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Home > Archive > Meetings - January 2006

January 2006

Meetings: Thursday 12 | Thursday 19

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12 January 2006

Dining Room, Teviot Union.

Special Guest: Richard Paterson from Whyte and Mackay


Things are really got off to a cracking start for the Water of Life Society, 2006. For our first meeting of the semester we were very excited to welcome the talented Master Blender from Whyte and Mackay (owners of Dalmore, Fettercairn, Isle of Jura and Tamnavulin distilleries).

Richard will be took us through the Whyte and Mackay range, enlightening us to some of the secrets that make the brand so popular...

All quotations are from Richard's speech

Drams tasted:

Whyte & Mackay 12 years old Blended Scotch Whisky was offered to warm up our palettes and enjoy, as Richard introduced us to the history behind Whyte and Mackay.



The first Malt whisky that we tasted was "Dalmore 12 year old, so we have to give it at least 12 seconds in our mouth."

- This bottling is 30% Sherry casks and 70% Bourbon Casks.

"You hold it in you mouth, and you let the water on your palette seduce the heavier, harsher notes. Then drift over the softer notes."

Holding it in you mouth that little bit longer will expose these lovely elements. You'll see the citrus, you'll see the chocolate and that smoothness."


This was swiftly followed by Dalmore 12 years old 'Black Isle' - bottled exclusively for the Duty Free market (so look out for it next time your at the airport).

Instructions for this one were to "hold it on the palette. Particularly important, this time, to see the styles coming through. Oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom, oom-oom. Wait , let it go down. Wait for it - it's 12 years old... Let it come up, let it come up, let it come up. And you'll see from the distinvtive marzipan note, the sherried notes, the almond and the hazelnut. Really the almond in particular, is what comes through. Maybe if not the first time, then definitely on the second time."

- This bottling is 50% Sherry casks and 50% Bourbon Casks.

Then came the Dalmore 'Cigar Malt' - created as the perfect whisky to have with a cigar.

However Richard assured us that: "If you don't like cigars, it doesn't make any difference. What it's actually about is really enjoying the sweetness that's coming from the sherry wood. It is aged between 8 and 16 years old, and and I produced it 6 years ago for the American market. Because the American market was smokinga lot of cigars, and I wanted a whisky that would complement the cigars. So we took it over to Cuba two years ago, and it won the best single malt, to go with the best cigar.

- This bottling is 60% Sherry casks and 40% Bourbon Casks.


Following the cigar malt, was "something to waken us up": The Isle of Jura 'Superstition' from the island of 145 people and 4500 Red Deer.

"Why do you want to call it Superstition?" the Whyte and Mackay marketing team asked Richard. "Because it's unlucky to cut peat in April rather than May...We want to have that superstitious nature. That's why we use 13 year old whiskies. And we want to make it special, so we use 21 year old whiskies...We blended it on Friday the 13th of September and bottled it on Friday the 13th of December."

"It's going to be light, but look out for the peatiness coming through at the end!"

Our final whisky of the night was Isle of Jura 21 year old "What I wanted to show you is that when you smell it, it is very light. But towards the end you're going to see just a whisper of peat. That's what you call phenolic...This is because many years ago, we heavily peated our Jura."

"What I want you to do is put it in your mouth and hold it there. Keep it there, keep it there, keep it there, keep it there, keep it there, keep it there and then swallow. Close your eyes and let it go over. Remember - where are you? You're out on the moors, and what's happening? It's absolutely pissing it down..."

"What you're going to see is a little bit of pine notes, some gorse and the phenolics are slow. A little bit of salt drifting around there.

After tasting these delicious malts, Richard had a surprise for one of our members. What unfolded is definitely best told by the man himself:

Email received, the following morning, from our very lucky member - Simeon Attaway - at 8:06am:

The alarm clock started really early, but for once I didn't mind, I was already half awake.  I was lying in complete karma as my barrage of 3 alarm clocks began to wake from the silence.  It was so surreal, I could sense their desire to bring me back from dreamland, but I was already back.  They sang their tunes in joyful harmony, bursts of melodic duets which normally result in panic wrestling to find the snooze buttons resulted in calm and controlled finales.
A warm feeling floated within as I slowly recalled the previous night's events.  Surely not, I couldn't be that lucky.  I'd promised myself a short break from the essays, to later return following a prompt end to the meeting.  Boy was that going to change in a way never anticipated.
The dining hall filled to the sounds of laughter and delight as Richard (Richard Patterson - Master Blender, Whyte & Mackay) entertained the crowd to the ups and downs of our dram's childhood, rebellious teenage years and adulthood (saturated with amazingly accurate chronological information).  Narrowly dodging the showers and hail that fell, a special surprise awaited for one lucky person.  As my name was mentioned, and not knowing what to expect, my curiosity deepened.  What hilarious prank had been planned at my expense?  With trepidation I bravely faced the crowd to await my surprise: good, bad or ugly.  Richard reached for his pocket and whipped out a small bottle.  What evil liquid was contained therein?  Time would tell.  He slowly poured a dram sized measure into the glass and as he turned back to stand behind me, I caught sight of something he'd just picked up in his hand.  Not being able to tell exactly what he had, my paranoia only but deepened.  "Take a deep breath, take a sip, but do not swallow", he said.  Quite forward I thought, but the alarm bells began to ring: was this liquid going to have a vile reaction or was this 'thing' he now had in his hand going to make me cough and splutter in front of everyone, providing ample amounts of entertainment for all watching?  The liquid's nose was earthly with gorgeously sweet sappy tones, a truly wonderful nose.  Prepared for the earth to open beneath my feet, I trustingly took a sip.  As this liquid settled in my mouth, I realised that it was not vile, quite the contrary, a whole symphony of wood and earthy tastes skated around my mouth as Richard tried to persuade me to entertain people with a little gurning.  I was now waiting for an unexpected shock, something that's not as easy as you think to predict.  Before I knew it, Richard had left one off behind me, a humongous party popper exploded over my shoulder.  Then came the teasingly gradual announcement as to the contents of the bottle.  A whisky, not 10, 20 or 30 years old.  It is not 40, 50 or even 60 years old.  In fact it is 62 years old and a bottle was sold last year for a pocket money £32,000.  My whole face exploded with shock.  I had been drinking a dram of the world's most expensive whisky - imagine my surprise!!  The dram had well and truly settled in my mouth and all that swirling had teased the whisky into extracting all the water from my mouth - a truly invigorating experience!
Richard began to bring his show to a close, but had time to adorn it with a flourishing magic trick.  Whipping out a glass of water, I instinctively withdrew my dram, but I need not have had cause for concern.  Before I knew it, a handkerchief had been placed over the glass and was promptly being pushed down into the nearly full glass of water.  Picking up a nearby whisky bottle, Richard began to pour whisky into the glass.  When it was full, he slowly pulled on the handkerchief, slowly raising it from the bottom of the glass.  To everyone's amazement, the whisky was left floating on top of the water - a truly magical sight as the oily base of the whisky sloshed around when the glass moved.
As I stood in front of everyone, I could see excited looks in people's eyes, though at the same time, a glimmer of hope at sampling the truly rare malt.  I felt so honoured and lucky to have been chosen as the volunteer.   I know that some people were extremely gutted and upset not to have been in my place, in particular Sam, el Presidente who has done a truly magnificent job this year.  Sam, I owe you big time!
Slainte Mhath!

