Description: WHISKY FOR GIRLS ~ MALTS, MAGIC, MUSIC, LAUGHING, DRAMING, DISTILLERIES,
WHISKY AS MEDICINE in the realm of women
For cleaning wounds
For removing ticks
Hot toddie for cold
In baby’s milk to soothe
To warm one up
Mum used to give me whisky in my coffee after walking the dog on a winters morning.
Consumption of distilled spirits gradually lost its association with spiritual symbolism and medical treatment and instead became a public health issue as abuse of spirits (often of dubious quality) became rampant.
Nevertheless, reverence for fine spirits has endured as a testament to their ancient origins and mysterious powers.
Whisky as medicine # Laphroaig as medicine ~ natural soporific ~ my Grandmother always had dram at night.
Connection to baptism by fire. Gnostic Christian Cults. Spirits could preserve human flesh – seemed to confirm notion that they could confer long life and immortality when drunk.
We use the phrase Slàinte Mhath! (Good Health) when we toast each other with a dram. Charles MacLean tells that one does not use the toast Slàinte Mhath! unless one is drinking sprit. It is too powerful for association with beer. Or lesser alcohols.
There are many different types and syles of whisky festival. If you can’t find one to suit you, then perhaps you should return to drinking milk…
Glasgow Whisky Festival ~ exactly what it says on the tin. More drams than you can shake a stick at. A well run, whisky presenting event. No faff, no falderal. This whisky festival reminds me of the shipyards on the Clyde in days of old. Engineered, good craic, full of wit and camaraderie. Haggis and Neeps to eat, and friends are well looked after. A good Scottish Festival.
We have the glamour of Paris Live… HUGE number of stands, big names, expensive whisky tastings. A lot of glitz and glamour – fur coat and no knickers….? the people who ran the stands were complaining they were packed in too tighty…. all for style, never for comfort. Lots of World drams and glamour. A place to see and be seen.
Then, we have Maltstock & Dramboree ~ whisky hippy dreams. Fires, Birkenstocks, sharing bedrooms, and swimming with whisky! Do you need to be young or have a beard for these? A celebration of friendship and whisky. The whole weekend is a session.
Next we have Independent European Festivals – mostly Dutch, German and now, Austrian. A celebration of Scotch and Scottish culture. I love how people are playing the pipes (sometimes with more luck than judgement..) are singing Scottish songs, have kilts on, and there is tartan and shortbread all over the place. And lots of obscure Independent bottlings. This is good. These people are way ahead in whisky repertoire. Big commercial festivals can be rather generic in relation to drams..
Then, we have the Speyside Whisky Festival. So overwhelming because everything is so far apart. But, if one has a driver who knows where they are going it is fantastic. Cooperages are opened up, Maltings are available to view. This is a mixture of the practical side of whisky and whisky drinking, with big names and glamour thrown in for good measure.
Next up, we have our very own Feis Ìle. A celebration of the culture of Islay, which has been hijacked by the distilleries. However, this is good. This grounds people in the distilleries and lets them experience whisky where it is made. A week of mayhem involving Islay distilleries, whisky and friendships.
Last, but not least we have a newcomer to the festival scene. My very own THEATRE OF DRAMS Whisky Symposium . An Educational Celebration of Whisky. An alternative, or a complement, to the week of the Feis. Whisky drinking & whisky heritage. Pick and chose the events you want to attend. Create your learning schedule.
There is a place for ALL kinds of festivals. We need a variey of events. These are a few to demonstrate diferent STYLES.
There are hundreds of whisky events world wide.
Seek them out!
Enjoy your #Scotch.
INTRODUCTORY DRAMS ~ Well, basically, ALL OF THEM!!
However, Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) were asked to make a list of drams which may temp a person who is unfamiliar with a dram into partaking……. so here goes…
1: Islay Barley 2009 from Bruichladdich ~ Barley from Claggan, Cruach, Island & Mulindry Farms make this dram.
