The Whisky Tasting Club

WORLD WHISKY REVIEW -NOVEMBER 2014

My view – November 2014

Welcome to the new look World Whisky Review – a monthly blog that will hopefully pick up where I left off a few months ago.

This time round the format will be simpler and not so high maintenance as it was before and it will have less lengthy features and more snippets of news from the very furthest parts of the whisky world.

Certainly there won’t be a shortage of things to write about. Increasingly smaller distillers are finding their own markets far away from the United Kingdom and have seen little point in publicity in territories they can’t service. But there are some fascinating experimental new whiskies and some exciting innovations that I’m sure whisky lovers would like to hear about.

I’m fascinated, too, in plotting the progress of distillers as they grow, and how they go about making a decision to recruit a new distiller while they represent their whiskies around the world. Or when they decide on recruiting a brand ambassador so that they can focus on strategy and new brand development.

Which brings me to Balcones and the developments there since I last wrote about the Texas distillery.

Ironically I interviewed Chip Tate about this very issue some months ago – how to expand without losing sight of what you’re trying to achieve, how to represent the whiskey around the world but still control the home production; how to expand without losing control. Events since then suggest that for whatever reason, everything has gone horribly wrong. I hope Chip comes through it and emerges with the opportunity to contribute to the world of whisky once more.

Balcones is back defending its titles in this year’s Wizards of Whisky Awards along with more than 75 other whiskies. The judging will take place in December and the winners announced in January. Watch for a particularly strong contest in Ireland and Europe this year.

Finally, I am very excited to announce that I have teamed up with the Alpine Spirits Association in a bid to promote their whiskies and gins to new markets. I’m also going to try and persuade some of them to let us have some of their stunning fruit spirits. If Scotch, American and Irish whiskies can be flavoured with artificial fruit flavourings, then the beautifully crafted European spirits have every chance of doing well on the cocktail circuit.

There are more than 100 distilleries in what I call Rheinside, many of them making whisky. Some of the world’s best distillers are in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Liechtenstein, and in the last five years they have learned quickly that you can’t make whisky the same way as other spirits, and have adapted accordingly. The new whiskies are obviously young but excellently made, and many distilleries are innovating and producing new whisky styles. My story on Orma below is a starting point and I’m delighted to say World Whisky Review will also be available in German.

I always appreciate your feedback. Happy reading!

Indian giants back with a bang in 2015

India’s single malt giants Amrut and Paul John are set to hit the ground running in 2015 after both distilleries had relatively quiet years in 2014.

Amrut, which has picked up scores of awards across the world, has struggled to keep up with demand over the year, and has focused on a couple of very high end and limited edition whiskies.

But it has a new 10 year old version of Greedy Angels out in time for Christmas, and a new single malt being bottled this month for release in early 2015.

The original Greedy Angels was so called because three quarters of the cask was lost to the elements. But the whisky, at eight years old, was the oldest ever Indian whisky and was stunning.

Meanwhile Paul John pulled back from some intense marketing and promotional work this Autumn and will return to the fray in 2015. Various set backs including stock damage after a fire on a ship bringing over from India are said to have contributed to the problems.

But Paul John did release some fabulous single cask bottlings and are defending their title as Asian distiller of the Year in this year’s Wizards Awards.

Wizards hit new high

The Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards have passed 75 entries for the first time – and are set to grow further.

The deadline has extended until late November to accommodate a flurry of late entries from the United States.The American craft distillery category, and those of Europe and Ireland, are looking particularly strong this year.

Judging will take place in early December in London, with a judging panel made of young whisky bloggers, writers and retailers, and in Norwich with the Norwich VIP whisky club.

Whiskies will be judged in two broad categories, single malt whiskies and other grain whiskies, within gold silver and bronze medals being awarded as appropriate. Whiskies from across the world will be judged against each other to find the overall world whisky in each style. Then the results will be broken down to find regional winners by Continent. Finally, results from each distillery will be collated to find the regional distiller of the year, and the overall world distiller of the year.

Results will be announced in early January.

Australasia goes through the gears

Australia and New Zealand are producing a range of new spirits which suggests that the future for whisky from down Under is very good indeed.

Tim Duckwood of Heartwood has sent me new make spirit from Lark and Redlands in Tasmania and both are outstanding. The Lark one, LD1151, is 63.4%, and is 50 per cent peaked. The Redlands Estate new make is bold, clean, rich and very fruity. Typically tim followed up with an email saying that the next batch of spirits was even better.

Meanwhile in New Zealand The NZ Whisky Company has launched The Oamaruvian, a weighty double cask whisky which is the best thing the company has done so far.

And small family NZ company Thomson has distilled spirit from barley dried over manuka twigs. It’s 69% and has the most fascinating bitter and topsy smoke taste and unlike anything erase I’ve tried. Can’t wait to see what wood does to this.

World whisky focus: Whisky deep, mountain high….

“You see that building there,” says my Swiss host Pascal Mittner pointing at a non-descript but clearly well protected grey factory complex. “That building is where more than three quarters of all Euro notes are made as well s other currencies. It’s not well known for obvious reasons. I know that as they are a client of mine.”

