Category Archives: Dram Initiative

Dram Initiative #012 – Bowmore with Iain MacCallum

Dram Initiative #012 – Bowmore with Iain MacCallum

June 6th, 2014


I have no plans to ever run with the Bulls in Pamploma.  Or to swim the choppy South African waters near Dyer Island without a shark cage.  Or to voluntarily check myself in for a vasectomy.  Or even to try driving the manic and frightening lanes of ancient Roman streets.  But arguably even further down the list of ‘things to not do in this lifetime’ is to engage in a drinking contest with Iain MacCallum.  If stories hold true (and we heard more than a couple on this unforgettable eve), the man’s liver is a shoe-in for the Scotch Whisky Hall Of Fame. 

While this may not bode well for longevity (hmmm…Shane MacGowan and Keith Richards may have contrary opinions to that line of thinking), it certainly leads to several lifetimes worth of truly hilarious anecdotes packed into one tall and lanky Scottish frame.  And in turn…to a bloody brilliant night of laughter and spirited conversation. 


For those of you who may not be ‘in-the know’, Iain is the Brand Ambassador (aka Master of Malts), and former blender for Suntory’s Bowmore.  He now makes his mark on the whisky world by traveling the map, engaging with, and educating, the masses and spreading a brilliant concoction of science and fun.  It’s this rather deadly combination that makes an evening with the man such a memorable one.  At once highly educational and infinitely entertaining, Iain is the quintessential spokesman for not only Bowmore, but whisky in general.

Our evening with Iain came about through the efforts of Kathy Johnson, of  Lifford Wine & Spirits here in Calgary.  I’d spoken with Kathy on a couple occasions at various festivals and events  regarding the idea of holding a Bowmore night for the whisky club.  We made tentative plans to pull something together at some point in the none-too-distant future and left it at that.  Fast forward a couple months and sure enough an email arrived in my inbox from Kathy, offering up Iain’s time for a night with the club.

We immediately set to pulling together a line-up of malts for a top notch event.

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Bowmore is a distillery that is easy to get passionate about.  It is old and iconic and absolutely personifies the classic Scottish malt.  It’s name is one instantly recognized by connoisseurs and laymen all ’round the world.  It’s reputuation has been built drop by drop and to this day the distillery stands in high stead in literally all circles.

One of my favorite whisky quotes of all time is one lifted directly from the wall in the visitor’s lounge at the distillery itself: ‘If you can’t find a Bowmore to fall in love with, you may have to consider very seriously the possibility that you’re wasting your money drinking whisky at all.”  I hate it when people presume to tell others what they should, or will, like, but in this case the sentiment is fairly astute.  The distillery boasts such a chameleonic profile that there is bound to be an expression that fits your tastes.

This evening’s tasting flight was specifically tailored to reach a broad spectrum of flavours and nuances.  Iain took this idea a step further even and maximized every opportunity to teach little techniques for coaxing flavours from the glass and understanding the way the senses work.  It was sort of like being made hypersensitive to the nose and palate for the course of a couple hours.  There were more than a few wide eyes and ‘lightbulb’ moments in the crowd.  Goes to show you never stop learning with this stuff.

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And as for the Dram Initiative itself…

Well…the club has grown to a point where single bottle events are more the exception than the rule.  We are often now sourcing two bottles of each expression in order to accommodate the ever-growing attendance.  How we handle this going forward is still being negotiated.  The level of interest is simply beyond where we thought we’d be after only a dozen or so gatherings.  We have a core of faithful members who come out rain or shine and a seemingly endless line of curious folks who want to sit in on events.

Evenings like this particular one with Iain have led to substantial word of mouth circulating about the DI.  And like a proud papa, I can happily say I don’t recall anyone who hasn’t been blown away by the calibre of events we’ve been fortunate enough to pull together.  Our members…our speakers…our partners…all absolute class acts.  Makes for one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve been on in quite some time.


The Bowmore event line-up, for those that are curious, ran the standard range up the 25 year mark, with a few extras thrown in.  There are, of course, other Bowmore expressions out there, but I’m pretty certain this was a big enough tasting as it was.

The malts we tried:

  • Bowmore Legend
  • Bowmore Small Batch
  • Bowmore 12 y.o.
  • Bowmore 10 y.o. Tempest (Batch 3)
  • Bowmore 15 y.o. Darkest
  • Bowmore 15 y.o. Laimrig (Batch 3)
  • Bowmore 1992 16 y.o. Wine Cask Matured (Limousin Bordeaux)
  • Bowmore 18 y.o.
  • Bowmore 25 y.o. Small Batch Release
  • A.D. Rattray Bowmore 15 y.o. Cask #2057


All in all…another knock-out tasting. 

Sincere thanks to Kathy and Michael at Lifford for all of their help and support for this one.  It was great to have you out. 

And to Iain, for a night that has been repeatedly hailed as a members’ favorite.  We appreciate your coming out on an evening when I know you were feeling far less than tiptop (a tooth issue, not a hangover, you cynics!).  Your knowledge, humour and sordid tales of mayhem and debauchery are a standard we all aspire to.  Errr…sort of. 

Cheers to all!


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

Dram Initiative #011 – Alberta Distillers Limited with Norm Little

Dram Initiative #011 – Alberta Distillers Limited with Norm Little

May 2014


Norm Little and I have very different ideas of retirement.  When I get through with the great grind, I can promise you the last thing I plan to do is hang around the old stomping grounds with all of the people I’ve toiled with through the years.  My feet will hit the road for parts unknown (and for those known and loved) and work will be the last thing on my mind. 

But maybe that speaks volumes about our respective jobs.  Or our attitudes.  Or simply the people we meet in the fields we engage in.  It’s not work when you truly love what you’re doing, right?  Either way, Norm still loves what he does.  And it shows.

Norm is, even in his pseudo-retirement, an unwavering ambassador for Alberta Distillers.  He travels the circuits here, and has become what they call the ‘rodeo ambassador’ for the brand, throwing back great drinks with the ‘rough and tumble’ sort that make a living (or at least a loving) out of the more traditional Western way.  And speaking with the man, that is exactly where he wants to be.

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You had to know that it was only a matter a time before we delved into Canadian whisky.  The Dram Initiative is a whisky club after all, not just a Scotch club.  While still a relatively niche market in the global sense, Canadian whisky is now on the upswing again, and we could easily have had our choice as to which brand(s) we wanted to present to the collective. 

The reality is though, our choice was a no-brainer.  Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) is a distillery right in our own backyard in Calgary.  They have been responsible for some of the most well-received and highly awarded rye whiskies Canada has ever produced.  They are also the only Canadian distillery that can legitimately say that they are producing 100% rye spirit. 

