Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Famous Grouse 12 y.o. Blended Malt Review

The Famous Grouse 12 y.o. Blended Malt004

40% abv

Score:  80.5/100


Here’s a whisky that is not going to score outrageous marks or anything, but will certainly hold a bit of a special spot in my dark, shriveled l’il heart.

Any constant readers here will know that the Grouse and I…we ain’t exactly tight.  Both the standard expression and the Black Grouse are bottles I wouldn’t even consider levying on my enemies, let alone pouring for mates.  With that in mind, I concede that I walk into any new Grouse expression with a skepticism and tripidation almost paralleling the optimism with which I embrace new Ardbeg or Amrut releases.  Right or wrong, it is reality, and sort of hearkens back to an expression an old boss of mine likes to use: ‘You are what you’re perceived to be’.  Meaning, of course, that the Grouse, to me, will always be defined by those initial foul encounters, until I can taste enough decent ones to change my overall perception of the brand. 

So…imagine my surprise when I find this 12 year old blended malt (‘vatted malt’, damn it!) is actually pretty damn good.  First things first, there is obviously no grain whisky in here.  This is a polygamous marriage of nothing more than single malts.  With a stable of whiskies including the Macallan, Highland Park, Glenrothes and such to work with, it shouldn’t be stretch to come up with something decent.  And thankfully, that is exactly what has happened.  Finally…one of my least favourite brands releases a whisky I can really get my teeth into.  Nice!

Now if only they’d take some ‘lessons learned’ from this and apply them to the standard Grouse expression.

Nose:  Orange and crunchy red apple right up front.  Prune and chocolate.  Some nice smooth sandalwood notes and a little clean oakiness.  Maraschino.  Could be something with a little age in here, I think.  Nice balance and very surprising.

Palate:  Orange and other fruit mish-mash.  Somewhat bubble gum-like somewhere in there.  There is some malt and characteristics of some sherried malts buried herein (i.e. rich, if underpowered, and bearing echoes of fruitcake, not to put too fine a point on it).  Fades to grains.  While still quite  good, the palate can’t deliver what the nose hints at.  Either way…I’m happy with this one.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2011 Review

Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2011047

43% abv

Score:  86.5/100


Here’s one I’ve tasted on multiple occasions now, and have finally come to terms with.  To be honest, it was the slightly better 2012 edition that led me back to revisiting the last of this 2011 release that I had squirelled away in a wee sample bottle.  Recognizing that there was something kinda special about the 2012 left me thinking back to what it was that hadn’t ticked all the boxes for me with this expression from Islay’s most prolific distillery.

I’m happy to say  the whisky was much better than I recall.  I’m somewhat saddened to say, however, that my initial assessment still stands: Caol Ila 12, the flagship in the range, is a better whisky (and much cheaper).  If we want to get into the comparison game, let’s go one step further.  While somewhat maligned by many out there, the Caol Ila 18 is a sparkling example of a lovely mature Islay malt, and possibly my favorite in the core range.  If you can find it, I’d highly recommend that one as the cornerstone of any love affair you may opt to pursue with Caol Ila.

This Distiller’s Edition is a mature Caol Ila (12 years, I believe, that has been re-racked into ex-moscatel barrels for a final period of maturation (6 months or so, I’ve read).  Though the term itself is occasionally frowned upon by the industry, we call this ‘finishing’.  I think the assumption being, if one reads between the lines, that the whisky is not quite complete without this step.  Undoubtedly in some cases this is exactly the case, where a sweet cask finish can hide off-notes and immaturity, bringing the whisky up to a more easily-marketable finished product.  I have no real issues with the concept, but I’m also not 100% behind it either.  C’est la vie.  If the juice is good…I’ll drink it.

In the case of the Caol Ila DE, what we ultimately end up with is a malt that is surprisingly rich in smoked sweetness (think BBQ sauce), but by no means is it what we often refer to as an ‘Islay heavyweight’.  Easily approachable, this one, but do take heed…you gotta have a sweet tooth to fully appreciate its layers.  Decent, but not entirely successful in my eyes.  The following year’s edition strikes a more harmonious whole.   

