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The whisky world as seen by an eccentric Bavarian exile


Nov. 2009


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Thursday 12th; What's in a name? or "Dumbing down to an IQ of room temperature"

Oh how much I enjoy perusing the shelf of the local whisky shop or their online catalogue, seeing all those familiar distillery names and if I'm lucky, even some much rarer ones from years gone by or even long-lost distilleries. Choices, choices choices, but alas, we seem to be getting some new kids on the block whose pedigrees are not so obvious. Gone are those all too familiar, good old distillery names and suddenly 'in' and to be seen sprawling leisurely across the labels in place of our beloved heritage, are terms of endearment and fantasy which I suspect are designed to bring whisky 'to the masses'.

Has our education system really gone to the dogs to this degree? I know many distillery names have funny pronunciations, but isn't that part of the mystery and fun of single malts? Apparently not any more!

So, with this in mind I can now announce to the world that I, as Whisky Emporium, have just finished selecting a new range of whiskies for my personal portfolio and have decided to follow this latest fashion in their naming. I hereby offer you an insight and a sneaky pre-release introduction to Whisky Emporium's new 'Awesome Stuff' range of single malts (well, isn't everything just 'awesome' these days?)

Awesome Stuff a new-fangled range of single malts  by Whisky Emporium;

   First up in the Awesome Stuff range is the most unusually awesome "Nuclear Fallout";

This is indeed quite an unusual dram as it contains a radical new and fashionable colouring agent which changes properties when coming into contact with water. It also has a total flavour explosion which just goes on and on and on ... forever. I think this is best described by my own tasting notes;

Glass: Any old tumbler or pint mug will do

Colour: Initially quite normal and innocuous-looking

Nose: Slight metallic tang with hints of gunpowder and fuse wire

Palate: A sudden and immediate palate-encompassing explosion of fiery malt, peat, cinders, smoke and lava.

Finish: It just goes on and on and on ..... Not so much a finish as a 125 year half-life!

With 3 drops of water (the heavier the better): This is where the true magic begins, once the water is added the NE-666 colouring immediately reacts by turning a deliciously fashionable neon shade of blue.

Overall Impression: Just imagine the fun you can have when dropping a few cubes of ice into your friends' drinks, watching their reactions to this awesomely neon reaction. Tailor-made for cocktails too. Awesome!!!

   My second awesome offering is the positively awesome "Smokin' Saddles"

Ahhhhh yes, home on the range where men are men and sheep run scared. Imagine a whisky whose whole aroma, flavour and presence reminds you of back 'ome, even down to the mud on your boots, leather of your pants (that's trousers to us Europeans),  stables, straw and not forgetting the polish on your saddle. Welcome to "Smokin' Saddles" my great 'outdoors in the wilderness' dram. Let me again share my tasting notes with you;

Glass: Straight from the hip (flask)

Colour: Light blue, just like the grass back 'ome in Kentucky

Nose: Hay, straw, leather and stables, with underlying hints of smoky manure.

Palate: Dry, hot and scorched leather

With 3 drops of water: No, this one must be neat with the only rocks being granite ones you sit on.

Overall Impression: Awesome.

   Finally, and most awesomely awesome of all is "Trabbie Trip"

This one I am particularly proud of, my pièce de resistance, one for the discerning collector as well as the connoisseur. It will be a very limited annual release for which I am expecting a long waiting list, probably up to 15 years but if you get your name in quickly and perhaps even cross my palm with silver, then who knows, you may be one of the lucky names heading the list.

It goes without saying that this is a good solid everyday dram with no great frills, just unadulterated honesty. Here are my notes:

Presentation: This collector's edition comes in an individually numbered and registered, but delightfully simple and economical papier maché presentation case, complete with matching papier maché cup.

Glass: Best enjoyed from the enclosed papier maché cup.

Colour: Pale brown, what we used to call 'biscuit'.

Nose: Remiscent of damp cardboard, cheap plastic and that unmistakable aroma of 2-stroke exhaust.

Palate: Oily, slightly pungent. This one starts slowly, is even slower to fully develop and unfortunately, quite powerless on the palate.

Finish: Very short and almost breaking down before it even gets going.

Overall Impression: Authentically awesome!

'Trabbie Trip' will be the last of the three awesome bottlings to be released as there are still a few production issues to overcome, not least of which is the matter of naming rights, although after a prolonged discussion with the relevant authority, in this case M.I.S.S (Made In Scotland, Surely) they assure me that not only don't they see a need for royalty payments for using this name, but they see a good case for appealing against any car manufacturers associating themselves with the name unless they relocate all production facilities to Scotland, as 'Trip' is arguably a Scottish phenomenon.

