The Whisky Tasting Club

Who are you calling lazy?

To age or not to age? That is the question.

Well actually it isn’t – nobody is saying whisky shouldn’t be aged. But there’s a right royal row about to sweep all before it over how much emphasis should be put on the age of a Scotch (and we are talking Scotch – as anyone familiar with my work will know, when it comes to world whiskies we’re in a totally different ball game).

The ‘debate’ – or more accurately, conflict of opinions – has simmered on for a couple of years now, as Diageo and Pernod Ricard, in what is the whisky equivalent of the USA-USSR Star Wars programme, have sought to dominate the debate as to whether we should make more or less of age on a bottle of Scotch. Diageo, owners of Johnnie Walker and Buchanans, says emphatically not, and argues that flavour is the key element, and age is just one component of what constitutes a quality whisky. But Pernod Ricard, owners of Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute, argues that age matters, and that much more….er.. time should be taken educating a very ignorant consumer as to how important the age of a Scotch is.

But this Autumn the debate looks set to go up a notch or two, because now Edrington, owner of The Macallan and Highland Park, has plunged into the debate, and indeed, added colour to it – quite literally.

The company has launched four new whiskies in to its 1824 range and in the most dramatic company move since it launched the Fine Oak range, is scrapping aged malts under the age of 18. The four new whiskies have no age statements and cover various price points, and each whisky is sold on its colour. Simplistically put, the rich and darker the whisky, the better the quality, presumably the older the contents, and therefore the higher the price.

Let’s draw a breath a minute because whatever else you might or might not say, you can’t accuse Edrington of being shrinking violets when it comes to the big issues: non aged whiskies replacing aged ones? Selling whisky by colour? And if that weren’t enough, the entry level whisky, Gold, is replacing the Fine Oak 10 year old without an age statement and at a higher price. Oh, and did I mention that the new range is being introduced in some countries for some malts but basically the United Kingdom is one of the only ones to be offered the whole shebang in one hefty lump?

So where to start in a analysing this? Well at the heart of it is the main debate: flavour. So the questions are:


1. Are the whiskies any good?

2. Is Gold better than Fine Oak 10 Year Old?

3. Does it justify the higher price tag irrespective of how good it is?

4. Is selling whisky by colour such a good idea or will it just confuse the consumer?

5. What’s their thinking about introducing NAS whiskies to the UK and not elsewhere?

The first two questions can be dealt with quickly. All four new releases are excellent and worthy of The Macallan name. They are beautifully made, rich and full in taste, and all four are very different to each other. I like them all. I’ll post notes soon.

Is Gold better than Fine Oak? Yes it is. All the new malts are from sherry casks, with a mix of first fill and second fill casks, but none of them really hark back to the big and heavily sherried Macallans of old – a plus for me as I’m in the minority which prefers Fine Oak anyway – though they do have trademark orange and stewed berry fruits and a smoky, oaky, rich and complex Macallan undertow. Gold is weightier than Fine Oak 10 year old, richer and longer in the finish, and exudes fresh, fruity class and sophistication. All in all, it is, indeed, gold.

Does it justify the price tag despite the fact that it has no age statement? Tough one, but given the way entry level Scotch malts are going up in price in general, and given the fact that it tastes great, I’m going to say yes. And by so doing, I suppose, I’m implicitly siding with the non Age Statement camp in the whisky debate. Given that I write so much about world whisky, I have to. But that aside, the minimum age statement can be a barrier to great whisky making – and it’s no coincidence that some of the world’s most enjoyable Scotches – Johnnie Walker Blue, Dewar’s Signature, many recent Glenmorangie and Ardbeg releases etc etc – have no age statement. They are what they are because an age statement means that the youngest whisky in the mix is at least that age. Even one drop of younger whisky affects the age of the bottle, and young whisky can be necessary to boost much older whiskies. Truth be told, letting a young whisky loose among the oldest most venerable malts is like letting a boisterous teenager loose in an old people’s home: it stirs the residents up, gets them moving, shouting out, waving their walking sticks in protest. In short, it stirs some life in to them. In such cases, overall age has become irrelevant. So far so good.