Nose:  BBQ sauce, as mentioned above, and quite sweet.  Smoky, peaty and iodine-rich.  There is a hint of what the evenings smell like on Islay when you walk the streets of Bowmore.  Anyone who has been there will know what I mean.  Chocolate and fresh coffee beans.  Lemon zest and a bit of orange rind.  Toasted woods.  Smoke and char.  Slightly top-heavy actually.  

Palate:  Chocolate.  Oyster sauce.  Ju-jubes.  Smoke and dark earthy notes.  To be honest, the wine notes don’t really help here.  Think wine and perfume meets rubber and smoke.  As expected…apple skins on the finish.  Better palate than nose.  Also a better palate than the later 2012 edition, I think.

Under-powered, though I see the faintest hint of a Port Ellen-like promise here.  Left to mature longer, perhaps this would become what an older PE is.  Nice but too much wine-weighting for my liking, and certainly too little ‘oooomph’.  


Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2012 Review

Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition 2012141

43% abv

Score:  88/100


Well, now.  This was a pleasant little surprise.  The 2012 edition of Diageo’s Distiller’s Edition Caol Ila came right out of left field for me.  Not that the whisky itself was unexpected, you understand (I believe these are annual releases), but the quality of the dram was a treat. 

Rightly or wrongly, I tend to look at the Distiller’s Edition range as sort of ‘surplus to requirements’ for the most part.  I’ve tried a couple that were quite decent, but I find more often than not the marriage of what Diageo dubs its ‘Classic Malts’ with a short period of quirky cask finishing (moscatel, amontadillo, amaroso, etc) feels somewhat contrived and not necessarily leading to an integrated whole.  To be blunt…a couple I’ve tried seem almost concocted by an amateur.  There is a disconnect in there somewhere that leaves me wanting.

I think a lot of these cases this has to do with the decision to mutate a rather delicate spirit in the first place.  It’s kind of like throwing a heavy pack on a scrawny l’il guy and telling him to head for the summit.  The heft is simply too much in some cases.  I’ve tried at least three (and if I recall correctly, a fourth) of these Caol Ila DEs (2009, 2011 and this 2012), and can happily say that this one bears the burden of an extra weighting of sweetness the best of the bunch.  Maybe a shorter finishing time on this edition?  Dunno.  Either way…yep, we like.  Not quite as much as unadulterated Caol Ila, but a worthy addition to the rather slim range available from this distillery. 

Here we have an Islay malt that manages to retain the sweet, citric clarity of Caol Ila, but dresses it up with a little bit of spice, fruit and sweetness.  Good execution, even if I’m not entirely behind the concept.  Grab a bottle of this one if you can find it.

Nose:  Very sweet smokiness.  Peat, as to be expected.  A bit of BBQ sauce (likely via the meeting of smoke and tangy sweetness).  Rock candy.  Iodine.  Citrus zest and juice.  An odd out-of-character jammy note.  Nice balance struck between some very disparate individual notes.  Overall…a rather great nose. 

Palate:  Apple and just the faintest hint of banana candy.  Smoke.  A little barley and sweet wine notes.  Some wet rock (y’know…that flinty, dusty flavour).  Grilled seafood.  Some Granny Smith apple at the back end brings it full circle.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Hazelburn 12 y.o. Review

Hazelburn 12 y.o.053

46% abv

Score:  86.5/100


Mmmm…Springbank Lite.

Settle down, settle down…I ‘m only kidding.  While this may seem like a sound logical assumption, it’s actually quite a stretch.

Hazelburn is one of the three streams flowing from the stills at Springbank, Campbelton’s most recognized distillery.  Springbank, as many of you are likely aware, is famous for producing the old school, malt-heavy and mildly-peaty namesake Springbank line, as well as the more heavily-peated Longrow, and finally the virtually (or possibly even completely) peat-free and triple-distilled Hazelburn.  Yes…triple distilled.  Much like you’ll often find in the Lowland malts or Irish whiskies.  Triple distillation generally maketh for a lighter, cleaner spirit, but you’d be mistaken if approaching this one as comparable to an Auchentoshan, Rosebank or Jameson’s.  There is definitely some heft here.