The past couple years have seen the distillery finally seeming to take cognizance of the fact that they have something the world wants, and it ain’t just a mixing whisky.  This is damn good stuff.  Of late we’ve been privy to an exceptional 25 year old (grossly underpriced), a stunning 30 year old (also shamefully affordable) and the latest innovation, Dark Horse.

Hopefully the distillery continues this trajectory of experimentation and premiumization.  It’s not that I want to pay more for my drams; it’s that I recognize a quality to price ratio that is simply not in sync with the rest of the world.  Don’t believe me?  Get your hands on some of this and then tell me otherwise.


As with all DI events, we cobbled together our unique resources to create an occasion.  Making memories is what this is all about.  The committee, with the help of Kate and Beam, pulled together an exhaustive line-up of the distillery’s whiskies, then complimented it with a couple of related gems to fill out the big picture.  But whisky is only half of it, you know.

Norm dug deep into his saddle bag of trail stories and mischief to share some stories with those in attendance.  We heard tales relating to the early days of Calgary and Alberta, the start up of the distillery, the evolution of the spirit and development of the brand, and some neat little nuggets relating to the people involved along the way.  We also heard some tales of Norm’s hijinks and shenanigans.  These little musings are what keep us coming back to the drink. 

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The evening’s line-up went a little something like this:

  • New Make Spirit (White Dog) Unaged Rye
  • Alberta Premium
  • Alberta Premium 25 y.o.
  • Alberta Premium 30 y.o.
  • Alberta Premium Dark Horse
  • Tangle Ridge
  • Alberta Springs 10 y.o.
  • Pendleton Let ‘Er Buck (*)
  • Pendleton 1910 12 y.o. (*)
  • Whistlepig 10 y.o. Straight Rye Whiskey (*)

You’ll notice the latter three have an asterisk beside them.  These whiskies, while they may be sold under the banner of another brand, are all produced right here in Calgary at the distillery.  In the past, ADL has sold and tankered away much bulk spirit prior to bottling.  This distillate is subsequently matured and bottled by various other companies, but the DNA remains prevalent.  You just need to know to look for it.  This external demand for ADL’s whisky is as clear an affirmation of the quality of spirit produced here as anyone should need.

I’ve heard rumblings that internal demand for the Alberta Premium brands is increasing, though, and this practice of ‘off-saling’ may be dead or dying.  What can we say, world?  We make good stuff here in Calgary and would rather see it held to our standards, than those of anyone else.


After our friend Norm had shared some stories from his years of accumulated lore, another mate of ours, J Wheelock, came up (with a little bit of arm-twisting) to share a few laughs and some of the story behind the Pendleton brand.  This is one of the afore-mentioned outside bottlers of ADL spirit (though not so transparently).  J is arguably one of the best presenters I’ve ever seen.  Better still…he’s one of the good people.  I count myself lucky to have him in my circle of ‘more-family-than-friends’. 

J had the room laughing and talking it up amongst themselves before turning the room over to yours truly to discuss the rather…errrr…questionable tactics of Whistlepig.  Fortunately, this company’s disingenuity seems to be behind it and they are moving in the right direction of late (and winning back a few fans, it would seem).  Bottles of Whistlepig had to be sourced from Binny’s down in Chicago.  Well worth it to try something like this, jacked up to 50% abv.  A relative rarity in the Canadian whisky style.

I should repeat though…all of the whiskies we tried this eve were produced right here in Calgary at Alberta Distillers. 

I know we managed to make a few converts this eve.  To those that came out and were surprised at the quality on offer…here’s hoping you enjoy your journeys in Canadian whisky.  It will be a fun ride for the next few years.  We’re just putting this stuff back on the map where it belongs.


Many thanks to Norm Little for all of his time and effort.  I know rooms this big are not normally Norm’s thing, but he did a bang-up job, and we were tickled pink to have him out.  And to Beam Global for all of their kind support and assistance…our sincerest thank you.  Finally…many thanks to one of my favorite couples:  J and Kate.  Both shared much time, physical effort, unparalleled insight and simply bucketloads of their ‘J and Kateness’ with us for this wonderful evening.  To all of you…slainte!

And if any of you should happen to meet Norm in your travels…tell him Curt said to ask about his ‘booze’.


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #010 – Ardbeg with Ruaraidh MacIntyre

The Dram Initiative #010 – Ardbeg with Ruaraidh MacIntyre

March 18th, 2014


I’m delinquent in posting these write-ups.  Apologies to all involved or any who may be interested.  No excuses, just keeping busy.  With that out of the way, let’s get on to sharing the word on a recent Dram Initiative whisky club tasting here in Calgarythat took place a few weeks.

You had to know it was coming.  It was only a matter of time before we were going to break out the big guns and unleash Ardbeg on the masses.  Said masses being the faithful folk of the club, now 56 members strong, that is. 

Long time readers of ATW (or even just those with a little bit of observational wherewithal after skimming a few posts) will undoubtedly know that I have an unhealthy appreciation for the phenolic phenom known as Ardbeg.  While I concede that part of me just likes corralling others into appreciating my vice, there was more than simple selfishness that lead to our club event.


Ardbeg is a malt that needs to be a part of any whisky enthusiast’s base of knowledge.  It’s a touchstone.  It’s an extreme.  Much like anything else in life, in order to truly understand whisky you need to experience it in all it’s guises.  With whisky, I believe you need to drink it young and old, good and bad, soft and harsh, sweet and smoky.  Ardbeg represents the biggest and boldest.  This is not a malt that has ever been meant to exemplify subtlety (though in some of its older incarnations, it does exactly that).  Once you’ve had Ardbeg, nearly all else will seem relatively tame by comparison.

So, educational value aside…there was a further reason Ardbeg was always going to crop up on the menu at some point.  And that reason is Ruaraidh MacIntyre. 

Ardbeg - Ruaraidh 3

A fair while back now, I met Ruaraidh at an event Andrew Ferguson put on.  This event was a once-in-a-lifetime whisky tasting affair which culminated in the paired drams of 1974 Double Barrel.  These two ’74 sister Ardbegs were, and are, an unequicable highlight of my tasting experiences to date.  Like…’top 5 ever’ kinda highlight.  No exaggeration.

That particular night was special for a multitude of reasons.  Good food, good drinks, good people, good ambiance.  But much of the credit has to be laid at the feet of a great host for the whole affair.  That host was, of course, Ruaraidh.

Ruaraidh is a native Ileach (the appellation by which the good folk from Islay are known by).  He spent that evening regaling us with tales of Islay…stories of the people…descriptions of the sights and smells…and kept a vibrant thread of personal experience woven throughout.  The authenticity of a native Ileach was a huge part of what made the night memorable.  That’s not to discount the fact that he’s simply a damn fine speaker and snappy dresser to boot.

When the opportunity arose for us to lock down Ruaraidh for our own Dram Initiative Ardbeg event we were tickled pink, and wasted no time in cementing all of the logistics.