Sparkling gold, only been in a Bourbon casks, which means you think of vanilla, honey and toffee notes. But also, from the Bruichladdich character you get a creaminess in the feel of the liquid in the mouth. It’s musty, dusty – wet barley smell – not cereal, but fresh, wet barley. Hint of ozone, sea, warm yet ethereal. Mushrooms, sunny, honey, alive, zesty – yet lazy. Not a sharp zing of a dram. Lovely lingering feeling in the chest. A well balanced whisky. £45 approx.
2: Bunnahabhain 18 YO ~ Totally different whisky to Bruichladdich. Again upeated whisky, but sticky, rich, thick, raisins, honey, nuts, sweet, beautiful. Like the nicest Christmas cake you have ever tasted, in liquid form. The Bunnahabhain 12 YO is nice too, but it has a slight edge. The 18 is like Mother’s milk! It will curl over your tongue by itself. £70 approx.
3: Laphroaig Select ~ This dram was made as an introductory level whisky to Laphroaig. And it works perfectly. It works as a lovely dram in itself. It is not like a watered down version of Laphroaig, it is like Laphroaig’s perfect wee cousin. So you have the feeling of Laphroaig – the peat, the ozone, the sweetness, the golden flicks, but you won’t feel overwhelmed with Laphroaig strength of character. This is bourbon based again, so this is peat and vanilla and toffee and honey. Where as the Bruichladdich has no peat, and the Bunnahabhain is very sherry influenced. About £34
4: Ardbeg Dark Cove ~ A lovely fashionable dram. This is peated and dark sherry influenced. So think of sweet & bitter dark chocolate with a smokey influence. This dram is heavier in a way than the Laphroaig Select. But, not as richly heavy in the mouth as the Bunnahabhain. About £100.
5: Leaving Islay you could try Wolfburn, from the very North of Scotland ~ from where you get the ferry to Orkney, near Thurso. This is a lovely dram ~ clean, fresh, sparkling, apricots, green bushes. An open whisky, reminds me of sweeties – cider apples, young, fresh, sappy, milky, lovely mouthfeel. Some of this dram has been stored in casks which previously held the Laphroaig whisky, so there is a hint of the peat from our dram. They now have a new bottling out called Aurora which you could try and get a hold of.
Trying a dram for the first time, remember to approach it slowly. Look at it, appreciate the colour, see if it looks oily or dry in the glass. Is it gold or reddish in colour? If it is pale gold it is probably bourbon based ~ this just means the spirit is aged in casks that previously held bourbon. If it is reddish it probably has been sleeping for a while, in casks that previously held sherry .
Smell the top notes coming off your whisky as you raise it to your lips. Smell with your lips shut, then open your mouth as you smell again. Think about walking down a street with all the different shops ~ bakers, flower shop, fruit shop, pastry shop, leather shoe shop… imagine all the smells you would get from each shop. Then see if you can find them in your glass. Go on a journey. Use your imagination. Only after nosing your dram will you take a good sip. Roll it back along your tongue and swish it around to get the most out of the flavours. Hold the dram in your mouth for a second for each year old the dram is before you swallow (roughly!) Then swallow.
Feel the dram flow down your throat and into your chest. Enjoy everything about this experience!
In truth EVERY dram is an introductory dram… it just depends on your preference for certain flavours – your preferred FLAVOUR PROFILE… in whisky parlance. If you like the look of any bottle of single malt you see, just order yourself a dram. And most importantly, this is a hobby – like fiddle playing – that requires LOTS OF PRACTISE! (luckily….)
Three of our great poets have been inspired by whisky to create. This is one of the reasons we have whisky…to inspire. Please enjoy, with a glass or two of Scotland’s finest malt
Liz Lochhead, Carol Ann Duffy and Fran Baillie’s
poems about Scotland’s National Drink ~
Listen to Liz Lochhead ~ she starts about 8 minutes in
Read Carol Ann Duffy‘s wonderful poem
In Glen Strathfarrar a stag dips to the river where rainclouds gather.
Dawn, given again, and heather sweetens the air. I sip at nothing.
A cut-glass tumbler, himself splashing the amber … now I remember.
The love of the names, like Lagavulin, Laphroaig, loosening the tongue.