Hazelburn first ran off the stills in 1997, appearing on store shelves, albeit in limited quantity (I read up on this a little while back, but can’t quite recall the number…think it was 6,000 bottles), as an eight year old expression in 2005.  And while that eight year old was a decent drop, we’re now starting to see what Hazelburn is capable of with a little bit of free rein to grow up and stretch its gangly limbs.  Personally I’m a little bit partial to Springbank’s two beefier older brothers, but I can’t help but smile in recognition of a distillery at the height of its craft.  Springbank is doing it all…doing it traditionally…and doing it well.  From light to heavy, all of their malts are imbued with a sense of identity and quality.  Love it.

I hate to get ahead of myself here, but both the Springbank and Longrow expressions are dynamite at 18 years.  I’ll be waiting for Hazelburn to come of age too.

Nose:  Pleasant…very pleasant.  Lightly creamy and grassy.  A little bit of lemon pepper.  A little ginger and some licorice.  A squeeze of sweet  mandarin and tangerine.  Some dried fruits, nuts and woody notes (definitely sherry casking of some sort).  Still seems to be just the vaguest hint of smoke irrespective of the ‘unpeated’ label that is levied on this one (maybe just cask charring residuals?).  Really good already, but so much potential for additional ageing.

Palate:  Pepper and malty cereal notes.  Grass and grains.  Orange marmalade on toast.  The lightest spread of a very fatty milk chocolate.  Toothpicks.  For a ‘lighter’-styled whisky (yet still surprising in its heft), but still kinda old school, Lowland-ish whisky…I quite like this.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Auchentoshan Three Wood Review

Auchentoshan Three WoodThree Wood

43% abv

Score:  83.5/100


I went into this one with a ‘holy hell, what have we here?’ kinda attitude.  The nose was rich and uber-sweet.  Almost the same kinda tooth-rotting olfactory gleeful anticipation I get each time I stick my beak deep into a glass of bourbon. 

Unfortunately, much like I am let down by most bourbons (sorry, bourbon-lovers…just not my preferred profile), first sips of this one were an immediate grounding.  All the sparkle and shine of atmospheric promise hinted at on the nose fizzled into undeveloped potential.  I can imagine this whisky at 20-25 years of age would be an absolute show-stopper.  As it is in the here-and-now…passing grades, for sure, but at the end of the day…its a middling malt. 

It’s a clean drink, as you’d expect from Auchentoshan  This Lowland distillery is generally reknowned for its use of triple distillation, which results in a light and floral profile.  The sherry here in the Three Wood adds a little more depth of dimension, and slightly tames the almost typically 0ver-light bouyancy so prevalent in most ‘Toshans.  I kinda like that to be honest.  The heft is a good thing.  Of the more ‘entry level’ Auchentoshan range, this is second only to the Valinch.

Call me a cynic, though if you must, but I kinda think there may be a little bit of cosmetic work at play here by the lovely purple tint of very sweet sherry.  It’s amazing what you can enhance when working with good Oloroso and/or PX.  This is just a theory however.  Either way…not a bad dram from Glasgow’s distillery.

Nose:  There’s a lovely sweet cherry top note.  Followed by a lot of spice and some vanilla.  Quite bourbon-ish, in its own way.  Juicy orange.  Think along the lines of vanilla cola meets cherry cola.  Cinnamon hearts.  A little fudge.  Clean and fruity as hell.  Very unexpected nose.

Palate:  Woah!  Not even close to as good as the nose hints at.  Immediately tannic.  Into green grass notes.  Still a lot of sherry here.  Almond/amaretto.  Burnt sugar makes it a little…puckering.   Loses a mark or two based on the attack. 


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Auchentoshan

Amrut Greedy Angels Review

Amrut Greedy Angelsamrut-greedy-angels-whisky

50% abv

Score:  94/100


So…let me tell you a couple of stories to begin with.  Get comfortable.  This will be a long one.  My apologies in advance.