But questions four and five are something else again. Macallan brand ambassador Joy Elliott had the following to say about age statements and colour at the launch of the new 1824 series: “Age statements have made us very lazy and one-dimensional. People have different palates and can each discern different flavours. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Right now whisky consumers believe an 18-year old is better than a 15-year old, and a 15 better than a 12, but it’s really all down to personal taste. “ (Whisky maker) Bob Dalgarno wants to prove it’s not about age, but what’s in the glass and those whiskies that deliver character and flavour. There’s a big education job to do. We are the most modern market in terms of whisky, but we’ve still got a long way to go. An age statement doesn’t give you any clues as to quality, but this (The Macallan 1824 Series) is one of the ways around.”

Firstly, I think that these words do a massive disservice to the talented and hard working staff across The Whisky Shop estate and elsewhere, who have for several years now worked hard to educate the consumer about whisky and have, frankly, been hampered by an industry that is telling them that colour isn’t important but it’s important, age isn’t important but it’s important, and it doesn’t matter if whisky is old but you’ll pay an awful lot for it if it’s old.

In fact I would argue that in terms of education The Whisky Shop and our magazine Whiskeria have cut through an awful lot of confusing crap (such as ladies should drink Lowland malts, Highland and island whiskies shouldn’t be set loose on novices – less common now but not that far in our past).

Secondly, the first part of Joy’s argument – that age statements have made us lazy and one dimensional applies equally – or even more so – than judging whisky by colour. But most importantly, linking colour, age and quality is at best a difficult sell and is at worst completely misleading and arguably, wrong. In fact Macallan’s view that ‘an age statement doesn’t give you any clues as to quality,’ is far less justifiable than saying that the colour does. Leaving aide the caramel argument – the Scotch Whisky Association allows colouring through caramel though it’s increasingly frowned upon, especially in malt whisky – colour cannot be a guide to age or quality. We even have a feature in the next issue of Whiskeria saying as much. Why? Because bourbon and casks and sherry casks have a very different effect on colour. Because the number of times a cask has been used will affect the colour. And because different cask sizes, temperatures, seasonal extremes of temperature, style of oak and humidities will all affect colour in maturation.

If you’re not convinced, have a look at a three year old Kavalan matured in Taiwan in first fill sherry, or take a look at a 100 DAY spirit matured in Hungarian oak near the North Pole and which is the colour of prune juice.

It’s true that the issue isn’t understood but that’s because the consumer is being blitzed with confusing and conflicting information from the industry itself.

Which brings me to the final question – why us? The official reason is that the UK is a more mature market and able to understand the colour and non age statements. But again, I don’t think this washes. In one breath we’re being told that we’ve been lazy and one dimensional in our education programme and there’s a massive job still to be done, and in the next we’re being told that the British whisky drinker is mature enough to understand the issues. Que?

We know that figures show that the public don’t understand age statements and that they think age is a marker of quality, and yet the new 1824 whiskies are all without age statements. So let’s be blunt. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – any move like this is about selling more whisky for as much as possible.

This move is about selling more younger whisky for a bigger profit in what for many companies is a flatlining market.

Nothing wrong with that – it’s business after all, and why is anyone still surprised that capitalists want to make money? And in this case, in my view, the whiskies make the mark and pass The Macallan test. They make a worthy addition to the argument for Non Age Statement whiskies.

But the colour argument seriously worries me. It’s dangerous ground, undermines a lot of work many of us have been doing. And on behalf of everyone in whisky retail faced with the mess of selling this on to the customer, I find the word ‘lazy’ more than a little insulting and unfair.

Posted in Blogs | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Still Crazy

The first edition of my new online magazine, Still Crazy, is launched on September the 11th. The full edition will be available on the CDA website. The editorial for the magazine is reproduced below.

I’ve been asked a lot recently why I wanted to do this and my answer has surprised some people. My interest in small batch distilling didn’t come from Scotch, or from small whisky producers across the world, or from visiting distilleries. It was sparked off by a visit to a Somerset farm in the early 1990s.

