It had been in the calendar for months: a weekend long whisky festival for a small group of whisky lovers in the heart of whisky land. Who could argue with that plan?
So what am I talking about? The inaugural ‘Dramboree‘ of course. The greatness that was this two day long festival took place in Aberfeldy from the 5-7 July and was organised by the fab duo that is Jason Standing (Whisky Squad) and Jonny McMillan (Great Whisky Co).
And, I’ve actually been meaning to write about it for ages (as you can see, we went a couple of months back) but if I’m honest, I had so much fun I didn’t take many notes. This has made it trickier to actually tell you about it but – having gone through my photos and uncovered a set of tasting notes from one of the sessions – I realised it would have been a shame to miss out writing about it since it was the best whisky festival I’ve ever been to. That’s right. I said it. Ever. The best…festival…EVER!
To help delve into that a bit more, what actually happened was this:
Early on the morning of the 5 July (which also happens to be Miss Whisky’s birthday) a group of whisky enthusiasts met at King’s Cross station for the long journey north. On the train, cake was had (prepared by the lovely Kirsty Chant) and drams were sampled (care of the lovely Joel Eastman). I rocked out with some special glasses.
After a quick stop in Edinburgh – where we met up with TWE’s Tim Forbes and Rocky Lancer – our group of ruffians continued north to Pitlochry where we were met by a bus to take us to our final destination (in the non-horror film sense) of Aberfeldy. There exists the Dunolly Outdoor Adventures site on which sits a three storey, Victorian mansion that would house us for the weekend. Now, I should add – most groups that come to stay here are of the school-aged variety, which meant that while it was a ‘mansion’ the rooms were very much of the ‘youth group’ kind – bunk beds, dorm rooms…you get the picture!
Once settled in, we all joined the others who’d arrived outside in the gorgeous summer sunshine (yes, sunshine in Scotland, I know!) to have a beer before the whisky celebrations commenced.
And this is where things get hazy. You see, I was determined to try and just chill out for the weekend rather than take pages and pages of notes, which is my normal style. So, it was at this point, I clicked off.
I can say, however, that on the first evening we had a whisky tasting with Francis Cuthbert from Daftmill (the first one to ever be held outside of the distillery) before we had dinner and finished the evening’s events with a tasting run by Angus Macraild from Mulberry Bank Auctions.
At the latter, I remembered to take a few notes and that evening’s stand-out was a Bowmore distilled pre-1975 (that was all the information I had down as to its provenance). It was filled with gorgeous pineapple, mango, passion fruit and cream notes and was thoroughly stunning.
The evening concluded with much merriment sharing drams off of the dram table (every attendee brought at least two bottles so it was a try whatever you want kind of situation) – Cat Spencer (Master of Malt) and Sam Simmons (Balvenie) entertained with songs and ukelele playing; far too much whisky was imbibed; and, generally, merriment was had.
The next day, an early morning beckoned. Much coffee was had and most of us looked more like zombies than humans but the spirits were still high and after a 20 minute wander in the fresh, bright summer air to Aberfeldy distillery everyone seemed more in the mood to get back to dramming.
There we met Stephen Marshall, the marketing manager for Dewar’s which uses the spirit from Aberfeldy distillery in the making of its brand. A behind the scenes tour of the site – filled with stories from Stephen that can go no further than our ears – concluded with a tasting of some incredible single cask whisky from Craigellachie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore and Macduff. It was only 12pm but we were all happy to dive back in.
Having consumed a fair few drams so early in the day, we decided to go for a walk through the Birks of Aberfeldy – a beautiful, waterfall strewn woodsy trail that helped to clear the lungs and the head. The area inspired the great Scottish Bard – Robbie Burns – and it was no wonder as the whole trail was stunning.
Soon enough, it was time to head back to Dunolly House and, after a quick nap on the grounds, get back to the whisky imbibing.
That evening saw tastings by Melanie Stranger of Springbank who took us through six drams – my favourite of which was an 11-year old Hazelburn aged in ex-bourbon casks – before The Whisky Lounge‘s Eddie Ludlow hosted a quiz with a difference, testing various teams on their knowledge of whisky distilleries, whisky recognition (we had to match a set of drams to their Feis Ile bottling) and flexibility (this is a long story but it involved no whisky skills, only the ability to pick up a paper bag with one’s teeth, something myself and Nicola of The Whisky Boys were both found to be very skilled at).
The final treat of the night was an epic barbeque hosted by the team from Master of Malt. Ribs and drams galore – who can resist?
The evening continued into the wee hours – enough drams to drown a small duck colony were drunk, tunes were danced to and many more songs sung.
When finally we had to leave the next morning it was with sore heads and sorry hearts – the festival was an epic one and I can be sure that we were all thrilled to have been a part of its inaugural outing. From a wee idea that started during a random conversation between Jonny and Jason, through to the full-on festival, Dramboree showed – most importantly – that whisky can be fun, outgoing and fresh. I can’t wait until next year!
For more information on Dramboree and to be in the know when tickets go on sale for next year’s event, head to www.dramboree.co.uk and sign up for updates.