The first of these tales took place many years back, when I was a feisty, snotty little thing still in high school and wrapped up in the early throes of teenage rebellion.  I was taking a creative writing class at the time, and an optional one at that.  A mate of mine and I would sit in the back of the room, lobbing spitballs and sneaking out here and there when we could get away with it.  The thing was…I could get away with it.  The writing came naturally to me; I always turned in my work on time; and the teacher, for whatever reason, liked me.  At one point though, when she asked me to stay after class, I figured I’d finally run her patience into the ground (or she’d finally tied the wasps’ nest of spitballs back to my friend and I).  Not so, however.  Instead she proceeded to tell me I would be getting full marks for the class and that for the rest of the year I could write whatever I wanted.  Effectively a blank cheque, due to her belief that what I was turning in was light years ahead of what she was getting from the others in the class or expected at this level.

I tell you this not in narcissism (indeed I feel very uncomfortable drawing the analogy in public)… but simply to illustrate a point.  The reality is that I’m pretty damn close to awarding Amrut that same blank cheque.  And I don’t feel a damn bit of discomfort at that.  They’ve released expression after expression of such uniformly high quality that I simply don’t expect to encounter a subpar release from the distillery.

Those of you more adept than others at reading between the lines will recognize this for what it is: a disgustingly overt and somewhat gauche bias.  I love Amrut.  This is not unconditional love, however, it’s merely a well-earned ackowledgement of a great distillery at the height of their creative powers.

Moving on…

The second story is much more contemporary.  And topical, I might add.  Several months back, a few mates and I gathered over many a dram of Amrut (and other whiskies too) with Mr. Ashok Chokalingam of Amrut fame.  Ashok is the global ambassador for the brand.  He’s also a really nice guy who I immediately took a shine to, and would now call a friend.  Anyway…over the course of the evening we hit upon the topic of maturation in the unforgiving Indian climate, and the rate of evaporation (or ‘angel’s share’) that Amrut was accustomed to dealing with.  I believe 12% per annum was the figure Ashok mentioned.  One of the guys made a comment to the effect of ‘damn greedy angels’ or something along those lines.  Ashok kind of blanched before pleading with us not to share what he was about to reveal.  He said he had to let us know now, just so we weren’t under the impression a few months down the road that he had cribbed our idea.  He turned his cell phone to us and displayed a mock-up label for a new Amrut expression called…you guessed it…’Greedy Angels’.

Since that day I’ve been dying to get my hands on this, the oldest whisky ever released by one of my favorite distilleries.

Now finally turning to the present…

Just days ago I met Ashok over a couple pints and a quick bite here in Calgary.  He had a little box of  treats for me, and this was just one of the samples he had brought along.

For any of you still hanging in there after my long winded lead-in…let’s get on to the drink…

Greedy Angels was released in late 2012 to celebrate the 60th birthday of the brand’s chairman, Mr. Neel Jagdale.  The 142 (or 144?  I’ve seen different numbers published) bottles produced were all that remained of two full casks mellowing in the sweltering conditions of Bangalore.  An incredible loss, on the one hand, but on the other…an incredible gain for the whisky world in what did remain.

Nose:  It is simply mind-boggling that this is an 8 year old whisky.  If I was told that this was a 30 year old Scotch, I wouldn’t argue.  There are notes in here that simply have no business being picked out of an 8 year old malt.  Mandarin and white pepper.  Quite some dried fruit, very tropical in nature: dried mango, dried pineapple and dried apricot.  A little ginger.  The omnipresent Amrut zestiness and baking spices.  Wow, what a melding of wood and spirit.  Give this one a lot of time.  It deserves it.

Palate:  A lot of orange, pineapple and other tropicals.  Some very drying fruits, not dissimilar to a somewhat tannic fruity tea.  There’s something kinda dark and brooding here too.  Maybe like a thick vein of tart syrupy-ness.  There’s a lot of wood influence, but it has definitely been put to good use.  In fact…I can see the oak being a little too heavy for some drinkers.  Not too heavy for this guy, however.  And interestingly…I can’t get my head around the impression that there is something almost Talisker-like in this palate-profile, though it is certainly more tropical than a mature Talisker.

