Friday, November 28, 2008

Lagavulin wins ultra premium award

Just announced - the Lagavulin 21 year old has won the Malt Maniacs 2008 Award. Malt Maniacs is a truly independant organisation that has some of the most knowlegable whisky people on its panel.

Click on the link or type into your browser for more information.


Non-Plus-Ultra Award 2008 (Ultra Premium)
(Overall top scoring 'ultra premium' whisky out of all 2008 MM Awards entries)
Lagavulin 21yo 1985/2007 (56.5%, OB, 6642 Bts.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A seriously good Irish Whiskey

I recently tasted the Bushmills 1608 at an educational whiskey tasting I had the pleasure of presenting. I had not tried the whiskey and enjoyed it tremendously - as did the audience.

I generally enjoy the Irish - the Bushmills range, particularly the Black Bush and 16 year old, The Tyrconnel, Jamesons 18 and the new Wild Geese single malt.

If you can find a bottle of this very special Bushmills 1608, grab it.

It is a triple distilled blended Irish whiskey, with exceptionally high malt content. There is Crystal malt whiskey at the heart of the blend. It is bottled at 46% ABV. is only available on general release across Bushmills markets until the end of this year, and then only available at Duty Free and at the Distillery.

Official Tasting Notes

An impressive combination of depth and smoothness; Bushmills’ trademark aromatic
nose and soft mouth-feel delivered with an impressive depth of character.

Nose: Rich, dense, concentrated and enticing. Raisins, fir honey.
Taste: Distinctly sweet but balanced. Reveals great depth and weight behind a soft mouth-feel. Touch of vanilla, toasted almonds, gentle spiciness.
Finish: Long and lingering on toffee and dark chocolate.

“Bushmills 1608 was distilled using crystal malt, a special type of malted barley selected to deliver exceptional smoothness. Its name comes from the barleycorns’ crystallized appearance when gently toasted before the distilling process. This enhances the natural sweetness of the malt, giving our whiskey a unique toffee-like smoothness. We hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we enjoyed creating it" explains Colum Egan, Bushmills Master Distiller

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blow me

Ever looked at a patron lurch across your floor, car keys in hand, firmly of the opinion that he is sober enough to drive? Ever wanted to prove him wrong? A UK company does. The staff of ‘Blow Me’ will attend an event and offer an alcohol breath-testing service, giving customers sometimes unexpected results.

People are invited to blow into the tube and read their blood alcohol level on the display. The testing is done in a non-threatening way, so it is still up to the patrons whether or not they decide to turn the ignition key. However, the moral ramifications could prove tricky: if you know that someone is over the limit and you don’t stop them from getting into their cars, how much guilt do you bear if they have an accident that you could have prevented?

Many indulgers seem to be under the impression that if they feel ‘fine’, they are capable of driving after a couple (or more) drinks. The law, however, is not that vague and subjective. Blow Me tries to educate and warn customers of the risks they face.

The company can be booked for private functions and will also do their thing at restaurants and club venues. The Blow Me crew recently accompanied drivers on a week-long segment of a racing event, doing breath tests every morning before they set off. Some were shocked to discover that their blood alcohol level was many times over the legal limit, hours after they had stopped drinking the night before. They, of course, had to organise alternative transport.

As a liquor retailer, you don’t want to discourage your customers from drinking, but you do want to stop the irresponsible from risking themselves, the lives of their passengers and other road-users. Blow Me’s services are not available in this country yet, but you can promote safe driving at your business. Encourage intoxicated patrons or colleagues to call a taxi or use one of the companies specialising in drunk driver call-outs.

This article appeared in TOT magazine earlier this year.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Drunk drivers beware!

Metro police have introduced a one-stop shop for drunken drivers aimed at increasing their conviction rate to 90 percent over the festive season.

Motorists who are planning a tipple this weekend will be among the first to experience the new 24 hour, seven days a week Intoximeter Alcohol Evidential Test Centre, a processing centre located at the Johannesburg Metro Police Department's officers in Village Street in the CBD.

