PODCAST: S3E1 – Cù Bòcan 2005 Vintage

Series 3. With the creation of this episode, This Is My Dram have surpassed timeless classics such as Fawlty Towers, The Office and Spaced – in staying power at least, if not in comedic value. Thank you to everyone who has listened, downloaded, got in touch on Twitter, swapped drams or just sipped along to the podcast. We owe each and every one you a massive round of drams!*

This episode also marks another watershed for the team.  Having followed proper song licencing procedures (a brief case of cash to an imposing man with a prominent facial scar in a dark alleyway, right?) the podcast can now include FULL TRACKS.

In this episode, Andy and Stu review Cù Bòcan 2005 Vintage and create a playlist of songs relating to “mythical creatures”. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Cù Bòcan is produced at Tomatin Distillery in the Scottish Highlands and takes its name from a ghostly black dog that has haunted the village for centuries. In researching this tale, Andy may have even had an encounter with the fearsome creature. Either that or he’s discovered the sound effects bank in the editing software…

(* Figuratively speaking, of course)

To find out what Andy and Stu have to say in full about Cù Bòcan 2005 Vintage, have a listen to the podcast:

Also available on iTunes, Stitcher and Acast.

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The beast is loose!
Andy and Stu were also joined again via FaceTime by Tomatin experts and “notorious peat fans”, Sorren (OCD Whisky) and Craig (Craig Watson) to talk us through the Cù Bòcan and a few other gems from the Tomatin range. Sorren and Craig identified how the light smoke marries perfectly with the trademark Tomatin tropical sweetness in the 2005 Vintage to create a memorable dram.

Stu also secured an interview with Tom from Tom Forest who talked about his musical influences, the themes in their upcoming album and searching for new drams on trips to Scotland. He was even good enough to indulge Stu’s interviewing style as it slowly descended from Jeremy Paxman to Jeremy Clarkson to Jeremy Beadle. You can find Tom Forest on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Spotify or even catch them live at Greenbelt Festival in August.

The tracks that feature on the podcast, in their glorious totality are:

Stu’s 1st selection: TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
Andy’s 1st selection: The Specials – Ghost Town
Stu’s 2nd selection: Tom Forest – Monster
Andy’s 2nd selection: The Black Dog – Sleep Deprivation

In terms of the playlist, Andy and Stu will continue to select a few other songs to go on Spotify, for the extra eager music fans.  For this playlist, Andy and Stu selected some suitably spooky tracks featuring ghosts, monsters, hounds and other assorted creatures. You can listen here:

 

This episode also saw the exciting introduction of the first ever This Is My Dram Competition, where we offered listeners the chance to win a selection of five drams from previous episodes; Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 , Nikka Pure Malt Black, Paul John Peated Select Cask, Nikka from the Barrel and Laphroaig Triple Wood. One lucky winner will be announced on the next episode of the podcast.

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A prize selection
Thanks very much as always to Sorren and Craig and also to Tom from Tom Forest for joining us on this episode. Please do like and subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to listen, get in touch with Andy and Stu on Twitter and follow the playlists on Spotify.

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BLOG: Scapa Skirren -Vs- Highland Park 12

– written by Andy

This pair of Orcadian whiskies almost deserve a geographic classification in their own right, nestled beneath Kirkwall on Orkney’s main island, 40 miles north of John O’Groats. Highland Park is the most northerly distillery in Scotland and receives consistent high praise for its all round character.  Just half a mile south lies Scapa, with its two stills and network of pipelines to keep its water free of peaty influence in pursuit of their unique honeyed flavour.

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Orkney is not a place where much changes in a hurry. In 1801, three years after a distillery was founded at the site where a notorious smuggler once lived in the “High Park”, Orkney’s population in the census return that year was within a mere few hundred people of the population returned in 2011. However, one thing that has changed in a whisky sense is the ready and affordable availability of Highland Park and Scapa expressions, once upon a time about as rare as an Orcadian traffic jam.

