Arran: No Backstory Required

Let me tell you a story about a man named Ben. 2 summers ago Ben went, with his Mother, to an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, to see an exhibition by famed Beatles Destroyer and bed dweller, Yoko Ono. The first thing he sees on entering the exhibition are three piles of dirt sat atop a tarpaulin. “That’s not art”, he thinks. He walks into another room, with a clear acrylic maze. “That’s not art”, he thinks.  As he goes to leave, hurriedly, he sees in a piece of rag on the floor which everyone has walked over. “interactive canvas #472” it’s called. He steps over it to make sure he doesn’t interact. There’s a sign written on the floor. “this is the ceiling” it says. “No it isn’t”, he thinks.

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The Cutty Sark

Blends have had something of a resurgence lately, gaining huge support from bloggers, writers and drinkers. They gained a less than positive reputation in the mid 90s as single malts increased in popularity and exclusivity; the latter highlighted their status as a sign of class and refinement whilst blends became the representation of the lowest common denominator, often priced as the cheapest brands on the whisky shelves in the supermarket. However, with long established brands such as Famous Grouse and Johnny Walker either starting to develop new whiskies or simply advertise existing products more effectively, higher priced, higher quality blends are now visibly supplementing these brand’s ranges and are being taken more seriously again.

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Grandpa

My Grandpa never drank but was always interested in hearing me talk at length on whisky. He was fascinated by two things: my ability to talk at great length on almost any given subject but, more importantly, the scientific and experimental background to whisky; i.e. the concept of altering small variables to give fantastically different flavours and the effect of the uncontrollable variables in the development of whisky. His time spent working in Japan inspired me to look into the Japanese world of whisky. I only ever saw him try one whisky I recommended and I’m not sure he was quite convinced on my interest in the amber nectar. Continue reading

Pondering over Penderyn

tasting setup

Penderyn Whisky started with a brave and interesting decision which has both identified their character and branding and has immediately placed apparent limits on their expansion. They have established themselves as Welsh through and through, placing themselves just within the borders of the Brecon Beacons national park. This carries with it some limitations of their potential expansion, due to the building regulations in the park but makes their branding clear, from the vein of Welsh gold cutting across every bottle to the proudly stamped AC (Aur Cymru – Welsh Gold) mark at the top of every bottle. Penderyn Whisky is the first Whisky (or Wysgi) company based in Wales for over 100 years. (It seems there was somebody with absolutely no connections to the current company importing Scottish Malt into Wales, re-bottling it and calling it Welsh Whisky for a time, but let’s gloss over that, as it was found to be deeply fraudulent by the SWA.)

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Patience.

There seems to be a certain collection of patients that tip me, as a dentist, by telling me a joke. It always cheers me up but also amuses me that it is definitely from a very specific group of patients, almost always male and a very specific age group. I occasionally get a box of chocolates or biscuits at Christmas and, if I’m very lucky, I might get something a little more special. Very occasionally, I get a bottle of whisky (although this happened more often when I lived and worked in Glasgow); this is normally a bottle of Teacher’s, Ballantine’s or the infamous Grouse.

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Montilla and Highland Park

The sherry industry and the whisky industry appear to go hand in hand with the passing of old sherry casks from Bodega to distillery to allow such “sherry-bombs” as Aberlour A’bunadh and the Macallan sherry oak range. Despite being the leading fortified wine in the UK market, with figures of £89million, it still, to some, seems to retain its reputation of Grandma’s Christmas tipple.

I recently went to Andalusia and had an opportunity to head to Montilla. Whilst it is not in the sherry triangle, Montilla is a major centre for wine production and has inspired the Amontillado style sherry – Amontillado meaning “in the style of Montilla. I went to the Alvear Bodega and enjoyed their very welcoming hospitality. Unfortunately, due to EU directives on overproduction of wine, 65,000 acres of vineyard has been reduced to 6,000 acres with a massive increase in olive groves. For the last hour and a half of driving towards Montilla, nothing but olive trees were visible in any direction, as far as the eye could see.

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Parallel Worlds and The Macallan

There is a universe where I am not a dentist, I am a purveyor of whisky. There is another where I am a photographer. Technically, there are an infinite number where I am a dentist, another infinite amount where I am a drinks seller and a further limitless total where I am a photographer. There are unlimited more where I do jobs I don’t want, or have never heard of. And then there are the further imponderable universes where I simply do not exist.

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musings on whisky…

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