Anyone caught in the swoop - set to take place in Randburg, Soweto and Johannesburg CBD - will be taken to the new "boozer factory" and holding area, the infrastructure alone costing R500 000, a donation from Business Against Crime with the new Drager breathalysers costing R75 000 each.

Metro police chief Chris Ngcobo said this morning at the launch of the new device that his force had caught almost 4 000 drunken drivers over the course of the year but that 95 percent of the cases never get prosecuted successfully, many not even making it to court.

"Drunk drivers just aren't taking us seriously," admitted Ngcobo.

In recent roadblocks in Hillbrow, police arrested 48 people for drunken driving in just one hour. Over the same period a roadblock in Moroka, Soweto, yielded 30 drunken driving arrests.

"If you look at (Pretoria High Court) Judge (Nkola) Motata's case, look how long it took for that to go to court. At least it went to court," he said.

Judge Motata is currently on trial for drunken driving in the Johannesburg magistrate's court after smashing through a Hurlingham, Johannesburg, wall with his Jaguar in January last year.

In 90 percent of cases where people are killed in accidents, alcohol is involved.

The new system will start off with 40 mobile breathalysers. If someone is suspected of drunken driving they will be taken to Village Street and required to blow into the Drager machine.

The result, which will give an accurate blood alcohol reading, will be used as evidence in court, which would negate the need for a blood test.

Suspects often refused to cooperate with a blood sample being taken and the results take between 12 and 18 months.

Other than the delay in prosecution, the delay in receiving the test results also means those waiting for an insurance claim to pay out have to wait up to two years.

Other than the Drager, the entire Intoximeter Test Centre will be monitored by CCTV cameras which will also help with circumstancial evidence against a drunk driver. This would also prevent any flouting of the law by metro officers.

The centre will see two dedicated full-time prosecutors who will often be in attendance for the initial arrest and follow the case through to the courts.

Holding areas with open cells will be used to house suspects with additional specially adapted trucks on hand to deal with the massive number of arrests expected over the festive season.

Those convicted of drunken driving will also be "named and shamed" in the newspapers with their blood alcohol level handed over to the media.

Ngcobo said his officers would not abandon some of the tried and trusted methods, like making a suspected drunk driver walk on a white line and holding up a number of fingers for them to identify.

As part of the metro police's efforts to create awareness of the affects of alcohol, they are staging an office party this weekend where the participants will have their blood alcohol tested every hour.

Monday, October 20, 2008



Bunnahabhain, a name fast becoming synonymous with the best in single malts, will be showcasing at the Whisky Live Festival to be held from 5-7 November 2008 in Cape Town and 12 – 14 November in Johannesburg.

Master distiller Ian MacMillan, who has over 30 years’ experience in whisky distilling, will be at the festival in Cape Town to share the rich history and unique characteristics of Bunnahabhain’s three single malts he produces on the Isle of Islay. The 12-, 18- and 25-year old are recent additions to the South African market and have become much sought-after for their gentle and finessed profile amongst local whisky connoisseurs over the past year.

Home to the award-winning Bunnahabhain, the Isle of Islay, located off the west-coast of Scotland, is renowned the world over for producing exceptional single malts. Distinctive from the other single malts of Islay, Bunnahabhain is known for its wonderfully gentle taste profile. Its unique character is largely the result of malted barley enhanced by the pure spring water that flows freely underground, untainted by the peaty moorlands on this isolated coastal sanctuary.

Bunnahabhain (pronounced Bū-na-ha-venn) means mouth of the river in Scottish Gaelic and refers to the Margadale River that flows close by. Founded in 1881, the distillery lies on the north-eastern tip of Islay and the tiny village of Bunnahabhain that overlooks the Sound of Islay was established around it. In the 1800s the sea offered the easiest access to this remote place and men would muster the ocean to arrive with their barley in preparation for the creation of this wonderful dram.

LINDA STRYDOM, DKC (021) 4222690

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The College of Whisky would like to formally invite you to attend a Whisky Course that will be commencing on the 21st of October 2008.

