Tag Archives: Scotch

Whisky for Girls-page-001
Mar. 07.

WHISKY AS MEDICINE in the Realm of Women

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WHISKY AS MEDICINE in the realm of women
For cleaning wounds
For removing ticks
Hot toddie for cold
For toothache
In baby’s milk to soothe
To warm one up
For shock
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.

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Whisky for Girls-page-001
Mar. 27.

Whisky Marketing is so off piste..d

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?


 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! 



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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Feb. 08.


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.

RachelMcNeillGINNYISOBELSo, myself, Isobel Gardiner and Ginny Boswell ~ three ‘red heads’ are offering our festival guests some of the best #Scotch Whisky over the course of nine tastings. 

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.

Exciting stuff!

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


The Gaelic Whiskies

KILCHOMAN Distillery

ARRAN Distillery

The GLASGOW Distillery

R & B Distillers & Alasdair Day

Scotch Malt Whisky Society & John McCheyne

for their unstinting support.


See you in Holland

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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Jul. 29.


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Book Now


 in association with  Professor PAUL HUGHES formerly of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh


 5 Islay Distilleries

 5 Day Whisky Course on Islay

26 – 30 October 2015 inclusive


 ~  includes lectures, distilleries, accommodation & most food

 Proposed Itinerary


9.00 – 13.00 Lectures focus on Kilning & Malting

Coffee Break at 11.00 – 11.15

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00-17.00 Laphroaig Distillery

19.00 Trip to Peat Bank with cutting and stacking demonstration


9.00 – 13.00 Lectures focus on Mashing and Fermentation

Coffe Break 11.00-11.15

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 17.00 Bruichladdich Distillery ~ focus on Terroir & work with barley grown in Islay


9.00 – 13.00 Lectures focus on Distillation

11.00-11.15 Coffee Break

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 17.00 Kilchoman Distillery ~ focus on distillation and farm scale distillery production

19.30-21.00 Optional SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY Tasting

especially for Whisky Course Islay Guests

hosted by Brand Ambassador Mr John McCheyne


9.00-13.00 Lectures focus on Maturation

11.00-11.15 Coffee Break

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00-17.00 Bowmore Distillery  Warehouse Experiences

19.30 Special Whisky Paired Dinner ~ 4 Courses  ~ kindly sponsored by

Hunter Laing ~ Old Malt Cask 

R & B Distillers ~ Raasay While We Wait

A.D. Rattray ~ Cask Islay


9.00 – 13.00 Lectures focus on Marketing & Branding

11.00-11.15 Coffee Break

13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 16.00 Ardbeg Distillery awareness of image and branding focus and Ardbeg Committee

16.00 -17.00 Presentation of WHISKY COURSE ISLAY CERTIFICATES

17.00 End of WHISKY COURSE ISLAY 2015



Accommodation is in self catering houses in Bowmore.

All breakfast food is supplied for you to help yourselves.

Lunch is supplied for 5 days from Cafe Blasda

Coffe & Biscuits are supplied for 5 days from Cafe Blasda

Lectures are held in ICCI ~Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile  in a lovely room overlooking Loch Indaal

Travel to and from distilleries is provided each day

Peat Cutting Adventure is included

4 Course Whisky Paired Dinner is included

You can stay an extra night at the beginning or end of the course if you need to for travel at no extra cost

We can provide taxi numbers for you to arrange collection from the plane or the ferry to Bowmore

You can fly to Islay from Glasgow in 30 mins ~ Flybe

Or you can take the ferry from Kennacraig ~ foot passengers do not need to book ~ Calmac

Please email : rachel@wildandmagicislay.com to book your place and for any other help or information


We look forward to meeting everyone


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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Jun. 21.

The Future of Whisky Making

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I have just watched a programme about Dan Barber and Blue Hill Dining.

This restaurant and philosophy illustrate an old, new way of looking at dining and food production. Basically, they are trying to make people think about flavour and good husbandry in food production. This means the bottom line in the business is not economic.

