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What a week for those in the online whisky community. There have been superb festivals, huge announcements, and some smaller tastings that have earned rave reviews.

Of course, the big story of the week is The Whiskey Exchange’s Whisky Show 2020. Beginning on Friday, there have been non-stop tastings, talks and events. Some highlights have included the Rare and Exceptional Tasting from Diageo, the Deep Dive into Bunnahabhain’s core range and the Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery Tour.

Still to come this week are some real stand-outs. The Long Death of Blends on Tuesday at 8pm looks to be an informative talk with Dave Broom and others. On Wednesday at 6.45pm, Billy Abbott will lead a discussion entitled What’s In The Wood, speaking to Ichiro’s Malt, Westland and Whistlepig to talk about the wood they use. Irish Distillers head archivist, Carol Quinn, will lead a Q&A session on the history of Powers at 4pm on Thursday. The show will come to a close on Friday, but not before Sukhinder Singh leads us through his whisky collection at 5.30pm on Friday. The full list of events is found here.

There are some other excellent tastings occurring this week, such as White Peak’s Zoom Tasting, the Irish Whiskey Society’s Dingle tasting and The Good Spirits Company’s Whisky and Sweeties Tasting. Keep an eye out in our listings for future events hosted by these guys, you won’t regret it.

There have also been two huge announcements made recently. Firstly, Cadenhead’s have announced the schedule for their virtual festival at the end of the month, with some exceptional tastings. Each night will focus on one brand, with tastings from Hazelburn, Kilkerran, Longrow, Cadenhead’s and Springbank. There are also exclusive bottlings available for each tasting, such as the Springbank 26 Year Old Virtual Open Day bottling. This is a week not to be missed.

Lastly, Southport Whisky have announced a new Winter Festival, which promises to be as exciting as the last festival they hosted. They have brands such as Bimber, Glen Scotia, Glenfarclas and Douglas Laing on board, so it promises to be an excellent end to a great year for virtual whisky tasting.

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The Covid pandemic has had a colossal impact on the whisky industry, and on how we consume whisky. In the not so distant past, whisky lovers made pilgrimages to their favourite distilleries, shared drams in person and experienced whisky tasting at source. Within a few short months, the landscape has altered dramatically. So much so that whisky enthusiasts are completely acclimatised to trying drams from their favourite distilleries in their living room. There are clear downsides to this, notably the lack of human interaction, but it cannot be denied that whisky has become more accessible, and most enthusiasts are able to sample a far wider range.

Some were out of the traps quicker than others. Great Drams were quick to adapt, hosting some excellent tastings way back in April. Whisky clubs also thrived throughout the pandemic, with the ability to reach new people outside of their geographical area. The club of which I am a member, Sussex Whiskey Appreciation Club (SWAG!), was founded at the start of lockdown, and for months ran virtual tastings without any physical meetups. It was such a success that by May we were able to run two tastings a week with some incredible whisky, all down to the amazing organisational skills of our founder Wayne. Other clubs, such as the London Whisky Club, have gone on to phenomenal success, regularly hosting some of the best tastings online.

New distilleries began hosting their own online tastings, which received rave reviews. From the amazing tastings with the Isle of Raasey, to the Lindores Abbey tasting, to the few Bimber tastings that have popped up, there has been a hunger for new make spirit and young whisky. There have also been some excellent experimental tastings, from Mackmyra to Origin Spirits (and the incredible Currach Seaweed Whisky), which have pushed the boundaries of what a whisky tasting can offer.

It was therefore inevitable that larger events with established brands would begin to make a mark. The first true whisky festival was hosted by Summerton, and it was very well received in its content, value and quality. Following its success, the true giants of the industry have got involved. The Whisky Show has gone virtual, with some truly breathtaking tastings lined up, Master of Malt hosted their Scotch and Sofa Festival, and Cadenhead’s will be hosting their own exciting Virtual Whisky Week.

Amongst these giant events lie some hidden gems. Merchants like The Wee Dram, The Really Good Whisky Company, The Little Whisky Shop and The Celtic Whisky Shop have been hosting some of the best tastings online, and local whisky societies like Black Country Whisky Society and Waterford Whiskey Society have gone from strength to strength.

Nothing can replace a whisky club meeting or a trip to a distillery, but with the new Covid measures in place for the foreseeable future, online whisky tastings are here to stay. Luckily for us, there has never been more variety in the amount of whisky we can try at affordable prices from the safety of our own homes.

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The beautiful photos courtesy of Edward Milner (@MrEdwardMilner)

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the latest Tweet Tasting, with the wonderful A.D. Rattray. We were presented with five, “bin ends,’” from the Warehouse Collection Range, described as, “part casks leftover from other projects or from moving whisky from a larger cask to a different type of cask, for finishing.’

A.D. Rattray have a fascinating backstory that mirrors much of the trials and tribulations of the Scottish whisky industry throughout the years. Founded in 1868 as a grocery store, A.D. Rattray develops a strong distribution network, but his death in 1910, and the economic disasters of the 1920’s led to the sale of the business to William Walker. The company survives World War II, and by the 1950’s, now in the hands of Stanley P. Morrison, become part of a whisky enterprise, with the purchase of Sheriff’s Bowmore Islay Distillery among others. By 1989, Suntory purchase a stake and later take full control.

With this rich whisky heritage in mind, it was inevitable that the tasting would be of the highest quality. The packaging was exquisite, with each sample dipped in red wax, and a letter explaining each of the 5 drams.

The night began with the Knockdhu 10 year old, bottled at cask strength 54.1%. The nose had hints of lemon, peppermint and mint toffee. Palate wise, chocolate, lemon again, butterscotch and vanilla.

Glenrothes 12 year old followed, at a whopping 67.5%. Light on the nose for the ABV, lots of orange and cinnamon. The palate was a delight – buttery, fruity, but unsurprisingly needed water.

The Orkney 11 year old at 58% had an amazing seaside nose, salty and peppery. The palate was surprising – honey, cinnamon and apricot.

Next up was the Ardmore 9 year old – for me the pick of the bunch. Young and spiky, burnt pears on the nose and a long smoky finish.

Lastly, the Williamson 8 year old at 59% did exactly what it said on the tin – peat. Dark chocolate and caramel, think of a campfire on a cold night.

Great craic and a great evening, Tweet tastings are a fantastic opportunity to try whisky you may not usually gravitate towards, and if this tasting is anything to go by, I will be a regular follower of A.D. Rattray.

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Image by Daniel Norris

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