Well folks, it’s that time of year again. The Christmas crush has been survived and we’re onto the last days of 2013. How and when this snuck up on me, I have no idea. What I do know is this: it has been one hell of a year.
When I started this site back in 2011, it was out of a pure and focused love for and appreciation of whisky. What followed was a year (2012) of meeting and socialising, getting to know the industry better; and 2013…well, this year has been all about expanding knowledge and really getting under the skin of whisky to try and bring the news and features to you.
Much of the content on the site this year has focused around two themes: the huge changes and developments happening in the industry, and blended whiskies.
The first theme has meant exploring what the industry thinks about the expansion and ‘boom’ as many people are calling it at the moment. This piece from March looked at figures from the SWRI about Scotch’s boom specifically (never mind the huge amount going on globally) and explored the opinions of those involved in the whisky scene about what is going on. It was also illustrated in the number of whisky distilleries launching. I explored this further by speaking, in this piece, to the people behind the newly re-launched Tamdhu distillery; in this post to the folks building Wolfburn; and in this one to one of the founders of Israel’s first distillery, Milk & Honey, which has just this week been successfully funded through crowd-funding. The interest in and success of new distilleries was also shown in December when London’s first whisky distillery – the London Distillery Company – started officially producing spirit for whisky, the launch of which I covered in this piece. As we come to the end of 2013 I can make only this conclusion: the whisky industry is alive and kicking globally, and 2014 should – no doubt – be a year when even more comes to the fore with numerous distilleries in the works as we speak.
The second theme – blended whiskies – was also important on this site this year, as I explored those drams that exist outside of the realm of the more frequently coveted single malts. I looked at Ballantine’s, then headed to Glenburgie to check out the distillery that produces the main malted whisky for the blend. I checked out new releases from Compass Box and Cutty Sark (both the company own release, Prohibition, and that launched by the Caskstrength chaps), along with a new launch from a slightly different arena (in this case, a musician) with Boxes blend.
The theme continued with a look at how Diageo blends its whiskies in this feature with Dr Matthew Crow, one of the company’s master blenders, and in this piece which explored the art of blending outside of the whisky category. I learned how to use blended whisky in cocktails in this article, and got over my admitted snobbery towards Famous Grouse in this piece. I also discovered more about Jameson in these features (Part 1 & Part 2) on the company and Dublin. In short: there was a lot of blending action and I hope I conveyed that blended whiskies can be damn good, it takes great skill to put them together and there is a huge wealth of interesting blended whiskies out there to be explored.
Outside of this, it was a big year personally as I won the award at this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival for International Ambassador of the Year – a fact I am still blown away by. The festival is a hugely successful and exciting event that brings together not only local communities (as I explored in this piece) but shows off the amazing heartland of Scotland’s whisky production. I am looking very forward to announcing some exciting events I am due to be participating in for next year’s festival, so stay tuned. Additionally, this site relaunched, which was a rather larger undertaking than I initially anticipated. It has been fantastic to receive feedback so far on the new look and feel, and I’m always keen to hear more from you about what you feel you’d like to see as part of the design and content!
Of course, I also cannot help but note that I was also lucky enough to speak to some incredibly fantastic Whisky Women. From Mhairi McDonald (Glenglassaugh’s production manager), to Megan Kenny (Jameson’s brand ambassdor), Helen Arthur (famed whisky writer), Julie Hamilton (founding member of Glasgow’s Whisky Club), Michelle Myron (Glenfiddich tour guide), Alice Lascelles (Sunday Times scribe & Imbibe founder), Karen Walker (marketing director for Scottish brands at International Beverage), Cara Laing (head of brands marketing at Douglas Laing & Co), Rachel Barrie (Morrison Bowmore’s master blender), Gillian MacDonald (head of whisky analytics and creation at Glenmorangie), Isabel Graham-Yooll (a whisky consultant), Joy Elliott (Macallan’s brand ambassador), Johanne McInnis (Whisky Lassie) and finally Alice Parsons (whisky author). The pieces showed women are fully and wholeheartedly a part of every aspect of the whisky world and I felt privileged to speak with them all. Additionally, many and more were kind enough to share the heartwarming stories of the women that inspire them in these two pieces (Part 1 & Part 2) for International Women’s Day.
So, what’s up for the coming year?
First off, check out the site on New Year’s Day to find out which were my top drams of 2013. There will hopefully be some interesting surprises in there for you to take a look at.
Next up, with Burns Night on the horizon, I’m thrilled to announce I am due to be hosting a couple of fabulous events. The first on Friday the 24th January is scheduled at the lovely Coach & Horses pub in Farringdon here in London. Tickets will include a dram on arrival, four drams throughout the night, a glass of wine and a four course meal in celebration to the Scottish Bard. For more information and to book, head to the booking page. I’m also due to be at the beautiful Athenaeum Hotel on Saturday, 25th January hosting a dinner there with The Balvenie whisky and the fabulous Martine Nouet. For more information, contact the hotel through their website here.
And, of course, I hope you come back throughout the year. A new series looking at the production side of the whisky industry will launch in late January, along with a series of interviews with industry luminaries, which will run throughout the year. I intend to continue reviewing whiskies and events, expand the Whisky Women series, and take more of an in-depth look at the issues and things affecting the industry today.
Until then, I wish you all the best for a healthy, happy and prosperous start to the new year and raise a dram with you all in good cheer!
Anything you want to see explored on the site in 2014? Then do get in touch! Drop a line in the Comments section below or over email on firstname.lastname@example.org