A last word from Whisky Emporium; I recently showcased this awesome new range to a selected group of individuals at a private launch party here in my very own whisky den. The drams were very well received and the most heard comment of the evening was "Awesome man, awesome!" However, a few individuals were heard to ask "But where is it from?" or "Which distillery is this one?"

Hmmmmm, can there possibly be hope yet for the yooof of today? I like to hope so.


Old Luddite of Bayern



Tuesday 10th; The EU; A single market? or "It takes a committee to really screw up"

Firstly, let me say that I am pro-EU and the concept of free trade within a 'common market' that was 'sold' to us in the UK when we were offered a referendum in 1975 was, on the face of it, a great idea. The UK unanimously voted "to stay in the Common Market - EEC" and Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister at that time, heralded the outcome as an "historic decision".

So where does this leave us today, almost 35 years after that 'historic decision'? Well, firstly we have pretty much total freedom of travel within the EU, not that we didn't have this before, but now those old border Customs checkpoints are history. I can drive between EU countries without showing a passport and without stopping, in fact I hardly realise I have entered a different country. Then there's the money, we have introduced the uro and most of us no longer have to worry about exchanging between Lira, Francs, Deutschmarks, Gulden (Guilder) or whatever, unless of course one lives in or visits the UK, some Scandinavian or former Russian countries, but that's their problem!

So, all in all we have a pretty easy life within the EU when it comes to travel and currency, but what about the supposedly biggest attraction of the EU; that of a single market and freedom of trade, especially in relation to whisky?

Whisky along with tobacco products and fuels is a little special in that it is subjected not only to VAT, but also to another tax called Duty, as in the Duty-Free shops we use when travelling outside the EU. But, what about within the EU? Well, we are a single market aren't we? Doesn't this mean we can not only travel as we please, but bring home what we please too? Yes, it does, sort of! So long as it's for personal use!

So where's the problem? Firstly, in 2006 the EU Court of Justice ruled that a Mr. Joustra from Holland must pay just over €900 Duty he was charged on a wine delivery. He had visited France and ordered cases of wine for his own use and also for a group of friends who would equally share the costs with no profit being made. The court ruled that even though Mr. Joustra had organised the shipping via a local Dutch company, he had not carried it personally and it was not all for his own personal consumption.

But that's not all! It was about this time when I noticed that almost all German (internet) whisky shops stopped offering to ship outside of Germany. The more I looked into the issues of Duty, the more I realised why. Duty is governed by an EU Directive called 92/12/EEC and this clearly states that when it comes to buying items from another country and having them shipped to your own address (what we call Distance Selling), the seller has to pay the Duty in the country of destination. (See Article 10 just under half way down that link)

Pardon, does that mean when I sit on the internet here in Germany and buy a bottle of whisky from a UK seller, that UK seller has to pay the Duty in Germany?

Yes! But not only that, if the country of destination uses special Duty marks on the bottle like the UK stamp or the Italian strip across the top of the bottle, the seller has to ship the bottle with those correct marks! This was even confirmed when I spoke directly with the EU central tax authorities in Brussels.

There's change in the air! I have today found that Directive 92/12/EEC is to be replaced by a new one!

I quote "A new Council Directive (2008/118/EC PDF document DeutschEnglishfrançais) concerning the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty (alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and energy products) entered into force on 15 January 2009. It will apply across the EU from 1 April 2010. Directive 92/12/EEC will be repealed as of that date."

So it's going to be simplified and our Single Market will finally be just that; A single market?

Don't get too excited, the new directive has a specific 'Article' (No. 36 on pages 26-7) about distance selling, stating;

1. Excise goods already released for consumption in one Member State, which are purchased by a person, other than an authorised warehousekeeper or a registered consignee, established in another Member State who does not carry out an independent economic activity, and which are dispatched or transported to another Member State directly or indirectly by the vendor or on his behalf shall be subject to excise duty in the Member State of destination.

3. The person liable to pay the excise duty in the Member State of destination shall be the vendor.


Maybe I have confuddled you with all these links and talk of Duty, so let's just look at two slightly different scenarios;

1. I am a seller based in the UK (OK, but we can pretend for the purpose of this exercise) and I get an order through my website, telephone or fax from a buyer in America. I pack the whisky and ship it to his American address. Some US States don't allow shipping of alcohol, but if this is a problem or if there are any taxes to pay, the buyer gets the details and must pay the bill upon delivery by the relevant courier or postal service.

As the seller, I declare my sales as normal to my local tax authority and pay the relevant taxes.


2. I am a seller based in the UK and receive a similar order via my website, telephone or fax from a customer in Italy. I now have to look up what the rate of Duty is in Italy, deduct the UK Duty from the price and add the Italian Duty in order to determine the cost to the customer. Once he pays, I then have to source the Italian Duty strip for the bottle and remove the UK one. Then I can pack and send the bottle to my Italian customer.