Beautiful hollow by the broad bay; safe haven; their Gaelic namings.
It was Talisker on your lips, peppery, sweet, I tasted, kisser.
First the appearance then the aroma, mouth-feel; lastly, the finish.
Under the table she drank him, my grandmother, Irish to his Scotch.
Barley, water, peat, weather, landscape, history; malted, swallowed neat.
Out on Orkney’s boats, spicy, heather-honey notes into our glad throats.
Allt Dour Burn’s water – pure as delight, light’s lover – burn of the otter.
The gifts to noses – bog myrtle, aniseed, hay, attar of roses.
The snows melt early, meeting river and valley, greeting the barley.
What does it whisper, the Golden Promise Barley, to the cool salt breeze?
Empty sherry casks, whisky-sublime accident – a Spanish accent.
Drams with a brother and doubles with another … blether then bother.
The perfume of place, seaweed scent on peaty air, heather dabbed with rain.
Liquid narrative of Scots and Gaelic, uttered on the tasting tongue.
With Imlah, Lochhead, Dunn, Jamie, Paterson, Kay, Morgan, with Maccaig.
Not prose, poetry; crescendo of mouth music; not white wine, whisky.
Eight bolls of malt, to Friar John Cor, wherewith to make aquavitae.
Aqua Vitae or uisge beatha, eau de vie or water of life.
A recurring dream: men in hats taking a dram on her coffin lid.
The sad flit from here to English soil, English air, from whisky to beer.
For joy, grief, trauma, for the newly-wed, the dead bitter-sweet water.
A Quaich; Highland Park; our scared sips in the shared dark when the lights went out.
Water through granite, over heathery moorland, peat, moss, grass, reed, fern.
The unfinished dram on the hospice side-table as the sun came up.
What the heron saw, the leaping salmon’s shadow, shy in this whisky.
Enjoy Fran Baillie‘s great poem
Gies a gless o yon amber swahly, ice-chinklin,
skinklin at the rim, reekin o an Islay boanfire;
a bouquet o burnt tehr an a ticky sugarelly watter
peat-steepit in tar an iodine.
Pass owre a tummlerfuhl o the cauld, wild west,
mahltit barley, slow-distilt, pure poetrie;
thon lang eftertist, heather colloguin wi dulse,
a douce toffee-aipple, a smoky baccy guff;
tert an sweet, smooth an smartin, mallayin the tongue,
sic a brah Manichaean dichotomie!
Gies a wee nip o the gowden meld, huggit lang-time in sherried oak.
Poor oot a dram ti weet wir thrapple, prickle wir palate,
gie thae tistbuds a helluva fleg, birl them, mak them dirl.
Shove yir cognac wi its pinkie in the air, kiddin-on it’s pedigree.
Stuff yir peely-wally reamin swats o barley bree,
awa wi yir Ruski voddie’s stringent ming o fermentin tattie.
Ruby rum’s wahrm an reekin-rich bit
thir’s nae dusky musk … nae je ne sais quoi.
Dinna feel guilt fir a meenit, dinna think yir wrang.
Angels aa share it wi’oot a secint thocht.
Dinna skimp noo, nae grippit huddin-back; dinna be ticht-fistit.
Heelstergowdie in luv wi feisty Laphroaig,
wi’ll sip, syne swig an drap doon inti yon mella dwam.
Poor yirsel an uisge beatha, wrap roond it, real slow,
drink in its mony colours, droon in its pungent glow.
The poetry of Scotch Malt Whisky.
Too much whisky, too many people….. Can’t wait for next year?!
Avarice has created a monster. The infrastructure of Islay is stetched to breaking.
The week of the feis now turns Islay into Ibiza. It’s a whisky club scene….
More and more outside agencies are jumping on the band wagon. People who profess to be in the industry have no clue about the nature or the history of Feis Ìle. I told one guy that the festival committee was a voluntary organisation. ‘And what do they do?’, he asked!
Yes, we meet friends, yes we have fun… but we do this on other weeks too.
