I know this is not your usual but …

Those words were spoken by my favorite aunt, whom I call “Doodle Mama”, as she handed me a Christmas present whilst I was visit my mother. Unwrapping it revealed a bottle of McClelland’s Islay. You know what makes a gift priceless is the giver, and there will always be a fond memory associated with that whisky, so I shall retain the bottle. For those who care, I was told by a friend who would know that the whisky is a Bowmore. Until next year, Slàinte !!!

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What’s in the “welly”?

I’ve wanted to blog about whisky-bearing-wellies for quite some time, and recently was impelled to do so.

A few weeks ago Jacqueline (my wife) and I attended an event, titled Spirits Confidential
at the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford, NH. There were representatives from distillers of tequila, vodka, whisk(e)y, and liqueurs including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club, and one of our favorites, Laphroaig. It goes without saying that one of the reasons to attend was knowing our friend Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Beam Global/Laphroaig would be attending.

Maker’s Mark dipping glasses, as they do the product.

We arrived early enough for myself to be encouraged, by Simon, to take some pictures of the assembled representatives outside of the Inn, before the official start of the event. I recognized two people, Kirsten Ininger and Matt Marshall, from a previous event at Demer’s Steak house in Portsmouth, NH and during the course of the evening I met and chatted with Natalie Banks as well.

25 YO The Welly Treasure; found !

After the photo opp we spent a few minutes walking around outside while waiting for the official opening. Eventually my curiousity got the better of me and we walked into the hall. No one accosted me; perhaps the camera made me look “official” but we were soon told we had to check in at a different door from the one we had entered. Eventually the event started with a gathering in a very nicely appointed lounge where we heard various anecdotes from the representatives. I was sporting my Laphroaig tie and was told by a “competitor” that I needed one of their ties. I am always agreeable to augmenting my wardrobe, but I never received a tie.

After the gathering we entered the main hall and visited the various tables while sampling spirits, and munching on absolutely delightful hors d’ouvres served by smartly dressed and very polite staff of the Inn. Maker’s Mark was there dipping glasses in hot wax, and my wife grabbed two of them (different styles) for our collection of whisk(e)y glassware. Additionally, in the center of the room was a table piled high with vegetables, cheeses, crackers, and the largest shrimp (is that an oxymoron?) I have ever seen !!! Delicious too !!!

I must confess that I am not a fan of “fruit infused” whisk(e)y, or sweet spirits in general; although The MacAllan holds a special place in my heart. To my way of thinking, and I’ve discussed it with various folk, there must be a different way of encouraging the non-whisk(e)y drinker to begin the journey. For more on flavored whisk(e)y and “flavor-less whisk(e)y read this blog entry.

When we “checked in” at the event we received a ticket/voucher that could be redeemed for two cocktails at the bar, and during the evening I was encouraged to visit the bar and sample a Laphroaig/peach creation. It was unusual to say the least; I have found that whisky such as Laphroaig tends to over power just about anything else that tries to share the glass and this, to my taste, was no exception. Whilst near the bar I mentioned to another attendee that I prefer “neat” whisk(e)y to cocktails, and before I knew it the bar-tender handed to me a dram of “try this”. “Try this” is better known as (ri)¹. The last time I tried rye whiskey I found it to be a bit sharpish but that dram was very nice and I will have to expand my horizons a bit.

In any case, let’s get to the welly/ies, but to do so we need to travel backward in time. Some years ago my wife and I attended a whisk(e)y event at Julio’s Liquors in Westboro, MA. and Simon was there, with a pair of wellies in view on top of his presentation table. Being ever curious I peeked into the wellies and what I saw was a bottle of 25YO Laphroaig. On a different occasion it was an 18YO expression. This year I did in fact peek into the “beets” (as they are called in Doric) but did not take a dealbh (Gaelic for picture); tha mi duilich (Gaelic for “I am sorry”).

Regardless, we were thrilled to see Simon again and it’s always a pleasure to be toasted by him, and have our picture taken; one of our favorites is of the three of us on Main Street in Bowmore (Islay) with Loch Indaal in the background. I have not yet seen that evening’s picture but apparently there is some sort of plant growing out of my head. Plant or no, it was great fun, and I (we) encourage anyone who has not yet done so, to attend an event at which Simon will be present.

Slàinte !

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Na caraidean aig Laphroaig [Friends of Laphroaig] @ Demeters Steakhouse in Portsmouth, NH

Should be obvious !

Signs !


Near the end of March, the 29th if I recall, there was a FoL event in Portsmouth, held at the Demeters Steakhouse. Although Simon Brooking was not in attendance, the event was well hosted by Matt Marshall, and Kirsten Ininger.

Both my wife and I have been FoL for some time (even visited the distillery to claim our rent !), and each was allowed to invite one guest. The challenge then was ”Who to invite?” Ultimately only one of the persons who we asked was able to attend, and Fred has probably been drinking Laphroaig for many more years than we !!! It was a pleasure to invite him, and watch as he thoroughly enjoyed himself. 

