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Vicky’s Whisky Journey

Lady of the Drams Festival Highlights

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Our very own Lady of the Dram's reviews The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival 2015

Firstly I apologise for not posting sooner but things have been very hectic here one way and another.

The Whisky Shop Dufftown Autumn Festival 2015 was another great success this year. It was great to see all our regulars and all the new faces, of which there were a lot, enjoying themselves. Here are some of the highlights of the festival for me.

On Thursday Mike kicked the festival off with his Big Dram tasting which was well attended and the whiskies well received.  The first drop was drunk.

Friday saw a couple of new events, the Half ‘n half Tasting during the afternoon followed by a cocktail masterclass at The Dowans. For the half n half we saw Mark from the Old Worthy Brewing Co team up with Robert Ransom from Angels Nectar. Mark is very passionate about his beers and has taken great care when choosing which whiskies to pair them with. Robert is also very proud of the Angels Nectar and Strane Gin (a great gin from Sweden). The pairings were very well matched each bringing some different flavours out in the other. The cocktail class was a huge success with the crazy Murray sisters entertaining us all with their anecdotes and sisterly jibes at each other. It was also really good to see quite a few newcomers to this event having the time of their life. They were all crazy so obviously become good friends of The Whisky Shop Dufftown. Fab cocktails were plentiful and it was announced to the group that my daughter had actually won the cocktail competition which had taken place earlier in the week (thats the last time I remind her to enter an event)

Saturday came and Antonia from Adelphi brought some great new whiskies, my favourite being the Invergordon 43 years old which had an amazing taste of milk chocolate bounty bars (knowing my taste, probably the most expensive of the bunch). Mike followed, looking very dashing in full kilt, continuing on his quest for Dufftown to become a recognised independent Whisky region.  The audience were treated to some great Dufftown whiskies and entertained by Mikes presentation which included a few of his friends as you have never seen them before. In the evening we were back to the Dowans for some whisky dining. The food was, as always, fantastic and everyone seemed to enjoy the whiskies Mike and I had carefully chosen to compliment the courses. All went home feeling well fed and content and ready for a good nights sleep.

Sunday and it was my turn. David MacDonald (Spey Valley Brewery) and I hosted our beer, whisky and food tasting. This time from the 1980s complete with fancy dress, oh yes Im afraid so, David metamorphed into Michael Jackson and I was complete with rainbow wig (which Mike took a liking too as it was the first time hed had hair that long) and many coloured accessories (Im sure there are many photos kicking around on various sites). For those in the audience that we didnt scare away they reminisced with us over the food and the music and were even given sweeties for being good. Peter from Morrison & MacKay followed and Im not sure how they get their casks but they really are bringing some amazing whiskies to The Whisky Shop Dufftown.

The final day and not only did this bring another new tasting but a new presenter. Richard Urquhat from Gordon & Macphail held a vertical Benromach tasting. Whilst Richard may be used to more cosmopolitan audiences and sunnier climates he was a fountain of knowledge and passionate about the whiskies and the new packaging the distillery now has. Watch out Mike P you may have your slot stolen. The new addition was Compass Box presented by Herman. I have never been in a tasting where the presenter is so excited and enthusiastic about the products that he actually forgot to taste the whiskies he was talking about. Compass Box seem to be really trying to grab peoples attention and get themselves out there with whisky enthusiasts everywhere. The Drams party was the final event of the night and as always it was a fantastic end to the festival. Many whiskies were drunk, prizes given and to my shock, delight and amazement Mike presented me with a brand new guitar from himself and Val for my 5 year anniversary of working for them. They may be sorry.

Well thats just some of my festival highlights, as always the atmosphere was great and the feedback we have had amazing, with many of the new attendees telling us they will be back. Were holding you to that guys. Ill be back soon with notes from some of the events I attended before the festival and news of trips to come.

Happy dramming

Lady of the Drams.