"Love make the world go round. Total rubbish - whisky makes the world go round, just twice as fast."

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19 January 2006

Dining Room, Teviot Union.

Special Guest: Euan Mitchell from Isle of Arran Distillers


After the hugely successful visit of Master Blender - Richard Paterson - last week.  We were thrilled to be having a second guest speaker of the term this week - Euan Mitchell from Isle of Arran Distillers.

Euan took us through the Arran whisky range.  Introduced us to one of the newest distilleries in Scotland - they have just had their 10th birthday!  Despite their age, the range available from the distillery is impressive, and a passion for making quality whisky is evident...

Drams tasted:

To warm up our palette's Euan introduced us to the Robert Burns Malt (40%) . A 5 year old whisky from the distillery, which is bottled under the Robert Burns name. Arran Distillers are the only company that are allowed to use the Bard's good name, as they are patrons of the Burns World Federation.

Arran Distillery first started producing whisky on the 29th June 1995.

"Harold Currie (formerly of Chivas Brothers) had a dream that he would like to buid his own distillery". Unlike most Scotsmen, Harold made his dream into a reality. He decided on Arran for three main reasons:

"First, and most important, is the quality of the water. You must have access to good, natural spring water in order to make good whisky. And on Arran we have some of the finest water sources in the whole of Scotland."

"The second is largely historical...on Arran in the 19th Century there were reputed to be over 50 illicit (or illegal) stills on the island, and Arran is said to have made some of the finest illicit Scotch in the whole of Scotland."

"The third reason is the maturation, in the casks. Arran sits on the gulf stream, and this creates a very good atmosphere for maturing the whisky. So we have been very fortunate in that the casks are maturing relatively rapidly."

Next up was the standard Arran (43%) , bottled at roughly 7 years old, but with no age statement.

Made in the traditional way, with wooden wash-backs and double distillation. By the two Gordon's that run the distillery.

Tasting notes from our members:

Warming our member's entirety. Bombay mix and mouthwash. Also taking water well.

'Teasingly aged'

A second dram was poured: the unchillfiltered Arran (46%) , again with no age statement. But also, thankfully, with no colouring or chillfilteration. The same age and maturation process as the standard bottle.

Arran use a mixture of 200 litre bourbon barrels, 250 litre sherry hogsheads and 500 litre sherry butts. Mostly using refill casks, as "first fill sherry tends to be a bit heavy, it tends to overpower the Arran malt.

Tasting notes from our members:

Tingly apple, freshly laid lino, Caribbean tropical beach, banana and a touch of salt.


The fourth whisky to be brought out was a very special one: Arran 'Anniversary' Limited Edition 10 year old (46%). Only 1200 bottles of this little beauty were produced.

Released at the end of 2005. From three sherry casks - cask numbers 6,7 and 9.

Tasting notes from our members:

Wild thyme, grandmother's house, marmalade, charcoal, vanilla, fresh fruit and whipped cream.

'Like drinking sunshine'

It was hard to imagine what could be much better than the Limited Edition bottling, but Euan offered us a single cask Arran that has been finished in a Champagne cask (59.3%). It spent 7 years in a sherry cask before being transferred over to the champagne cask.

This is the first time that anyone has ever bottled a champagne cask whisky, and our members were very eager to sample this new child in the Arran family.

Tasting notes from our members:

Taragon, fizzy, dried fruit, pepperoni pizza, candy floss and scotch bonnet.

'The witty dram'

To end a truly fascinating evening Euan tempted us with a single cask Arran that has been finished in a sherry cask (58.3%) .

Tasting notes from our members:

Victoria sponge with apricot jam and icing. Yum!

A truly full-on end to a wonderful evening.



"It must be terrible to be tea-total. When you wake up in the morning, that's as good as you going to feel all day" Frank Sinatra

Remember, if you really enjoy a meeting, then we want to hear about it. Post your views on the forum:

If you couldn't make it to that extraordinary meeting, I hope I have whet your appetite. Check when the next meeting is in the calendar.