Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SINGLE DIGITS to #WhiskyfabricRoadtrip.... Gulp...



I say this with great enthusiasm, a bit of squealing and no exaggeration I assure you...  In case you have been living under a rock or simply don't read my blog, in 9 days I leave for UK/Europe for 10 weeks. My journey starts at the "cradle" of whisky in Speyside, Scotland and makes its way through 6 other countries namely:  France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark & Sweden.  I have no idea how many people, distilleries or whiskies I am about to be introduced to? 

The trip originally was planned in 2012 and was supposed to be for 2 weeks in Scotland.  Over the course of that time (mainly 2013) it grew, and grew and GREW!  

The support I have received (and I'm not even other there yet) has been overwhelming. The offers to experience some pretty unique things - priceless. My only worry is how to get all the whisky home? hehehe

I have tried to plan some downtime so that I can blog weekly about my adventures.  I assure you, these will be filled with hilarity and sometimes confusion but wonderful stories. I hope to share the outpouring of kindness that has been extended to me to the point where you, the reader feel you are along side me on this massive epic #whiskyfabricRoadtrip.  (Please bring a map, I get lost a lot... )

So, hang on... don't laugh at me too much as you revel in my stories. 

Part 1 begins April 25th where we take off for Scotland.  Stay tuned and thank you in advance for sticking around.  

As for those about to experience the weird & wacky Lassie...  This picture pretty much sums it all up. You've been warned :) If you don't believe me ask the people of New York:  @cooperedtot @WhatTastesGood @whiskygirls or @boozedancing. 



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spirit of Speyside reveals - International Women of Whisky Day for 2014 Festival

You know... Back in November of 2013 as I drove to a whisky dinner being hosted by Martine Nouet I felt like I was at a crossroads. Many things had happened over the course of the summer & I was struggling with where I "stood" when it came to whisky & me. As I entered the hotel room and poured myself a bath, I texted Graham and said: "I don't even want to go to this event now" I utterly felt defeated and couldn't even explain why but I put on my best face and went. About 20 minutes into the evening Martine took a few moments and did something that shocked me: She introduced me to the attendees. May not sound like much but for me it was the kick in the pants I so desperately needed. That night was the beginning of the end of doubt as to where I was going and although I may feel sometimes like I still have no idea where the road leads, I'm confident that it's bringing me exactly where I'm suppose to be.  

Everything seemed to naturally fall in place after that. Chance encounters led to new friendships & concrete projects. I often take the time to thank Martine for being a role model for so many of us trying to break into this field and I will never let her forget how important she. The giants:  Rachel, Ann, Angela, Martine and so many more are where they are because of their passion, love & dedication. We, the next generation of whisky women, look forward to doing them proud and continuing the ground work for those that will come after us. 

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival declares May 3, 2014 - International Women in Whisky Day 

Spirit of Speyside is proud to introduce the first ever International Women of Whisky Day on May 3, 2014 to recognise the growing number of women working in the industry and sipping Scotland’s national drink.  

It wasn't that long ago that 20% of whisky drinkers were women, the number has doubled with numbers reaching up to 40% in some countries.   With that comes a growing number of women taking on key roles in the industry, from production managers to brand ambassadors. 

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival chairman James Campbell hopes that whisky drinkers will mark the day no matter where they are in the world and adds:  “It seems fitting that Speyside should be the focus for the very first International Women in Whisky Day, since it is home to Cardhu which was founded by Helen Cumming in 1824. To this day it is still the only malt whisky distillery pioneered by a woman.”

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place in Scotland’s most prolific whisky producing region from May 1 to 5, and will host a day-long programme on Saturday May 3. It takes place at The Aberlour Hotel in Aberlour and will be complemented by other events led by women during the five day Festival.

IWOWD kicks off with Introduction to the Sensipedia of Whisky with Johanne McInnis, a Canadian whisky writer and judge known as Whisky Lassie. She will be teaching people how each of the five senses can be used to appreciate and enjoy Scotch.

Another Canadian – Alwynne Gwilt – will be leading a whisky and chocolate pairing session. Alwynne, also known as Miss Whisky and now based in London, is the current Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival International Ambassador of the Year in recognition of her efforts to educate people about Scotch whisky.

Renowned whisky writer Annabel Meikle will be shedding light on tasting notes by exploring the language of whisky, explaining where the aromas come from. Participants will then be tasked with creating their own tasting note after a blind taste test. In addition to writing about whisky, Annabel has her own consultancy, The Whisky Belle.

Master blender Angela D’Orazio from Mackmyra Distillery in Sweden will be introducing revellers to the unique whisky expression at her event. She will be sharing the story behind the distillery, her rise as one of the whisky women of her generation and a few fantastic drams. 

Ann Miller is international brand ambassador for Chivas Brothers and is also one of the directors of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. She will be contributing to the programme by running a guided walk – the James Fleming Trail – looking at the story of the man who founded Aberlour Distillery, and a tasting which deconstructs Aberlour’s double cask maturation.  She says, “International Women of Whisky Day is a fantastic way to recognise the contribution made to the industry by women not just in Scotland but all over the world.  