I was Editor of Club Mirror at the time and was in the South West to judge a British Legion Club for an award. But the steward knew of my love of cider, so we took a detour to a dairy farm to taste some scrumpy. But it turned out to be a poignant afternoon. It was late Autumn, and a watery sun was sending long shadows across the land, the air was tinged with cold and seasonal damp, and there was a faintest whiff of decay as the leaves fell from the trees.

In the farm’s orchard we watched as they collected apples that had started to ferment and would soon produce delicious naturally fermented cider. But the farmer, like many of those in neighbouring farms, was in trouble. He had been ordered to kill his cattle because of foot and mouth, and wasn’t sure whether he’d survive the hit. We listened to his tale as the sun started to set, his voice quiet and a s angry and bitter as much as sad, until he suddenly remembered that he had guests, disappeared in to a barn and came back with a large slab of Cathedral Cheddar cheese and an unmarked bottle of clear liquid.

“Try this,” he said. “This is English gin and we make it illegally. And we won’t let them beat us down. If customs and excise come for us, we simply smash all the bottles so they can’t have it. We know about how to fight back.”

It was a moment as militant as anything coming out of the left wing political parties I spent time with. And in that moment I felt a stirring of patriotism and pride. It slowly started to dawn on me – an urban Socialist who regularly quoted Paul Heaton’s ‘All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small; all we’ve got is London Zoo cos farmer’s got them all’ – that here in this field was the true defiant, beating heart of England.

It was a seminal moment for me and ever since – whenever I go to Scotland, Ireland, Australia, India, or America – I think of that farmer and his gin. Over the years those distilled views of the importance of regionalism, locality, heritage, provenance and crafting have matured like a fine spirit so that now they’re fully formed and ready for sharing. That’s why this association is so important to me.

But it ticks other boxes, too. Readers of my online magazine The World Whisky Review and indeed, many of the features I have written in recent years, will know that I love writing about underdogs and small companies. I like to find them early, bring them to the attention of others, and watch them grow. For me, that’s what journalism’s all about.

The issue has been raised on more than one occasion; can a journalist fairly run an association where there is a vested interest? Of course! I deal with this question more fully in ‘Why Launch the CDA?’ section – but I think my track record in this area speaks for itself – and already I’m discovering great small distilleries which will almost certainly never join the CDA but which I’ll write about -because they’re good stories.

And for me that’s the point – craft distilling is at the start of an amazing journey and I’m loving being part of it. I hope that we’ll end up with hundreds of small farm distillers serving gin with local cheese.

But if not, I know we’ll have fun along there way.

Posted in Whisky Tastings | 1 Comment

WHISKY OPUS

Press release published on behalf of Dorling Kindersley:

WHISKY OPUS
The definitive 21st-century reference to the world’s greatest distilleries & their whiskies
Gavin D. Smith & Dominic Roskrow
With contributions by Davin de Kergommeaux & Jürgen Deibel

Price: £30.00 Publishing: 3rd September 2012

By looking at established whisky-producing countries such as Scotland, Ireland and America, and innovative newcomers like Sweden, Taiwan and Australia, not to mention whisky’s growing popularity with customers in Brazil, India and China, the Whisky Opus is an unmatched exploration of the increasing popularity and ever changing geography of whisky from Banffshire to Bangalore.

Divided into chapters by country and with information panels and specially commissioned maps showing terroir, Whisky Opus identifies the key features of each whisky style, as well as the history of distilling in each region. 175 of the world’s most significant distilleries are then explored with stories from their past, quirks of production methods, particular personalities and even intriguing new trends to watch out for.

With Whisky Opus explore every whisky style, from single malt to rye, and train your palate how to recognize and appreciate them all with the help of 500 evocative and informative tasting notes for the classic, prestige and an unusual brand from every featured producer, with at least three listings per distillery

Whether you are new to the wonders of whisky or a connoisseur, you will find DK’s new book tells you everything you want to know. Elegant, classy and written by four renowned whisky writers, make Whisky Opus your tipple of choice.

Posted in Blogs | Leave a comment

WTC Live

The Whisky Tasting Club is teaming up with Dominic Roskrow’s monthly tasting evenings at the Rumsey Wells,  St Andrews  Street, Norwich, for a series of unique tasting events that will take place at the pub while being tweeted and shared on-line.