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Interest was high for this club event.  (Was that a result of my incessant flag-waving, or simple curiosity on the part of the members?).  We ended up with about 60 folks in attendance for a gathering that ran us a good solid three to three and a half hours.  Laughs were plenty…and the mood was jovial throughout the night.  We broke the tasting into three sections again, in order to allow a little bit of interaction and discussion amongst the members who made it out.  During these wee breaks, Ruaraidh circulated and answered questions and such for a few of the keeners in the audience. 

A great speaker and a roomful of the faithful does not necessarily make for a great tasting though.  Cue the green bottle.  We pulled a few long-gone gems off the shelves in order to make this all happen.  It became sort of a ‘who’s who’ from the past couple years of Ardbeg releases.  A few of these bottles are now sadly fetching ridiculous sums on the secondary market, but that’s neither here nor there.  It was a pleasure to be able to crack ’em open and enjoy in the company of a lot of good people.  That is what whisky is for, after all.  There are a few sounds that should forever be linked: The pop of a cork…the clinking of glasses…the laughter of friends. 

Ardbeg Bottles

 Here was the evening’s ‘menu’ as we tackled it:

Ardbeg Ten
Ardbeg Blasda
Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (2008 ed.)

Ardbeg Uigeadail
Ardbeg Corryvreckan
Ardbeg Galileo

Ardbeg Ardbog
Ardbeg Alligator
Ardbeg Supernova SN2010

…and a little something extra to finish it all off…


Here’s where I have to give tons of credit once more to our kind host, Ruaraidh.  We lobbed a few gentle barbs and bits of fun his way all throughout the night in an attempt to keep him on his toes.  Like the quintessential professional, he handled all with grace, self-deprecating humour and the occasional return volley.  This carried through right up until the final malt of the evening, which we poured blind and asked Ruaraidh to take a whack at.  Maybe it was a little underhanded and disingenuous on our part, but the final drink of the eve was a dram of Douglas Laing’s ‘Big Peat’, built on Ardbeg, Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Bowmore and Port Ellen. 

I won’t tell you whether or not he was close in his guess as to what it was. 

All in now, this was probably one of the club’s best events to date.  The bar was raised a little.  Makes it tough on we poor coordinators to try to line up an event to follow.  Such is.  Challenge accepted.

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Sincere thanks again to Ruaraidh for spending a wonderful evening with us.  It was appreciated, and hopefully we can do it again soon.  Many thanks to Jordan Cameron, who once again came through on behalf of Charton Hobbs/LVMH to help us coordinate a knockout event.  And finally…thanks to Charton Hobbs themselves for their support for the second time in two months.  From us to you…we appreciate it.

Members…see ya next time!


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #009 – Glenmorangie With Jordan Cameron

The Dram Initiative #009 – Glenmorangie With Jordan Cameron

Event Date:  February 26th, 2014


Sometimes it’s best when things don’t turn out quite the way you’d initially hoped for.  The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that.  Our February event was initially sscheduled to be an Ardbeg tasting, wherein our Ileach mate, Ruaraidh MacIntyre, was to have come out and shared some laughs, drams and down-home island insight with the collective.  Due to a bit a scheduling conflict, however, we had to defer Ruaraidh’s visit a bit.  Ok…so…what now?  We have a club to run and a tasting to do after all, right? 

Enter Glenmorangie.


Fortunately for all of us keeners in the Dram Initiative, Charton Hobbs – the company ultimately responsible for Ardbeg in our neck of the woods – is much more than a one trick pony.  There are several other whiskies in their portfolio and other great personalities more than capable of standing up in front of a roomful of whisky folk and helping to spread the gospel.  Several months back now, a lovely lady by the name of Jordan Cameron stepped in to the role of Regional Marketing Manager for Charton Hobbs (on behalf of the Moët Hennessy Portfolio).  Jordan and I shared a few emails and it was she who was instrumental in arranging to have Ruaraidh join us for Ardbeg.

When Ruaraidh’s schedule collided with reality, however, Jordan offered to come out in support of Glenmorangie instead.  We immediately switched gears and began the mad scramble to secure as many expressions of Glenmorangie as we could track down.   


Fortunately, Glenmorangie maintains a rather extensive core range, well supplemented with special edition limited runs.  Pulling together a fun and informative flight was dead easy, and made for an incredibly encompassing tasting.  It’s arguable that only Bruichladdich (and maybe Arran) maintains a broader and more amorphous range of malt whiskies than Glenmorangie. 

The line-up for this evening, as we rolled it out:

Glenmorangie 10 y.o. Original
Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or
Glenmorangie Lasanta
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
Glenmorangie 18 y.o. Extremely Rare
Glenmorangie Ealanta
Glenmorangie Finealta
Glenmorangie 25 y.o. Quarter Century
Glenmorangie Signet


Signet and Quarter Century were the clear-cut winners for the night, but there were some who took a shine to the peated finesse of the Finealta and the smooth sweetness of the Nectar D’Or as well.  The biggest surprise I found, personally, was how well the 10 y.o. Original held up in such a varied line-up.  It’s not oftent the case that an entry level malt still seems somewhat elegant after you work your way up the range into the higher end stuff.  Says a lot for the Glenmorangie house style, I’d say.  A couple other divisions were drawn as we debated the merits of Jim Murray’s 2013 whisky of the year ‘Ealanta’, and whether or not this particular batch of Lasanta was a sulphur-laden mistake. 

Neat drinks either way, and it certainly allowed the members an opportunity to see a very clean and malleable spirit presented in many different lights. 


Jordan did a great job pacing the evening’s consumption, sort of breaking it up to allow a few minutes of dialogue here and there, which may have been the greatest take-away from this whole event.  It’s coolt o see members interacting and starting to form little bonds.  That’s sort of the overall goal of a whisky club, isn’t it?  I think we’ll use a similar format going forward.  We’ll have Jordan to thank for helping shape the Dram Initiative when all is said and done.  😉

As at each of our previous events, we saw an influx of new members.  The club continues to grow, and we’re reaching critical mass, where we’ll have to hit a ‘wait-list’ scenario for any prospective new members, I think.  I suppose there are worse problems to have.  And on that note…I’ll take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and interest so far.  Glad you’re having fun, ’cause we are too.  In the words of some of our punk rawk heroes: ‘without you…we’d just be us.’


Many thanks to Charton Hobbs and Moët Hennessy for their generous support in terms of time, effort and resources.  More importantly still…sincere thanks to Jordan for stepping in and spending a great evening with us over some great whisky.  Appreciate it, Jordan.

Looking forward to doing it again soon.



– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #008 – Glenfarclas with George Grant

The Dram Initiative #008 – Glenfarclas With George Grant

January 23rd, 2014


In what has arguably been the club’s biggest coup to date, we somehow managed to convince Glenfarclas’s George Grant that we were a legit organization and that coming out wouldn’t be a complete waste of his time.  Sucker.  In order to keep up this illusion once we had him on site, we commenced pouring pints of Guinness down his throat while we stealthily sucked back the wonderful barley juice bearing his name.

Ok…so it didn’t go down quite like that (but not far off either), but some things have to be held as intellectual property of the Dram Initiative.  What happens at whisky club stays at whisky club.  Or something like that.


In all seriousness though, George was one of the key figures we’d been hoping to bring out to club since its very inception.  Several of us had seen his presentations before and knew what a blast it was to sit in the audience as he worked his magic.  The idea of being able to bring him out to a roomful of fellow whisky geeks (face it, guys and gals, that’s what we are) was one we’d been mulling over for a while.  It was simply a matter of how.  Seeing as one of our members had previously kidnapped him, it seemed a more…errr…diplomatic approach would probably be in order this time.

I’d initially approached George at the Willow Park ‘Whisky In The Warehouse’ festival a few months back, asking if it would be something he’d be into.  His immediate reply?  ‘Talk to her,’ as he cocked a thumb at Pacific Wines and Spirits’ Michelle Sharpe.  Michelle was kind enough to swap cards with me and agreed to see what she could do.

Fast forward a couple of months and…voila!…from out of nothing, something.


Get a big name speaker and y’gotta pull together some big whiskies, right?  That’s the way we approached it anyway, and indeed we managed to round up a very extensive – and impressive, if I do say so, myself – range of Glenfarclas expressions for this event.  We wanted to keep it primarily to the core expressions this time ’round, in hopes that a little further down the line we could bring George back for a round two of single casks, store exclusives, Family Casks and other variants in the range.

Even so…walking through the Glenfarclas core range is no small feat.  We kicked things off at the 8 year mark and strolled all the way up to the 40 (and then went a little beyond, as we tend to do at these friendly l’il gatherings).  A couple of these releases are no longer available via standard retail around here, so it was a bit of a treat for the members and guests in attendance to get to work their way through such a thorough age-statement series.


The flight for the evening was as follows:

Glenfarclas 8 y.o.

Glenfarclas 10 y.o.

Glenfarclas 12 y.o.

Glenfarclas 15 y.o.

Glenfarclas 17 y.o.

Glenfarclas 21 y.o.

Glenfarclas 25 y.o.

Glenfarclas 30 y.o.

Glenfarclas 40 y.o.

Glenfarclas 175 Anniversary Edition


Great whiskies are one thing, of course, but paired up with a speaker who boasts an incredibly deep backstory full of hilarity and hijinks is the recipe for a very memorable evening.  Sore cheeks, wet eyes and stomach cramps don’t always have to be indicative of misery.  In this case all were the result of a couple hours spent in laughter and comraderie.  The photo below pretty much encapsulates the general mood of the evening.


This event was a sold out affair, of course.  Pretty sure we could have filled even more seats, but hey…there’s only so far you can stretch a bottle, right?  Membership in the DI has grown to the point where seats will be at a premium going forward.  Each event has been incredibly well-recieved, driving demand higher and higher.  A flattering scenario, to say the least.  It makes for some interesting management decisions, but there are way worse problems to have than how many great people you can get in a room and share a dram with, right?  Or should I say share 10 drams with?

All in all, another great night.  I think the club membership is starting to get a clear picture of where we’re taking them.  The destination is not something we’re ready to reveal as yet, but man…it’s been a hell of a ride already.


Sincere thanks to both George and Michelle, who came through big time and were an absolute pleasure to hang out with.  Can’t wait to see you both again very soon.  Think we can up the ante?



– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #007 – Kavalan

The Dram Initiative #007 – Kavalan With Andrew Ferguson

Event Date:  December 5th, 2013


It’s not very often you get to be part of a tasting where a considerable percentage of the great unwashed members haven’t already grossly overindulged themselves and formed some biased opinion on the whisky they are about to try, but this evening was an exception.  Kavalan, a new whisky to the Calgary market, has just started hitting the store shelves; first at the Kensington Wine Market and now at Willow Park.       


The Kavalan distillery experiences the same quick maturation that Amrut does in India.  The temperatures in the slumbering Kavalan warehouses can be as high as 42 degrees Celsius.  The rate at which the greedy angels imbibe is between 12%-15% annually, as opposed to the Land of Scotch, where the rate is much lower, around 2% annually.  This means drink it or lose it.  This also applies if you sit next to one of our Dram members at a club event, nicknamed “Long Arm Stuart”, but for a different reason.

On the frightfully cold night of December 4, 2013, approximately eight years after this expansive, highly automated Kavalan distillery was built by the King Car Group in the hot humid climate of Taiwan, the Dram Initiative sat down at the Marda Loop Community Whisky Hall to partake in one of the largest organized tasting of Kavalan single malt in the known world (well, at least we believe).  The entrance fee, besides the event fee itself, included one item for the Calgary Food Bank, one of my personal, and the club’s favorite charities.


The single malts were tasted in this order:

1         Kavalan Single Malt Whisky 40% ABV.  This is Kavalan’s first whisky produced and their bestselling expression.  Matured in New oak, refill bourbon and Sherry casks.  Approximately 3 years old and has Caramel coloring 

2         King Car Whisky – Conductor 46% ABV.  Single malt whisky.  Blend of different Casks.  The first to carry the name of the King Car Group instead of ‘Kavalan’ as their single malt whiskies have all be known as to date.  Created as a well-rounded malt to represent the well-rounded Group, who operate in many industries.

3         Podium – Single Malt Whisky 46% ABV.  Single malt whisky.  Unlike other Kavalan expressions in that absolutely no bourbon or sherry casks were used here.  Only new American oak casks and a few refill casks.

4         Kavalan Bourbon 46% ABV.  Single malt whisky.  Vatting of ex-Bourbon casks and reduced in strength. Provide by KWM.

5         Kavalan Sherry 46% ABV.  Single malt whisky.  Vatting of ex-Sherry casks and reduced in strength. Provided by KWM.

6         Concertmaster – Port Cask Finish, single malt whisky 40% ABV.  First expression of the Concertmaster series.  Matured in American oak casks and then finished in Portuguese (Ruby, Tawny and vintage Port) Port Cask.


The members enjoyed the first six malts, with number 5, the blended Sherry, the favorite; followed by number 3, the Podium, matured in new American oak casks.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of information provided by the distillery for these first six malts. We know they are all single malts but are unsure of caramel coloring and/or chill-filtration.


The next four single malts are from the Solist range.  They are comprised of individual casks, bottled by hand at cask strength, without any coloring or chill-filtration.  The name is derived from the word Soloist, as in part of an Orchestra.  The word was changed to Solist as the Taiwanese had trouble pronouncing it.

