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Last week consisted of a record setting eighteen virtual tastings. Some events were spectacular, like the Bushmills’ tasting with L Mulligan, of which I was lucky to be a part of. A review of this event will be posted tomorrow. Most of the eighteen tastings were at competitive prices and reflected the accessible nature of the drams on offer. Next week looks to be heading in a slightly more exclusive direction.

The whisky week kicks off on Wednesday with a Daftmill tasting hosted by London Whisky Club. The lineup is incredible, featuring an LMDW 2009 Single Cask release, a 2007 Japanese release and the single cask from the Ralfy tasting, to name a few. The next night sees a couple of excellent tastings, with an Inverurie Whisky Shop featuring two legends of the industry, Jim McEwan and Robin Laing. There is also a Douglas Laing blind tasting event, held by Southport Whisky Club.

The weekend sees SWAG hosting an eclectic Irish whiskey night, with eight drams on offer to showcase the experimental nature of the Irish whiskey industry. Standout drams include the Teeling Whiskey Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum Cask as well as the Currach Single Malt Irish Whiskey Atlantic Kombu Seaweed Cask. On the same night, The Wee Dram will continue their tradition of hosting some of the best tastings this year, with their Benriach tasting event. Last, but certainly not least, Exclusive Scottish Visits have teamed up with the illustrious whisky writer Charles MacLean and world renowned chocolatier Iain Burnett will host a whisky and chocolate pairing night, with four special drams on offer, including the Glendronach 21 Year Old.

Sunday closes the week with two excellent events. Up first are the Edinburgh Whisky Group, who will be hosting a night of Mackmyra tasting, who by common consensus have held the most prolific and inventive virtual tastings this year. Lastly, and possibly the most exciting tasting of the week, Bunnahabhain are holding a Fèis Ìle Retrospective, where the distillery will run through their Fèis Ìle offerings from the previous two years.

Next week may lack last week’s abundance, but in terms of quality, this will be hard to beat. Check the Virtual Whisky Listings for information on these events, as well as dozens of others.

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Following the Whisky Show 2020 and Cadenhead’s Virtual Whisky Week, there was a lull in the volume of whisky tastings. Next week, that all changes. We have listed 18 tastings next week, which is the busiest week since our site began. Some of the heavy hitters are out in force, but there are some truly unique tastings that we may never see again.

The tastings begin on Wednesday, with Great Drams hosting their 30 Year Old Tasting event. Great Drams rarely disappoint, and this should be no exception. Also on Wednesday, #WhiskeyOnline begin their week long festivities. Hosted by three legends of the Irish whiskey community – Omar, Ivor and Laurie – they have amassed a truly spectacular who’s who of the Irish whiskey industry to raise money for an important cause – Down Syndrome Ireland. The fun continues on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and will showcase the experimental nature of the Irish whiskey industry.

Thursday continues the excellent tastings, with Kilchoman hosting their whisky and food pairing event. Expect some excellent chocolate pairings, such as the haggis spice dark chocolate. Inverurie Whisky Shop will also have an event that night, with much-loved Michter’s samples on offer.

Friday is the granddaddy of them all. There are TEN tastings taking place online, with highlights from Isle of Raasay and Bunnahabhain. A review of the Raasay tasting is here – worth noting it was one of the best tastings I have done this year. The Bunna tasting also looks exceptional, with some incredible drams lined up for their St. Andrews Drams extravaganza. There are also tastings from whisky shops and distilleries that are truly incredible.

The Wee Dram round out the week, with their excellent Islay Zoom Tasting. With so much incredible variety in the drams on offer, and enough time to book a ticket for most of them, make sure you check out the full listings here.

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N.B. – We do not provide scores or reviews for the samples we try. We review the quality of the event.

Distilling has been part of Raasay for centuries. Archaeological evidence of a still in a collapsed rock shelter exists today, and it is believed distilling took place on the island as recently as 1850. This rich heritage of distilling, however, comes with a caveat. Raasay has never had a legal, operating distillery. This all changed in 2015, when R&B Distillers started work on the Isle of Raasay Distillery, with production beginning in 2017.

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend one of the heralded Isle of Raasay Distillery’s Virtual Whisky Tastings. The tasting, led with enthusiasm and passion from William and Callum, explored the components that will make up their signature Isle of Raasay Single Malt, launching May 2021. This release will comprise of spirit from three types of casks – chinkapin oak, ex-Bordeaux and ex-rye. There are both peated and non-peated versions, which will all combine to create this unique single malt. The house style will be lightly peated and fruity, with the ex-rye the centrepiece of the spirit.

The samples we were provided were all around 28 to 32 months old, received in beautiful packaging. Following an introduction into the history of the distillery, Callum provided a fascinating history of the island, covering topics like the clan MacLeod, Brochel Castle, the Highland clearances and the iron ore mine. Born and bred in Raasay, Callum possessed a wealth of knowledge on the island, its history, and its agriculture. The conversation flowed freely, with some excellent questions put to the guys, including queries on the cask history and the transportation challenges facing a small, sparsely populated island.

Once the scene was set, we began sampling the spirit, beginning with the unpeated drams followed by their peated version. The chinkapin oak was dark and possessed a rich colour for its age, with a sweet toffee nose and lots of dark fruits on the palate. The ex-Bourdeaux followed, with its slight pink tinge, was blackcurrant and raspberry on the nose, with cinnamon, cherry, black grapes and a slightly maritime taste on the palate. Lastly, the ex-rye was the paler of the three, with cinnamon spice on the nose and toffee, white pepper, dark fruits on the palate and a much longer finish than the previous two. The highlight of the six drams was the peated chinkapin oak. The casks are highly charred and toasted, and the peat used is from Black Isle, which is notably less medicinal than Islay peat, with Callum and William comparing it more to a BBQ smoke.

Finally, we were treated to a virtual whistle stop tour of the distillery, which was an excellent way to end a fantastic evening. Overall, this was one of the best tastings I have been on this year. The quality of the packaging was evident, the spirit was phenomenal for such a young age, and Callum and William left no stone unturned in providing a history of the island, the distillery, the spirit and the future.

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Image by Daniel Norris

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