The College of Whisky manages over one thousand educational whisky presentations each year, around the country, on behalf of a major premium spirits company.

We have identified a need for a formal, in-depth educational programme, where we offer an opportunity to delve deeper into the many mysterious components of the whisky world.

We aim to unlock the mystery.

There are eight lectures, spread over four evenings. Each lecture is approximately one hour long. You will be taught by some of the most experienced whisky presenters in the country. Comprehensive course notes, all stationery, whisky, tasting glasses, a light snack, tea and coffee will also be provided to you. A lecturer will be available outside of the normal course hours if you require further assistance with your studies.

The course includes practical components, including an interactive blending exercise.

There is a two-hour theory and practical examination at the end of the course.
On successful completion of the course there will be a social function, where you will have an opportunity to demonstrate your new-found knowledge of whisky, receive your certificate and enjoy some of the finest whiskies in the world.

This is an opportunity to really get to grips with the unsurpassed taste and texture of the world’s finest whiskies.

The Whisky Course will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and you have the option to choose which day you would prefer to attend the course. The Whisky Course will start at 6:30pm sharp and will end at 8:45pm and includes all whisky, snacks, course notes and tasting glasses.

The cost to partake in this wonderful experience is R1 450 incl. VAT. If you book via this notice you will receive a R100 discount.

To reserve a seat, please send:

Your name
Date of birth
Day on which you would like to attend
To the following email address:

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn subtle nuances and diverse flavours that the finest whiskies have to offer.

Kind Regards

College Of Whisky

Terms & Conditions Apply

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Something to drink about....

What is thought to be the world's largest whisky collection is set be put on display in Scotland, after being purchased by Diageo.

The collection, containing 3,384 bottles and built up over 35 years by Brzailian Claive Vidiz, has been shipped from Sau Paolo to a high security location in Scotland, Diageo said this week.

The drinks giant bought the collection for an undisclosed fee, but will loan the collection to be displayed in a specially designed vault at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. The vault is part of a GBP2m investment in the tourist attraction.

Among the rarer bottles is a Strathmill single malt, produced to celebrate the Speyside distillery's 100th anniversary. It is one of only 100 bottles ever produced.

"We are delighted to have worked with Claive to bring this wonderful collection safely back to Scotland and to play a part in preserving its legacy and historic significance," said Bryan Donaghey, managing director of Diageo Scotland.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Diageo launches Diddy Ciroc ad campaign

Diageo has launched an advertising campaign for its Ciroc Vodka brand in the US, featuring Sean 'Diddy' Combs.

The advert, to debut this week, is entitled 'The Art of Celebration', and features Combs with his modern interpretation of the Rat Pack, the company said today (7 October).

Shot in black and white at one of Frank Sinatra's former California homes, the 15- and 30-second commercials depict Combs as a host amidst a crowd during an impromptu private house party. The advert is soundtracked by Sinatra's version of 'Come Fly With Me'.

"It was truly an honour to have had the opportunity to use Sinatra's work and home for this campaign," said Combs. "He defined sophisticated celebration as a lifestyle a generation ago. I couldn't imagine a spirit more appropriate."

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Robertson Wine Valley Wacky Wine Festival

6 to 8 June 2008

Taste responsibly, they said. Use the spittoons, they said. Designate a driver, keep track of your wine consumption and drink lots of water, they said. People did as they were asked and had a great time.

The Wacky Wine Weekend was a model of efficiency and professional event management without detracting from the aim of the Festival – promoting the valley and wineries. The organisers had a sensible attitude to a festival that could have turned out to be memorable for the wrong reasons. 16000 people, 2000 up from last year, on a wintery Cape weekend, and the traffic authorities were untroubled. The designated driver seemed the preferred route for the many wacky weekenders and on the wet roads it was a wise choice.

What I saw was a large amount of adults enjoying wines, as they are generally were meant to be enjoyed – with a meal, in the company of friends and sometimes with music. Some wines were magnificent, some were ordinary, but the event was special. Five years on, the organisers have hit on a winning formula.