1         Solist Bourbon 57.1% ABV Bottle 1 of 228 Cask# B080519070, Matured in American ex-Bourbon cask.

2         Solist Vinho     59.2% ABV Bottle 20 of 193 Cask# W080225006, Matured in used American oak wine barrel that has been recharred.

3         Solist Fino        57%ABV Bottle 479 of 505 Cask# S061127001, Matured Spanish Fino Sherry butt.

4         Solist Sherry    58.6% ABV Bottle 286 of 547 Cask# S060710022, Matured in Spanish Oloroso Sherry cask.

The Solist range is what I consider Kavalan’s premier whiskies, and it shows.  It should be noted that the quality of these whiskies can change with the cask.  This evening the Solist Bourbon won the show, but all four of these single cask whiskies were well received and thoroughly enjoyed.


What the famous Taiwanese-born, Academy award winning film director, Ang Lee, said about recognition within the movie industry, “In Hollywood you chart your life by Oscars”, I believe to be true in the whisky industry as well … you can chart your success by the awards and accolades you receive and Kavalan has been racking them up as of late.

Many thanks to Andrew Ferguson, our guest speaker for the evening, who gave an award winning presentation of these single malts equal to that of any performance given by the actors in the Academy award winning movie, Broke Back Mountain, directed by Mr. Lee and filmed just outside of Calgary here in Alberta.

Thank you to the Kensington Wine Market for kindly adding two new releases of Kavalan to round out the tasting to an even ten single malts. Normally we taste between 6-8 malts for the evening, but life is short, so if you have it … drink it.  Also thanks to the committee and all who helped set up & tear down.

Gan bei! — Mandarin for ……… Bottoms up!


Your Humble Drudge,



– Words:  Maltmonster 

– Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #006 – Tullibardine & Kilchoman

The Dram Initiative #006 – Tullibardine w/ James Robertson & Kilchoman w/ Anthony WillsLogo (2)

Event Date:  November 5th


The best laid plans of mice and men…

This particular Dram Initiative club event was originally scheduled as a triple-header tasting, but as events unfolded on the other side of the pond it became, by necessity, a double-header.  Funny how things work out, but in the end, this was ultimately a change for the better. 

This part of year is often the time when our spouses declare themselves ‘whisky widows’ and resign themselves to the fact that for a few weeks the whiskily-inclined will be a) MIA, b) redolent of peat reek and c) begging for spousal taxi services.  Such is the nature of whisky season.   

Early to mid November sees a bevy of brand ambassadors, distillery managers, whisky moguls and assorted other interesting folk make their way through Calgary for several days of festivals, tastings, master classes and private engagements.  It was armed with this knowledge that the DI approached our friend Andy Dunn (the handsome gent in the third photo below) about the possibility of snagging one of these individuals for a private tasting for the club.  Andy was gracious enough to offer up not one, but three of the industries more interesting and eclectic individuals:  James Robertson of Tullibardine; Michael Urquhart of Gordon & MacPhail / BenRomach; and Anthony Wills of Kilchoman.

As matters would have it, a couple weeks into our event planning Andy informed me that Michael had to postpone his trip due to Gordon & MacPhail being on the receiving end of a rather prestigious award.  Seeing as Michael is the company’s Managing Director, you can imagine it was imperative he was present.  

We’re nothing if not adaptable, however, and let’s just assume this was a case of serendipity.  This change in pland and agenda allowed for what was ultimately a more focused evening.  And a highly enjoyable one at that, I should add. 

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If any of you have been following along with these write-ups of past club events, you’ll likely recall that the first formal meeting was a kickoff night featuring a range of eight Tullibardine expressions reaching back to an exceptional 1966 World Cup edition.  The poor sap charged with exercising the gift of gab was none other than yours truly.  In spite of a cold and sore throat that had me clinging to the last of my voice by mere threads, we spoke about the launch of the club…about whisky in general (and detail!)…and about Tullibardine itself. 

No amount of research or cobbled-together fact sheets are comparable to having the inside track from one of the distillery’s magnates, however, so it was simply a no brainer to revisit Tulli a couple months down the line, albeit with a completely new line-up of malts.  And, of course, with the ace in the hole of James Robertson, international sales manager and sort of the global face of Tullibardine in attendance.  Slightly unorthodox to do it twice in a year?  Sure.  But just goes to show…we’ll do what we need to in order to make these events magic. 

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Having an opportunity to host James as he shared his stories, insight and humour was a treat.  The man is a gentleman with deep reserves of knowledge and an articulate way of presenting it.  You get to see a little bit of what lies behind the liquid in the glass.  Whisky is about people, after all, and James brought that home.

After working our way through four different Tullibardine expressions (a couple from the recently rebranded core range, and a couple of older ones including a 1965), we pulled out one last special drop to toast the first part of the eve…a 48 year old 1962.  Great dram, but couldn’t beat the ’65 (in my opinion).

Since we were aiming for each of the gents to present four malts this eve (plus that extra treat of the ’62), we ran with little time between speakers.  We gave the crew a few minutes to lob a few questions at James before turning the floor over to our second guest of the eve: Mr. Anthony Wills.  Anthony is the founder and managing director of Kilchoman, Islay’s youngest and certainly smallest distillery (until Gartbreck comes online in 2015, that is).

Dram Tullibardine and Kilchoman 054

Again, that insider’s perspective is invaluable to us as whisky nerds, so having the gent who actually founded a distillery come through to speak…wow.  Anthony took a landlocked farm, refitted parts of it as required and is now distilling a phenomenal young heavily-peated whisky on the premises.  I simplify, of course, but in this short little bit of rambling I simply can’t do justice to the stories of Anthony’s technical obstacles, drive for investors, distillation trial and error and what-have-you.  Fortunately, much of this can be seen on youtube under the SMTV channel.  A quick search by name should find you Anthony’s videos, which are well worth a watch.

It was a treat to be able to pour for the club, among others, Kilchoman’s Inaugural release, which Anthony himself hasn’t tried for years.  A special dram, and a bit of Islay history now.  This is one to remember.

Dram Tullibardine and Kilchoman 070

Anthony’s sincerity of passion is infectious.  I scanned the room a few times, watching members leaning forward in their seats, fascinated by both the balls it took to undertake such a risky endeavour, and by the inspired path to creating a new page in the annals of Scotch lore.  Cool stuff. 

And while we’ve tackled a few peat monsters in previous horizontal tastings, this was the first club date so far to feature a peaty vertical tasting.  Well…half of one anyway.  The reaction from the group?  Hahaha.  Mixed, I think.  No worries…we’ll bring ’em all over to the dark side eventually.

Dram Tullibardine and Kilchoman 020

For any that weren’t a little too weebly or wobbly, and had a safe way home, we closed out the night with an offer of one last dram of one of a couple of Kilchoman single cask releases I had brought along.  Gotta go out on a high note, right?

