Well what a year it has been so far for all of us here at The Whisky Shop Dufftown.
In January the shop was refurbished with a new floor and a new desk made from casks and staves. Many have said the new floor actually makes the shop look bigger, so come along and see what you think.
In February we celebrated Mike owning the shop for 10 years and we will continue to celebrate this throughout the rest of the year so keep your eyes peeled for special releases and events. We celebrated in February by launching our own, special recipe beer with the help of our good friend David from Spey Valley Brewery and also a 9 years old Celebration of the Cask Craigellachie single malt whisky which was distilled in 2006, the same year Mike bought the shop. This was bottled by some more good friends of ours, Morrison & MacKay, and Mike and I were lucky enough to go down to their premises and see it actually being bottled and labelled.
We have also employed another member of staff, my daughter Kat, who has a great nose and pallet and brings the element and views of the younger generation of which the whisky industry are keen to encourage to appreciate and drink whisky. It also means Mike and I will have more time to write our blogs. Sorry about that!
Then at the end of April came the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. This was a big success with lots of our tastings sold out before the Festival had even started. As always there were somegreat new bottlings from the independent bottlers of which we only have a few left. (more on this in my next report).
More recently (this week in fact) Kat and I had a tour around Balvenie Distillery with the great David Mair. The tour was brilliant with David explaining everything with enthusiasm and love for the whisky they produce there. One of the things which made the Balvenie tour stand out from the others, for me, is that they have everything there on site from the malting, through the distillation process to the cooperage where you can watch the guys repairing and prepairing the casks ready for use. After touring the distillery we visited the warehouse which used to be the cellar of a big stately home, where visitors can bottle their own 20cl from a choice of 3 different casks. Kat was very excited about this and tried to convince me that bottling one was also part of her training (yeah right) so being the softie I am I let her and this made her day even more special. David then took us back to the tasting room where we were treated to 5 whiskies plus a special whisky from 1974 which was just for â€˜Warehouse 24 members which I am lucky to be part of. The other whiskies were the 12 years old Double wood, the 12 years old single barrel, the 17 years old double wood, the 21 years old port cask finish and the Balvenie 30 years old - what a treat! It was great to be able to taste the 2 double woods side by side and compare them. Both Kat and I found the 17 years old to be smoother and more complex than the 12 but I wont go into any tasting notes as Kat is going to cover that in her post.
Also this week Caorunn Gin Distillery, based at Balmenach Distillery, opened its doors and started doing tours, so this being too good an opportunity to miss, Mike and I went along. On arrival we were taken into a small bothy which serves as their tasting room where we watched a short video (about 3 minutes) about Simon our guide and gin distiller and about how to prepare the perfect Caorunn and tonic. Apparently this involves adding red apples - hhmm well see. Battling the midges (yes it was a warm day in Scotland) we proceeded to the part of Balmenach where the gin distillery is housed. Simon explained the whole gin making process and told us how he collects some of the botanicals himself from the surrounding hills while they are waiting for their own botanical garden to mature. They have even had a local artist draw the distillation process on the wall of the distillery. We were then taken through a deconstruction of the gin, all the botanicals used were in jars on a table and we were asked to nose the botanicals then nose the neat gin and see if we could pick out that particular botanical. We then plotted this on a chart and after we had done this for all 11 botanicals came the taste test. We went round the botanicals again, this time spraying them from an atomiser onto a piece of paper and tasting the neat gin to see if we could pick out the flavours. It was amazing how once you smell the botanical you can taste it much better. This again was plotted onto a chart and when we had all finished we went back to the bothy for a taste of the Caorunn with tonic and red apple. It actually worked, with the apple bringing a fresh fruity flavour to the gin and bringing some of the flavours out, as apple is one of the botanicals used. The whole experience was great and it was a new and innovative way to help people pick up the botanicals in the gin and how they complement each other.
So, all in all it has been a great start to the year and lets hope it continues for the rest of the year.