It’s a sunny day, and the picture in front of me – with the exception of the Euro building – is straight out of a Swiss tourist brochure: cows with large bells grazing in verdant meadows, the sun shining down on mountains with the first snows of winter at their summits, church bells ringing out in this very Catholic part of Switzerland. No milk maids or lederhosen though.

We’ve been driving beside the Rhein and are about to head up in to the Alps to the world’s highest maturation warehouse. Or rather, a cave high up above the Rhein valley. My host drives a silver Jaguar, makes his living through IT Security, and his whisky business partner, Rinaldo Willi, makes diamonds out of dead bodies. Or rather, he uses the 18 per cent of a cremated body that is carbon and makes it in to a memorial diamond for wealthy people.

And these two very likeable friends are part of a growing army of distillers from this part of the world who are bring an attitude to distilling that is as refreshing as the Alpine air they’re maturing their spirit in.

It’s very early days for the duo – who call their whisky Orma – which is a Romansh word. Romansh is an official language in Switzerland, and is widely spoken in the South East of the country.

“It is spoken by more than 60,000 and is my first language,” says Rinaldo.

“It is derived from Roman-spoken Latin, and which is spoken by more than 60,000 people. the word ‘Orma’ means soul.”

They admit that their first attempts at making whisky were catastrophic, but what they’re doing now is exciting, different and very well made. Using mainly Swiss wine casks and some port and sherry, they are at the experimental stage. They have been distilling at two separate distilleries but are moving towards just distilling over wood fire at Marcel Telser’s Telsington distillery in Liechtenstein.

“It’s amazing the difference between the two,”  says  Willi. “The one on central Switzerland is more aggressive and we’re moving to Marcel’s more harmonious and smooth spirit.”

They use five different locations in the Alps for maturation – some of them like the cave I visit that is hard to approach even without snow so heaven knows how they manage in winter.

“We bring the casks up in a cable car,” shrugs  Mittner,  smiling.

This isn’t indulgence, though, and already the effects are there to see. The Angels’ Share in the mountains, for instance, is an astonishing six per cent. And this part of The Alps is regularly blessed with ‘the hair dryer’, a warm wind which has its roots in the Sahara Dessert and can transform the temperature here so that barbecues aren’t out of the question even in winter. It’s what allows the growing of wine grapes here.

“The temperatures can vary from -20C to +28C and that affects maturation. We’re interested in seeing what happens in different places.”

The whisky is young but feisty, with an earthy smoky base. A peated version will be released for Christmas.

And if you want to know how ambitious these guys are, take another look at the whole Orma package. The logo is a Capricorn goat – a symbol of the region – with long horns and a curled leg so that it forms an eight, which happens to be a number of symbolic importance across Asia. The strength of the whisky is 44% – do the Maths – and the way Orma is written on the bottle means that when inverted you read the Latin number VIII.

Impressive on every level.

SHORTS

  • The English Whisky Company has just released a limited edition Chapter 16 – and it’s a cracker.
  • The new single malt, released at both cask strength (96 bottles) and at 46% (300 bottles) is the distillery’s first release of a peaked sherry cask. And it really works. Don’t hang about if you want to get one.
  • Catoctin Creek of Purcellville, Virginia has been awarded the Platinum Award, the highest level achievable, in the Loudoun Dulles Green Business Challenge. This is an alliance between the Loudoun County and Dulles Chambers of Commerce to promote businesses that make direct efforts to improve sustainability by saving energy, conserving water, reducing waste, combating congestion, protecting native habitat and reaching out to employees, customers, communities
  • England expects: England doubles its distillery count this month. Cotswolds Distillery started producing spirit last month and Lakes Distillery comes on stream later this month. There will be a traditional still naming ceremony, when the stills are named after the wives of the chairman and managing director.
  • Award-winning Tasmanian distillery Sullivan’s Cove is giving people the chance to buy their own 20 litre cask to mature. The customer chooses between ex port or ex bourbon wood and the level of char, then the cask is filled with new make spirit and stored at the distillery for two years before being bottled. If you’re in the neighbourhood you can visit them as often as you like.
  • * independent Scotch Whisky specialist Douglas Laing & Co has released a   new batch of rare and ‘antique’ single cask Scotch whisky range under the name ‘XOP’ – Xtra Old Particular. The range includes a Macallan 26 Years Old, an Invergordon 40 Years Old Grain and a Caol Ila 30 Years Old.
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Top whisky bloggers to judge The Wizards of Whisky awards

Almost 15 top whisky bloggers are set to join the judging panel of the Wizards of Whisky
Awards, making them the most new media friendly awards in the world of whisky.

The new judges bring a fresh, youthful but knowledgeable face to The wizards, which are now in their third year. This year’s competition was launched last week, with judging due to take place in October and November.

I want to make The Wizards the best reflection of what is happening with ‘New World’ whisky. The new judges will join a team made up of a number of established whisky experts as well as members of his VIP team, which has been tasting world whiskies with him for nearly 10 years now.

These aren’t wine people dabbling in the world of whisky, and they’re not the same old dyed in the wool judges that turn up at pretty much all the other Awards events. Each year I look to do something a bit different to freshen things up. There are some very talented people who prefer the internet to pursue their passion and I’m looking forward to their involvement in the judging process. They should shake things up a bit.”