At the same time, I have to pay the Italian Duty to the Italian tax authorities which I can choose to do personally or via an Italian tax consultant who I must firstly locate and then organise exactly how to get the correct amount of money to his Italian Euro account from my UK GBP business account.

I then have to complete a rather complicated tax rebate form in the UK in order to get the UK Duty back which I paid upon buying the bottle from my supplier.

Ahhh the joys of the single market where I can sell to all current 27 member States and I only have 27 tax consultants to pay or tax authorities to personally deal with in at least 23 different languages and 27 different rates of Duty to work out which means listing 27 different prices for each item on my website, depending upon the country of my potential buyers!

I love the concept of the single market, can we have one please?



Sunday 8th; Autumnal Musings or "Quintessentially English leafy country lanes"

Here in Munich we have already been subjected to the first little flurry of snow as a stark reminder that the seasons are changing, but, what of autumn? This is possibly my favourite time of year, even though summer holidays are but a distant memory and the nights are drawing in, autumn still provides extreme beauty through magnificent colours and unique aromas, along with the fruits of the year’s harvest which laden the shelves in our stores. This is also the time of year when many of us return to our favourite drams to help add a little warmth to the cooler evenings, but more of that soon.

Picture the scene; I used to live in a small Hampshire town in England and each morning my drive to work would start with fifteen minutes of the most typical and glorious English countryside. Narrow tree-lined country lanes winding through small villages and at the end even a local village pond complete with a large family of ducks who often considered the road to be their personal domain. At this time of year the mornings were still quite cool, often with lots of dew and sometimes even a little ground frost, making the journey quite treacherous especially as the lanes were often covered in fallen leaves, but my over-riding memory of that time is the typical and wonderful smell of autumn, with crisp air, dew, moss and a unique leafiness that no other time of year provides, all framed in a scene of glorious rich colours.

I mentioned earlier that this is also the time of year when, after a summer of long cooling drinks, we often return of an evening to our favourite drams in search of something warming and comforting. I am no exception, but as I now live in Bavaria where autumn is often very short-lived as winter draws quickly in with early snow flurries and an immediate, rather than gradual, reduction in temperatures. For this reason I prefer my autumnal drams to be exactly that; very autumnal and allowing me to savour and prolong the time of year I so love.

Let me quote now from two of my tasting notes;

My first thought was crushed wet leaves on a country road in autumn, but the more I nose this one the more I detect stronger floral tendencies with touches of seasoned leather and new wood.

A complex and extremely smooth and harmonious collection of nutty innuendoes, unbelievable creaminess, just a touch of sea air and all overlaid with that typical Jura leafiness which I liken to a leafy English country lane in Autumn

Of course, these are two rather different expressions of the Isle of Jura whisky, the first is a very pleasant 14y independent bottling from Murray McDavid and the second is the astounding 33y distillery bottling, but as you see that autumnal leafiness complete with my beloved English country lane is present in both, as indeed are these traits in most Isle of Jura offerings, so thankfully autumn is once again prolonged in a cold wintry Bavaria and my autumnal musings can be savoured thanks to this delightful whisky.



Sunday 8th; a labour of love, or "maybe I just like the sound of my own keyboard"

After the last few weeks of reviewing many new (to me) drams and revisiting some old favourites, I awake on this rather chilly Sunday morning, look out of my study window at a wall of at least twently shades of green from the trees which frame the garden, then I wonder how my wife is doing as she lays in hospital trying to recover from a fall and, quite naturally, ponder on the uncertainties and unfairness of life in general.

But what of those drams? Well, my first entry here on 4th November spoke of my very first introduction to Scotch whisky, but of course I was unable to write any notes at that time, nor even speak of the whisky in any language understood by my peers. Also, once over the soreness of teething I put my further exploration of whisky on hold for a few years, until the age of about 18 when all my friends tended to expound the virtues of Glenfiddich, whilst I considered myself a little more selective by finding what was then the relatively unknown and certainly not mainstream at that time, Glenmorangie. It was around this time in the mid-1970's when my love, nay passion for malt whisky developed the roots which fully blossom today and, especially since the redesign and re-birth of this website during this last summer I have taken it upon myself to taste and review as many different whiskies as possible and also to share my opinions in the tasting notes section of Whisky Emporium.