For each event we will choose five whiskies and put them on sale as a WTC tasting pack a few weeks before the tasting so that WTC customers can join in the tasting on the night. A hashtag will be used for an online tasting happening at the same time as the Rumsey Wells event. Each event will be attended by 20 people, who will also be encouraged to join the online tweeting during the event.

After the event the combined notes will be made available online and the packs will remain on sale whilst stocks remain.

The individual themes for each month will be announced later in the month along with details as to how to book tickets for the Rumsey event or get tasting packs to join us on line. We may even video the tasting and stream it live, if we can sort out the technology.

The Autumn dates are:

Wednesday September 12

Wednesday October 10

Wednesday November 7

Wednesday December 12

more info to follow soon.

Posted in Whisky Tastings | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Distillery Rules

The United Kingdom could be on the cusp of a craft distilling revolution, similar to the one that has swept through America, as growing evidence suggests that the main obstacle to distilling has effectively been removed.

You’ve no doubt heard that it is illegal to make whisky on small stills under a certain size.

WELL IT’S NOT.

For decades there has been a widely held view that distilling was not allowed on stills smaller than 18 hectolitres (1 hectolitre ==100 litres, ed.). It has been repeated so often that people have assumed it to be correct and it has largely gone unchallenged. As recently as two weeks ago the Scotch Whisky Association’s chief executive Gavin Hewitt said that malt spirit could not legally be distilled on a still smaller than 18 hectolitres.

But new information shows that this interpretation is WRONG. The rules governing the minimum still size are not set in stone, and they neither prevent distilling on small stills now – but technically they never did. Moreover, not only can the rules be challenged, but on one more than one occasion in recent weeks they have been – and small distillers in both England and Wales have been granted licences to make whisky spirit on stills much smaller than 1800 litres capacity.

The laws governing distilling are highly complex but the sections pertaining to a minimum still size were first enshrined in The 1823 Excise Act and are included in the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act (ALDA) 1979. They were drafted in relation to customs and excise duty and are designed to ensure that the correct tax is paid.

Customs and excise commissioners have historically adopted a policy of refusing licences to any distiller wishing to distill spirit where the largest still used is less than 18 hectolitres (or originally, 400 gallons) or where an equivalent throughput could not be achieved in an eight hour shift using a patent or continuous still. But in a customs and revenue internal guidance document known as X-1 and published on the HMRC website as SPIR 3090 the following words appear: “We may consider licence applications in respect of stills below 18 hectolitres where there are satisfactory controls in place to protect the revenue and the required control resources are not disproportionate to the amount of revenue involved.” According to specialist independent excise dusts consultant Alan Powell, who played a part in writing the guidelines when he worked in the customs and excise policy division, these words open the door for would-be distillers. “I believe the law (consolidated from many years ago) provided the commissioners with discretion to refuse to issue a licence in respect of premises where the largest still was less than 18 hl (originally 400 gallons) because of the possible risk that such a still might be moved from what would (then) have been the entered premises in remote areas for illicit use,” he says. “In current times, this risk is negligible and certainly not credible where the distillery is located in a restricted urban area.”

Incredibly, then, the standard view that you can’t distill on small stills is wrong. Commissioners historically refused licences to people wanting to distill on small stills and went unchallenged because before 1995 the only right to appeal was through a long and expensive judicial review process. That has now been scrapped.

“Basically, until the law was changed in 1995, the only way a challenge could be made against a decision by HMCE was by judicial review, which is expensive,” says Powell. “In relation to under-sized stills, I guess nobody even thought a challenge was possible at all. Nobody likes to question Customs. “

“If the commissioners’ decision is to refuse an application for a licence now, that decision can be appealed to the tax tribunal, which anybody can do and at no cost (or lower cost than judicial review if professional assistance is sought.) Bear in mind, HMCE/HMRC has to act reasonably in reaching a decision and the tribunal can review HMRC’s decision. Those legal principles are not optional. The commissioners are constrained to follow them or else are acting unlawfully.”

