enquiry form.

    Abhainn Dearg is a new distillery we don’t have any of the history, or grand old buildings associated with the famous named brands, you won’t find a visitor centre or shop here, you might have a hard time just finding us, but if you do visit, you wont’ be disappointed. We are the most westerly distillery in Scotland, based in Uig on the Outer Hebridean Island of Lewis and although we’re remote you can travel here in just a few hours from London.

    Although it’s been a long time since whisky was legally produced on our shores, our history in making whisky was recorded as early as the 1600’s, the last legal distillery in Stornoway (Shoeburn Distillery) closed down around 1840, but distilling didn’t stop, let’s just say it went back to its roots.

    Old traditions die hard in the islands and that’s what you will find here at Abhainn Dearg. Whisky distilled in the traditional fashion using copper and wood and eventually home grown organic barley. Other ingredients are passion and commitment, old fashioned values of producing the finest whisky we can, not just for commerce, but for the love of distilling and taking a pride in what we do, for those who came before and our children who will hopefully carry it on for future generations.

    Check out their site while you wait for the stuff to mature.

    Islay Special Edition Press Release

    To celebrate this year’s Islay Festival of Malt & Music on 23-30 May, Diageo has announced that it is issuing two special Festival editions of its Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskies. These very limited editions will be available only to personal shoppers, with a limit of one bottle per person. The natural cask-strength bottlings are: the first-ever single cask bottling of Caol Ila™ by the Distillers, in an edition of just 654 bottles; and a 14 year old expression of Lagavulin™ in a release of 660 bottles.
    Full details here