In this review, I will be comparing Scapa Skirren, a NAS expression added to the range in 2015 and the famous (no Grouse pun intended…) Highland Park 12 adorned in its new “Viking Honour” packaging, in celebration of the Norse history associated with the islands.

 

Scapa Skirren – c.£40

First up, I will avoid the ongoing lament that this recent Skirren bottling is no match for Scapa 16 on account of the fact that a. it’s not trying to be and b. despite some searching on my part for the 16, I haven’t managed to find a dram of the bloody stuff yet so we’ll have to leave it there. Finished in first fill American oak casks, Scapa Skirren is also produced in one of the only two Lomond stills currently in operation, alongside Bruichladdich since 2010.

Nose: Sweet and creamy. Fruit Salad sweets and apple juice

Palate: A little slow to fire then citrus and oak join the sweeter fruit notes

Finish: Could perhaps be accused of leaving quietly before the party has really gotten going. The oak lingers though.

OVERALL: Roughly as good as you’d expect for the price range. It has character and a unique flavour.

Dram-a-long song: Brian Eno – The Big Ship

Both produce unique, sweet tones. You get the sense that this whisky, like Eno, isn’t trying to please the masses but just following its nose in pursuit of “that sound”.

Highland Park 12 Viking Honour – c.£32

It could have been curtains before bedtime for this whisky as far back as the 1860s when the distillery was briefly owned by a local Priest who contemplated halting production, filled with religious concerns over making the wrong kind of holy spirit. Luckily, new owners in 1876 stepped up production without any undue fear for their mortal souls and today Highland Park now outsells Islay big-hitter Lagavulin. I’m not particularly won over by all this Norse myth-waving stuff but the new bottle design is very nice.

Nose: Peat and heather and the wild north breeze fly up your nostrils

Palate: So well rounded. Just about every whisky attribute you can imagine in good measure. The guys at Highland Park seem to have mistaken a tasting wheel for a checklist.

Finish: While some of complexity fades off, the sweetness and spice stick around for the handshakes. A little menthol creeps in too.

OVERALL: Splendid stuff. Not a superstar, perhaps, but a solid grafter that fully deserves its reputation.

Dram-a-long song: James Brown – The Boss

The hardest working man in showbusiness for the hardest working dram in the whisky business.

Verdict: I like the Scapa, it’s a unique and tasty malt but the Highland Park edges it for complexity and flavour.  Furthermore, Highland Park’s popularity and availability often sees it sail of the shelves in supermarkets and online stores for little more than the price of a cheap blend so you can’t really go wrong with this one.

What do you think? Is the Scapa more of a scrapper than I give it credit for? Is Highland Park the best value Scotch malt out there or do you know of something better? Get in touch on Twitter and let us know. Don’t forget to download our podcasts on whatever device and platform you use and look out for some exciting new features in Series 3 – coming soon!

PODCAST: S2E6 – Oban Distiller’s Edition

We’ve all been there. Maybe you were cooking up a world-class menu in the kitchen, or applying the finishing touches to a watercolour masterpiece. Perhaps you were agonising over the paintwork design on that vintage motorbike you restored or sanding another surface layer off that handmade pinewood table. At some point we’ve all turned our hand to a craft and sooner or later, we have to ask ourselves the inevitable question – is it finished now? Will another twist here, a dab there or a sprig of that turn something good into something great?

This is principally the dilemma which Andy and Stu grapple with in this episode of the podcast. Firstly, with a look at the Distiller’s Edition release from Oban Distillery, one of Diageo’s Classic Malts of Scotland range treated to an extended curtain call in a Montilla Finowine cask. The second, more personal dilemma, was whether or not to attempt the counterintuitive, some might say sacrilegious combination of Lagavulin 16 and Coca Cola, as recommended in The Whisky Manual by eminent whisky writer, Dave Broom.

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Spin the bottle?

First, The Oban. Diageo’s maturation expert, Jim Beveridge explained the philosophy behind the Distillers Edition range to Gavin Smith at Whisky Pages back in 2006.