So much for the theory. But now it seems in practice customs and excise has shifted its position, too. The newly-established London Distillery Company, with Powell’s help, successfully applied for a licence to start distilling in Battersea later this year, and in Wales organic farmer John Savage-Onstwedder started distilling this week after being granted a licence. “The still I was applying for was only 350 litres, so well below their minimum requirement,” he says. “Nonetheless, I thought I would phone my local guy and when I mentioned their own regulations he said: ‘those regulations were introduced when we were still roaming the Scottish hills with muskets trying to sniff out the illegal stills! Put in your application and see what happens’. I did and lo and behold I was granted a licence.”

While the new approach makes the potential for a wave of new craft distillers, Alan Powell warns that there are still considerable barriers to overcome. “Bear in mind that not only is the licence required, but one must also obtain an approval for the distillery (this relates to conditions, site plan etc) AND, importantly probably have to have an excise warehouse (bond) in association with the distillery,” he said. “The law is not straightforward.”

What the law states Alan Powell quotes a decision made by Dr Nuala Brice in the case TDG (UK) Ltd and the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. From consideration of legal authorities, Dr Brice noted that the following principles may be derived.
* A person to whom discretion is given must consider each application and decide it in the light of circumstances at that time.
* A person may develop a policy as to the approach that he will adopt in the generality of cases but the policy must not preclude the decision-maker from departing from it, or from taking into account the circumstances of each case
* The attitude of the decision-maker must be such that he is prepared to make an exception in a deserving case.
* An inflexible and invariable policy is unlawful.

In particular, Dr Brice directed that the commissioners must observe the principles of reasonableness enunciated in the decision, by the following: “WE DIRECT that the commissioners should take steps to ensure that officers conducting statutory reviews under the provisions of section 15 of the 1994 Act are clear about: the relevant legislation under which the particular decision is taken; their correct function under section 15 which is to reach their own decision; the need to take into account all the circumstances of each case; and the need to be aware that they are not precluded from departing from a policy and that THEY SHOULD BE PREPARED TO MAKE AN EXCEPTION IN A DESERVING CASE” (The writer’s emphasis) The simple test is the man on the Clapham omnibus test.

Posted in Blogs | 2 Comments

St. George’s

I’m declaring one day every July as ‘Dom’s State of the Nation’ day – and it’s the day when I go up to St George’s Distillery, rummage in the warehouses and report back to you just what’s happening in the state of English whisky. I’ve been popping up there about this time for the last few years and for the last three I’ve come away a) stunned and b) having had a better experience than the previous year. And truth be told, this distillery is absolutely on fire right now. Metaphorically you understand.

It’s hard even to know where to start, there’s so much going on, but let’s start with the news. If you’re a whisky club or indeed anyone with a bit of money, then the English Whisky Company is offering 30 litre casks which can be bottled in bespoke bottles with your own logo and design on, and they’re prepared to talk to you about the contents – so you can fill your bottle with your own unique heavily peated malt, dry sherry or rum matured malt, or brassy port whisky. The distillery is doing all sorts of interesting things, too, so the sky’s the limit.

So what’s going on? Not to put too fine a point on it, St George’s has blossomed in to one of the most exciting distilleries on the planet. Tonight I tasted some of the oldest stock in the distillery, put in cask in November 2006, and so shy of six years old. It wasn’t great. Why? Because since then the distillery has learned loads, and under first Scotch whisky making legend Iain Henderson but increasingly under the very gifted David Fitt, who has brought his brewing skills and married them to world class distilling, the distillery has moved on way, way beyond being a ‘me too’ malt distillery.

I suppose I could talk about the official new releases – the Distiller’s Elect – a distillery only bottling that takes a soft syrupy rich and oily whisky with Hihgland notes and combines them with all sorts of toffee, vanilla mocha and earthy spice. I could talk about the Classic Single Malt Whisky bound for America, which has spicy, spiky virgin oak matured whisky at its core. But with a floral, delicate, sweet and easy drinking entry level aspect to it.

But I’d rather not. I’d rather tell you about three killers for the future.