There is still time to apply to be a judge. Simply contact Dom through Facebook or Twitter or email
him at d.roskrow@aol.co.uk

Meanwhile The Wizards look set to become the biggest yet, with the Independent bottlers’ category, the only
one featuring Scotch whisky,  looking particularly strong.

Three reasons why whisky companies need to enter

The Wizards of Whisky will showcase whiskies from around the world with a unique three-pronged promotional approach.

One – The Wizards of Whisky will be judged by two panels of experts made up of the best bloggers and writers, retailers,
and members of my VIP club, which have been tasting world whiskies for 10 years
and have more experience of world whiskies than anyone else in the country

Two – Medal winning whiskies will be given the opportunity to be included in up to three of my tasting evenings as part of
a 12 date Wizards Of Whisky tour for corporate clients and whisky clubs. There is no additional cost for this, apart from providing stock.

Three- Winning whiskies will be offered the chance to be included a five miniature Wizards whisky pack sold on line by the
Whisky Tasting Club (see www.thewhiskytastingclub.co.uk). There is no added cost for this, apart from providing stock.

What previous winners say about The Wizards

“Competing on an international stage is what sets the Wizards of Whisky apart. It puts you in front of the
entire world. Being recognised by the Wizards of Whisky Competition has been huge for the Corsair Distillery and put us in the big leagues. No one in the industry is as committed as Dominic Roskrow is to world whiskey. His unique voice is always on the cutting edge of international whiskey trends and is vital to a world that is becoming more global.”  
Darek Bell, Owner Distiller of the Corsair Distillery, USA

 “Dominic Roskrow appreciates and feeds the discerning drinker’s appetite for new world whisky, and the people behind it. He is not betrothed to any behemoths of the old world, and captures the fresh flavours, refreshing stories and pioneer processes behind emerging whiskies around the globe. His interest in New Zealand whisky has been greatly valued by me, and extends beyond tasting notes
 and quiet applause, to market advocacy,public relations ideas, and the odd clip under the ear’ol when required”

- Greg Ramsay, Owner of the NZ Whisky Company, New Zealand

For full details of the Wizards email Dom at:

 

 d.roskrow@aol.co.uk

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THE DOM ROSKROW WIZARD OF WHISKY AWARDS 2015

I’m delighted to announce the launch of the third annual Wizards
of Whisky World Whisky Awards.

These awards have quickly won an outstanding reputation for
recognising the best whiskies from across the world and can boast the most
knowledgeable and experienced panel of world whisky judges of any other awards
event.

Unlike other awards world whiskies are judged against each other
by style before individual awards are given by Continent.

And this year there are two new ground-breaking innovations – the
publication of the World Whisky Top 20, and a new award, The Next Big Thing
Award for ‘works in progress ‘ – new make spirit or spirit under three years
old for European whisky and under  two years old.

The closing date for entries is October 30 and judging will take
place in two stages in November and December. Results will be announced in
January.

Three reasons why you need to enter 

The Wizards of Whisky will showcase whiskies from around the world
with a unique three-pronged promotional approach.

One – The Wizards of Whisky will be judged by two panels of experts
made up of the best bloggers and writers, retailers, and members of my VIP
club, which have been tasting world whiskies for 10 years and have more
experience of world whiskies than anyone else in the country

Two – Medal winning whiskies will be given the opportunity to be
included in up to three of my tasting evenings as part of a 12 date Wizards Of
Whisky tour for corporate clients and whisky clubs. There is no additional cost
for this, apart from providing stock.

Three-
Winning whiskies will be offered the chance to be included a five
miniature Wizards whisky pack sold on line by the Whisky Tasting Club (see www.tthewhiskytastingclub.co.uk).
There is no added cost for this, apart from providing stock.

Two innovations for 2015

This year there will be two additions to The Wizards:

  1. World Whisky Top 20

A list of the top 20 world whiskies irrespective of style or
country of origin, based on the scoring from both judging panels

 

2.
The Next Big Thing Award

Aimed at new distillers who have yet to bottle their first whisky,
or companies which have released a new make spirit or ‘work in progress’ and
recognises one to watch for the future.

Coverage

The Wizards will be covered in the following ways:

  • Regular coverage, brand focus pieces and distillery focus pieces at the Craft
    Distillers Alliance website www.thecda.co.uk
  • Regular coverage, news and brand focus pieces on my blog at The Whisky
    TastingClub, www.thewhiskytastingclub.co.uk
  • Daily coverage on Facebook and Twitter
  • PR coverage and press releases to all major trade media and to relevant consumer media
    including radio

Categories

Whiskies will be judged by style of whisky across the world before
awards are made in the following categories:

World’s best whisky

World’s best single malt

World’s best blend

World’s best other grain whisky

World top 20 whiskies

 

American Whiskey of the Year

African/Asian Whisky of the Year

Canadian Whisky of the Year

European Whisky of the Year

Irish Whisky of the Year

Japanese Whisky of the Year

 

World Distiller of the Year

American Distiller of the Year

African/Asian Distiller of the Year

Canadian Distiller of the Year

European Distiller of the Year

Irish Distiller of the Year

Japanese Distiller of the Year

 

Independent Bottler of the Year

World Top 20

Next Big Thing Award

 

Crucial dates

All entries should be sent to the following address by no later
than Friday October 24

Dom Roskrow

World Whisky Company Ltd

Independent House

Thorpe Road

NORWICH NR1 1RY

 

For an entry form and entry costs email dominic at dominic@thewhiskytastingclub.co.uk
or ring him  on the number below.