Now…woe is me, I know, living in Alberta where we have a great whisky market, privatized liquor sales and decent prices, but I’m still gonna bemoan the lack of access to this whisky.  Canada received NO allocation for this one.  I am a massive Amrut fan, and desperately want a bottle of this on my shelf.  If anyone can help me out…I’ll be eternally grateful.

I won’t kick and scream too much here, but I will beg a little…

Ashok…please continue to age some of your Amrut stocks.  We WILL pay the premium for this whisky.  It’s that good.

Job well done, folks.  This is a winner.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Times Whisky Club

The Famous Grouse Review

The Famous Grouse122

40% abv

Score:  67/100


There’s a reason I smuggle a flask into each year’s company Christmas party.  That reason is The Famous Grouse.  And no…that does not mean that I am clandestinely sneaking the Grouse into the event in my coat pocket; it means I am usually discreetly (*) sipping Ardbeg while the ‘scotch n’ soda’ crowd merrily glugs their Grouse.

Honestly.  I can’t drink this stuff.

In my heart of hearts I know it’s not that bad of a blended whisky.  I mean, c’mon…all those bonny Scots cannae be wrong, can they?  Just so we’re all on the same page…please take note that this is the best selling whisky in all of Scotland.  Incredible.  Now…it’s no secret that those of us with some of the blue and white in our blood are…uhhhhh…rather acutely financially aware…but I’d like to think that there is some inherent appreciation out there of the whisky for its own merits and not simply an adoration for the supermarket sales sticker.

I gotta say though…to me…in its simplest deconstruction, this is a bland, generic caramel flavour meeting a bit of malt and a faint touch of smoke.  And y’wanna know why I think it really grates on me?  Simply because I know that this has a backbone built on Macallan and Highland Park (with a hefty helping of Glenturret, among others).  Really?  Really?!  You have Macallan and HP to work with and this is the best you can do, Edrington?  That’s like Brad and Angelina having ugly babies.  In principle, it seems so far-fetched as to be borderline impossible.  Somehow though…exactly that has happened here.  Macallan and Highland Park have had ugly babies.

Nose:  Malt heavy (notes, that is, not actual malt whisky ratio).  Loud grains.  A bucketload of cloying caramel.  A solid whiff of smoke and some floral notes.  Orange peel.  A little like cheap leather and old wood.  I’m sure there’s a bit more in there, but that’s really all you need to know.

Palate:  Lightweight (through low ABV), but still sits too heavily.  Caramel and barley.  Cheap cigar.  Syrup and just an absolute f*ck tonne of sour off-notes.  Shudder.

(*) How discreet can you be really, when a cloud of smoke and peat reek emanates from both your glass and pores?


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Port Charlotte The Peat Project Review

Port Charlotte The Peat Project176

46% abv

Score:  82.5/100


Make up your minds, folks.  Make up your minds. 

I am, incidentally, speaking to the good people at Bruichladdich (whom we really do love here at ATW), who can’t seem to make up their minds just as to the facade their moderately peated line-up should finally settle upon. 

Years back, it started out as Bruichladdich 3D…later morphing into Bruichladdich Peat…further evolving into An Turas Mor..and now, finally, we have The Peat Project coming in under the Port Charlotte moniker.  To be clear: this is NOT the same spirit packaged under different pretenses.  Each of these is a personality in its own right.  Some better than others…none bad…some very good indeed. 

The Peat Project falls sort of middle of the pack in terms of my own personal level of appreciation.  Well made, and beautifully presented (inherently and aesthetically), but a little toothless in relation to some of its contemporary siblings and obsolete ancestors.  This sounds like a rather negative spin, I imagine, but it’s really not meant to be.  It’s more a ‘damned by reputation’ kinda scenario.  I’m almost measuring this one against potential and past successes.  Knowing what the output has been and could be, I can’t help but continue to hold the brand up against high markers.

Either way, do rest assured that this is a safe purchase.  You’re not being fleeced for your pay when laying down for this 40ppm bog juice from arguably Scotland’s most respectable distillery.  The price is more than fair.  The malt…more than fair.

Nose:  Sharp and salty.  Smoking rubber.  Peaty, but not overly so.  Lemon Pledge.  A bit of sea water.  Almost a chlorine note.  Touch buttery (as is most ‘Laddie).  A sweet candy note.  Barley is young and alive.  Too young, actually.  Best way to describe this one: spirity.

