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The Whiskyphiles Best of… 2017

Apologies for the unimaginative title. I decided to take a blogcation during the festive period for many reasons, not least to spend more time with family and less time sitting at my computer. This gave me a little more time to think and read too. Plenty of other blogs have churned out their Top 10 whiskies of 2017, 2017 whisky Awards from their blog or Top 10 most read articles on their blog, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of 2017 or frankly whatever. Having read far too many of these I decided to have a long hard think about what was good or great about 2017 for me here at The Whiskyphiles and perhaps focus on that.

I am not going to list any particular whiskies in here that I thought stood out, because pretty much nothing stood out on its own merit this year for me. Sure there were plenty of great whiskies and possibly some really amazing ones, but I get to (or at least have the option of) drinking something amazing whenever I choose. The new whisky/sample inbox is threatening to take over my home office. There are old grains and closed distilleries galore alongside more mundane but must try drams all patiently waiting to be sipped and savoured. Novelty and expense are not factors – which is good as it allows me within this environment to simply test my palate against what is in the glass before me with no preconceptions, no brand ambassador hawking his marketing spiel at me, no outside influence from fellow tasters and their power of suggestive tasting notes. I get to form a truly independent and honest tasting note and review, be it from my own stock, samples swapped with friends or samples received from the whisky industry itself.

My most favourite memories from this year however have been places, and specifically places where I have been drinking whisky, and.. even more specifically those places where I have been drinking a specific whisky as it is intrinsically linked and therefore enhanced by that place!

My everyday example of this would be – have you ever noticed how sipping a whisky at the end of a distillery tour feels somehow enhanced by the recent smells and sights and sounds of the distillery. You notice elements of the milled barley, the wash and yeast, the distillate and hot copper of the stills and my most favourite place of all – the dank, woody, alcohol-laden and musty smell of the warehouse where it has lain maturing for many years.

Starting our Year off I can’t help but remember spending 3 days in Dublin to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Distillers & Jameson Irish Whiskey. From memory the best part of this was sitting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of Dublin for a truly wonderful meal of locally sourced produce and sipping Jameson Whiskey Cocktails – sacrilicious! In Fact spending 3 days with the likes of Billy Leighton, Ger Buckley and Brian Nation (Jameson’s Head Blender, Head Cooper and Head Distiller respectively) I couldn’t help but absorb their great knowledge and pride of what they are producing. Thanks also to Richmond Towers for organising this trip.

inside St. Patricks Cathedral

My second Whisky Memory of 2017 was also in Ireland, partly in Dublin but mostly at Slane Castle, meeting the Conyngham Family and learning about what they hoped to establish with their new Slane Castle Distillery. Though the construction of the distillery had advanced enough to visualise how it would work, there was quite a lot of finishing and polishing still required. I’m keen to return one day to see the finished Slane Castle Distillery in all its glory. Part of this tour had Alex Conyngham deconstructing their soon to be released Slane Irish Whiskey during a tasting in the Drawing Room of Slane Castle. I’m sure many attendee’s of Scottish Weddings are familiar with drinking whisky in Castles, but not quite perhaps as intimately as this one. Thanks to Slane Irish Whiskey, Brown-Forman and Eulogy PR for this trip.

Slane Castle

Finally and a double addition to this list, was a visit to Glenglassaugh and BenRiach distilleries, again with Brown-Forman and SpeyPR. My first whisky tasting at sea! Bobbing around on a North58 Sea Adventures RIB drinking Glenglassaugh Evolution with Whisky Maker Rachel Barrie in Sandend Bay was a memory to treasure. After touring Glenglassaugh Distillery itself we also had a tasting of their four new wood-finished whiskies alongside a beach bbq with food pairings to match. An unforgettable meal and all round great time!

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If anything, each of these memories are focussed upon drinking whisky in the environment to which it is linked or made out of. Part of the fabric of the place is represented within the glass. Thus making each of these whiskies truly memorable. I am sure we have all had those whisky moments in time when the right place, atmosphere, people, event or whatever have resonated with the whisky you are drinking to make it truly memorable. If you would like to leave a comment and share your personal stories & whisky memories here for your fellow readers then please do!

Finally I would just like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2018.

I for one am looking forward to making new whisky memories this year, wherever they may be, Slainte Mhath

Barry @TheWhiskyphiles

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