“The critical thing is the flavour of the Classic Malts. We must remain true to their core character. For example, you always recognise Distillers Edition Oban as Oban. It still has the classic Oban flavour. This is the main driver behind the choice of casks we use, and each whisky has an optimum time to be in the secondary cask. 

We use a full-bodied Pedro Ximinez sherry cask for Lagavulin, but there’s no way you’d want to use that for Oban, for example. It’s not about the discernible sherry but about the overall impact. We use more powerful sherries for more powerful whiskies such as Lagavulin and Talisker. It’s about matching the flavours in the sherry to the whisky. The Distillers Editions win lots of prizes, so we do seem to be getting it right!”

To find out what Andy and Stu have to say in full about Oban Distiller’s Edition, Lagavulin & Coke and much more, have a listen to the podcast:

Also available on iTunes, Stitcher and Acast.

For the playlist Andy and Stu selected tracks from a range of “limited edition” records, albums where a little something extra has been added to the basic product, whether its a new mix, some gimmicky packaging or a restricted print run. The selections include songs that were re-worked to appease an angry internet, intimate live versions, songs that were also computer games and songs that were blasted into space.  You can listen to the playlist here:

Also on the podcast, an exclusive taste test of iheartwhisky‘s magnificent Caol Ila fudge. We also subjected ourselves to a challenging “blind” Relegation Zone dram sent to us with kind generosity by No Nonsense Whisky.

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Caol Ila fudge by iheartwhisky

Thanks very much to Sarah (@iheartwhisky) for producing such excellent whisky fudge and Vin (@NNWhisky) for supplying the Relegation Zone dram. Please do like and subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to listen, get in touch with Andy and Stu on Twitter and follow the playlists on Spotify.

BLOG: Glenfiddich 18 -Vs- Tomatin 18

– Written by Andy

Like all battles, this one begins under dubious and tenuous circumstances. Glenfiddich, a Speyside heavy hitter and Tomatin, a quiet Highlander, perhaps seem to have little in common at first glance. They both, in fact, share almost exactly the same latitude in Scotland, sandwiched between the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth, although Tomatin actually lies just outside the Speyside region. Both were formally established as distilleries a few years apart in the late 19th Century although Glenfiddich’s malt production boomed in the years following American Prohibition while Tomatin saw the majority of its single malt go into blends like Antiquary and Talisman until quite recently.

To resort to a clumsy metaphor, the Glenfiddich brand could be seen as a seasoned movie star to Tomatin’s acclaimed supporting character actor. Glenfiddich whisky has in fact found its way on screen in various scenarios such as Inspector Morse, Family Guy and The Vicar of Dibley and is even a royal favourite of Prince Harry. Tomatin on the other hand, has never been one for the limelight, given the site may have been host to an illegal distillery site as early as the 15th Century.

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Ready to fight – dram to dram
By selecting 18 year old expressions from each distillery for this tasting, I’ve nominated them both in the same category and only one will be awarded victorious and have to cobble together an incoherent speech of thanks at the podium…

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old (40% ABV, c.£70)

Starting with the Glenfiddich, this 18 year old expression has been matured in bourbon and Oloroso casks.  The distillery tells me to expect consistency and character on their website, and even offers an option to personalise the bottle – presumably in case you forget who you bought it for?

Nose: Quite slow at first, then fruit and dark chocolate in abundance

Palate: Building spice gives way to sweeter fruitiness and rich, dry Sherry

Finish: A little more spice – and toffee apples!

OVERALL: A fine dram. Gets better with every sip and delivers more or less all the richness and complexity you’d want from a sherried Speyside.

Dram-a-long Song: Frank Sinatra – One For My Baby (And One More For The Road

– Showy, sophisticated and instantly recognisable…

Tomatin 18 Year Old (46% ABV, c.£75)

Same age statement. Same Oloroso cask finish. They even share roughly the same rich, dark golden colour. That may be where the similarities end…if you want to personalise this bottle you’ll need to buy a gift label.