Palate:  Man…I would guess this a Kilchoman if tasted blind.  This is a YOUNG whisky.  Smoke (ahhh…but of course).  Quite some tar.  Barley cereal notes.  Neat mix of lime and ginger.

This is far too light for a PC.  Still more than decent, but not up to snuff against the rest of the Port Charlotte releases (including the rather restrained Port Charlotte 10 at 46%)


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

An Evening With Jim McEwan

An Evening With Jim McEwan at Willow Park Wines & Spirits

26 September 2013


Most times I try to maintain a bit of a ‘professional’ distance from the people or products I’m writing about, but at other times I have to switch tacks and let honesty, personal bias and heart be my guide.  Such is the case here in sharing a bit about Willow Park’s recent evening event with Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan.

While there are scores of incredibly interesting public figures in the whisky world, few are as instantly engaging as Jim.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say he is in a league of his own as arguably the best whisky speaker out there.  His talks are as entertaining and boisterous as the best of live shows and as warm and comfortable as your favorite slippers.  A dichotomy that somehow balances beautifully.

I’ve seen Jim speak a couple of times now.  I’ve also been privileged enough to spend some time with him on his turf (the distillery itself), and to have interviewed him here on the site.  In all of the encounters we’ve shared, he’s never been anything but the quintessential gentleman. 

It was for this reason, over any other, that I ended up at Willow Park last Thursday. 


In one of my less-than-Mensa moments I managed to seriously mix up my days on when this event was to take place.  When a pal of mine emailed asking if I was ‘going to be there tonight’, my response was ‘where?’  After an initial hour or two of resigned melancholy (supposed to be home with the kids, making dinner, etc), I called the wife and told her I wanted to go.  Angel that she is, she immediately said ‘go’.  One rather sheepish call to Willow Park’s whisky specialist, Dave Michiels, and I’d managed to wriggle my way into a seat for this sold out event.  (Thanks again, Dave!)

I somehow managed to bolt out of the office and down to Willow Park early enough to help with some of the last minute set up and to have a bit of a chat with Dave and Jim before things got too crazy.

Now…I’ve attended many, many events at WP, but this one was a doozy.  I think attendance was in the neighbourhood of 120-130.  For a formal sit-down whisky tasting…this was unbelievable.  Pull together 130 folks with their minds set on some good drinks and an evening of entertainment and it’s bound to be a good time.   


Early on in the presentation, Jim’s mention of his recent milestone 50 years in the industry brought a rousing cheer from the masses.  Let that sink in for a sec.  50 years.  50 f*cking years!  First of all…what a great job to have if you’ve gotta do something for half a century.  Second…how can you not appreciate that level of dedication and inherent knowledge?  Simply unbelievable.

And perhaps a better question might be ‘how can you not love a man who takes the occasional potshot at the Irish’?  I think his exact words regarding Ireland were “the land of drunkards and liars.  Twenty three miles away…and not far enough.”  All in jest, of course, lest anyone get their knickers in a twist.  It’s all in delivery, and I gotta say…the man had the room in stitches time and again.  (*Note…I only repeat this here in order to mock the afflicted ATW contributor, and resident Irish (dim)wit, Maltmonster)

Mockery aside, Jim was on point tonight.  Great presentation.  He has a way of combining a wicked and acerbic wit with the utmost in poignancy and melancholic nationalism.  There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of insincerity in his professed adoration for all things Islay.  Having been there twice now, I can unequivocally say he does well at capturing the essence of what makes Islay magical.


The line-up of malts for this eve was a pure and simple one: Laddie 10, Islay Barley (Dunlossit), Laddie 16, Laddie 22, Cuvee 640 and Port Charlotte 10.  It was a simple, yet elegant, flight of drams.  In fact, in speaking with a good mate the following morning, I told him how cohesive and well-structured the range was.  Each dram segued nicely into the one following, with enough variation to allow each its moment to shine.