Last week I was in Barcelona and visited Vilarnau Cava Cellar.

They are in the second year of the three year programme to become organic  Cava producers.

This eco friendly  way of thinking about food and drink is the future. And if we want to protect our planet and ourselves we need to start thinking about this kind of thing in whisky making.

Bruichladdich Distillery are away out in front with their thinking in relation to this point.

They are working with individual farms in Islay and have fields of barley grown for them in different areas of Islay. They intend to distill these crops of barley individually, so the micro provenance of the barley can be traced to specific areas of Islay. This is a fantastic idea. Bruichladdich’s stapline ~ ‘We believe Terroir Matters’ is so important. Wine makers understand this consciousness only too well. Why people dismiss or underestimate this in whisky making is beyond me.

Bruichladdich are out in front with this thinking, but more needs to be done. We need more organic whisky, more individual fields growing barley.

Kilchoman Farm Distillery are at the forefront of this new, old thinking also. They have just agreed to buy the farm of Rockside upon which the distillery is situated. This is a fantastic thing. Now they will be able to grow their own barley, on their own farm and produce their own whisky. This is how distilleries came into being in the first place. Farms ‘stored’ their excess barley in whisky. This is the same way we store excess milk in cheese, and store summer berries in jam.


Whisky making is part of the cycle of life. The yearly turn of the seasons. Whisky making has its place in the cycle of the year ~ It is when it became a commercial concern that it became a year round event.

The whisky industry needs to become more organic, more closely connect itself to the growing of the barley. I was struck whilst at Vilarnau Cellar that it was really a vine farm. They think about the land and the agriculture, whereas in whisky we think about the process.

I believe that the future of quality #Scotch Whisky making is in attention to  Anam an fhearrain ~ in attention to Terroir.

I believe we need to pay more attention to ingredients.  How and where they are grown and sourced. We need  to develop a system  that works from the land to the glass with a  far more environmentally aware consciousness than we do at present.

Slainte! To the sustainable future of #Scotch Whisky Making

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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Mar. 29.


Whisky for Girls hosted a LOVE WHISKY TASTING in Colonsay for Grace & Keir of ‘THE DRESS’ fame, and their wedding guests.

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That night, there was no hint of the ensuing media tumult  ~  ‘was ‘THE DRESS’ worn to the wedding by Grace’s Mum, white and gold, or was it blue and black?’ they were only concerned with the drams they were about to taste…..

Two things I can tell you ~ 

1)  The drams we tried were GOLD 

2) The Dress is blue and black!

This future furore aside, we had one of the best tastings ever. It was so informal and so much fun.

Many of the guests had never tasted whisky before ~ but, said they will drink it in future…..!

The drams we had were:


50% abv  with no age. A pale summer sun in colour.  This is a young, fresh, light dram. A lunchtime or early afternoon dram. No peat in the Bruichladdich range. A bit citrus, slightly malty, oranges. Very soft. Only in Bourbon cask.  Another time it would be good to try the Scottish, Bere & Islay Barley whiskies all at same time and taste the subtle differences. Short Finish.


46.3% abv, a fruity, nutty dram. More oily than the Bruichladdich with a tiny edge of smokey brine. Fruitcake, fudge and a hint of Christmas tangerines. Sweet and warm. This would be a late afternoon dram. Medium Finish.


54.2% abv luscious, raisiny, smokey. A mix of new bourbon and old sherry casks. The sherry casks used to be the old Ardbeg ones from the past, but they are getting younger now. This dram is heavier and ‘meatier’ than the first two. Honey, treacle, walnuts, pine needles. It feels like you can chew it! Longer Finish.


46% abv A vatting of 5 & 6 YO bourbon & Oloroso sherry casks. Vatting means the malt whisky from these casks has been poured together, then bottled. It tastes summery and peaty with fruitiness and vanilla tones. The length of the finish is in between the Bunnahabhain and the Uigeadail.