 

Dom Roskrow

World of Whisky

Craft Distillers’ Alliance, TRIBE, Discovery Road &
Wizards of Whisk
y

0044 7540 348998

 

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TRIBAL GATHERING

PRESS RELEASE

TRIBAL GATHERING
Award winning whisky writer and former rock journalist Dominic Roskrow is set to combine the two great loves of his life when he launches a new whisky and music event later this year.

Called TRIBE 2013, the first event is set to take place in Leicester in November, with a second planned for Norwich in late February. Four events in total are planned for 2014.

TRIBE 2013 will bring a whisky festival to established music pubs and venues. It will consist of a two hour whisky festival followed by a music event featuring three bands. The first event, at The Musician in Leicester on Saturday November 9 will be headlined by the up and coming swing and bluegrass family band The Toy Hearts in one of their first gigs after returning from a six month tour of America. Two other acts from Americana label Clubhouse will also be on the bill.

Announcing the project, Dominic said that he would be calling on members of the Craft Distillers Alliance to support the venture, arguing that it is the ideal platform to introduce new potential drinkers to exciting boutique and innovative spirits.

“I’ve always linked whisky in particular with music, and that link is particularly strong between the drink and Americana and roots music,” he said. “I am calling the event TRIBE because the idea is to create a network of like-minded people who will share new whisky and music experiences, and grow to trust TRIBE as the event to go to to experience the best of both.”

Although the first events will feature Americana bands, Dominic does not rule out the possibility of linking TRIBE to other musical genres, specially in his home city of Leicester.

“I’d love to put on a Sikh or Hindu version of TRIBE in the future but I need to find someone from the Asian community to help me source the right bands and ensure we respect the customs and traditions of the relevant communities. I would love to create a Leicester event that would contribute to its bid for City of Culture status. My boys and I are Foxes season ticket holders now so it’s very much a case of my club, my city.”

Dominic will support TRIBE 2013 with the launch of a new interactive website where music and whisky fans can join his tribe and swop music and whisky reviews and suggest great pairings.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun and I hope I’ll gain the trust of whisky fans, music lovers, great bands and top brands so that we can keep music live and create a new route to market for aspiring whiskies from across the world.”

Tickets for TRIBE 2013 include five whisky vouchers and are priced £15. They are on sale now and can be booked by contacting Dominic on 07540 348998 or by email at d.roskrow@aol.co.uk
For regular TRIBE 2013 updates follow Dominic @whiskytasting

Ends

Testimonials:

“Whisky and music go together like a hand in glove. Both are best enjoyed with friends. Both are best enjoyed together. And both can contribute to fantastic memories and create great talking points. So I’m surprised more is not done with music and whisky. We are delighted to support Tribe and Dominic and I have no doubt this event will be the first of many which will introduce whisky drinkers to new bands and music lovers to new whiskies.”
Rob Bruce, head of global PR for Whyte & Mackay

“Craft distilled whisky and rootsy-americana, two of my favourite things… what’s not to love about Dominic Roskrow’s TRIBE festival? WIth Dom on hand to give expert guidance to the whiskies on offer, and some of the finest UK- Americana bands providing the soundtrack, this event is certain to be a hit.”
Pierre Thiebaut, founder and director of connosr

“Dominic Roskrow is the Paul Morley of brown spirits.”
Time Out Magazine

“If we’re going to have a Britpop battle between our books for the Christmas number one, Dominic is definitely Oasis.”
Dave Broom, whisky writer and educator

“Dominic has the rare ability of making learning about whisky a hugely enjoyable experience. He makes the subject of whisky just what it should be – a total pleasure.”
Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie

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The Speyside Festival Part One

I’m standing in the reception of The Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside and the receptionist who is talking to me looks suspiciously like Miss Hoolie from Balamory. Clearly The Spirit of Speyside has roped in all the big Scottish guns this year.

“No I don’t know when the bus to the dinner is coming because they have told me nothing.” BIG smile! That’s a problem, I say, because I need to be on it.

“Oh, lots of guests have been asking,” she says. BIGGER grin. Which begs the question: then why haven’t you found out?

But I’m in a good mood as I’m back in Speyside, so I let it go, and head to my room. I have been travelling for 11 hours and want to pour myself a wee welcome dram in my room, toast the river (as I do), have a shower and prepare for a battle with my kilt.

Five minutes later the phone rings. I am still struggling with a broken suitcase zip. “The bus is here,” says Miss Hoolie, who I know is smiling. “Give me five minutes,” I say.

Seven minutes later Miss Hoolie waves to me as I stagger towards the bus, having showered, semi towelled, and kilted. I am applauded on to the bus. and spend the rest of the night being introduced as the ‘five minute kilt man.’ I am harassed, dishevelled, humiliated, embarrassed, entirely blameless and without a whisky. Ah, so the Speyside Festival hasn’t changed after all!