1. A rye dominated multi grain malt. Only a year old, this is amazing. It’s probably less than 50 per cent rye, but it has a delicious hickory and red liquorice note, it sips softly, with a velvety flavour, and then the distinctly fresh but spicy rye bring sup the tail. I’d buy a bottle today but it has two years until it’s whisky. Amazing.

2. Triple distilled chapter six. The distillery isn’t set up to be a triple distilled whisky so it takes the spirit after two distillations and puts it back in to the spirits still. The result is amazing – fresh spearmint and nougat with nuts on the nose, and then a creamy nut dominated curry sauce on the palate, ending with significant curry chilli notes. But all integrated, blended, sweet, nutty, Korma fruity and delectable.

3. And finally the biggest, most industrial heavily peated, sloppy, sooty, sappy steamy sourpuss, sweaty smoky tasting monster the distillery’s has ever created.

There are others to talk about – not least the 2012 Gold release that has NOTHING to do with the Olympics, and a dry sherry delight but I’m in shell shock. I would say I’m speechless, but clearly not. This is awesome, awesome stuff. State of the Nation verdict? A gold medal world class distillery with quality an abundance of world whiskies . The story continues…

Posted in Whisky Tastings | Leave a comment

Still Crazy Launch

New online magazine

From September I am delighted to announce yet another new project – the launch of a new on-line magazine. Still Crazy will be the officials magazine of my newly-formed craft distillers’ association and will be published six times a year. As with my World Whisky Review, it will be produced in conjunction with Connosr and will publish every other month in the months when World Whisky Review is not published. Still Crazy will include feature on member spirits producers and provide the latest news from the world of craft distilling, taste and review new boutique spirits, and include analytical pieces on issues such as still size and the law, the main obstacles to craft distilling, how to distil, and the costs of distilling spirits. There will also be special features from our associated trade groups The American Distiling Institute and the Australian Distillers’ Association.

The new craft distillers’ association has changed its name after consultation with potential members and with companies House, and is registered as The Craft Distillers’ Association, or CDA. Recruitment starts next week but we already have 10 committed members and through overseas associations, about 400 associated members. The CDA will have four main aims:

* To lobby on issues relevant to members, particularly on a local level to help distillers launch and establish themselves

* To promote the positive image of craft distilling and focus on issues such as responsible drinking, quality over quantity, job creation, tax generation and tourism generation. This will be done through the bi-monthly magazine and trade press releases

* to promote craft distilling products through tasting events, mini packs of members’ products sold through The Whisky Tasting Club, and through promotions with associated bars, restaurants and hotels.

* to offer advice and support on anything from where to source equipment and grains to labelling, naming and tax and bonding issues through a website and members’ discussion forum

The Association will go ‘live’on September 1 – at the same time as the first issue of Still Crazy is published.

Posted in Blogs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Music for Ardbeg

This week the Islay Festival took place and each day a different distillery had its special day.
For this year’s Ardbeg day the great Jackie Thomson asked me to match a range of Ardbegs with a classic rock song, a more unusual rock song and an Americana folk/country track. Then she played the music in a disco environment complete with mirror balls and sofas. Here are my selections. What would you choose?

NEW MAKE

Characteristics - Champagne spirit, bubbly, fresh, new, young, celebratory, positive

1. Dance – The Brilliant Things
2. Bubbles – Biffy Clyro (perfect as they’re Scottish)
3. Fire Away – Dawes

 

10 YEAR OLD

Characteristics - Classic big Ardbeg and a feisty bad boy but at its sweetest and on its best behaviour. So classical rock with potentially dark and dangerous undertones

 

 

1. Sweet Child O Mine – Guns N Roses
2. Lonely Boy – Black Keys
3. Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams

UIGEADAIL


Characteristics – An outstanding Ardbeg, rich full, powerful, complex, bold, luxurious, indulgent. Close your eyes and submerge yourself… so indulgent and hedonistic

 

1. Save Me – Black Country Communion
2. Weep Themselves To Sleep – Jack White
3. Country Feedback – REM

 

ALLIGATOR

Characteristics: Big bold bourbon barbecue, husky, smoky, charcoal, wizened, smouldering…
1. Ace of Spades – Motorhead
2. Things My Father Said – Black Stone Cherry
3. Hemingway’s Whiskey – Kris Kristofferson