Sincere thanks to James and Anthony for their time and insight.  And perhaps most importantly…thanks to Andy for helping make this a reality.  It is appreciated.  Slainte!


– Words & Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #005 – Jura With Willie Tait

The Dram Initiative #005 – Jura With Willie Tait

Event Date:  September 23rd, 2013


On the evening of Monday September 23, 2013 the Dram Initiative South West Alberta Congregation and guests gathered in the Marda Loop Community Whisky Hall to enjoy one of the largest collections of Jura middle cut ever assembled in one location.  On tap were sixteen different expressions. 

The night kicked off with a formal tasting of nine whiskies, starting with a Trio box set of 15 year olds, all bottled at 46% ABV called the “Paps of Jura”.  The Paps set is made up of:  Mountain of Gold (Pinot Noir finish), Mountain of Sound (Cabernet Sauvignon finish) and The Sacred Mountain (Barolo finish).  Next up were the three Boutique Barrels:  1996 JN Bourbon (56.5% ABV), 1995 JO Bourbon (56.5% ABV) and the 1993 JI Oloroso finished (54% ABV).  The last three, and the end to the formal tasting, were the 30 year old Camas an Staca (44% ABV finished three years in Oloroso sherry butts), 1977 Jura (46% ABV three 1st fill bourbon casks finished for one year in a Ruby Port Pipe) and the 1976 Feith A Charainn (46% ABV three 1st fill bourbon hogsheads). 


The Dram Initiative Whisky Worshippers were schooled throughout the formal tasting by the omnipotent guest speaker, Mr. Willie Tait, AKA Big Willie, Master Distiller and Global Brand Ambassador of the Isle of Jura.  He began working at the Jura Distillery in 1975 as a Prole and was appointed to the middle-class as the Assistant Distillery Manager in 1979 and finally succumbing to the upper-class in 1985 as the Distillery Manager. 

In 1993, in a strange doublethink Jura / Islay conflict Mr. Tait ended up Distillery Manager of both Jura and Bruichladdich on the neighboring mysterious Island of Peat. In 1999, Mr. Tait left Jura for the village of Fettercairn, where he became the Manager of three Distilleries:  Fettercairn, Tamnavulin and Tullibardine.  Mr. Tait found himself in a new career to newspeak for the Ministry of Truth as Global Master Distiller / Global Brand Ambassador for Jura Single Malt Whisky in 2003.



Some notable quotables issued by Mr. Tait during the formal tasting:

–              “Marvelous bunch of whiskies, and yes I made them all … I’m that fucking old”.

–              “On Jura each sheep has its own name; after all you can’t go shagging a sheep if you don’t know its name”.

–              “How do you drink your scotch whisky? …. With either your right hand or left hand”.

–              “Bourbon is Scotch whisky gone wrong”.

–              “Difference in barley varieties… Macallan’s golden promise, oh that’s shit”.

–              “I may be a Willie, but Richard Paterson is a Dick”.

After the formal tasting, the real drinking began, with a free-for-all mini-fest of seven additional expressions of juice from the Isle of Jura.  The Dram Initiative members & guests were invited to sample from bottles of the 10 year old Origin, 12 year old Elixir, 16 year old Diurachs Own, 18 year old, 21 year old, Superstition and the Prophecy.



For the benefit of the great unwashed, The Jura Distillery was founded in 1963 and is located on the Oceanian Island of Jura and derives its name from the Old Norse for “Deer Island”.  The Isle of Jura is seven miles wide and thirty miles long and it has only one road, one pub and one distillery.  The current Distillery Manager is Willie Cochrane, AKA Wee Willie, which gives credence to the statement, that while you’re on the Isle of Jura, Willie is watching you, also some have suggested that the all seeing eye on the front of the Jura Prophecy Bottle is the one eyed Willie.  The Island is home to less than 200 people and over 5,000 deer, which could make you wonder who the Buck is really is in charge. The locals are known as the Diurachs / Proles, which is Gaelic / Orwellian, for the working class people of Jura. The island is dominated by three voluptuous massive mounds called the Paps of Jura.  The word Pap is an Old Norse word for female breast or man cans.  These steep-sided Madonna Maidenform conical quartzite mountains stand like beacons on its western side.


The distillery is owned by Whyte & Mackay, United Spirits limited (USL), a subsidiary of United Breweries Group of India, Eastasia.  On May 27, 2013 Diageo, also known as the Ministry of Plenty, on their quest for world whisky domination, purchased a controlling interest in USL.  Diageo, upset about the regulators in the UK possibly forcing them to sell their controlling shares of USL due to anti-trust concerns decided to show the world what could happen if they were opposed.  In a show of strength, Diageo pressured Google Maps to make the Island of Jura vanish.  Thanks to whisky enthusiasts around the world for sending Google their many maps of “Distilleries of Scotland”, clearly showing the Jura Distillery.  As a result, Google had no choice but to reinstate the Island and shortly thereafter the Distillery resumed production.


Many thanks to J Wheelock of Authentic Wine & Spirits Merchants, Western Canada (A Division of Charton Hobbs) for providing the incredible intoxicating single malts we enjoyed this night and for arranging for our guest speaker.

A special thanks to our unique and knowledgeable guest speaker Mr. Willie Tait who, through his singular charm, opened our minds and warmed our hearts, livers and kidneys towards the whisky, the Island and the people of Jura.

As a thank you to Mr. Wheelock and Mr. Tait, the Dram Initiative presented them with a rare limited edition Dram Initiative crystal Glencairn whisky go cup.  We also presented Mr. Tait the heel from the Jura Boutique Barrels JO 1995, on which Mr. Richard Paterson, Master Blender at Whyte & Mackay from a prior visit, penned in silver marker “Richard Paterson, I taught Willie Tait all about Scotch whisky”.


Your humble drudge,



– Words:  Maltmonster

– Photos:  Curt

The Dram Initiative #004 – Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The Dram Initiative #003 – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Logo (2)

Event date:  August 20th, 2013


I went into this one already a member of the SMWS.  I also went in knowing I liked many of the expressions I had tried so far.  Further…I already had some idea as to how the event would go down.

What I didn’t anticipate going in, however, was just how much I would enjoy this evening.  Honestly.

Earlier this day, as I was preparing for the event, I said something to my wife along the lines of being ‘pretty excited’ about this one.  It’s not often I get to sit down to a flight of malts blindly, in which most (or all) are new to me.  Especially in the context of the DI, where I am always involved in pulling together line-ups for the Collective.  Sometimes it’s nice to be the puppet, and not always the puppetmaster (said with benovolent glee).

This was definitely a night with a few surprises in store. 