The Islay roads are falling to bits, we have bin collections every 3 weeks or so. People have to pay for themselves to get to hospital in the mainland ~ by boat!
Once one’s hotel or guesthouse is full for the week, what more money can be made? Once one’s restuarant or cafe has fulfilled it’s quota of covers in a day, how much more money can be made?
Who actually makes money from Feis Ìle?
Lagavulin Distillery (Diageo) brought in £750,000 on their festival bottle ALONE.
Even if the festival was not on, visitors would still come. So, the beds would be filled, the tables would be sat at…..
I like when people buy festival bottles and put them on German ebay ~ why should Josephine Blogs not make a bob or two on her festival bottle? Why should all the money go to big companies?
Yes, I know people can argue about the money the craft people, the taxi drivers, etc etc. make during the week. I know all these things…. it’s just once anything becomes so commercialised it becomes dehumanised and out of control.
The Festival Committee host events to maintain the Islay hospitality and intrinsic nature of the week. There are so many external events, that we are now seeing a division as at the Edinburgh Festival … where the Feis fringe is overtaking the Feis itself: which would be fine, if we were not an island with a limited physicality ~ and it’s not all meant to be about money.
One lady in Bowmore was sitting having her lunch in her garden, when flying over the wall, came dog waste thrown by two people in a camper van parked outside her gate for days!!!
Where do we go from here…?
Maybe the Feis will be like Daisy World. Once it reaches absolute saturation (this year?) it will collapse and rebuild itself in another way.
Maybe we should discuss having TWO Feis weeks. One in May and one in October, say?
I am not in favour of having a two week long Feis. It is fine for those who come and go, and whilst on Islay are on holiday. It would probably be too much for the Ilich (the Islay people) to cope with. But this is obviously open for discussion.
Anyway…. even with all the above,
I love seeing everyone, I love Feis Ile, I love whisky & music
and, everybody is somebody’s friend,
Port Ruighe from Talisker Distillery 45.8% abv. Take the classic dram and finish it in Port casks. Also, Port Ruighe is translated into English as Portree, the capital of Skye.
A lovely dram with a clever name.
There are two types of people, Buyers & Drinkers. They are emphatically NOT the same thing ~ although, like a good conundrum, they CAN be the same thing!
The marketing demographic for the new whisky drinker is the 28 year old, uber cool, hipster type. Probably with a beard, maybe with a cagoule…. and that’s just the girls….
The problem here is that this dude doesn’t BUY much whisky…. this character just drinks it.
This character is found at whisky festivals making the most of drinking not buying. Any whisky they do buy is on supermarket special, then, having it on show to impress, they are unlikey to share. The bottle will last for eternity.
There are two type of buyers ~ the buyers of GLASSES of whisky in bar, and the buyers of BOTTLES. Some people are both. The hipster buys a good dram for themself in a bar, to show off ~ they do not buy a round. But they will only buy one. The rest of the time they drink what others buy them.
So, if the marketing demographic are not buying whisky; who IS buying it?
JOE and JOLEEN BLOGS BUY WHISKY.
They are the buyers and the hipster is the drinker. Yet the marketing objectives target the hipster……?
Same thing upon visiting distilleries. Hipster tours distilleries on the £6 tour. If any whisky is bought it is by whoever has taken them to the distillery with money from their parents. The people on the expensive tours are not the hipsters. The people on the expensive tours are Joe & Joleen. But who cares for them?
The drinkers are the ones who fill in questionaires, they want attention, they want to be heard. These people are NOT the buyers. Not in the main. The buyers are the ones who come to the distilleries. The drinkers are too mean – Unless it is a festival, then they are there for the freebies. The buyers very seldom fill in market research or forms etc as they are far too busy living life and making money, so they can afford to buy whisky.
The buyers are an overlooked positivity.
The thinking behind marketing to the hipsters is probably to capture their interests and they will stay loyal, and when they can afford to, they will buy the whisky to which they are loyal.
Nope, doesn’t work. The hipster is too mean to be loyal. And by the time they can afford to buy whisky there is something new in fashion and as they are a hipster ~ albeit an old one, they want to be seen drinkng whatever is in fashion.