From left: my wife (Jacqueline), Kirsten, Matt, Fred (friend of ours)

From left: my wife, Kirsten, Matt, Fred (friend of ours)

Whisky available for tasting: 10YO, 18YO, QC, Triple Wood. Of the four my wife and I had no experience with the TripleWood, but being FoL we sampled all of the drams !!! Most of the attendees were men so I asked if anything is being done to increase the number of women who drink Laphroaig and I was told the situation is being addressed. I have my own ideas of how to market such a smokey/peaty whisky to women but I am not employed by Beam so I suspect my ideas will remain unused in my head. Ah well.

Each attendee also received a ticket redeemable for a full drink of our choice at the bar. I ended up with two tickets, due to being handed the ticket held by one of the other attendees, who was leaving the event. I chose the TripleWood for my “full drink” and was a bit suprised (should I?) when the bar-tender asked if I wanted ice and/or water in the whisky. In addition to the whiskies were several very nice hors d’ouvres, and a few Laphroaig gifties such as shirts, whisky stones (the subject of a future blog entry) and key rings.

All in all it was a very pleasant experience with the exception of feeling somewhat chilly all evening, for no reason I could determine. Later that evening I became rather ill and was so for a couple of weeks. I assure you it had nothing to do with anything I ate or drank !!! We (wife and I) are looking forward to the next FoL event which we have been told will be held in Manchester, NH next month.

Until next time, “Slàinte.”

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Go! Whisk(e)y Weekend 2012

"Take away" from Go! Whisk(e)y 2012!

For the past few years my wife (Jacqueline) and I have attended the whisk(e)y event at Julio’s Liquor’s in Westboro, MA held end of February. In the past it’s been called the Whisk(e)y a Go-Go, but this year was termed “Go! Whisk(e)y Weekend”. I am unsure why the name was changed except perhaps not wanting to be confused with the Whisky A Go-Go in California. I do know this year’s event occupied a weekend; Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, rather than only Sunday afternoon. Regardless of the length, this event is not only about whisk(e)y, it’s a fund raiser for charity, and this year more than $6K was raised !!!

I was able to attend only the Sunday event, and Jacqueline was unable to attend any of the event, but I drove down on my own to see what would happen. E0ach attendee to the event is granted 10 free samples but with more than 200 possibilities one needs a plan. So I had a plan, involving a guy named Peat but like most plans, the first shot “fired” caused a change in the plan. It all started due to having a few bars of tablet intended for a friend, Simon Brooking (Master Ambassador/Beam Global) but he was not in attendance. Hence I needed to “get rid of” the tablet, eat it, or take it home. I chose to “get rid of it” rather than eat it or take it home.

The first bar was given to the young man, Jobie Smith, standing in for Simon. Apparently he was unfamiliar with tablet. Now he is not; he tried it and said it was great. No surprise there. I then sought Ryan Maloney, manager of Julio’s, to offer a bar to him. That’s where it took off. He gladly accepted a bar then introduced me to others he knew would enjoy the “suiteas” (Gaelic for sweeties/candy) and the enthusiastic response was incredible. Ryan, and others, even expressed an interest in obtaining more. Tha sin snog !!!

Now back to the whisk(e)y and related highlights.

  • I had a fascinating conversation with a man named Doug who told me to try “such and such”; like I said, so much for the plan, but his suggestions were excellent.
  • One of the representatives who received a tablet offered a sample of a not-yet-available, rather smokey, expression of Bunnahabhain.
  • I hoisted a dram with Ed Kohl, Managing Director of ImpEx Beverages, near the end of the event, as I was telling him about my maternal grandmother, and my desire to live in Scotland.
  • Mr John Maclellan, general manager of Kilchoman, was at the GWW 2012. My wife and I met him in May of 2009, at the Bunnahabhain distillery during the Fèis Ìle. We met him again a year later. He remembered our conversations and it turns out he knows friends of ours that live in Keills. He said he would pass on our greeting when he returns to Islay.
  • As a student of Gaelic I was thrilled to learn that Mr MacLellan “has the Gaelic” and understood when I asked for a dram of “An t-Eilean Sgitheanach a-hochd bliadhna”. Obviously, as a native speaker he is far above my limited knowledge but it was a thrill to hear him speak to me.
  • It’s experiences like that those that truly make such an event enjoyable, regardless of how you spell whisk(e)y.

    Uill, mar sin leat an-drasda !!!

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    No, I don’t want ice (!) or water (!) and you shouldn’t.

    Some years ago my wife and I were invited to have dinner at the home of one of her sister’s (she has 2) and brother-in-law. Whilst waiting and visiting I observed a bottle of The GlenRothes (unknown vintage) sitting proudly on display. Being forward I asked about the whisky and was told my brother in law was beginning to explore Scotch. He would be opening the bottle after supper and I was welcome to a dram, should I be interested. Well, obviously I was interested.

    Later, after dinner, my wife and I were approached by one of her brothers (she has 4) who informed us the bottle was being opened and asked would I care for a dram. Yes, I replied. He then asked if I would like ice (!) and water (!) with my whisky. I replied, sharply, that I would not and neither should he. Perhaps my tone was a bit brusque but a great dram is not improved by freezing and drowning.