The Wacky Wine Festival makes no claim to the title of the most sophisticated wine event on the calendar, but it is certainly the event where the participants have the most fun. What a winner for the wine industry in the Robertson valley and for all related industries in the region. To bring so many consumers and people from the trade to wineries, in the dead of winter, year after year, is not an easy task.

Total wine sales were up 24% from WWW 2007 – but that statistic does not tell the story about the effect of the weak economy on purchasing patterns. For the first time since the festival began some wineries reported a drop in sales. Consumers seem less inclined to spend on speculative purchases. Unless a consumer is blown away by a formerly unfamiliar wine they taste, they will purchase the tried and tested wine, or a wine that has obtained very good ratings or awards. The most well known wineries in the area reported the highest number of visitors. When disposable income drops, consumers become more discerning. The challenge to wineries and all service provides is to continually raise their game.

One of the major improvements over previous years was the quality and variety of food offerings. The standards were very high as professional caterers used the festival to showpiece their craft. Some of the wineries took advantage of the rugby test and used that as another opportunity to feed the crowds. Word spread very quickly that the food at one winery was magnificent, but another fell short of what was expected. And on a cold weekend, you know where the crowds are going to go. The caterer at two of the most popular venues made several trips to the local supermarkets to replenish supplies. Their most optimistic forecasts about the number of visitors were overtaken by happy consumers looking for good food. Quality sells.

Some of the attendees were there to discover new wineries, some were looking to revisit old favourites, some were just beginning the wonderful journey along the road of wine appreciation and there were some seasoned palates amongst the crowd. We all had one thing in common - to have a good time.

There was a large increase in visitors from Gauteng and the accommodation establishments benefitted from the longer stay – four nights instead of the one or two nights for visitors from Cape Town.

The many estates held different types of events, from dinners with Pop Idols, to one-on-one tutored tastings with the winemakers, to champagne and oyster breakfasts, from entertainment for kids to marquees where the rugby, not wine, was the main event.

Of course there is a place for the traditional wine show or festival, where a number of estates display their wines, side by side, in a convention centre or marquee. The downfall of those events is generally consumers do not spend a lot of time focussing on one winery. We table hop. Unless the consumer is using spittoons – and lets face it, not many people do – flavours and memories blur by the time you arrive at the third stand. How many of us can hold our hands on out hearts and say we remember clearly the wines we had over a two or three hour period at a wine show?

Where Wacky Wine Festival succeeds is that the consumers spend as much time as they wish at the farm and really get to grips with what the estate has to offer. As the consumers spend more time at the estate, they spend more time understanding the wines and what goes into their production. Over the duration of the weekend one can easily manage eight farms, leaving each estate with a clear understanding and appreciation for the wines, the feel of the estate and importantly leave fortified by a meal or substantial snack.

I will be there next year to enjoy this ever evolving and always fun festival.
Posted by Bernard Gutman at 13:01 0 comments

Tequila for grown-ups.

When bottle store owners and barmen have a customer request tequila, they assume that the drink is destined to be drunk as a shooter, with salt and lemon. However, with the new batch of super premium tequilas, there is now an opportunity for discerning palates to enjoy a more refined spirit.

At the Cape Town launch of Patron Tequila at the elegant Roundhouse Restaurant in Camps Bay, the sweeping views of the bay were complemented by a colourful display of the hand-blown Patron Tequila bottles. The Patron range, from Silver to Gran Patron Burdeos (finished in Burgundy wine barrels), was available for tasting. In-between, guests sampled two aged expressions, Anejo and Reposada.

There are several factors that make these super premium tequilas different from other tequila-style spirits. Patron and Don Julio tequilas are made entirely from the Blue Agave plant, while many other tequila-style drinks are made with different types of Agave plant, or are blended with other ingredients.

The Patron and Don Julio Reposada tequilas are ideal for those who wish to sip their drinks slowly, instead of slinging it down their throats. Stock up, educate your customers and benefit from increased sales of high quality spirits.