Yes, this inter-webby, netty thingy is a revellation, I can sit here pondering and musing then at the click of a button the fruits of my labour are instantly available for all to read, which kind of brings me back to whisky and my tasting notes. Those early days of Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich and Macallan taught me that there are many spects to single malts with so many nuances, from rich sherry cask offerings with dark fruits, berries and all kinds of wood and leather, to the lighter and more complex drams and then peat and smoke monsters which announce their presence on the palate with an earthy explosion. In fact, you'll often hear me speaking not only of the drams themselves, but of the wonderful experiences and memories that some drams awaken from my almost-forgotten past which for me, is one of the truly magical apsects of single malts; memories in a glass!

Make no mistake, even if I do like the sound of my own keyboard, this is still a passion and one which I hope continues for many a year to come.

Speaking of passion, that reminds me; I must take another little picnic to the hospital today to save her from the dire offerings she gets there. Get well soon my dear!



Thursday 5th; Bonfire night, or "a great British tradition of celebrating failure!"

Guy Fawkes, a man integral to the history of Britain and recently voted one of the top 100 Britons in a BBC poll was born on 13th April, 1570, but his fame comes from events late in his life as he was directly involved in the daring ‘gunpowder plot of 1605’ in which a group of religious conspirators tried to kill King James I of England, his family and many of the country’s aristocracy by attempting to blow up the House of Lords during the State opening of Parliament.

The plot was discovered on 5th November 1605 and fortunately for the King, his family, the aristocracy, Britain and the Houses of Parliament, no lasting damage was done, but his legacy indeed lives on!

To celebrate this miraculous escape, Londoners were encouraged to light bonfires on that same day and this has become a tradition which is followed even today, although larger, more organised events with spectacular firework displays are now more common than the private garden events which I enjoyed as a child.

“But what has this to do with whisky?” I hear you ask. Don’t worry, we’ll get there soon enough, but first let me take you on a journey back to my childhood days of the 1960’s. The weeks and days leading up to 5th November, or what we call ‘Bonfire Night’ were exciting times indeed. Calling at neighbours and asking for “any old wood” for our bonfire, even helping to tidy a few garden hedgerows under cover of darkness by removing old pieces of garden fence which we felt were obviously unstable and wouldn’t last the winter, until finally there was a large enough pile of timber to constitute a bonfire come the 5th November.

Then what nights they were; roaring fires to warm the cold winter evenings, aided by rockets, roman candles and many other delightful fireworks, but my over-riding memories are of my family, friends and relatives helping to celebrate with typical bonfire night fayre; a selection of soups, baked potatoes, home-made toffee, toffee apples, gingerbread men and delightful banana & ginger cakes for all to savour.

For the most part these were long-forgotten memories of childhood, tucked away behind years of living outside the UK where bonfire night is unheard of. Until one fine evening when I opened a rather unusual and innocuous-looking whisky. Suddenly I was immediately transported back in time to those heady bonfire nights with a nose of banana, toffee, chocolate and even a little sea air, followed by a palate including the same smooth toffee and banana. What was this magical whisky? Unbelievably one from New Zealand called Milford 10, and here is an excerpt from my notes;

Palate: Bonfire night in the UK. Oh boy, back to my childhood again! Smooth toffee followed quickly by lots of banana. This is not what I would call pure banana, but think of a fruit shop where you see lots of bunches of banana and you want to buy some, but not a full bunch, so you break three or four from the bunch. As you break the stems, a specific type of banana aroma is released. This is the banana aroma / taste of Milford 10.“



Wednesday 4th; How it all started, or "actions speak louder than words!"

Welcome to my brand new Whisky Emporium blog page, called "Dram-atics" where I will occasionally share my thoughts and opinions on anything and possibly everything to do with whisky. But what better place to start than by asking "how indeed did it all start?"

Well, I was sitting here contemplating my website when I suddenly decided "what I need is ....."

No, not that kind of 'start', "How and when did I get introduced to whisky?" was what I really meant to ask!

Ah, sorry. This is an easy one to answer even though I only have very distant and vague memories of the time, possibly based mostly on what I have been told. No, not due to some crazy student night out which can hardly be remembered by anything other than a screaming head the following morning. In fact it was much earlier than that and I probably have to lay the blame on my dear Mother for this passion as she was the one who introduced me to Scotch at a rather tender age.

It transpires that when I was teething I was screaming with pain from sore gums and some friend of Mum's recommended rubbing a little alcohol on them to ease, or anaesthetise the soreness. It also transpires that she chose to do this from a miniature bottle of Bell's whisky which she decided to keep handy in a cupboard by the side of the fireplace.

At that age I may not have known my malts from blends or my Johnnie Walker's from my Bell's, but apparently I did take a shine to the damn stuff and to this day I am still reminded of how I used to crawl across the floor to the magic cupboard and bang on the door whilst demanding "a bit more of that stuff should be rubbed liberally on my gums please, Mum!" Or at least that's what my incomprehensible baby mutterings would have been translated as. But as they say "actions speak louder than words!"









































































































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