    This past Christmas our brother in law gave to me a special gift; a “triple pack” containing wee (100 ml) bottles of The GlenRothes: 1998, 1985, and Select Reserve. Slàinte

    GlenRothes: 3 wee bottles

    A Christmas gift from a brother in law !

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    Whisky, dinner, (and golf weekend) at the Wentworth by the Sea

    Several years ago I was invited, as a Friend of Laphroaig, to attend a “Whisky and Golf” weekend at nearby, very up-scale, hotel; Wentworth by the Sea . Because I don’t golf I was not interested in the golf portion of the package. Because I live close by I was not interested in staying at the hotel. I was interested in the dinner and the whisky.

    I called the hotel and explained the situation. I was told it was not possible at the time to buy only the dinner, but to call a week before the event, and if the packages had not been a sellout, I could purchase the dinner separately. So, that’s what I did, and my wife and I were able to attend the dinner. Four courses, each with an accompanying dram, followed by more drams, and cigars, on the veranda. Great fun.

    What made it truly memorable was the Master of Ceremonies: Simon Brooking, Master (whisky) Ambassador. His knowledge of the subject is extra-ordinary, and combined with his personality and speaking ability the evening flew by. We’ve been blessed and thrilled to see him several times since then, in Scotland and the USA and count him as a friend.

    So here’s a toast to Simon Brooking !!! Slainte !!!

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    A tale of two ciders !

    Scottish Thistle and English Thorn

    Two ciders !!! One sweet, one not.

    Ever on the lookout for a new uisge beatha, or leann, I occasionally (but rarely) try something that is neither. Over the past couple of weeks mo bhean and I tried a couple of different ciders: Blackthorn , which is frae the land of the Sassenachs, and Thistly Cross frae the land of the Albannachs.

    Black Thorn was very dry, and not very sweet; it took some time for me to appreciate its lack of sweetness. It also came in cans, something of which I am not a fan. However, I recognize that cans, because they block sunlight, do a better job of preserving the beverage.

    Thistly Cross was “wetter and sweeter”; I guess it has to do with the in-famous sweet tooth (?) of the Scots; but not too sweet. Certainly not as sweet as much of the non-fermented cider I have drunk during the course of my life. It came in a very attractive bottle, which depicted a thistle.

    Bha iad glè mhath !!!

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    Bottle “bling”?

    I kid you not, the whisk(e)y world is now marketing whisky, and who knows its quality, in bottles and such that are covered with jewels. I had seen advertisements for bottlings in the past, and finally Whisky Magazine addressed the situation. So, I ask you dear readers; is it a good idea? I think not.

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    This is a classy place !!! Lag a’ Mhuilinn (Lagavulin)

    Just a few months before I was told to come down on the shelf, I happily found myself in a classy place.

    A friend had invited mo bhean (my wife) and me to her wedding reception at the no-longer-there New England Center at University of New Hampshire. Like many wedding receptions there was an open bar stocked with the better known beverages. When none of those beverages struck my fancy it was suggested I perambulate over to the cash bar. So, I did.

    I don’t recall if I ran through a wish list or not, but at some point in the conversation between myself and the bar tender, it was revealed that Lagavulin (16YO) was a stocked item. I exclaimed (with some surprise I must admit) “You stock Lagavulin?”

    The bar tender, somewhat hurt (perhaps), informed me “This is a classy place !!!” So it was, and so I drammed the Lag A’ Mhuilinn which, by the way, is Scots Gaelic for “hollow by the mill”. It’s the name of the wee village on Ile (Islay) where that iconic uisge beatha is distilled.

    Slainte !!!

    Lag a’ Mhuillinn

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    You need to come down on the shelf !!! The MacAllan

    Several years ago some former (cuz I got the push) co-workers invited me out for a drink to say goodbye, or perhaps good riddance.

    During much chatter, about what I do not remember, the web-master asked if he could buy me a drink and, if so, what? I replied “Let’s slide on over to the bar to find out what’s available.” So we did.

    I asked “Whaddaya have for single malt?” A question was answered with a question: “Whaddaya want?”

    So, I quickly named two of the holy trio of Islay: Ardbeg, and Laphroaig. [Yes, I know about Port Ellen. But it's a bit spendy.]

    And the response was the same in each case: “Nope.”
    Now I am wondering how much good will come of this so with very little hope I asked about Lagavulin.
    Again with the “Nope”.

    “Well, I don’t seem to be doing very well here, eh?”
    I was told that I need to “Come down from the high shelf.”
    “Okay”, said I, “Tell me what you have available.”

    She then proceeded to name not very many but one, The MacAllan, I had never tried. So I ordered one. Neat. The way whisky should be. I must confess that as an “Ile man” the sweetness took a bit of getting use to, but I have come to appreciate it and will in fact order one if it’s available.

    What puzzles me to this day is why The MacAllan was considered, by her, to be an inferior whisky to the other three?

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