Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Glenmorangie Whisky, the 16 good men of Tain and our hero Mordechai triumph over Haman, the evil man from ancient Persia.

Jews invented whisky. Well not quite, but allow me a bit of poetic license.  The accepted origin of the Water of Life is somewhere in the Middle East 1500 years ago, enhanced by the Monks and Priests 500 years ago and perfected by, depending on who you want to believe, the Irish;  Scots; Japanese; South Africans; Indians and even the Aussies and Kiwis now take credit. 

Jews celebrate great events in our history and whisky is the spirit of choice to aid the celebrations. What’s that got to do with Haman, one of the many evil men in history that tried to annihilate the Jewish nation? Quite a bit.

The festival of Purim, celebrating the defeat of Haman by Mordechai is a joyous festival, one known for an excess of food and drink.  Haman drew lots to determine the day to destroy the Jewish nation. His plot was discovered, Mordechai came to the rescue, and there was a party to end all parties. And to this day we celebrate. 

Now that Glenmorangie Whisky is Kosher, what better way to celebrate than with a dram, which by holy decree, should be a large dram. A very, very large dram. 

In my youth I spent every Friday night and Saturday morning; every festival, night and day at the local synagogue. It was once a quiet place until it was taken over by the Lubavitch, an ultra-orthodox sect known for its exuberance and passionate prayer. One of my clearest memories is of Rabbis in full cry, glazed eyes and slurred speech, practicing one of the lesser known and even less understood rituals associated with Judaism: the tradition of excessive alcohol consumption over the festival of Purim. Because the Rabbis said that "A person is obligated to become inebriated on Purim until he doesn't know the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai".

Not differentiating between good and evil is one interpretation, but the other, more sensible and certainly more responsible interpretation, is that alcohol expands the creative mind, freeing it from the restraints of societal convention. So over Purim, we free our minds from anything that interferes with passion and creativity.

The 16 Men of Tain are the gentlemen that make Glenmorangie, a damn good whisky, and a Kosher whisky. You can call them the Mordechais of the modern world, saving us not from destruction, but from mediocrity. 

I want to be more creative, so over Purim – ah, why wait, I will start tonight - I will have a Glenmorangie in my glass to help me on my way.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Something new and delicious....

There is a bit of a buzz in the circles that are involved in premium spirits. It seems that the licking of lips and salivating in informed circles is because of a new premium spirit - what, we don't know yet - that is about to hit the drinks scene in South Africa.

Calls to a few people who know these things have been met with a stony silence - "Don't worry Bernard", they say. "You'll find out soon enough." Is it a whisky, a brandy, a vodka, a tequila? "We can't tell you much but can promise you that it shines with the quality of a precious metal. And yes Bernard, you will be invited to the launch, which promises to be a party of note."

So what is it? Watch this space and we'll find out.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kahunas the size of Whisky barrels

Shane Dowling is the publisher of Whisky, a new glossy magazine for lovers of whisky and all things nice in South Africa, and a man who must have kahunas the size of whisky barrels. Anyone who ventures into print publications for a niche market is a very brave person, or is under the influence of too much of the lovely liquid.

The press launch was appropriately at the Bascule Whisky Bar, Cape Grace hotel. The usual crowd was there, with one major difference – the appearance of a Sangoma (an African Shaman, for those from outside South Africa) who blessed the magazine and all who sail in her.

Shane assembled a top team to write and edit Whisky, including ex Wine magazine editor Fiona McDonald, Neil Pendock, a man who knows his liquor and is not afraid to say what some of us are thinking and Dave Hughes, whose knowledge is only surpassed by his humility.

The first edition is worthwhile picking up just for David Bullard’s column. David will be a regular contributor and will have a few people choking from laughter on their single malt.

First views – it is a very good read. The writing and layout is great and hopefully the advertisers stay on board. Will it be a commercial success? I hope so. South Africa needs a quality local publication.