 

OLD SHERRY CASK

Characteristics: Big, powerful, classic, rich, contrasts, clashes
1. In The Evening – Led Zeppelin
2. Mistreated – Deep Purple
3. Desperadoes Waiting for A Train – Willie Nelson

 

 
 

KILDALTON

Characteristics: Upbeat, sweet, big flavours, pure, vibrant, complex, celebratory
1. Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd
2. Dream On – Noel Gallagher’s Big Birds
3. The Wonder of You – Elvis Presley

Posted in Blogs, Whisky Tastings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Association set to raise spirits

Small and craft spirits producers are to get their own voice when a new Association is launched in September, reflecting the growing interest in boutique distilling in the United Kingdom. The British and International Distillers’ Association (BIDA) will lobby on behalf of small boutique and craft distillers, will market and promote them and will organise tastings and events to promote their products. The new Association will be focused on the United Kingdom but membership will be open to any small or craft distiller aiming to sell spirits in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The new Association has been created by international whisky writer Dominic Roskrow, who will run it along with his wife, marketing executive Sally Roskrow, who will take day to day control of it. Speaking about the new association, Dominic Roskrow said: “These are exciting times for distilling and it is clear that there is a need for a dedicated Association to provide a UK representation for the growing wave of craft distillers.
“In America there are more than 400 craft distillers making a wide variety of dynamic drinks and while the United Kingdom will never sustain that number, there is a growing surge of interest in boutique distilling, not just here but across the world. Australia and Sweden, for example, are both making spirits that would be of interest to the British consumer.

The new Association will have four main functions:
* To lobby on issues relevant to a small distiller wishing to trade in the UK market, such as tax stamp exemption or reform for small distillers and clarity on excise duty and other barriers to craft distilling
* To market and promote a positive image of craft distilling in areas such as responsible drinking, quality over quantity, craftsmanship, tourism, job creation, tax generation and regionalism
* To organise events, exhibitions and tastings to promote a new wave of craft distilling
* To provide a trade forum for discussion and debate on issues relevant to members, and to offer advice, support and help for members and potential members

BIDA will seek associate partners in the pub, restaurant and hotel trade to help champion craft distillers and will highlight human interest distilling stories to attract consumer media coverage through an online magazine and regular press releases. The association intends to work alongside existing trade associations in the interests of its members. BIDA is due to meet The Scotch Whisky Association to discuss how they might work together, is in conversation with The Distilleries Council of the United States and already has the support of The American Distilling Institute, The Tasmanian Distillers’ Association and the New Zealand Whisky Company as well as whisky distillers in England and companies such as Compass Box.

“There are of course other trade associations representing drinks producers in Britain but none that put the needs of small producers wishing to sell in the UK market at the top of their agenda” commented Dominic Roskrow. “We hope that existing Associations will welcome BIDA as a complimentary force for good and work with us as we move forward. Indeed from early conversations I am greatly encouraged that this will be the case.”

The new Association is now open to potential members but will go ‘live’ on September 1st. Membership will be open to distilleries producing 140,000 litres of spirit per annum or less, but there will also be associate membership levels open to bigger companies linked to the distilling industry and to hotels, restaurants and bars. Plans for the Association include a ‘ starter pack’ for would-be distillers, and themed weeks featuring different spirits genres.

For more information, please contact:
Dominic Roskrow 07540 348998

Posted in Whisky Tastings | Leave a comment

Wizards of Whisky

DOMINIC ROSKROW’S WIZARDS OF WHISKY CONSUMER AWARDS – SEPTEMBER 2012

Welcome to a brand new awards event representing world whisky in a fresh and exciting way.

Called The Wizards of Whisky (The WOWs), the new awards will be chaired and organised by world whisky expert Dominic Roskrow. They will not only bring an exciting and fresh approach to judging your whiskies, but will also offer winners the chance to take part in a unique whisky tasting tour and sampling opportunity so that whisky lovers can experience them. And the awards entrants will be provided with extensive coverage in one of the world’s biggest whisky magazines and THREE leading whisky websites. The awards, which will cover every region of the world except Scotland, will be held in September and whiskies will be judged by a new and exciting panel of judges who, unlike many of the other awards events, have extensive and specialist knowledge of world whisky.