Loyalty with whisky buying is not the same psychology as loyalty in car buying. A way to develop loyalty is to invoke emotion, invoke a feeling of belonging. If you do this, people will turn to you, in the same way people will turn to an old friend.
So, what needs to be done is the whisky must be personalised. This cannot be done in isolation. A whisky needs a host.
The host can be a place, or a person. For example, John Campbell is Laphroaig’s Host. He takes Laphroaig out into the world. People connect with him. They form friendships. Back home, Laphroaig Distillery itself is the Host ~ (and also, David Adams!) The buildings, the location, the friendliness of the staff , all these things act as ‘HOST’.
Laphroaig have a very loyal following because there are different layers to connect to Laphroaig. Laphroaig do the hipster thing, but they humanise it and connect with the hipster’s family… because after all, they are the ones who buy the whisky the hipster drinks…
The only way to succeed is to share and connect with Joe and Joleen Blogs on a human level. Glasgow Distillery are great at this, they have Liam Hughes. He is the Host. People can’t yet visit Glasgow Distillery, but already people are bonded to it because Liam HIMSELF affords them a ‘place’ to connect to emotionally.
Jim McEwan was a great host for Bruichladdich. Anthony’s boys are great hosts for Kilchoman when they are out on the road… (be better if their accents were Ilich though, but we can’t have everything…!.) And Kilchoman, itself is the Host when people come to the distillery. It is small and cute enough to be held in people’s mind and heart. People understand the farm distillery and connect on many levels.
If you are the hipster setting up a distillery and you are too mean to buy drink and share of yourself, no one will connect with you and your brand will be empty. All these achingly cool, uber trendy start ups will get nowhere unless the team have a real face, a real host. Rolling around with other uber trendy hipsters will not make any money what so ever, as, the other hipsters will be jealous and secretly won’t help (we can make people ACT like they love us, but we can’t make them really love us…)
Another marketing “off piste d” is the outdated, childish concept of insulting the audience and believing they will still like you. This outmoded psychological programme was failing in the 80’s, even as it was being developed. Telling the audience that whisky buyers are stupid (not the assembled company as you are part of an elite squad….?!) but all others out there; is the pinnacle of an aggressive * large brand* ‘hit them with a stick and they will like you’ marketing strategy. It is completetly wrong. And it is utterly boring. Not to mention offensive. Joe & Joleen Blogs are the buyers of whisky – putting food in our mouths – and we call them stupid….. ?? Everyone should take marketing lessons from Ratners arrogance.
It is this pseudo ‘whisky apartheid’ we are trying move away from.
Marketing is filled up with spread sheets, data analysing and is so self referential, it has little bearing on what is really happening.
Perhaps if marketing strategy was seen more as the initial presentation ~ like the catwalk fashions presented by designers, by the time the fabrics etc are brought to the public, they are shaped to meet the people on the street.
Whisky brands could do the same. Develop multi tiered marketing strategies. One for the introduction of the product; the showcasing, the catwalk level; one for the brand home, one for the people who are actually going to buy it and so on…
And, most importantly, employ people who actually know about whisky!
After speaking at the Women in Whisky Lunch and appreciating the talents, skills & abilities we have ~ and after a few great drams…. I decided to tell everyone my plan for women to build and run a distillery.
This plan is not meant to exclude men, certainly not. But the idea is for us women to start our own distillery.
‘All woman’ refers to the make up of individual women, as oppose to ‘All womEn’ which would be women only…
We have female distillers, blenders, marketeers, ambassadors, financiers, architects, builders, promoters, distributors ….. and most importantly….. DRINKERS!
This distillery would not make a ‘women’s whisky’…. what is that?
It would make great whisky & spirit. Full Stop.
The business would have an awareness of women and try to think differently and inclusively.
It is just a plan, an idea…. but I am working on it, as from today.
And, why not?
It will be hard work, great fun, an achievement, a learning experience, a heart stopping adventure….it will be life.
So, what do you say Girls?
Let’s create Uisge Beatha ~Let’s make the Water of Life
Let’s have our own WHISKY DISTILLERY.