Nose: A lot more present, the fruity notes are accompanied by a number of sweet spices yanked right out of Christmas and into the glass

Palate: Wow. Buttered toast, boiled sweets, honey mead, cinnamon…there’s plenty to chew on here.

Finish: The spice lingers longest, leaving me missing that initial wave of flavours

OVERALL: So much depth and kick it could score in the top corner from the half-way line. I know this distillery is one of Craig Watson‘s favourites and I can see why.

Dram-a-long Song: Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

– Complex, powerful, lets the quality do the talking…

The Verdict

It’s a well-deserved win for the Tomatin 18 Year Old. In terms of a mid-range, sherried single malt it superbly presented and balanced and actually very good value considering what you get for your money.

Do you have a favourite of these two whiskies or a dram-a-long song suggestion? Get in touch on Twitter.

PODCAST: S2E4 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blend #1 35 Year

In a market that is crowded with unique characters and eye-catching bottlings, That Boutique-y Whisky Company‘s range still manages to stand out with rare and old sources and illustrated labels by artist, Emily Chappell.  Andy and Stu have obtained quite a few Boutique-y expressions to try in recent months but for this podcast, they zeroed in on Blended Whisky #1 35 Year.

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Andy and Stu both agreed this whisky had perhaps the finest nose they had ever encountered, an intriguing and complex palette and an agreeable finish, like dinner guests who realise on their own when it’s time retrieve their coats and call a cab.  To find out what they thought of the whisky in full – and how pretentiously they put those thoughts into words – have a listen to the podcast:

 

Also available on Stitcher and Acast.

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The podcast also features some exclusive, on location and mostly uninterrupted footage from The Whisky Lounge‘s Newcastle Whisky Festival 2017, where the team were joined by avid whisky fan and all-round good company, Sean and tried a dozen or so whiskies between them, some of which will feature in future episodes.

We were delighted to have some input into this episode from Dave WorthingtonEvents & Marketing Ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company, who told us about his busy time at the festival.

“I hardly had a moment to spare throughout the show, I was on my own for all three sessions, so wasn’t able to have a run around the exhibitors looking for a highlight dram. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of Whisky Discoveries before and during the interval; a rather tasty Irish Whiskey from The Dublin Liberties with their 10 Year Old Copper Alley, the latest Talisker Distillers Edition, The Spey 18 Year Old, and starting the day with Springbank Local Barley 16 Year Old is the breakfast of champions.”

For the playlist, in honour of the Boutique-y bottle labels a challenge of “songs from albums with great artwork” was laid down. Another broad and wide-ranging theme delivered some of the best of punk, jazz, electronica and two guitar classics from guest Sean (Santana – Samba Pa Ti) and Boutique-y Dave (Led Zepellin – Kashmir). See the wonderful artworks above, and listen to the playlist here:

 

Also on the podcast, a brand new Jingle Wars and the scores on the doors for the Boutique-y Blend on The Dramier League Table. Vote for your favourite jingle in JINGLE WARS here:

Our conversation with Dave from That Boutique-y Whisky Company continues…

TIMD: Which is your favourite whisky of the ones TBWC have released?
Dave: Another difficult question! There’s a whisky for every situation and time of the day, so at any one time, my favourite will change! We’ve had some cracking releases from Ben Nevis last year, Batch 3, 4 and 5 were all diamonds in my book with Batch 5 topping this list for me. The single grain releases have been great too, Girvan, Carsebridge, Cambus, North British and of course some gorgeous Invergordons. My current favourites are the Macduff 11 Year Old and the Glentauchers 17, they were hugely popular at Newcastle too.

TIMD: And which is your favourite bottle label?
Dave: The labels are ace aren’t they? Emily Chappell does an incredible job of deciphering the often cryptic design briefs we send her! The Dailuaine label amuses me the most, good sulphur/bad sulphur molecules turned into teddy bears! Oh and just what is going on with the zombie apocalypse on the Auchroisk label?

TIMD: You mentioned at the festival that there may be some new blends on the way from TBWC… can you tell us any more?
Dave: Yes, we’ve got lots of new stuff going on back at HQ, lots of exciting new things. All of our blended whiskies are small batches, so of course there’ll be new batches required to replace the dwindling stocks of the current releases. There’ll be a few new labels to look out for too.