How The Wizards work

We are now seeking entrants to the following categories:American whiskey

– bourbons American whiskey

– other styles American whiskey

– craft and specialist

– Irish whiskey

– blends Irish whiskey

– single maltIrish whiskey

– pot still Japanese whisky

– single malt Japanese whisky

– blends Japanese whisky

– blended malts Canadian whisky Australasian whisky

– cask strength Australasian whisky

– under 50% ABV Asian and African whisky

– cask strength Asian and African whisky

– under 50% European whisky

– Elsewhere

The closing date for entrants is August 31, 2012; whiskies will be judged by three different panels of judges over two days, with each panel specially selected for their knowledge of specific areas of world whisky and featuring retailers, writers and whisky experts.Whiskies will be considered for a top award of a Wizard, or for a gold medal. There are no limits as to how many Wizards and golds can be awarded in each category. From each of the seven world regions represented in the awards, one whisky will receive the title of Grand Wizard. From these seven one will be selected as the World Wizard of Whisky

Media coverage

The Wizards of Whisky are consumer facing awards. Entrants will be covered in the following ways:

* Over two issues of national British whisky magazine Whiskeria, in Dominic Roskrow’s World of Whisky section. Whiskeria is one of the world’s biggest whisky magazines, with a certified readership of 100,000

* With extensive coverage on THREE leading websites:-  World Whisky Review, Dominic Roskrow’s pet project and the leading website for world whisky coverage – The website of the newly-formed British International Distillers Association (BIDA). Dominic is Executive Director- At Dominic’s regular blogging site at The Whisky Tasting
Club, www.thewhiskytastingclub.co.uk

* With press releases to be distributed within the United Kingdom and to individual territories through IDA-associated bodies and associations such as the Distilleries Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the Tasmanian Distillers’ Association

* Through an open invite to drinks trade magazines such as Harpers and The Publican’s Morning Advertiser to cover the awards in their magazines/newspapersThe Wizards on tourDominic has linked up with online social networking site Connosr for a ‘Connosr Meets The Readers’ 12 date tour from October 2012 at which Dominic will present world whiskies in a two hour masterclass. All winners of a Wizard will be offered the
option of having their winning whiskies tasted at up to four of the 12 events, and gold medal winners at up to two.

THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL COST FOR INCLUSION, though companies will have to supply a bottle of whisky per winner per event.

The Wizards in the post

The Whisky Tasting Club supplies gift packs containing five 5cl miniatures with tasting notes by the WTC team, including Dominic. Winners of a Wizard or gold medal will be offered the option of supplying whisky for inclusion in special Wizard Winners packs, to be made available on the Club site in early November, in time for Christmas. THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL COST FOR INCLUSION.

Amazing value

So the Wizards of Whisky represent the most serious judging competition for non-Scotch whisky,  an unrivalled array of media outlets, a follow up ‘Taking The Wizards To The World’ tour featuring world whisky expert Dominic Roskrow, and the chance to be included in the ‘Wizards in the Post’ pack. And how much does this exciting, unique and genuinely different package cost?

Costs

For one entry           –    just £150 all inclusive.

For two entries        –    just £375 all inclusive

For three entries      –     just £500 all inclusive

Subsequent entries  –       just £100 per entry

 

TO ENTER PRINT OFF AND FILL IN THE FOLLOWING FORM

Name………………………………..

Address……………………………..

Contact telephone number……….

Brands entered…………………….………………………………………………….………………………………………………….………………………………………………….………………………………………………….………………………………………………….

TOTAL AMOUNT:……………………………

 

PLEASE SEND

* Completed form

* Cheque for the whiskies entered

*One bottle of each entered whisky

 

Please send to the following address by NO LATER THAN AUGUST 31:

Dominic Roskrow

True Spirit

18-20 Thorpe Road

NORWICH

NR1 1RY

Posted in Whisky Tastings | Tagged , | 1 Comment