All those who are interested in anyway, please contact me.
Let’s see where this goes….
Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) was formed due to fascination.
In life one should always follows ones fascination. If you don’t, it will follow you until you turn and acknowledge it.
And, so it was with me.
I had been fascinated with whisky since I was a teenager, after a dance we would visit the boys in the distillery to get a drop of something to warm us up!
But, in those days it never occurred to us that a woman could have a career in the industry.
I would not have even known how to approach the thought.
Then, one day, near the time of the Feis Ile, the Islay Whisky Festival ~ the week when so many people come to Islay it sinks about 4 feet… and you can’t get accommodation for love nor money…
I walked into the Tourist Board in Bowmore to see my friend Janice.
She was on the phone as I entered… and she looked up and pointed at me with a big smile on her face….
‘Rachel’, she said, ‘a man could stay in your house?’
‘Eh?? yes. Ok , I suppose ……. ‘ I replied.
So, then, she said to the person on the other end of the phone
‘Yes, Sir, we do have accommodation for you…!!!’
And that was it ~
Through fate my fascination was following me and was about to change my life
Ewald Baron came to stay in my house for the week of the festival because Janice could not get him accommodation anywhere else.
He and I became great friends.
Every night Ewald would bring lovely drams back for us to drink and talk over the events of that open day.
Then one time he asked me, ‘Rachel, do all your girl friends drink as much whisky as you?’
And I said… ‘don’t be so bloody cheeky!’
But I knew what he meant.
And I said, ‘ No, no they don’t. They drink wine and vodka and terrible things……
More Girls should drink whisky
We need Whisky for Girls….!’
And Ewald said: ‘Yes, yes, this is a good idea.
More Whisky for Girls.’
And I said, ‘I am going to form a company called
Whisky for Girls and get more girls to drink whisky’.
And, that is what I did.
Whisky for Girls ~ it all started with a dram
And that is the true story of it!
And now I work with my fascination for whisky and it’s great!
Here is to us all. To all Girls and Women in Whisky.
But, then today as I wrote this post I thought of my fiend ~
I have been out of contact with Ewald for a few years. He has not been to the Feis Ile for a long time.
He is not on facebook, he did not reply to my last few eamails.
He had vanished. I was worried about him. And today, after writing this piece, I thought… what will I do to find my friend?
So, I appealed to the biggest group of Whisky Drinkers I know ~ the Malt Maniacs & Friends Group on facebook. I put a message on asking if anyone knew Ewald or could help me find him.
I have had my differences with many on MM&F in the past, and spent time arguing with men with very poor attitudes towards women….
but, today Malt Maniacs found my friend!
Everyone rallied round to help, and a guy in Holland (who must surely be a detective….) found Ewald through a music site.
I am so happy.
I really can say, the Whisky World is amazing.
Through Whisky & Music & Friendship, I am in touch with my friend again.
Slàinte! Malt Maniacs & Friends, I really do appreciate you!
Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) are very pleased to be heading to Alkmaar in Holland this week to host 3 Masterclasses at the Hielander Whisky Festival.
Wullie Macmorland, the festival organiser decided to create a specific ‘Girls in Whisky’ focus.
Whisky for Girls (& Guys!) are hosting 3 distinct tastings ~ each one has a different focus ~
‘Peat, Smoke and Both’ will debate the question, can we differentiate between the two?
‘The Independents’ Tasting will showcase whiskies and new make from some of Scotland’s newest distilleries ~ so new, infact, maybe some will not even know they exist!
And last, but certainly not least, ‘Dram Architecture’ Tasting, where we will look at different constructions of drams by comparing and contrasting styles and makeup.
But, most of all it is going to be great to meet old friends, and make new ones ~ already I have an invitation to ‘Pea Soup Lunch’….!
I would like to thank
LAPHROAIG DISTILLERY & John Campbell
The Gaelic Whiskies
The GLASGOW Distillery
R & B Distillers & Alasdair Day
Scotch Malt Whisky Society & John McCheyne
for their unstinting support.
See you in Holland