Vicky Duty of The WSD and The Olive Tree

The Secret Tasting

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The Secret Tasting. sshhhh

By The Lady of the Drams

Hello again, this weekend myself and a few select others (erm.. yes well stay with select) were invited to a secret whisky tasting, at a secret location, by a secret distillery worker with some secret whiskies.  Needless to say I was very intrigued by this - secretly.  Arriving a few minutes early so we could partake of some alcoholic beverage of the non whisky type (i.e. Peroni - other brands are available) and after initially being banned as soon as we step foot in the place for being ‘trouble - dont know what they meant, we found the room to be set out ready with 8 whisky glasses for each person on tasting mats with no name or numbers (guess that was a secret too) and only 4 of them had whisky in!  As we started the tasting our host told us the empty glasses were so we could choose which other whiskies we wanted.  Now I should explain here that our host is not a professional speaker, nor a brand ambassador (although that would be quite funny).  He is just a great lover of whisky and has some fantastic tales to tell.  Most of which arent repeatable.  All the whiskies were at cask strength.

We started our tasting with a blend of 70% malt and 30% grain at around 56% abv.  The nose was very sweet, had light sherry notes and the unmistakeable cereal notes you associate with blends.  The taste was sweet and spicy, with vanilla and cinnamon flavours and heavily soaked raisins.  Unfortunately adding a drop of water killed off the taste even though it made the cereal notes more pronounced.

Whisky number 2 was from a local distillery with a splash of whisky from another local distillery at around 52% abv.  The nose was rather strange as I initially got salted caramel chocolate but then the smell of petrol on your hands after you have filled the car at the petrol station appeared. The taste was better giving floral notes of freshly cut hay, spices, liquorice and toffee.  The spices stayed on the tongue for quite a while after.

Whisky number 3 was from a different local distillery with a teaspoon from another local distillery.  Confused yet?  This sat at around 55% abv.  It would seem our most gracious host was one of the angels taking their angels share, just his wings had fallen off.  The nose on this was more earthy like your garden just after a heavy rain shower, but then light brown sugar and malt loaf crept in. The taste however was rather spicy initially but then gave way to soft melted caramel with a very slight touch of smoke.

Our final pre-poured whisky was from a Speyside distillery and was from a re-racked hogshead which had then been finished in a Pedro Ximinez cask and was distilled in 1995.  Chocolate toffees and tinned fruit cocktail in syrup immediately came to mind for me on the nosing of this one and the taste again was quite different to the nose. The taste was like spiced caramel with pink peppercorns slightly singed and a bit of salt was fighting its way through. A nice chewy dram.

Now for the bottles we could pick from. One in particular had quite a few calling to try it. It was from a distillery near a loch from 1995 at around 68% which is probably why it was so popular.  The nose gave up Thorntons dark toffee (other brands are available), muscovado sugar and burnt oranges. The taste threw me though it was drying and woody with ash notes.  Think Ill just sit and nose this (I didnt pick this one by the way).

This next one, however I did pick, as it was a whisky from 1967 (when I pointed out that this was 6 years before I was born I was asked to leave) from a Speyside distillery.  It had lived in a hogshead and was 40.8%.  The nose was of newly varnished wood, sweet candy bananas, crème caramel and custard (hungry now). The taste on this one didnt let you down either it had vanilla custard mixed with creamy melted toffee.  Just delicious.  I did try to keep the tasting bottle but it was noticed and removed from my reach.

Another one which was a popular choice was from a currently expanding distillery and was distilled in 1989 which is apparently when they produced some of their best whisky.  The nose was sooo good.  Banana toffees with ground almonds and lychees. It was a bit spicier on the tongue than the nose suggested but there was still the creaminess of cream with fresh vanilla pods scraped into it.

The next whisky was from a coastal distillery and was a peated wine cask. The colour was a delicate pink.  The nose gave you sweet peated notes, which was surprising as our host doesnt like peated whisky, with rose petals mashed in a jar like when you used to make rose petal perfume as a child. The taste was of a wood fire ash with the sweetness gently pushing through letting you know it was still there.