40% abv This is a very interesting dram. It has been created by Laphroaig to be an introduction to it’s own style.  It is Laphroaig without the strong character. Think of ‘Rocky’ in his youth, and think of him now…… this is the difference between Laphroaig and Laphroaig Select. Everyone is making whisky like this now. We have Bowmore Small Batch, Glenrothes Vintage Reserve. And the interesting thing is that they say the customers chose it! I am sorry that customers want to dumb down the character of Laphroaig. But if you approach it as a whisky in it’s own right, it is a palatable, smokey, peatey dram that is sweet. It has a finish about the length of the Bunnahabhain, and would be an early evening dram.

 The favourite dram of the evening was the Ardbeg Uigeadail.

Whisky for Girls wish Grace & Keir all the best for their life together.

A shared love of whisky is a good bond for any couple to have!



Just to test you ~ before and after your next dram, checkout ‘the dress’ and tell us what colours you see……

The Dress

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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Mar. 16.

#BWSA ~ Cheese Making & Whisky Making are the same (sort of….)

Searching in the rain for Sgriob-ruadh Farm, home of Isle of Mull Cheese, I took a lift from Chris, who turns out to be the owner of the place.

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They make Whisky Cheese, amongst others, and a more natural, harmonious pairing one is hard pushed to find.

This place is eco friendly and self sustaining. It runs by itself, for itself, in a very old fashioned, completely up-to-date, circle of life, sustainable way.

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They feed their herd of 130 Ayrshire cows draff from Tobermory Distillery.  They milk 100 cows at a time, twice a day, every day of the year.  They make cheese 3-5 times a week, so the milk must be stored.

The milk comes out the cows’ udders at 32°  C, but needs to be stored at 5 ° C. The heat difference is stored in the water of a swimming pool at the farm, which is available for guests to use.

How excellent is this? Swim in a pool heated by cows milk ~ Cleopatra was never in it…..

The process begins by adding cheese culture to the milk to boost it’s natural bacteria, rennet is also added to encourage curdling. It then separates into curds and whey.

The whey is used as food for the pigs, but Chris has a new plan involving Juniper and distilling…….

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The curds are kept and salt is added for preserving. It is squeezed into buckets and pressed for two days. Muslin and Cheesecloth bandages are wrapped on and the cheese is pressed for another day. What comes out at the end is a Truckle of Cheese. It takes 270 ltrs of milk to make a 26 kg Truckle of Cheese.

Only ‘keeping’ cheese is pressed. The magic of cheese, as of whisky, is that it is a living product. Very minute changes in the recipe can make a huge difference to the cheese/whisky at the end.

The cheese is dipped in scalding hot water to form a skin around it to seal it. It is also wrapped in two layers of muslin. It is stored on wooden shelves in a cellar for up to 18 months. 

Each cheese is turned every two weeks, the temperature in the cheese cellar needs to be between 12° -15° and there must be constant air movement. The cheeses go throught different stages and need to be closely monitored and cared for, the same way we look after our whisky casks.

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When a truckle is first stored it weights around 26Kg, but over time the moisture evaporates,  at the end it weights 25 kg. A cheese can lose up to 2% moisture in a year. This loss is similar to whisky casks stored in a warehouse ~  we call this ‘The Angels’ Share’.

Whisky making was traditionally done on farms, as part of the circle of life. An excess of good grass in the summer translates to much milk, and so this is stored in cheese. An excess of barley translates to creation of malt which is then used to make uisge beatha ~ whisky.


Visiting the Mull Cheese Farm Sgriob-ruadh (red furrow) reminds me of the ways of the past, when whisky making was a natural part of life, not the commercial leviathan it has become.

I hope  we will see a return to very small stills and people making uisge beatha for domestic consumption ~ similar to cider making in Somerset.

 That my visit to Sgriob-ruadh has re enforced my domestic stills philosophy is strangely fitting, considering Chris Reade told me that she and her husband came to Mull from Somerset….


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Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Jul. 02.

Arran Distillery Open Day 2012

Arran Distillery Open Day ~ Saturday 30 June 2012

As we came down the hill into Lochranza we saw the pagodas of Arran Distillery nestled behind the trees.