The SMWS, for those not in the know, is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a private whisky club whose members get exclusive rights to buy the society’s bottles, first crack at attending society events, a killer start-up kit and, if abroad…may visit the infamous UK clubhouses (hitting The Vaults is on my whisky ‘to-do’ list).

The Society is home-based out of the UK, and boasts a tasting panel responsible for selecting and bottling single casks from 129 different single malt distilleries, nearly a dozen grain distilleries and others such as Armagnacs, rums and more.  Each release is numbered and cleverly (read: abstractly) named, but the distillery itself is never mentioned on the bottle itself.  Tack on some rather…errrr…over the top tasting notes, and…voila!  The rationale here is that the whiskies should speak for themselves, and not allow any preconceptions to cloud the judgment of the buyer.  Fair ‘nough.

A couple of years back, friends of ours, Rob and Kelly Carpenter, took the plunge and committed to launching the Canadian arm of the SMWS right here in Calgary.  After some intial hurdles were bested (procurement of rights, set-up of agency, retail outlet confirmation, etc) the society launched to a rather phenomenal public embrace.  In year two now, membership numbers simply keep growing.  All you have to do is hit up one of the First Friday tastings to see why.


I had approached Rob and Kelly many months back about coming out and sharing a bit about the SMWS (and maybe a dram or eight of their sexy single malts).  I figured that the Society’s novel approach, utterly unique take on whisky culture and high test presentation perfectly aligned with the Dram Initiative’s ethos of independence and strength…quality and curiosity. 

There’s also one other simple factor here at play which shouldn’t be overlooked.  Inside, we’re all like kids.  We like surprise and mystery. 

Kelly, being the enthusiast that she is, immediately committed to an evening with the club.  We settled on a date and the rest is now (a week later) a piece of DI lore. 


 The reception to both the Society and the whiskies was much better than even I could have anticipated.   I figured we’d have a few keeners who would get right behind what the SMWS was, and I’m happy to say this was exactly the case.

The laughs throughout the evening came easily, both in relation to the names of some of the bottles and, even moreso, in relation to Rob and Kelly’s experiences and presentation itself.   Now laughs are one thing, but an appreciation and an admission to quality is another.  Interestingly enough…one member commented that it was his favorite flight of whiskies we’ve tried since the very first event.   Considering some of the malts we’ve tried to date, that is saying something.

Several left the hall speaking of joining, and i know at least one committed on the spot.  Neat stuff.


Extra special thanks to Rob and Kelly, who did an excellent job in pulling together a fun and informative tasting.  There were a couple of neat twists to the selections…some age…some youth…a variety of cask influences and some neat tales to go along with them.  I think the members really enjoyed this one.  Scratch that. I know the members enjoyed this one.

Now…what say we have a closer peek at the whiskies themselves?  In keeping with the club’s ideology, I’ll refrain from naming distilleries here.  Have a read…


5.35 “Laundry In The Bakery”

54.7% abv          12 y.o.            2nd fill hogshead, ex-bourbon          Outturn:  195 bottles

Nose:  Some light bread-like, mildly spiced baking notes.  Orange and peach.  Cinnamon.  Apple.  Sorta ‘flour-y’.  Hot cross buns.  Some floral notes.  Orange creamsicle.

Palate:  Peppery.  Cinnamon.  Some very clean oak.  Almost a ‘toasted’ note here.  Sweet fruit gum.

Thoughts:  Very light.  Very clean.  Very drinkable.  I immediately knew the distillery, but was way off on age.  This seems older than a 12 year old whisky.


48.31 “Honey & Flowers In A Knicker Drawer”

53.1% abv          23 y.o.          2nd fill sherry butt          Outturn:  262 bottles

Nose:  Some paint.  Peanuts and pencil shavings.  Florals and yeasty dough.  Strawberry and creamy caramel.  A fair bit of chocolate.

Palate:  Good cocoa.  Somewhat tannic.  Neat honey nougat notes, similar to the hard bits in Toblerone bars.  Slightly smoky (clean wood smoke).

Thoughts:  Very nice drink, serves up at a perfect age for this profile.  Would happily sit down to a bottle of this with mates.


G2.2 “A Vaudeville Act”

53.6% abv          35 y.o.          Refill barrel          Outturn:  139 bottles

Nose:  Wow.  Odd one here.  Like an aged rum almost.  Caramel corn.  Dust.  Paint/glue.  Hint of cherry.  Marshmallow.  Very bourbon-ish.  Slightly smoky.  Strange nose at first, but it definitely grew on me.

Palate:  Sweet bourbon flavours.  Bold oak and big fruity notes.  Vanilla.  This tastes like a bourbon aged in a rum cask.

Thoughts:  This one kicked a bit at first, but after a few minutes in the glass, some of those more surprising notes dissipated and left a rather sassy drink.  I know a couple of people around me names this older grain whisky as their favorite of the night.


35.75 “Victorian Walled Garden In Las Vegas”

57.9% abv          17 y.o.          Designer hogshead, toasted and seasoned          Outturn:  206 bottles

Nose:  Dark caramel and cherry.  Some sharp ‘green’ vegetal notes and barley.  Cinnamon hearts.  Again…sorta bourbon-ish.  Big spice profile.  Tobacco.  Grassy.  Smells of a good toffee/fudge/chocolate shop (I’m thinking of those in Banff, Alberta right now).

Palate:  Chocolate.  Marmalade.  Chilis.  Zesty and fizzy.  Bourbon-like here too.

Thoughts:  Some very interesting individual nuances that coalesced nicely.  Still not sure what a ‘designer hogshead, toasted and seasoned’ is, but hey…it works. 


71.37 “As assignation In A Boudoir”

57.9% abv          14 y.o.          Refill sherry gorda          Outturn:  699 bottles

Nose:  Creamy.  Milky caramels and toffee.  Maybe akin to the softer Werther’s.  Freshly churned butter.  Vanilla.  Some sulphur for sure.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Sulphur.  Tannins.  Green apple and plum skins.  Some prune or fig.  Dandelion-like bitterness.  Maybe a bit of leather.

Thoughts:  Somewhat polarizing dram, this.  The sulphur was the dividing factor here.  A little water added took those ‘struck match’ notes down a notch, but never really got rid of ’em.  I took a little exception to this one, but I think any of the others were quite keen.


3.188 “The Camping Trip”

58.8% abv          14 y.o.          Refill sherry butt          Outturn:  616 bottles

Nose:  Farmy notes.  Dark moist soil.  Rubber and charcoal.  Wet rock.  Smoke, peat and iodine.  Still quite some vibrant barley notes.  Chocolate.  Burnt marshmallow.  Wet leather.  Very salty smelling.

Palate:  Dirt and dust.  Bitter chocolate.  Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Salt licorice.  Burnt rubber.  Sweet and tangy peat and rich sweet smoke.

