Hello, one and all and welcome along to the slightly delayed 31st edition of the Dràm Mòr newsletter. To say that March was a wee bit on the busy side doesn’t even come close, but I will try and cover all the most relevant comings and goings of the month as I take you on a journey through March of 2023.
We were delighted to be able to venture into the world of Armagnac last month with two bottlings being released in April as part of our Spring Release 2023. This has been made possible by working closely with the wonderful people from Bordeneuve Châteaux & Collections, who have been brilliant in sourcing two varieties of Armagnac from their collection. We have managed to release the delicious 10 year old Sigognac @40% and the enchantingly elegant Bourdeneuve 17 year old @49.2%. I was lucky enough to have these bottles to play with early in the month at a festival in Belgium, but they should also be available in the Netherlands now as well. There is a down side to this, however, as these bottles (as things stand) are only available in our European markets due the restrictions of Brexit have made the import of these bottles from their bottling hall in the South West of France far to difficult and would make the shelve price of these bottles much to expensive to warrant there import. Oh, how well things worked before the stupidity of Brexit! Continuing on that thread, an apology to all of you watching and waiting on our Spring Release that should have been out at the beginning of March. Unfortunately, this has been delayed due to our printers not being able to access the type of paper that we need for our labels again due to bureaucratic nonsense and red tape. Good news (at last, I hear you say) is that things look to be back on track and we hope to be bringing you new drams to enjoy very soon!
Ok, where do I start! March has been the busiest 4 week stretch that I have had since starting in the whisky industry over a decade ago with a whopping ten flights for me and four for Viktorija and what has been a whirlwind month, so lets see what we were up to and where we ended up…
First up for me in March was a ‘home fixture’ and an opportunity to spend an evening with my pal Gillian Kirkland and 40 members of the Piper Whisky Club. Now it is a long time since I helped Gillian get this club up and running and since then they have grown and flourished, so it was a real privilege to be invited back to to run a Dràm Mòr tasting on the evening of Tuesday the 7th of March. We looked at our new blended malt Dumbarton Rock along with five of our single cask, cask strength drams. It was one of these nights where we had no over all winner with votes across the board which is my favourite type of result. A massive thanks to Gillian and all of the club. I am already looking forward to my next visit folks!
Next up and it’s my first ‘trains, planes and automobiles’ trips of the month and it was a quick jump over to Schiphol to board a train to Antwerp in Belgium where the adventure would being. First up on this trip was to a great custom of ours in the town of Helchteren and the Tensu Spirits Boutique and the man with a great vision, Mr Wim Vanoevelen. Now I have been lucky enough to run on line tastings for Wim and his customers in the past but nothing could prepare me for my first visit to the Tensu Bar in person. it is important to remember that the bar is very much advertised as a Speak Easy so you are already getting the hint that this ain’t going to be your run of the mill whisky bar. With an incredible selection of drams in the comfiest of surroundings the Tensu Bar can be found in Wim’s basement! Yes, you read that correctly, underneath his own family home! I really couldn’t ( and still can’t) get my head around how fantastic this wee bar is with an incredibly professional set up. One of my favourite bar visits that I have ever had and there is some stiff competition there folks. Love what you have created, Wim, and please keep up the good work mate.
From the hidden gem of Tensu Bar we were off to the town of Lommel and the boutique store of Prima Vinum who have been another great custom and supporter of Dràm Mòr since we started. A massive thanks to Peter Van Dijck and his team for looking after me so well and putting on a really enjoyable night with a thumping seven dram tasting.There was a winner on the night and that was the wonderful Ruadh Maor (peated Glenturret) which had been gently finished in a Portuguese red wine barrique. This dram is so good that even Glenturret distillery have bought this as well as it sister cask finished in white port to serve behind the bar in their Michelin Star awarded restaurant. Again, many thanks to all of those who came along and left clutching their favourites on the night as we were able to sell directly to folk on the night. Delighted to say we were a sell out! So it was off to bed for a good nights kip before our star distributor the Whisky Mercenary and I set off to St.Nicholas and their annual wine festival which for the first time ever were running a spirits section. It was here in St.Nicholas that I finally came face to face with our Armagnac bottles as well as a great range of our classic single cask drams and a few rums to boot. I have to say that for a first time out we were really well received and even picked up a new client. A great big thanks to the lads and lassies of who were in charge of putting the spirits section together.
Home for a wee while but not too long and it was back to Schiphol airport but strangely this is where my journey this time would stop but what a stop. I was lucky enough to have been invited as a guest speaker at a spirits symposium held in Europes number one airport hotel, the Schiphol Hilton. Now Vick and I have been fortunate enough to have stayed here before so when I was invited to come over and stay with them, all expenses paid. Well who am I to say no to such an offer. What a wonderful night we had and it’s a massive thanks to Andrea and all the team for such wonderful hospitality. After a few days of superb luxury it was a quick flight home but only for a few hours as next morning it was into the car and up to Scotlands North East for a tasting with the Inverurie Whisky Shop. This was a hybrid night with 17 folk in person and another 5 online which I was delighted to have as the wee mobile camera that followed movement captured the best over the shoulder cork throw I will ever execute with me landing said cork in the smallest water jug possible. I was very chuffed with myself! A great big thanks to Mike for looking after me so well as well as Kat for helping on the night. Great meeting both of you in person. So it was back down the road and a night off! (Don’t tell Viktorija!).