If you want to find an emblematic representation of the Speyside Festival, it’s the Craigellachie Hotel. It is old and traditional, an imposing manse embodying the huntin’ fishin’ and shootin’ nature of the river and the region – and a strutting, rutting fortress of dead stags’ heads and dark wooden panels, where the food is rich and rugged and they expect you to eat your steak bloody.

And then there’s the Quaich Bar, a whisky bear pit, intimidating to even the most hardy whisky souls , more quake than quaich, and home to any number of bare knuckle fighting whiskies. If you’re brave enough you can go up against them, growing in confidence as the whisky flows round by round, until you hit the early hours and a knock out blow sends you reeling to bed. It’s no place for the timid – and traditionally it hasn’t been great for anything but the old school of single malt whisky ‘no water Scotch single malt whisky lovers either.

How can you change that, and should you? Can you move on without sacrificing the generations of tradition? It’s not as if the Craigellachie hasn’t tried. It has changed hands more than a rugby ball in an All Blacks attack. And yet here we are – for good or bad, same as it ever was.

Which bring us to the whisky festival. A few years back the May festival was in a civil war with an Autumn whisky festival in the region and it was fragmented, disorganised, closeted and, dare I say it, more than a wee bit dull. The lasting memory I have of it from a few years ago was standing in an empty whisky museum in a driechy Dufftown with a whisky writer who had a face like a basset hound as he waited for someone – anyone – to sell a book to and sign it.

We live in a fast moving whisky world. So is there any future for a festival so tied to the past but which needs to feed in to the cosmopolitan, increasingly female and young whisky consumer? Can it find a place in the new whisky world order without throwing the old barley out with the bath water?

simple answer? Yes it can. Welcome to The Spirit of Festival Whisky Festival, a four day celebration which has doubled the number of events it stages since 2011, has even more ambitious ones for the future, and has turned the region in to a whisky Disneyland around all the region’s traditional iconic places and sights. It’s instantly recognisable as the Speyside Festival but it’s like finding that the old Rolls Royce now has a Formula One engine.

How has it happened? Meet Mary Hemsworth, festival manager and the Karen Brady of whisky – a sexy powerful bundle of energy who combines a a fun girly side with a business brain and a steel backbone; the sort of person every journalist would love to ply with Riesling and listen to bawdy and irreverent anecdotes from her no doubt colourful career, but is sharp and just a little scary. You wouldn’t want to cross her. And if you did, you suspect you’d come away smarting. You suspect that over the years many have tried to cross her, rule her or patronise her. And yet here she is, with the great names of Speyside on side with her and moving the festival forward at a rate of knots.

Couples stroll by, laughter echoes round the streets, motor cycle groups wave as they drive by, a steady stream of buses move visitors around the region, information points provide tickets and information. The sun helps, too, though Friday is a nightmare and still great.

You feel the elation from happy whisky lovers in the whisky capital of the world. It’s impressive stuff – and perversely, though I managed to completely miss three of the five major things I wanted to do, wasted two hours standing in a corridor waiting to be an extra in a VisitScotland film and was then told I wasn’t needed, and had no more than a veggie kebab for lunch on one day and a cheese toastie on another, it was the most enjoyable visit to Speyside I can remember.

How did that happen? Read part two tomorrow and hear about a bawdy and utterly hilarious whisky comedian, meet some Speyside legends and hear about two rarely seen distilleries – Tamdhu and Mortlach.

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Craft Distillers Alliance news

I thought you might like to read the latest news from The Craft Distillers Alliance

I hope this finds you well and you had a happy Easter. I am writing just to update you on some very exciting news.
I am pleased to announce that not only have we signed up some impressive new members with more almost certainly set to follow, but we now have a Chairman!
Tomorrow there will be a joint press release from us and the Brazil Agency to announce that Stephen Davies, managing director of Penderyn, is to take up the post with The CDA. I am delighted that he has accepted because he is the perfect choice. I have long admired what he has done with Penderyn, which is a pioneer in the craft distilling field, but at the same time is a relatively sizeable distillery and is internationally respected. And not to put too fine a point on it, Penderyn is a well established British distillery but not a Scottish one.
Stephen himself is a huge force for good. I offered him the post in an honorary capacity because I didn’t want to burden him work wise but he has made it clear that he would like to play an active role. He will be a breath of fresh air and I am looking forward to working with him to take The CDA up another level. I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that there will be a little bit less of me!
Penderyn is of course joining The CDA, and as the company is now distributing the whiskies of Taiwanese distillery Kavalan in the United Kingdom, Stephen will suggest it comes on board, too. Indeed the company has already expressed an interest, as has St Georges in England – another one of the big boys.
Indian distiller Amrut also joined this week, as did The Belgian Owl. Other recent additions are Corsair (USA), Wemyss (Scotland), Bondeau (Scotland), Sullivan’s Cove (Australia) and The Great Southern Distilling Company (Australia), and I’m confident that another five to 10 others will have joined or committed to join by the end of the month, taking total membership to 35 plus.
This makes The CDA a real force and after a hectic six months I feel we need to pause for breath, regroup and plan carefully what we do next.
I have received a number of offers from events organisers and while they are all very generous, they involve a considerable financial outlay. I have decided to put all talks on hold with the exception of one – see below – and to meet with Stephen at the earliest opportunity to discuss and plan a summer and autumn strategy. Among the issues up for discussion are:

* A presence at the Boutique Bar Show in Manchester in May.
I have postponed in depth talks with the BBS until June with a view to a formal alliance in time for the Boutique Bar Show in London in September, but if any members are willing to pay £300 towards a CDA stand in Manchester I am prepared to travel up and represent us there.