The final whisky of the evening before we all fell down was an Islay from 2001. The colour was a darker shade of pink then the previous and had come from one of my favourite casks - Port.  There was very soft smoke on the nose, with soft fruits and heather peat following on while the taste gave out a spicy smoke to start with followed by freshly cooked oranges.  This was both beautiful to look at and to taste.  What a dram to finish on.  I did manage to keep the bottle for a while on this one.

Altogether it was a great evening and we were asked to just donate to the local charity our host supported rather than pay a tasting fee which we were all more than happy to do. We had been given great whiskies that we probably wouldnt normally have got to taste and entertained by some great stories.


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A Night Out on the Cobbles

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Sunday nights used to be about sitting at home and relaxing before starting work the next day.  Not anymore - once a month The Drouthy Cobbler, Elgin has a whisky tasting and like the previous tastings, last night was another great hit.

Graham Coull from Glen Moray took the spotlight this time and even after running a half marathon that afternoon (well done Graham) he still managed to entertain us and bring the audience some fabulous and unusual whiskies.  The whiskies we tasted were all cask strength and not yet bottled.

First up was a single cask, 2006 Sauternes Finish.  The nose was so rich and delightful giving promises of freshly cooked Christmas cake and orange and cinnamon. The taste lived up to the nose giving spicy then sweet hits and bringing the cinnamon to the fore. Well baked Christmas fruit cake and a great one to start with.

Next, came a single cask, 2004 Chenin Blanc. This had earthy notes with vanilla and a slight note of spent matches.  The palate was spicy with soaked raisins coming through leading to a drying finish. A very interesting whisky.

The third whisky of the evening was a 2001 Madeira cask finish which had dark fruits soaked in rum and red grapefruit on the nose. The palate firstly brought a sweet hit then spice before the fruit reappeared. Personally I got fruit pastels but Graham said his tasted like ‘adult jam which, after a few cask strength whiskies, caused many laughs and giggles from the audience.

The final wood finish was a 1998 Port wood.  This one blew me away, an amazing dram of which I will definitely be buying a bottle when its ready.  Polished mahogany, cream soda and port soaked sultanas on the nose with sweet brown sugar on the palate making me think of warm Caribbean nights.

Before taking a well-earned break Graham then introduced us to the first of the peated whiskies of the evening which was a real surprise.  This was a 1994 21 years old which had spent its first 17 years in a bourbon cask then the following 4 years in an Islay cask from a distillery which Graham wasnt allowed to disclose or he would be gagged and tied to a post on Bowmore pier (covered in adult jam no doubt). The peat was light and gentle and made me hungry for a smoked bacon sandwich, but there were also citrus fruits lurking underneath.

After light refreshments to cleanse our palate (well gin & tonic) we moved onto whisky number 6 which was a 1995 sherry cask Glen Moray finished for 3 years in a peated cask. The peat came through a bit more on this one but it was more of a coal fire ash with a zing of lime in single origin dark chocolate.

The final whisky was a young 2010 for which Glen Moray had peated their own barley (which Graham was obviously very proud of) and started out in an ex-cognac cask then transferred to a sherry cask. The nose on this was of freshly lit fires with a taste of tangy, spicy, smoked meat and an underlying sweetness.

The final surprise of the night was a shot of peated cleric which was around 71% abv.  The nose was of malty cereal and very fruity while the taste offered up tangy, fruity, coal peat and finished the night off very, very well.

PS  Mike came up with the title of this post so don't blame me.


Morrison & Mackay Latest Carn Mor Bottlings

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Last night Mike and I sat down with 4 of the latest bottlings in the Carn Mor Strictly Limited range and we were quite surprised at some of the flavours we found.