"It will also help to underline the opportunities that exist to develop a career in the whisky industry, which is no longer the once male-dominated place that it used to be. It is essential that we encourage new blood – whether female or male – into the Scotch whisky industry to ensure it continues to go from strength to strength."

“The programme taking place at Aberlour is one of the most anticipated events of the Festival – each of the women participating is an authority of whisky in her own right and although these events are hosted by women, they are not just for women, but for everyone.”

“The inspiration for this day came in part from the enormous influence of whisky writer and expert Martine Nouet, who has been a regular participant of the Festival for over a decade. She has led a range of not to be missed events over many years and this year Martine will host a number of events at Glen Rothes Distillery.”

A Twitter hashtag has been set up for International Women in Whisky Day - #IWOWD. There are events led by women taking place throughout the Festival, including distillery tours and whisky tutoring.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which is now in its 15th year, takes place at venues across the region and boasts a programme of over 30 events. A signature event for Homecoming 2014, it will start Whisky Month – a four week national celebration of Scotland’s world class food and drink.

It will also launch a brand new event this year – The Spirit of Speyside Sessions – which aims to put to spotlight on the area’s traditional music heritage with concerts and ceilidhs being staged in venues closely linked to the whisky industry.

Tickets for all events in the 2014 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme, including the roving judging sessions, can be bought via the website – The Festival is also active on social media – and @spirit_speyside on Twitter

It is with the greatest anticipation that I look forward to the road and where it will lead me.  All I know is... for now, it's looking really great and the company I keep is pretty awesome too. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#C2CC twitter tastings are truly a Canadian experience

From the moment I opened my twitter account and started adding whisky people, I noticed there was something happening, mostly in the UK, called Twitter Tastings. I immediately started applying to be included, but alas I had the wrong postal code :(

So, in my usual well if I can't join them I'll do them myself style, that's exactly what I did.  I started contacting people across Canada (we drink lots of whisky too) and created a network of whisky imbibers from coast to coast. I dare say (with a bit of panache) that "we" cover 7,723km geographically so I'll start a rumor that we are the "largest" of the twitter tastings, hehehe....  Hence was born the hashtag #C2CC - Coast 2 Coast Canada.

I try to make our twitter tastings somewhat unique, something that will set us apart from the others and again, I'd like to think that we do that. We don't take ourselves too seriously most of the time and end up having quite a few good laughs, not to mention get to try some interesting drams.  So for our latest twitter tasting I put out a call for a competition and the goal was to crown "national" champions.  


1. Teams of 2 or more to be submitted
2. Blind sample sent to each team member
3. Based on 10 questions (worth 100 points) guess what the whisky is.
4. Submit 1 team answer
5. Take part in the twitter conversation & reveal

Prize:  The pride of being called the Canadian National #C2CC Competition Champions for 2014, a couple of cheesy little trophies & a whisky bottle to share with the winning team.

I had 16 teams, a total of 42 people submit their information from the Yukon all the way to Nova Scotia. 

It was a huge undertaking but in the end as always, so very gratifying because people got to interact, imbibe, discuss & decide collaboratively what they thought they were nosing/tasting.  

The winners were a team of two from our country's capital of Ottawa:  Dan Davies & Emmett Hossack - Team Dram-atic Irony.  They were crowned national champions for 2014 and the province of Ontario gets to gloat for the next year that they have two of the best whisky noses/palates in Canada. WELL DONE!
Then in true Canadian style (we are all sooooooo wonderful over here, well except for Rob Ford - we apologize for that), I was contacted by the team and they did something great. They donated their "prize". The bottle I had chosen to test everyone was the Glenfiddich Distillery Edition 15 year old. So, to honour the fact that they almost scored 100% (they guessed the Solera) they requested that I ensure the prize (valued up to $100) would be donated to the Wounded Warriors Canada chapter. 

The organisations's motto is "Honour the fallen, help the living". One of the reasons we Canadians are so proud of being who we are is because of our kindness to each other. We are "good" people. :)

Unfortunately, many Canadian soldiers come back from their tour of duty alive but "broken" and in many cases are discharged from the military because they can no longer do their "job". I cannot imagine what some of these very brave people & their families must go through during and after the effects of war, military exercises or whatever else their tour of duty involves. I am thankful for organisations such as Wounded Warriors, they make a difference in many people's lives. I am also thankful that Glenfiddich is in partnership with this group and donates $2.00 for every bottle of Solera sold across Canada to Wounded Warriors. As of November of 2013, they had raised almost $150,000. 

Canadians... we are known for being unique & so kind, however I am always in awe & so thankful when I discover just how kind we can be.

I want to personally thank Dan & Emmett for donating their prize to this wonderful cause. I hope it reminds us all yet again how lovely each and every fiber of our #whiskyfabric can be. If you want to donate to the cause, please click here:

My hat is tipped to two fine gentlemen.  Thank you for making our #C2CC inaugural national competition even more memorable.  

Deepest respect and #whiskyfabric love, all the way from Saint John, New Brunswick