Tops at Spar are going to be stocking the mag (well done Ray Edwards) and see from 1 February for more info about where to find Whisky. .

Friday, November 26, 2010

Give than man a Bell’s!

Tell us why your friend deserves a Bell’s and we’ll send him two.

We have 3 prizes of a bottle each of Bell’s Extra Special and Bell’s Special Reserve to give away to a chosen friend of anyone in South Africa who sends us a winning story. 

Send us a tale that persuades us that your friend is a worthy recipient of Bells. We will choose 3 winning entries and send the hamper to the winners friends, anywhere in the country. And we expect the friends to share a wee dram with their friends. Responsibly, of course.

Add a dash of humour and a block of cool to your story (50 to 300 words)  and email me at

Competition closes noon SA time on Thursday 2nd December. 

This is only for people 18 and older, and not for anyone employed by or related to Brandhouse Beverages (Pty) Ltd, their agencies or consultants. Not for sale to persons under the age of 18. Please drink responsibly.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Whisky and glitz go quite well together and if the team from  get involved, you know there will be a party of note. Add men’s fashion from and ladies fashion from Callaghan, a generous dram or two of in the hotel and you have the recipe for a great night.

Here is the official press release and a couple of photos.

Press Release

19 November 2010
The One and Only came alive last Thursday with the Fabiani and Callaghan Fashion Party of the Year. Models, celebrities, media and the big wigs in the corporate world flocked to the hotel to celebrate the fashion house’s spring/summer collection. Guests were served the distinguished Chivas Regal on arrival and posed for pictures on the red carpet before being escorted into the lavish hotel.

The A-list crowd then mingled and nibbled on delicious food from the esteemed Reuben’s and internationally acclaimed Nobu. Shortly afterwards the male models, dressed smartly in Fabiani suits, made their grand entrance at the top of the stairs in the foyer while the stunning girls from Callaghan made their elegant entrance by the Vista Bar. After posing in the Fabiani and Callaghan lounges, the models dispersed to interact with guests, 3 of which received a ToyWatches. Guest also had the opportunity to pose in the Leica booth and capture their favourite moment of the night.

Some of the celebrities who attended were Herschelle Gibbs, Tracy McGregor, Gina Athens, Michelle Mclean, Nicky Greenwall as well as international celebrities Anna Friel (Lead actress in Pushing Daisies & BLOCK BUSTER MOVIE with WILL FERREL) - Land Of The Lost, Raoul Bova (From the movie Under The Tuscan Sun) & Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's who flew in from NEW YORK especially for the party.

Special thanks to Chivas, Fashion Choreographer -Deon Redman, ToyWatch, from the One&Only Hair Salon, The Big Issue Make-Up Academy, Carol from Cavendish Square, Lindt, Leica, Carol from Coda, Dino Moran, Mandy & Peter Lumb, Rikki’s Taxis, and Wings Group for the incredible treats.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Van Ryn’s distillery close to Stellenbosch has just earned its third consecutive Best Brandy trophy at the 2010 International Spirits Challenge in London. This time, the honours for producing the world’s best brandy went to the 15 Year Old Fine Cask Reserve. 

Said Neil Mathieson, competition category chairman for cognac, armagnac and brandy entries: “Awarding the Best Brandy Trophy was a very hard choice this year, given the excellence of the products submitted and the very high marks they achieved. In the end the decision to award the trophy to Van Ryn's 15 Year Old was made in recognition of its great length, subtlety and depth of flavour.”

Mathieson, who is a world authority on international brandies and other grape-based spirits, and the founder and managing director of Eaux de Vie, a specialist spirits importer, based in the UK, believes South African brandies are becoming the standard-bearer for quality aged brandied produced outside the AOC regions of France.

In 2008 and 2009, it was the Van Ryn's 12 Year Old Distillers Reserve that was voted the best by the panel of ISC spirits specialists.