First up was Benrinnes 1996

The nose on this reminded me of lime zest with a light floral note, whereas Mike got floral toffee, roast lemon and candy with sea salt and we both agreed on the presence of pear drops.  The taste gave me an initial chilli prickle with vanilla and lychees, melon and pear and Mike had similar flavours with a coffee bitterness.  This we found after being left for a short while turned to custard creams.  A great dram to get us started.

Next up was Mortlach 1998.

Most prominent on the nose for both of us was fresh laundry, honeysuckle, lemon and coconut.  Although whether the laundry smell was from the whisky or the dishwasher I'm not sure - I may have to try this one again to check.  And again.  The taste began with an icing sugar sweetness over nectarines then a kick of chilli chocolate burst through (milk chocolate that is) leaving a light, fruity, boiled sweets finish.  If the first whisky doesnt wake you up and refresh you then this one sure will.

We moved on then to Glentauchers 2010.

Whilst immediately reminding me of a fruity malt loaf, toffee and Jasmine Mike had stewed prunes with rhubard and liquorice.  Quite a lot off different smells from this young dram.  The taste moved onto over cooked toffee with an orange bitters and smoky edge to it reminding us both of a collection of baking before it goes into the oven. This was so warming and spicy as it went down you could feel it warming you all the way to your belly button.

And finally the Caol Ila 2006

Well, all I am going to say about this is wow! a great mixture of icing sugar sweetness, bonfires on the beach mixed with smoked kippers and smoked ham.  I'm now going to get my BBQ, take it to the beach and relax with a Carn Mor Caol Ila and smoked ham sandwiches.  This is deffinately one you need to buy to try for yourselves.



A Selection of Hepburn's Choice Tasting Notes

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By Lady of the Drams

Hepburns Choice Mortlach 7 Years Old

I found the nose on this very fruity (Fruitellas) and citrussy (sherbet Lemons) with a hint of polished wood in the background and honeysuckle.  This then led to a taste with an initial spicy hit giving way to liquorice, spiced oranges, star anise with a light hint of smoke in the background.  The smoke lingers on the finish with spices added in and it leaves your mouth tingling.

Hepburns Choice Talisker 6 Years Old

From this whisky I get Mattesson smoked sausage (other sausages are available) covered with salted caramel chocolate. The taste is surprisingly smooth  reminding me of salted pork with a creamy peppercorn sauce poured over the top.  A vibrant finish that makes your mouth come alive, and some lingering smoke ash.

Hepburns Choice Caol Ila 5 Years Old

The nose on this whisky reminds me of cold tar with a hint of seaweed, giving way to a taste of ash from a wood fire, then briny with a hint of waxy lemon skins.  The finish is rather smoky and waxy coating the mouth leaving a finish that lasts quite a while.


Lady of the Drams

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This page is the personal views and experiences of a lady in the whisky industry.

WSD Image Vicky 01


Welcome to my first posting as Lady of the Drams.  On this page I hope to entertain you with fun, facts and more importantly, tasting notes to help you decide which whiskies you want to buy from us.

I will admit that before moving to Dufftown I had never tasted a whisky at all and certainly didnt know there was more to whisky than Grouse and Bells and that it wasnt just for old men sitting in their favourite corner of their local pub (yes I know, shame on me, I can hear you all gasping in horror).  My first introduction to whisky, or rather the first one I enjoyed,  was Aberlour 10 as a friend told me ‘there is a whisky for everyone you just have to find the right one for you.  He was right and when I started working for Mike over 4 years ago I found it, or rather I found quite a few.  Lots and lots even.

The world of whisky was opened up to me and I instantly fell in love with this magnificent and diverse liquid.  From there, under the expert guidance of Mike I have learnt to hold my own whisky tastings,  judge whisky in competitions and he even now trusts me to put my tasting notes on the shop website and help him choose our next bottlings (the fool).

So enough about me lets get to the first set of my tasting notes which are from Hunter Laings Hepburns Choice range.  While a lot of the whiskies in this range are young and pale dont let this fool you these whiskies will have your taste buds dancing for joy!