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With Christmas round the corner, whisky societies are holding some of their last events of the year. Next week is no exception. The virtual whisky week begins on Wednesday with Sussex Whisky Appreciation Society, who will be sampling 5 drams from the Carn Mor Strictly Limited range. Joining SWAG will be the Carn Mor brand ambassador Blair Sterrick, who will provide an insight into their background and the spirit itself. There will also be a 6th special dram – a 1990s vintage from the closed distillery Imperial. This should be a great night!



Also on Wednesday, Celtic Whiskey Shop will host their Midleton Very Rare tasting. Fans of the brand will be treated to 3cl drams of the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 releases, and the event will be hosted by Luke from CWC and Rowan Lacey, brand ambassador for Irish Distillers. MVR is often priced too high for many Irish whiskey drinkers, so the opportunity to try four of them is a fantastic opportunity.


Thursday sees great events on both sides of the Irish Sea. Firstly, the Irish Whiskey Society will hold their annual AGM. Toasting packs will already have been sent to members for what should be a great night. The Dram Society will also be hosting their Story of Japanese Whiskey evening. The drams on offer are fantastic, and this should provide a fascinating introduction to the history of Japanese whiskey.


Friday sees three more exciting events take place. Firstly, Black Country Whisky Society will hold their Christmas tasting event, which quickly sold out upon release. Seeing the six drams on offer, it is no surprise. L Mulligan will also hold their whiskey of the year event. L Mulligan never disappoint with their tastings, including this Bushmills one I was lucky to attend, so this is a no brainer for Irish whiskey fans. At the same time, East Coast Whisky will be hosting their Old and Rarer event. Tickets are a whopping £140, but if you take a look at what’s on offer, it is easy to see why. Have a look below.



Lastly, the Northeast Whisky Society hold their Mack and Cheers evening on Saturday with the ubiquitous Mackmyra. With six superb drams on offer, this should be a great night. Look out for the Moment Körsbärsrök, their new smoky whisky seasoned with German sherry wine.


Check out these tastings and many more on our tastings page.


Our December newsletter will go out by the end of the week. There will be hours of whisky content, the best reviews from around the web, and links to numerous whisky offers and new releases. It is the best one stop shop for all your whisky needs. Sign up at www.virtualwhisky.co.uk.


Sláinte

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



Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a Bushmills virtual tasting, held by Michael from L Mulligan Whiskey Shop. The event was highly anticipated as it included samples of the new cask strength Bushmills releases, which form part of the Causeway Collection. The 2008 Muscatel Cask at 56.4% abv and the 1995 Malaga Cask at 53.5% abv, the first cask strength releases from Bushmills in fifteen years, mark a change of direction for the distillery, who were acquired as the signature whisky brand for drink giants Jose Cuervo.


Helen Mulholland, Bushmills’ master blender, explained that the, ‘launch represents a bold new step for Bushmills, one that not only honours the giants and generations before us but also the incomparable natural landscape in which it’s forged. We are excited to reintroduce cask strength Bushmills single malt whiskeys to our loyal whiskey fans across the island of Ireland. With these two new exclusive releases, we celebrate our passion for single malt, showcase our rare and unique casks and honour our 400-year north coast provenance.” The limited releases were highly sought after, with the Muscatel Cask selling out immediately, making this L Mulligan tasting a very exciting prospect. As a result, they were able to sell 200 tickets in minutes.


Michael kicked off the show by introducing Seamus Lowry of Bushmills, who provided a fascinating history of the brand and the role he has played. He talked us through the history of Bushmills, its changing of hands and the impact it played on the distillery. He explained that Bushmills intend to triple their output, sitting on nearly 40 warehouses, both rackhouses and palletised, showing their potential for rapid growth. He also described the incredible growth of the Irish whiskey industry, which has grown from 3 distilleries to 33 distilleries in 20 years.


Following the insight into the brand, it was time to sample the whiskey on offer. The night began with a classic – Black Bush. The blend is not as grain-driven as other similarly priced blends, and uses American casks, both first-fill and refill, with flavours of cherries, raisins and almonds. For the price range Black Bush is at, this is hard to beat.



Next up was the 10 year old. It is fruity, fragrant, light and delicate, and comes from roughly 70% American and 30% sherry. This is classic Bushmills, and as Seamus himself states, ‘not every whiskey needs to be beefy and bold.’ At this stage the chat turned to the coastal influence of Bushmills. It was mentioned that Bushmills is a mere 20 miles from Islay, yet the whiskey is not thought of as one with strong maritime, salty notes. This was explained succinctly by the fact that Bushmills Distillery is 10 miles inland, and not as coastal as some of their marketing may allude to.


The third dram of the night was the 16 year old. Driven by wine casks, this was a serious step up in terms of quality, yet the Bushmills DNA was again evident. Following this was the 21 year old. The colour is much darker than the 16 year old, and Seamus rightly pointed out not as punchy as the 16. There were beautiful dark chocolate notes, with citrus and grapefruit. The two years spent in the Madeira Cask were evident and added a wonderful richness to the spirit. If there is any criticism of the core range it is their abv - they all sit on 40%. Again it is worth revisiting Seamus’s assertion that not all whiskey must be beefy and bold, and with this in mind, it would be hard to find many whiskies at 40% that taste as good as this.



Finally we moved on to the main event. The 2008 Muscatel Cask was everything I hoped it would be. Fragrant and aromatic, it would be very hard to detect this strong an abv on a blind tasting. The star of the show, however, was the 1995 Malaga Cask. Spending 14 years in a Malaga cask, which Seamus pointed out is not a finish but a, ‘continuity of ageing,’ there were strong notes of plums, cinnamon and pears. A stunning dram.


The night was wrapped up by Seamus and Michael, who together had provided hours of entertainment for us, and that was that. A fantastic tasting, trying a full core range, two highly sought cask strength releases, and at an affordable price. Bravo.

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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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