Many people were arriving from all over. Whisky for Girls had travelled from Islay to Arran for the open day. We had a great time!

Lovely drams, great people, music, collectors……………to name a few.

Charlie Hunter a retired cooper who previously worked in Beith and Dumbarton,  gave a ‘rising a cask’ demonstration for Whisky for Girls.   It was really interesting.


He told us that when coopering,  you are on piece work. That means you are paid for the barrels you make. It takes about 2 and 3/4 hours to make a cask. You have to saw the staves level if they are not just right, you have to ensure the rings are tight. It is a lot of work.  In 1980 you were paid approx £3 per barrel. You could earn £150 per week in those days.  Coopers work hard. They run everywhere ~ they said if you weren’t sweating within 10 minutes of starting work you weren’t working!

Whisky for Girls then attended a masterclass with Lucie Stroesser, Arran Distillers new brand ambassador in Europe. We sampled 5 different whiskies and the Arran Gold.


The drams were:

Robert Burns Malt 40%  ~A 5 year old dram. Light, fresh, woody. This dram is chill filtered. Sweet, cereal and appley, thin pale colour.

Arran 10 years old 46% ~ A mix of Bourbon and Sherry cask maturation. Less of the sherry maybe 60 -40, bourbon to sherry. This has a rounder nose than the Robert Burns. Light, smooth, with a spicey wee kick. A wee bit drier, a hint of burnt sugar, floral notes.

Arran 14 years old 46%  ~ Another mix of sherry and bourbon cask maturation. The sherry influence is stronger. A sweet refined dram ~ parma violets, sweet, perfume nose. Underlying nose of mustiness, reminds me of mushrooms and Daill Farm in Islay! Lots of floral notes.

The Westie 46% ~ 12 years old, sherry cask maturation. Yellowey, sweet custard. Non chill filtered. Mix of 1st and 2nd fill sherry cask. Light on the top, fluffy in the middle, coconut and buttery notes. A very soft dram ~ so soft it could be whiskey!

Sauternes Cask Finish 50% ~ Very dry mouthfeel from the Sauternes cask, but a smooth dram. A dusty, mushroomy nose. With water opens up a bit. There are also an Amarone cask finish and a Port finish in this series.

The Arrran Gold Creme Liqueur with Arran Chocolates ~ deliciously rich!

After our tasting we met up with distillery manager James MacTaggart.  James brought us one of the festival bottles and posed with Whisky for Girls for a  ‘whisky in the shoe’ picture.

In the whisky tasting masterclass, Whisky for Girls met an interesting couple from Portsmouth.

Peter and Nina are whisky memorabilia collectors. Pete told me it all began 30 years ago when his mother bought him a present of a Beneagles bottle shaped like an eagle.  Pete has visited all the Scotch Malt Whisky Distilleries except 3 ~ and soon he intends to have visited them, too. He told me that his favourite thing in the collection is an old stone whisky bottle from Royal Dalton.  It is shaped like a disc, like a hip flask, and is very old. Pete has also been compiling a Whisky Encyclopedia, to date he has written 6,000 pages! Nina told me they have moved to a bigger house to have room for the ever expanding collection ~  ‘I live in a museum!’ she said.


Robin Laing, whisky’s own bard, serenaded us and made us forget about the drizzle, singing about strong whisky and weak women ~ but only when Whisky for Girls were out of ear shot!

And Arran Distillery played host to numerous families who had come along and brought their pets ~ not least wee Alfie who was visiting with his owner Jill and her Mum. Dad Craig said they needed to come and get a bottle or two for the house, and Mum Rosalind wanted a bottle or two of Arran Gold for herself!


Whisky for Girls met lots of interesting people and enjoyed lots of lovely drams.

Thanks to Manager James MacTaggart, Visitor Centre Manager Faye Black, Margaret Rose Sinclair~Smith, Graham Omand and Hollie MacEachern. Whisky for Girls hope to see you all again next year!

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