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'
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;
old tumbler or pint mug will do
Initially quite normal and innocuous-looking
metallic tang with hints of gunpowder and fuse wire
sudden and immediate palate-encompassing explosion of fiery
malt, peat, cinders, smoke and lava.
goes on and on and on ..... Not so much a finish as a 125 year
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.
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'
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;
Straight from the hip (flask)
Light blue, just like the grass back 'ome in Kentucky
straw, leather and stables, with underlying hints of smoky
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.
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:
edition comes in an individually numbered and registered, but
delightfully simple and economical papier maché presentation
case, complete with matching papier maché cup.
Best enjoyed from the enclosed papier maché cup.
Pale brown, what we used to call 'biscuit'.
Remiscent of damp cardboard, cheap plastic and that unmistakable
aroma of 2-stroke exhaust.
slightly pungent. This one starts slowly, is even slower to
fully develop and unfortunately, quite powerless on the palate.
Very short and almost breaking down before it even gets going.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
change in the air! I have today found that Directive
92/12/EEC is to be replaced by a new one!
"A new Council Directive (2008/118/EC
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
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
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
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
I love the concept of the single market,
can we have one please?
Sunday 8th; Autumnal
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.
a labour of love, or "maybe I just like the sound of my own
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
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!
Bonfire night, or "a great British tradition of celebrating
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
“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.“
How it all started, or "actions speak louder than words!"
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
was sitting here contemplating my website when I suddenly
decided "what I need is ....."
that kind of 'start', "How and when did I get introduced to
whisky?" was what I really meant to ask!
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.
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.
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!"