Thoughts:  Awwww, yeah!  Here we go.  A few eyes in the room lit up over this one.  Mine included.  I’m with Kelly on some of these peat and sherry sweet monsters.  Hell yeah!


3.189 “Echoes Of Bonfires & Funfairs”

58.4% abv          14 y.o.          Refill sherry butt          Outturn:  607 bottles

Nose:  Sweet and spicy.  Stewed tomato.  Sunflower seed.  Salted grapefruit.  Peat and smoke.  Prickly greens.  Seafood-y.  Some dark fruits, but rather unrecognizable.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Smoke.  Citrus.  Some raisin.  A bit of Granny Smith apple tartness.  Sharp and iodine-rich.  Quite farmy.

Thoughts:  Sister caks to the one above.  Fun little bit of compare and contrast here.  Very different, but equally enjoyable.  These two are the kind of drams to sit down with when you have unlimited time and no interruptions.


129.2 “Humbugs In A Horse’s Nose-Bag”

61.6% abv          4 y.o.          1st Fill barrel, ex-bourbon          Outturn:  250 bottles

Nose:  Young.  I know this distillery.  I know it well.  Soem neat vanilla notes not tempered by the fiery young peat.  White pepper.  Smoke.  New leather.  Big notes of cola with fresh-squeezed lemon or lime.

Palate:  Licorice.  Smoked orange and burnt lemon rind.  A little more fruit here.  Hay and leather.  Green apple.  Seet peats.

Thoughts:  This and the first were easy ones to peg.  The others…not so much.  The youngest malt of the night was also my favorite.  There may not be sophistication here yet from Islay’s youngest distillery, but there sure as hell is quality.  Loved this one.


Thanks again, to Rob and Kelly, for coming out and spend a great evening with us.  Cheers!

For those that may be interested, see Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market, or visit the SMWS Canada site.

Until next…


– Words & Tasting Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt



Upcoming Events…

The Dram Initiative Logo (2)

Upcoming Events


The line-ups just keep getting better and better for Calgary’s newest and fastest growing whisky club.  Many thanks to those attending and showing keen interest.  But additionally…enormous thanks to those presenters and sponsors bringing their A-game time and again.  We appreciate your efforts, and look forward to years of good times together.

We are now at the point of having events lined up well into 2014.  I’ll keep it a little under wraps for now, just in case we opt to shift things up (as we often do in order to accommodate guest speakers), but I will take this opportunity to share a few words on some upcoming club events.

To any local faithful readers who are not yet a part of the ranks…there are few remaining spots in the club membership, but they are fast filling.  When we are full, it will be a waitlist scenario.  Trust me…membership has perks.

Back to the point…

I’m pleased to announce a few more of the industry’s giants coming out to share their knowledge, experiences and personality…


August 20th, 2013 – SMWS with Rob and Kelly Carpenter

Whisky is more than a drink.  It’s a journey, an experience and a catalyst for making memories and stories.  The SMWS is a perfect vehicle for this more cerebral way of embracing the dram.  I have no idea what SMWS Canada co-founders, Rob and Kelly plan to present this eve, but I guarantee you’re set to meet two very passionate and knowledgeable folks, and sip some great whiskies along the way that they will have handpicked especially for this event.

Thanks to Rob and Kelly for their efforts here  in the city, and for coming out to share this eve.


September 23rd, 2013 – Jura with Willie Tait

Sponsored by Authentic Wines & Spirits

The Dram Initiative will be welcoming Jura’s Willie Tait for an evening of candid chat and some great whiskies.  At one point Willie was the Jura Distillery Manager and, I believe, Master Distiller, but now holds the positions of Master Distiller and Brand Ambassador.  Either way…an engaging and charismatic individual who earns rave reviews for his events.

Willie has a wealth of experience to his credit, including work at Bruichladdich, Tullibardine, Fettercairn, Tamnavulin, Whyte & Mackay, on and on.  I will promise…this is an evening NOT to be missed.

The whisky line-up for this event will be cemented in the coming days, but as always, will include some brilliant drams. 

Many thanks to J Wheelock and his team at Authentic Wines & Spirits for their help in making this a reality when it didn’t seem it could be.   


November 5th, 2013 – Triple Header…Michael Urquhart, Anthony Wills and James Robertson

Sponsored by Gold Medal Marketing

Here’s the granddaddy of all events.  We have managed to secure three incredible guest speakers and a helluva whisky line-up.  This evening will be a more open event, not strictly limited to club members (though they will have first chance at the limited seats).  Half of all event dues will be donated to the Calgary Food Bank, and on behalf of The Dram Initiative Iwould ask that you please being what you can in non-perishable food items.  Time to give back a little.

I won’t get into biographical details here on the following three individuals, in favour of saving it all for this event, but as you know, they are all industry giants, and any opportunity to hear them speak should be embraced. 

The evening is set to shape up as follows:

Guest Speaker 1:  Michael Urquhart, Joint Managing Director on behalf of Gordon & MacPhail, Independent Bottler and Benromach Distillery. 


1.  Gordon & MacPhail Tamdhu 40 Year Old 1971 – 2011 43% ABV

2.  Gordon & MacPhail Dallas Dhu  33 Year Old 1979 – 2012 43% ABV

3.  Benromach 9 Year Old 2004 – 2013 60.4% ABV KWM Cask First Fill Bourbon Barrel Cask # 246

4.  Benromach 42 Year Old 1969 – 2011 42.6% ABV Refill Sherry Hogshead from Casks # 2006 & 2008


Guest Speaker 2:  James Robertson, International Sales Manager, Tullibardine Distillery 


5.  Tullibardine Sovereign NAS 43% ABV Matured 1st Fill Bourbon Casks

6.  Tullibardine 40 Year Old Single Cask 1965 – 2005 48.3% ABV Hogshead Cask # 949


Guest Speaker 3:  Anthony Wills, Founder and Managing Director, Kilchoman Distillery 


7.   Kilchoman Inaugural Release 2005 – 2009 46 %   ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and 5 months in Oloroso

8.   Kilchoman Loch Gorm 5 Years Old 46% ABV Sherry Cask (Butts/ Hogshead) Matured

Special thanks to Andy Dunn (whom you will hopefully all meet on this special night) of Gold Medal Marketing for his support of the DI for this event.  Andy stepped up huge for us on this one and we are incredibly grateful.  Thanks, Andy. 


December 4th, 2013 – Year End Wrap Up / Christmas Party

Early details are coming together now, but this will most likely be some sort of heels party and potluck deal.  Spouses and significant others are not only welcomed, but encouraged, as are all of our special guest speakers from throughout the course of the year (and their others as well).  A portion of proceeds will again be directed to charity, though there are also early talks of having the club embrace the Adopt-A-Family deal as well.  Club members will receive additional details closer to the event itself, but please save the date.

Much more to come, friends.

Slainte Mhath!