Now fully refreshed and ready to roll it was off to a home from home and the very familiar surroundings of The Pot Still to have a wee night with the lovely ladies of The Pot Still Girls. Ladies, I had a ball that night and you all were so kind about our drams and were so welcoming so many, many thanks and I hope that we can do it all again sooner rather than later. Big thanks to Geraldine for making this one happen. Cheers pal. So a day to recover then off we go again but this time it really was ‘we’. Over the years the popularity of whisky festivals has increased and increased as you will all know but that means that there just aren’t enough weekends in the year so that of course means clashes of big festivals. This year we saw the two important festivals of The Village in Nuremberg and The Groningen Festival run over the same three days so for the first time Viktorija had to go one way and me another. I had the pleasure of revisiting the city of Groningen in the North East of The Netherlands and it was so good to see some old friends again as well as make some new ones. I was joined on the Sunday by a very keen young lad Robin Boekholt who I had invited along to sample working at a whisky festival for the first time.Happy to say he did very well and it was a pleasure to take him under my wing that day. Poor Viktorija, after having a great festival fell foul of the German day of national strike action and had to extend her stay which means I had the joy of a couple of hours of her company before I was off on the last leg of my marathon March and Switzerland was the destination this time and the breathtaking surroundings of Luzern. If you are ever thinking of somewhere for a long weekend this place is jaw droppingly stunning. Just take a big wallet (it ain’t the cheapest). Whiskyschiff Luzern staged over three days followed albeit with a small break on the Friday where I only managed two hours due to some lovely food poisoning but with 87 bottles sold straight from the stand and even more ordered from The Smugglers store in town I can happily say that this show was a resounding success. Thank you so much to Martin and Nika for not only organising things so well but for holding the fort in my absence.
So after all that I could face my last two flights home and put the suitcase away for a few weeks.
All of that a was just a wee bit too much for one month especially with the new metal plate just going into my wrist a few weeks earlier. Still, I loved every visit and look forward to seeing all of you again but I might spread it out a bit better next time. Phew! So, moving on……
A few nice reviews coming in through the last four weeks and a big thanks to all of you that took the time to not only look at our drams but were kind enough to let everyone know your feelings. First up is my old pal Piotr Stachura in one of my favourite countries to work, Poland. Piotr was kind enough to run the rule over our 27 year old Girvan single grain whisky. You all know that I am a massive fan of single grains and it is a joy when I read such kind words from someone who’s palate I trust and who is singing from the same hymn sheet as me. Next up and it’s over to another old favourite and someone who has become a good friend over the years Steve Tan, who had the difficult job of appraising our 9 year old Craigellachie. Many thanks Steve for your thoughts on what is a special dram for me as many of you know. The next two reviews comes from the professional pen of Mr Serge Valentin who over the years has become a great supporter of what we are trying to do here at Dràm Mòr although in his position writing for Whisky Fun. I know that ever word that he writes will be honest opinions so I always look forward to reading his thoughts. Serge had a look at both our Blended Malt Dumbarton Rock which he handed a brilliant 87 points as well as a look at a throw back bottling of the 24 year old Uitvlugt single cask rum which picked up a whopping 88 points.
A massive thanks to Piotr, Steve and Serge for for their kind words.
As always I like to finish off with a doff of the cap to all of you in keyboard land who do their bit, month in and month out helping to spread the word of all things Dràm Mòr and as always there have been far too many mansions for me to be able to mention each and every one of you so please accept my apologies if I have left you out. Firstly its a great big thanks to the Whisky Sleuth who was lucky enough to sit down with a bottle of our 15 year old Foursquare that was the Ukrainian charity release. So happy that you enjoyed it as much as we did. Next it’s an old pal Neill Murphy how was far too kind to this old man in his words following the Piper tasting. It was great having you on board for that one, mate. Over to a stockist of ours from the South coast of England and the wonderfully named Cut Your Wolf Loose who were happy to replace Brighton Rock with a bottle of Dumbarton Rock. Thanks guys.
It’s over to the Walking Dram next who wrapped their gums around the same Craigellachie that Steve has just reviewed for us. So happy it hit the spot my friend. Off to German for our next post and it’s a big hello to Hermann Sabel who is a good friend of our pals at Westwood Whisky from where he got his hands on our Blair Athol 10 year old. Just to let you know Hermann, a tasting one night in Westwood Whiskies is very much on my agenda, my friend! Not far to Austria for Hermann’s home and that is where we are going to Genuss Am Gammen who was happy to share his bottle of 10 year old Diamond single cask, cask strength rum with the world. Again, many thanks. It’s another old mate and this time in the shape of Master Brewer David Rogiers in Belgium who helped to spread the love of all things Dumbarton Rock. Speaking of old friends the next two are Paul Becker and Olaf Manns both of the aforementioned Westwood Whisky. It was the Blair Athol for Paul and the stunning 25 year old Tobermory for Olaf. Gentlemen, you have exquisite taste! And we will finish up this month with a big hearty thanks to a new Swiss friend who was kind enough to visit me at Luzern Whiskyschiff and got to sample some of the very last Tobermory 25 year olds. We had six bottles of this belter of a dram at the start of the show and in the space of half an hour we were sold out. Many thanks to the Zug Whisky Club for the support and I hope we can repeat the experience again soon.
So that was the month that was. As busy as they come but I loved (mostly) every minute. As Dràm Mòr grows these crazy months are only going to get busier but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks as always to each and every one of you out there for the continued support and as the better weather shows promise of some good times ahead keep up the good work, be good to each other and always raise a glass to those who can’t raise one to theirselves. Till the next time………