TIMD: Also, we’ve noticed you branching out into other countries recently (Irish, Indian, Bourbon…)  Are there any plans to expand your range to include any others soon? Maybe Japanese *Stu crosses fingers*?
Dave: We’re always looking for opportunities to bottle exciting whisky, wherever it is made, and we’re working hard trying to find it! Keep those fingers well and truly crossed, and perhaps one day, your dreams will come true!

PODCAST: S2E3 – Benromach 100 Proof

So it’s taken the This Is My Dram team until half way through the second series (that’s over 9 hours of edited audio out there already, folks) to finally get round to reviewing a single malt from Scotland’s most famous and populous distillery region – Speyside. IMG_9199.JPGHey, they’re independently minded guys, just like the company behind this episode’s dram, Gordon & MacPhail. Founded in 1895 by James Gordon and John Alexander MacPhail with a shop located on South Street, Elgin the firm began to specialise in bottling single malts in the early 20th Century, and in an age when few distilleries were bottling singles, may have held the largest range in of single malt whiskies in the world in the post-war years. After almost a hundred years of bottling, the company bought Benromach Distillery in 1993 which opened in 1998. As fans of both whisky and music, Andy and Stu couldn’t resist a nice indie label…

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The cask strength whisky is 57% ABV (100 Proof in old money) and impressed Andy and Stu with its rich, sweet nose, spiced fruit palette and oaky, smoky finish. A drop of water revealed another layer of complexity. To find out what they thought of Benromach 100 Proof in full, have a listen to the podcast:

For the playlist, the team gave themselves the seemingly narrow parameters of UK independent record labels before realising, to quote Stu, “practically all the music I own was released by UK independent record labels.” As a result, Andy and Stu were essentially free to select some of their favourite tracks in general, adding to the thoroughly pleasant experience of drinking the Benromach. Music released on Rough Trade, Creation, Mute, XL, 4AD and Ninja Tune sprung forth from the tasting room speakers. Listen to the playlist here:

Also on the podcast, the exciting conclusion of the battle for Dramier League Table jingle in Jingle Wars, as well as the new feature The Relegation Zone. The idea for this feature came about when Andy and Stu realised they hadn’t reviewed a whisky they hadn’t rated so far and this was skewing the table towards a narrow field of high achievers.

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To give a bit more context to the title contenders, the pair resolved to tackle a truly disagreeable dram and it’s fair to say their reaction provides a little more than just context…

PODCAST: S2E1 – Lagavulin 16

What a way to start the second series of the podcast: being blown away by a smokey peat train as we sat down to enjoy a generous dram of Lagavulin 16. Andy & Stu spend the podcast delving beneath the deep layer of peatiness, to uncover the other tastes and smells that gradually reveal themselves as the peat subsides in this complex and interesting dram. To find out what they concluded, have a listen to the podcast itself:

 

So what about a musical accompaniment to this peat train? The lads picked the (rather tenuous) theme of “famous Petes and Peters” for the playlist, to link to the “peat” in the whisky. This led to song titles containing Pete (Boards of Canada, Nils Frahm), artists called Pete (Peter Gabriel, Pete Seeger and Oscar Peterson … no Peter Andre though, sorry!) and bands containing Petes (The Who and the original line up of the Beatles). The latter brought about a discussion about Ringo vs Pete Best… one for the music geeks out there! Here the playlist here:

 

Also on the podcast, we have the exciting conclusion of our first ever jingle wars to decide what should be the jingle for our regular “science bit” feature, as well as hearing the efforts of Andy and Stu for the jingle wars  feature itself. A jingle for jingle wars in the jingle wars part of the podcast, which doesn’t have a jingle yet… yes, we’re confused too!

Here are the two jingles which you can also hear on the podcast:

Don’t forget to vote for your fave! Thanks blog readers and podcast listeners – you’re proper mint, man!