Van Ryn’s has also brought home the Worldwide Best Brandy trophy from the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) three times, making it a total of six times that the distillery has been judged to produce the best.

Adele Ankiewicz, global marketing manager for Van Ryn’s said: “These results demonstrate a remarkable consistency of performance and are a reflection of South African brandy excellence. The Van Ryn’s Brandy Collection is an international quality leader, setting the benchmark for the finest brandies in the world. It deftly combines exuberant, generous fruitiness with elegance and finesse and offers an exciting taste profile for spirits connoisseurs.”

This year’s ISC Best Brandy winner was voted the best in its class at the IWSC and won a gold medal.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What's new at Festival this year.

  •  Purchase a bottle of Laphroaig, visit the stand to learn how you can claim your very own piece of Scotland, a square foot of land at the Laphroaig distillery in Islay. At the same time, enter the Laphroaig competition and stand a chance of winning a trip for two to Scotland. You can also sample the Laphroaig 18 year old – which will be available in South Africa for the first time at the festival.
  • Purchase a bottle of Maker’s Mark, take it to the stand and dip it in its trademark red wax. This special bottle will also have a label stating that it was dipped by you at Whisky Live Festival!
  • Sample a “home grown” dram:  Moritz Kallmeyer, owner and distiller the Draymans Highveld Single Malt Whisky, will be launching the first ever Single Malt produced and matured entirely on the Highveld of South Africa.
  • Tantalise your taste buds: The Pick ‘n Pay Food and Whisky Pairing Zone is showcasing the fine art of pairing the sublime flavours of whisky with the intricate taste of fresh oysters, salmon, handmade chocolates, Italian meats, chocolate, and French cheeses.
  • Meet the Master: Master Distiller, Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant will be hosting two workshops every evening in Johannesburg, taking you through an interactive informal workshop on understanding the significance of copper stills in the whisky distillation process in the Glen Grant Distillation Zone.
  • Get into ‘the zone’: Global Ambassadors from The Macallan return to demonstrate the importance of wood in The Macallan Maturation Zone, which will provide visitors with a fascinating insight into the affect wood has on the colour and flavours of The Macallan range.
  • Whip up wicked whisky cocktails: The team from Schweppes and LiquidChefs will be returning with a bigger and more flamboyant whisky cocktail making area, challenging you to rustle up you own whisky cocktail creations.
  • Download the first ever festival app: The Whisky Live application, in association with CORE GROUP, the Apple Authorised distributors for Southern Africa, will be available to Whiskey Lovers soon. It can be downloaded onto iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads, will give you a comprehensive guide to the whiskies available for tasting, indicate where they are situated in the tasting hall and furthermore, categorise the whiskies by flavour, enabling you to discover more whiskies that suit your palate.
  • Meet Ian MacMillan, master distiller and blender of Bunnahabhain, a name synonymous with the best in single malts and experience a private tasting at the Cape Town festival. For the Johannesburg show, Ian will only be available for the first evening (10 November) after which esteemed whisky connoisseur and Master of the Quaich, Pierre Meintjes, will conduct the private tastings. MacMillan, who has over 35 years’ experience in whisky distilling and blending, will incorporate the rich history and unique characteristics of Bunnahabhain’s three single malts, which he produces on the Isle of Islay, during the private tastings. Bookings for the private tastings need to be made on the evening at the Bunnahabhain stand during Whisky Live.
  •  Go on...treat yourself! The much sought-after Lexus Whisky Lifestyle Lounge will once again provide the perfect setting for networking and client entertainment or simply meeting up with like-minded friends in relaxed and enjoyable surroundings. The lounge, which is situated within the Tasting Hall, will for the first time ever host the addition of The Whisky Boutique Bar, offering a selection of approximately six premium whiskies not available in the Tasting Hall.   This new unique deluxe whisky experience will be hosted by world whisky experts Rob Allanson, Editor of Whisky Magazine, and Dave Broom, international award winning whisky writer.