* A formal partnership with the Boutique Bar Show from September
The rapid growth of The CDA has created a few issues as to how to make this work financially. One option is to launch a ‘show within a show’ as a partnership.

* The possibility of a consumer roadshow. This would either be in partnership with existing regional whisky events organisers or organised through contacts we can use within The CDA

* A whisky and music event in October. Not dissimilar to Pure, which was a great idea but was badly executed.

Everything’s up for discussion and debate so feel free to chip in with ideas. And if you’re interested in Manchester, please give me a call.

Onwards and verily upwards.
Dominic Roskrow

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Book waves the flag for whisky at prestigious new drinks awards

the following press releases have just been issued. might be of interest.

The Whisky Opus, the 2012 whisky book written by Whisky Pages Editor Gavin D Smith and Whiskeria and World Whisky Review Editor Dominic Roskrow, has been shortlisted in the highly prestigious Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards. It is the only whisky book to make the list.
It is the first year that the luxury department store in Piccadilly, London, has held food and drinks awards and The Whisky Opus beat off stiff competition to join a shortlist of four in the category of Best Drinks Book.
The judging panel includes nationally celebrated food and drink experts including Tom Parker Bowles, Peter Richards and Hamish Andrews.
The Whisky Opus is a weighty coffee table published by Dorling Kindersley. Gavin wrote all the chapters covering Scotland, Dominic wrote the introductory chapters and those covering the rest of the world. There were also contributions from Davin De Kergommeaux, who wrote on Canada, and Jurgen Deibel, who covered Germany, Switzerland Austria.
The awards recognise United Kingdom talent across 10 categories. And Gavin and Dominic find themselves in esteemed company, with the likes of Matthew Fort, Prue Leith, Oliver Peyton, Mark Hix, Sybil Kapoor and Roger Protz also nominated in various categories.
Announcing the shortlist, a spokesman for the prestigious and unique store said: “For over three centuries, Fortnum & Mason has been passionate about seeking out and championing the very best producers in the country and now it wants to acknowledge those in the industry who share its commitment to inspiring people to enjoy, explore, experiment, learn, try, taste and discover more about food and drink through their writing, photography and commentary.”
Dominic Roskrow said he was delighted by the news.
“Dorling Kindersley have done a marvellous job with the look and design of the book and we’re just honoured to even be short listed,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very often to me so it just goes to show what can happen when you team up with a talent like Gavin Smith.”
Gavin Smith added: “Collaborating with Dominic on the Opus was great fun, and his international whisky expertise was crucial to its overall credibility. I’m delighted that a whisky title has made it onto the shortlist, and I’m even more delighted it’s ours!”
The complete short list is:
Drinks: Tony Conigliaro (Ebury Press)
Wine Grapes: Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz (Allen Lane)
The Whisky Opus: Gavin D Smith & Dominic Roskrow (Dorling Kindersley)
Drink Me! Matt Walls (Quadrille)

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On line whisky magazine shoots for the stars

World Whisky Review, my online magazine about new world whisky, has trebled its viewing figures in the last year and is now attracting 7000-8000 unique visitors a month.

New figures from magazine hosting site Connosr show that WWR now has a similar reach to Whisky Magazine but is likely to overtake it by the start of 2014.
Connosr’s figures show the following:
* World Whisky Review never gets less than 100 page views a day and on peak days can get up to just over 1,000 page views – these are generally the days following a new issue. Each page view = 1 article read.

* Average time on page is around two mins which means people are actually reading the articles.

* Traffic was three times higher in Jan 2013 than in Jan 2012, so it is a growing audience.

* It’s getting between 6,000 – 8,000 page views a month.

* Our understanding is that Whisky Magazine has a circulation of around 8,000 x 8 issues a year. You’ve probably got a similar reach but your audience is growing fast. It has trebled in 12 months. Such is the growth of World Whisky Review that by the beginning of 2014 your audience will be bigger than Whisky Mag.

Thank you for all the support. The next issue should be out a week after Easter on April 12.

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GROUND BREAKING DEAL OPENS THE DOOR TO DISTILLERS

I am delighted to announce a major new deal which will allow distillers from across the world to sell even single bottles of whisky directly to British consumer and tradecustomers, and to do so quickly and at a fair price.

I have teamed up with Glasgow-based Bondeau, a storage, logistics and distribution company, food the launch of a new initiative, which provides world distillers with the framework to access the United Kingdom market directly without incurring large costs.

Indeed, Bondeau is not a retailer or conventional distributor, and the deal ensures that the lion’s share of the income generated from sales goes back to the distiller.
What we are offering is an alternative route to market which gives distillers control of where their whisky goes and at what price. It allows direct contact between distiller and customer and it will provide information that will help distillers understand what is happening with their whiskies.

My role is to source potential distilleries, to approach them about joining the scheme and to pretty much continue what I do now – promote and write about them, and take their whiskies to tastings.

The joint venture is a small part of an ambitious Bondeau business model which links the latest e-commerce technology with a large business network which includes large bonded warehouse space and full transport and distribution facilities.