It would have made an interesting variation on a theme to include a taste of Bruichladdich’s titanic peat monster, Octomore, as well, but alas…beggars can’t be choosers.  It’s arguable as well that such a big gunner – even as the last malt of the evening – may have thrown off the balance of the range.  And as I said…it worked a treat as it was.


As we worked our way through the whiskies, Jim filled us in on some of the inspirations and influences responsible for their births.  Tales related to terroir…to island sustainability and provenance…to history and inheritance of the past…to the people who helped make it…and of course….to the people who buy it. 

It’s neat to see a roomful of Canadians – most of whom have never stepped foot on the peaty bogs of Islay – come out in defense of Scottish pride and island ‘nationalism’ when Jim asks a question such as ‘how do call it a Scotch whisky if it’s not made from Scottish barley?’…or ‘how do call it an Islay malt if it’s matured over on the mainland?’

Hmmmm…discussions for another day.


Much like the last time Jim came to Willow Park, he pulled the crowd to its feet to close out the evening.  Perhaps not in the way you’d expect however.  Picture a crowd 130 strong…standing on tables…glasses in hand…shouting a battle cry in Gaelic…and downing the last of their whisky in a Highland toast flourish.  This is Jim’s exit.  And it’s a bloody good one.

I wish I had a picture of all these fine folk holding their glasses high to the man who made the spirit they were drinking, but alas…I was too busy standing on a table, drinking whisky and roaring along with the rest of the unwashed masses.  Life is too short to just observe.  Sometimes you gotta get your hands dirty.


Incidentally…I ran into a gent I hadn’t seen in a long while at this show.  His name is Dan, and he’s a helluva decent guy.  We sat next to each other and caught up a little throughout the evening.  Great tasting partner too, I might add.  This social aspect is why we love whisky so much, no?  Well…that’s part of it anyway.  I guess the other would be the juice itself.  I gotta say…it was a crying shame that the seat next to Dan and I was never claimed.  I did my good deed for the eve in liberating a couple of the extra drams, so as not to insult Jim by letting his fine spirit go to waste.  See?  Irrespective of what my wife says…I’m a pretty decent chap, huh?

Finally…I can’t say enough good things about the fine folk at Select Wine & Spirits and Willow Park Wine & Spirits for putting on an absolutely top notch event.  No surprise there.  They always come through.


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

The Great Whisky Debate

The Great Whisky Debate

Greetings, faithful readers.

Just wanted to pass on the word about an upcoming event here in Calgary.  I’ll be checking this one out, and most certainly sharing a few words here on ATW afterwards, but for those of you interested in an evening out, tasting a few drams and hearing some of the industry’s key insiders share some insight…grab a ticket and come say hi. 

This debate format has been done in both Ontario and Las Vegas already, to what I’m given to understand was rousing success, so it seems only logical to bring it into one of North America’s most prevalent and thriving whisky markets:  Alberta. 

Our friends at Beam Global have picked a great venue for this one too.  For those of you who’ve yet to attend a Willow Park event, rest assured, they do ’em up right. For those that HAVE attended a tasting at WP…well…nothing more need be said, I imagine.

To save me the wordsmithing, I’ll simply rely on the event press to fill you in:

“While all bourbon is whisk(e)y, not all whisk(e)y is bourbon! (…..or Scotch, or Rye, or…) The debate rages on as Matt Jones (Canadian Bourbon Ambassador for Beam), Dan Volway (The Macallan/Highland Park Brand Ambassador) and Dan Tullio (the Godfather of Canadian Whisky) go head to head in a debate, detailing the differences and benefits of American, Scotch, and Canadian Whisk(e)y. This is always entertaining, and never will there be a dull moment while these 3 topics are literally on the table! There is no offside in this discussion, so let the debate begin!! Enjoy tastings of all three types of whisky and maybe more!”

No offside discussion, huh?  Hmmm…we’ll see about that.  😉

While I’ve yet to meet the other two gents (though looking forward to it), I can absolutely say that a night with Dan Tullio is a blast.  Looking forward to this one.


“The Great Whisky Debate” at Willow Park Wines & Spirits

Oct 21st, 2013  7:00 pm

Tickets available HERE for $25. 

Get in quick, as there are only 100 seats for this event.

See ya there.