Settle yourself down by the Christmas tree with a sip of something delicious-y and a box of tissues to hand. We’ve asked Boutique-y Dave to look back at 2018 - and there won’t be a dry eye (or glass) in the house by the time you’ve finished reading this.
A Look Back At 2018
As I get older the years seem to speed by ever faster, and 2018 has followed the trend running away with such pace I was almost out of breath by the end of November. But looking back through the year, we have covered an awful lot of ground, in terms of distance travelled, and milestones reached!
It has been a record year for new releases, easily surpassing our 2016 record of 66 new batches for the UK market back in July. Even while writing this summary, the number has been rising and last night I counted 165 releases! It’s not only UK releases that have kept us busy this year though. Special releases have gone out to a number of our distributors around the globe as well.
We’ve introduced a huge number of new labels this year, FORTY to be precise, keeping the very talented artist Emily Chappell super busy!
There are 95 ‘established’ malt whisky distilleries in Scotland (the youngest in my list being Kilchoman in 2005) and to date, we have bottled 72 of these 95 (I’ve included the ‘teaspooned malts’ and the secret distilleries in this total). In 2018 we released our first batches from Tamnavulin, Dalmore, Tamdhu, Glen Ord, Tomatin, Inchgower, Glenlivet, Glencadam, Dufftown, Glendullen, and most recently Balmenach, Teaninich, and the long closed Rosebank!
There are of course many new distilleries that have opened since 2005, and continue to be opened, but I only review these at the end of the year. In 2018 that number has risen to 27, and to date, we’ve managed to bottle one from this list.
We continue to seek interesting whiskies from around the world, and 2018 also saw our first releases from New Zealand, South Africa's Three Ships, Swedish distillers Smögen, Swiss distillers Santis, The Cotswolds distillery from England, a Karuizawa from Japan, and a number of US whiskey makers; from Tennessee Bourbon, the Reservoir Distillery, James E Pepper, Heaven Hill, and Distillery 291.
Out and about
Once again I’ve been to Whisky Festivals up and down the country, meeting some fabulous people and sharing some wonderful whiskies, from Soho down to Brighton - I must have played them all! I’ve picked up whisky glasses from most events over the years, and this had to stop, I simply cannot house any more whisky glasses! You really don’t need to know just how many whisky glasses I have, but it went into three digits sometime ago.
However, I found a solution to my magpie habit during 2018. I can still pick up a festival glass, and take it home at the end of the day. To ease the storage problem, I’ve been taking the glass along with me to the next festival to find a new home.
Spirit of Speyside
In early May I headed up to the Spirit of Speyside. It was both mine and the brand’s first time at this festival although I had visited the are many times before. My first event was a tasting in conjunction with Mike Lord and his Dufftown Whisky Shop team at St James Hall. Wherever possible I like to hold tastings blind, not to catch anybody out, but to simply remove any preconceptions about the whisky we’re tasting. As it was our first time in Speyside I decided that all of the whiskies should be recent/current releases from Speyside distilleries. To reveal each whisky this time, I had our labels printed up on canvas and auctioned them all off at the end of the tasting, raising an impressive sum for The Whisky Shops’ chosen charity.
I also found myself hosting a tasting alongside the ‘Whisky Bard’ himself, Robin Laing, at a gala dinner at the Tannochbrae Guest House in Dufftown. Robin is one of Scotland's premier folk singer-songwriters, and a prolific writer too - one of my favourite books is ‘The Whisky River’ which tells the story of the Speyside Distilleries. I’d chosen an eclectic mix of Boutique-y releases for this dinner, and chef James had matched a whisky with each of the courses. I even cheekily sneaked in an English whisky to finish the evening off!
Fear not - I’m currently making plans for SoS 2019.
Then at the end of May I headed to Islay for the very first time and held a couple of Boutique-y Whisky tastings aboard the S/V Irene while moored at Port Ellen Harbour.
Port Ellen harbour is a fabulous setting for a whisky tasting, especially when the sun is out! Being aboard a historic yacht added to the atmosphere, although being boarded by a very noisy party from The Flying Dutchman during the first tasting wasn’t in my plans. Fortunately the second tasting later on in the week wasn’t interrupted.
The weather was kind throughout my stay, so kind in fact I think I might have even got a touch of sunstroke after Bruichladdich day despite doing my best to keep out of the sun wherever possible.
I’m certainly looking forward to hosting some similar tastings at next year’s Feis Ile, so keep your eyes peeled!
This year I’ve also spread my wings a little further afield with trips to support our distributors across the world; With Bresser and Timmer in The Netherlands at The Den Haag Whisky Festival, with Mac-Y in Denmark and their Rum and Whisky Festival held in Frederiks, with Hua Yang in Taiwan for Whisky Live Taipei and with Whisk-E in Japan at the recent Tokyo Whisky Festival. I have spent a fair bit of time in South East Asia in my earlier career, but I’d never been to Taiwan and Japan before.
I’d like to say thank you to a few people who have stepped in to help at some of the busier UK shows; to Emily Tedder and Claire Vokins, aka the ‘Dream Team’ for their help during two busy London shows, and to Sorren Krebs (aka @ocdwhisky) who stepped in to fly solo at a couple of festivals for me when I was required elsewhere.
It’s been another successful year for That Boutique-y Whisky with many of our releases picking up awards from the key award bodies; The Scotch Whisky Masters, The Irish Whiskey Masters, The World Whisky Masters, The International Wine and Spirits Competition, The International Spirits Challenge and most recently were were awarded Independent Bottler of the Year for both American Whiskey and Scottish Highland Whisky by Whisky Magazine.
I changed my career for whisky. Just ten years ago I knew nothing about whisky at all. Then one whisky, brought to me by a work colleague, friend, and whisky enthusiast, changed my world completely. From whisky curious, to whisky blogger, to being awarded an Icon of Whisky award for World Whisky Brand Ambassador of the Year earlier this year was simply mind blowing!
There are so many people within the industry that have supported me along the way, far too many to list here, but you know who you are, and I thank each and everyone of you!
I’m signing off for 2018 and taking the rest of the year off! (you’ll still see me on Twitter I dare say!) so I’m going to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!
Thank you all for making so many memories this year. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for Boutique-y Whisky all over again next year!