Distillers will be invited to send stock to be kept under bond in Scotland, where they will retain ownership of it. But each distiller’s sales website will be linked to Bondeau, and when out recognises a UK sale, the information is passed back to Scotland where the whisky is sent out through the company’s distribution network.
Duty is automatically calculated and paid directly to customs and excise, and after Bondeau’s fee is deducted the rest of the money goes to the distiller.

From a personal point of view, I am delighted to be part of this business because after years of writing about new world whisky and taking it to tasting events, I will now be able to advise my readers and guests that they can buy it in the UK.

A key part of my role going forward will be to write tasting notes and background information and to continue to do what i am doing now.

World Whisky Review will now be linked closely but not exclusively with the new initiative, and there will be links with my other businesses such as my corporate tasting company, The Craft Distillers Alliance, my Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards and The Whisky Tasting Club (www.thewhiskytastingclub.co.uk), an online business which offers packs of five miniatures and which will be able to sell ‘taster’ packs.

All of this is a logical extension of what I have been doing for the last seven years and will accelerate the already growing interest in whisky from different parts of the world.
I will also be offering a marketing, public relations and events service for organising tastings, launches and other events, which will be offered on an event by event basis or for a small monthly fee.

The new venture is ready to go, and as soon as distillers sign up they will be featured on the new business website.

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Craft distilling has got to be about quality

Horror upon horror – I think I’m in danger of turning in to a policeman.

The last piece of work I did before the Christmas break was to highlight the case of a Norfolk brewery which claimed its eau de vie would become whiskey (sic) in three years due to splinters of bourbon cask added to each bottle, and to take it to task for breaking the rules.

And then over Christmas I appeared on the Connosr video blog defending editorial standards and acting as if I’m the high sheriff of journalism tasked with bringing down the bad guys.

How did it ever come to this?

I’ve thought about it a lot over the holiday and have concluded two things. One, somebody’s got to defend standards and the more doing so, the better; and two, it sort of became inevitable when my wife and launched the Craft Distillers Alliance in September.

For while it is true that the CDA represents the spirits industry’s new thinkers and innovators, and those walking the line and where it’s permissible, pushing the line back or even crossing it, for me craft distilling is still all about quality over quantity, about artisanship, diligence and pride. And for this reason quality must underline everything we do.

The question is, how do you square off the need to preserve quality and craft but encourage innovation, new thinking and the development of new products which will put the noses of the establishment well and truly out of joint?

Distillers across the world are already thinking out of the box, asking big questions and refusing to accept that statues and totem poles can’t be knocked over. That’s going to undoubtedly cause the CDA headaches in the future. It’s easy if you’re the Scotch Whisky Association – you build your castle and defend it to the hilt. We don’t have a castle. We don’t even have a nissan hut. We’re a sort of metaphorical travelling circus working on our acts as we go.

But the first marker has been set, and that marker is quality. We will not succumb to the temptation to compromise for more members. To do otherwise would be suicide. Over the coming years we’re going to be challenged constantly on what we do and don’t support and we’ll be asked big questions, many of which don’t have answers yet.

Sally and I agree that we must represent the very best of the world of spirits and must encourage innovative and exciting boutique distilling projects created through love, skill and care. And we must distance ourselves from the rule breakers and short changers operating on the margins and seeking to make a quick profit from the spirits business.

So quality. Trouble is, how do you define it? Finding new ways to do so may well be The CDA’s first major challenge. Some spirits have defined it by age, but does that mean there are no good young gins, grappas or vodkas? Course not. And even in the sectors where age has been important such as whisky, new world distillers are proving regularly that youth needn’t be a barrier to quality.

These are unchartered waters. The Norfolk brewery mentioned at the start of this article is a case in point. The brewery had one of its porters distilled in to an eau de vie by a Cambridge distillery which in 2013 will be collecting wort from various English brewers to make a range of malt whiskies. This is new thinking and on the face of it should be encouraged.
But on the other hand the distillery allegedly advised the Norfolk brewery on the misleading ‘whiskey’ label and is yet to explain what it means by worts – because you can’t make whisky with wort once hops have been added.

We shall see soon which way it’s headed. This is the sort of example which asks big questions of us, but it’s not the only one. On the Connosr interview I expressed my view on the three year whisky rule and Scotch claims on quality, and some American craft distillers are already asking where The CDA stands on the issue.

Some also want support for a campaign to have American whiskey recognised in the same way as Scotch is, and are offering to back us if we challenge the US rules which state that whisky must be matured in new oak. This is obviously ridiculous for single malt whisky, and made the more so because Scotch and Irish whiskey are exempted so their whiskies can be finessed in quality sherry and bourbon casks while English and Australian single malts must be unnaturally tempered to meet legal requirements that are detrimental to the spirit.

As we evolve we will seek advice and help from distillers associations across the world, particularly in America, purely because they are years ahead of us and there are hundreds of them.

But we have to be cautious.

The Americans are facing up to some big issues of their own. For instance, there are craft distillers in the US who are making great whiskey, and there are plenty that are not. But there are also some buying in spirit and rebranding it as their own, often to a high standard, but who are falling out with the genuine distillers of new spirit.

