*Update: Tickets are NOW available for events at the Balvenie Fete. The Miss Whisky session takes place on 15 June at 3pm. Details can be found here and tickets can be bought here.*
When I was a kid, my local community hall hosted something called “Stitch ‘n Bitch” for anyone who was keen on a bit of sewing and gossip. Each year, the group would create a big quilt to raffle off and raise funds for the community, with us kids helping to add our bit of style design when possible.
While it wasn’t monumental – things like this were hosted in many small Canadian towns and I’m sure, English ones too – the coming together of community to create something crafty was, in its small way, a chance to build community spirit and put in public the handiwork that many people would otherwise have kept behind closed doors in the home.
I have always appreciated people who are skilled at creating handmade items. My father had a workshop on our farm and created beautiful woodwork jewelry boxes, cabinets, and more; I use a chopping board in my kitchen that he made back in the early ’90s which is still going strong.
Equally, it’s hard to not admit that times are, of course, changing and have been for a while. We are seeing less and less craft-work as our consumer appetites are satiated with imported clothes, furnishings and electronics. I’m no exception of course. I happily gobble these things up as easily as the next person.
But, I am also very appreciative of well-made items that take individual skill and time due to my childhood exposure to this world. And that’s why I’m a big fan of The Balvenie [...]
If someone had told me when I was a kid that one day I would be sitting in a warehouse in London on a hay bale drinking a whisky cocktail, I’d have looked at them with an angled head, squinted my brow and then told them they were silly. Hell, if someone had said that to me three years ago I’d have done the same thing but with more of an arched eyebrow to note my disbelief.
But, then, such is life. And that situation is exactly where I found myself recently for the kick off of the 2013 Monkey Shoulder For One Night Only events.
It was, perhaps, an unfortunate occurrence that the night in question saw freezing winds that managed to bite through every inch of clothing, leave noses red (and not from too much drink) and make the warehouse-goers keep all their layers on. At the end of March, one doesn’t expect this even in chilly England. But this is no ordinary year, weather wise.
And so, arriving at the warehouse I greeted the proffered purple and black rugby top (to keep everyone in the ‘jockey’ theme of the night) with outstretched, goosebumpy arms and glad grin. No amount of whisky could have warmed me through on that nippy eve.
Though my partner and I showed up early, the warehouse was already teeming with life from the besuited post-work crowd through to trendy Shoreditch folks who likely lived a stones-throw from the warehouse and who were probably on their way to another warehouse afterwards.
A large plastic horse greeted our entrance, while to our right piles of hay bales turned the scene to barn-chic. On a raised platform, two bars distributed the three cocktails of [...]
Calling all creative bartenders: the Auchentoshan Switch is back!
If you’ve not heard of the programme before, it goes something like this: one talented bartender from the UK, Sweden or Germany will win an all expenses paid two-week stint in New York to train at leading bar The Dead Rabbit while a bartender from North America will get a two-week placement at Old Street’s The Nightjar.
Launched recently at the central London venue, the competition is meant to show off the skills of the best and brightest on each side of the pond. On the night of the launch, attendees were treated to a whisky tasting by brand ambassador Zoran Peric and a few cocktails including one by Martin Ball, the UK winner of the last Switch competition, which happened in 2011.
So, how do you get a chance to switch your shoreline for a couple of weeks?
Simply put on your thinking hat and come up with a cocktail using the Auchentoshan Three Wood as its base that you think will most impress judges.
Next, upload the recipe and image of your shiny creation to this site here by the 12 July.
Judges will choose the semi-finalists who will be asked to participate in regional heats in their respective countries. The winners of the heats will then go onto the European and North American finals where the two winners will be selected.
The winners will head off to their new venues in early 2014.
So, if you think you’ve got what it takes to take-on an Auchentoshan cocktail and shine in some of the world’s top bars, then get mixing!
For more information, and to enter Auchentoshan Switch, head to: www.auchentoshan.com/switch.
I love me a good drinking den. And, let’s be honest, London is pretty full of top-end joints to hunker down of an eve and do just that – drink. I have no doubt many other cities in this fine country have much to offer too, of course, but my experience is with the capital and, thus far, I can’t complain.
One of the newest whisky spots on the block is Mizuwari – a Japanese themed bar on Old Compton Street in the downstairs section of Izakaya restaurant, Bincho, that’s filled with cocktails and drams galore.
As a big fan of Japanese whisky, the news of its opening was thrilling to my ears. Unfortunately, many other people felt the same so on opening night the small space was so rammed that getting a good look at its interiors or experiencing it in full was not possible.
I have since had the chance to go back and can say that it is a place I will be adding to my “Soho bars of best repute” list.
The bar is what one might call intimate – petite round tables and shared benches with individual lamps that can be dimmed dot the dark-wood floored and mahogany walled room, while behind the bar are rows of Japanese whisky.
The place was developed in partnership with Suntory, so all of the cocktails on the list feature whiskies from the company’s brands (think: Hakushu, Hibiki and Yamazaki).
However, when it comes to single drams, the menu is much more extensive and includes more than a dozen options from the Nikka range, various Ichiro’s Malts and a jaw-dropping selection of Karuizawas, which given their rarity and the fact this is a central London bar, are really rather [...]