A Coming of Age Party - The Wee Dram’s 21st Birthday Tasting
On Saturday 14th March 1998, Alison and I opened the door of The Wee Dram, for business, for the first time. So on Friday 22nd March 2019, we were delighted that eighty of us gathered for The Wee Dram 21st Birthday Tasting. We even had friends who were at both of these events.
Glenfiddich 21y/o – Rum Cask Finish – 40%
From this very famous distillery in Dufftown built by William Grant, opened in 1889. Has a capacity of 13.7m litres so very big, in fact the distillery is being expanded this year, going up to 20m litres a year. William was 47 years old when he opened the distillery, he had been Manager at nearby Mortlach Distillery, and he got the first stills second hand from Cardhu. Glenfiddich is still the top selling single malt in the world – 15.6 million bottles.
In 1963 Glenfiddich became the first single malt to be mass marketed, I believe that without this we would not be here today. It was certainly the first ever single malt whisky I tried.
This is the 21 y/o is finished in Rum cask to give it a bit of spice.
Bruichladdich – Classic Laddie – 50%
Not long after we opened, we had our very first tasting evening which was hosted by the legendary Jim McEwan. At the time Jim was the Master Distiller and Brand Ambassador for Morrison Bowmore. At that very first tasting Jim was talking to me and he sniffed the air and said – “Ach Dennis has just opened the 17 y/o”. Dennis was a few yards behind him. I said “So you can tell by the smell?” “no” was the reply “I can see him in the mirror behind you. Remember if you can always cheat!”
However, it was as Master Distiller and one of the consortia, who reopened Bruichladdich Distillery in 2001, that Jim is really famous for. Alison and I visited just before it re – opened in 2001, someone had fallen through the floor.
This bottling is their Classic Laddie, it’s 50% abv, because it tastes better that strong.
Benromach 2009 – UK Exclusive – 59.8%
There are two reasons why a Benromach just had to be done. One, the distillery was reopened in 1998, after being closed for 15 years. Second, the owners of the distillery, The Urquhart family, who also own the Independent bottlers Gordon and MacPhail of Elgin. The late David Urquhart, and his wife Sheila, were great inspiration and help to Alison and myself, particularly in the early years.
Benromach is a small distillery in the town of Forres on Speyside. Capacity of 700,000 litres. Founded originally in 1898, it was closed in 1983. Now in the 1960’s a lot of Speyside distillers lightened up their style, the family, particularly George, David’s father, wanted to make a whisky in the style made on Speyside in the 40’s & 50’s, this is it, more pungent, smoky, heavier. Because G&M had stocks of malt from the 40’s and also samples of bottlings from that time, they knew exactly what they were looking for.
This bottling Distilled in 2009, bottled at the end of last year, and is from 1 first fill bourbon barrel – no 128. Only 247 bottles and 59.8%! We sold all we had on the night, stood out even amongst such prestigious company.
Glendronach 21 y/o – 46%
This has got to be one of my favourite whiskies. Just look at that colour. Founded in 1826, they have two pairs of stills and can produce 1.2 m litres a year. Glendronach is famous for its use of sherry casks. One of the former owners of this distillery, Billy Walker, brought it in 2008, because when he started in the Industry back in the 60’s this was the distillery that everyone looked up to. This was before Macallan or Highland Park were famous.
When Billy brought the distillery it was rumoured that he didn’t tell his partners about the deal. When we asked his son Alistair – he said “Ack never mind that he never told my mother!”
This 21 year old uses both PX and Oloroso sherry casks – fruitcake, raisins and sauternes, very big.
BenRiach Temporis 21 y/o – 46%
A classic Speyside distillery and whisky. Originally opened in 1897. It was closed between 1900 and 1965. The only reason it survived was due to Longmorn distillery on the same site using their malting floors. In 1985 they increased the number of stills from 2 to 4. In 1998 the owners at the time, Seagrams, shut it. In 2004 it was brought by two South African guys, Wayne and Geoff, along with veteran distiller Billy Walker (mentioned above). They sold their group to Brown Forman in 2016, for Benriach, Glendronach, Glenglassagh and the head office, bottling hall, warehousing and stock they got £285 million.
This bottling is one of their peaty offerings, they do both Peaty and unpeated spirit. Keeping peaty whisky for 21 years is quite an art, the wood can overpower the smoky flavours which are in the barley. This is matured to perfection.
Ardbeg Uigeadail – 52.4%
Ardbeg was founded in 1815, has a capacity of 1.4m litres. Closed by the then owners in 1983, was run for a few months each year from 1990 – 1996, to get filling for Ballantine’s Blend. Sold to the Glenmorangie Company in 1997 – back into production 1998. Moet Hennessy brought the whole company in 2004 for £300m.
At the moment they are building a new still house which will hold 4 stills. The old still house will be used for 6 new Washbacks. This will double production to 2.4m litres. Alison, myself, and our inspection team, are visiting in August to make sure they have done the job properly.
The Uigeadail has a lot of old, sherry cask matured whisky, as well as some younger Bourbon cask matured whisky. It’s a well-balanced, richer peaty whisky.
I just had to finish this evening with this whisky, it’s still my favourite I come back to it time after time and when you fancy it nothing else will do.
Thank you to everyone who attended on the evening, but most of all thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last 21 years. Over the years a lot of you have become friends, it has been our pleasure and privilege to serve you all. Here’s to the next 21!