So the question is, should we side with the distillers, even the bad ones, against those who rebrand spirit that already exists, or should we stand up for quality products from any source against poor ones, even ones created artificially from someone else’s whiskey? And if a company in America makes a great spirit using bought in stocks, can – or indeed should -we differentiate between it and any British independent bottler or whisky maker which buys in Scotch to make its drinks, more than one of which we include as members of The CDA?

Across the world there are small distillers taking spirits production in new and exciting areas. They are making new drinks which don’t sit within existing categories and they are creating diverse and often challenging tastes. I consider this to be a good thing. We have welcomed world distillers in to The CDA with open arms.

But there is murkiness on the margins. There are gaps in existing laws, and there will always be unscrupulous operators who will seek to take advantage of them. And equally, there will be well meaning people attracted to the spirits sector who will step outside the rules through naivety and ignorance.

I recall a few years back an affable businessman dipping his toes in to the Irish whiskey market and declaring that he could call all his whiskey ‘pot still whiskey’ because all of it was distilled in a pot still. Technically true, yes, but he was unintentionally proposing a damaging dumbing down of a unique Irish whiskey style and opening of floodgates to every malt whisky producer in the world, offering every one of them the right to describe their whisky as ‘pure pot still’.

There are other issues which are linked to the quality argument and which are potentially massive for us: one, the issue of how long a grain spirit needs to mature before it can be considered a quality whisky; two, whether territories such as the United States should have their own legal definition of whiskey, recognised internationally, as Ireland and Scotland have; and linked to that , three, whether the association is prepared to support sister distillers in other territories who make quality whisky younger than three years old and believe that the the European three year rule is nothing to do with quality and everything to do with barriers to entry and restrictions on free trade.

My personal view is that we should not challenge the three year rule. Such a move would be interpreted as an attack on the high standards of Scotch whisky and would put us massively on the back foot defending ourselves on such a stance. It would damage our credibility and tie us and our American colleagues in to years of legal action and bureaucratic irrelevancies; and it would lead to a battle that would have no chance of success and would offer no great prize even if victory were attainable.

Personally I love innovation and am drawn to those who probe and question any rules or boundaries. But I believe that it’s simpler to invent a new spirits category or come up with a name to suggest how the drink is made without using the word ‘whisky’ than to challenge directly the existing status quo.

But I also believe that we need open minded thinking and new input as to how we judge quality. Because the European three year rule certainly isn’t it. Why? Because for Scotland the bar is ridiculously low. Nobody tries to market Scottish single malt at three years old, and very few do at five, simply because it isn’t very good – as any number of Scotch ‘works in progress’ have demonstrated in recent years. And how can that rule be about quality? How can it be legal under European whisky rules to take a three year old malt, matured in a tired and worthless cask for three years, to drown it in a large volume of grain whisky, matured in a similar cask for three years and a day, to add a shedload of caramel to turn it rich mahogany brown, and then to let it be bottled as blended Scotch whisky? That’s not quality Scotch – it’s coloured vodka.

I find it amazing that the SWA seeks to impose its dubious and challengeable standards on whisky producers from countries such as America, Australia, and India who are devoting time and passion to creating new and high quality whiskies, when it endorses so many worthless and vastly inferior whiskies within its own ranks.

The membership of The CDA should discuss such issues, and ask questions about any definition of quality that does not make reference to cask size or type, to regional temperatures, extremes of temperatures and humidity.

Already some distillers are suggesting other ways of judging quality – chemical or molecular analysis might hold the key – and The CDA should welcome and encourage a discussion of their views. These are weighty issues and it makes the future challenging and exciting. It’s worth stating, though, that no-one wants to undermine or detract from the great whisky that has been produced for centuries in Scotland and elsewhere, and that our end goals – great whisky produced to the highest quality – are the same. But it is about ensuring that those who deserve to be at the high table even if they have got there by an unconventional route, should be allowed to do so. And that those that put all new distillers at risk by undermining the high standards that exist or by stepping outside the rules, should be challenged and stopped.

No pressure then. But hey, wouldn’t life be boring without a challenge? In this letter I’ve given my opinion on some of the issues ahead – but it must be stressed that they are my opinions only and have nothing to do with The CDA at this point. The CDA’s views must reflect the views of our members – so this month we’ll start reaching out to them for their input.

As we start to explore new terrain we need to gather in information from a wide number of other sources, too. In the coming days I’ll be contacting all the founding members with a questionnaire, and at the end of January we’ll be hosting a lunch in London which I would like to turn in to an informal policy forum.

In the meantime we’ll be focusing on more practical day to day issues for The CDA – and to some extent we’ll be playing catch up a little. December ran away from us – doesn’t it for everyone – so the next priority will be to finish off the membership packs with badges and wall plaques, and get them out to members. We need to finalise our plans for the format of our e-zine Still Crazy, which will feature members and reflect their news as they develop. I’m excited about this because in many ways we’ll be recording history as new businesses emerge hand hopefully a new industry is born. Later this month we should be able to publish details of the first two events we’lI be exhibiting at, and we’ll be exploring other events for the future. And in the coming days I hope to reveal news of a sizeable and exciting media initiative for The CDA.

So onwards and upwards with PC Roskrow – and Happy New Year to everyone. Here’s to exciting and dynamic times ahead.

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