2020 wasn’t all bad. Yeah, there’s a pandemic and with the P-word comes the exasperated realisation that a lot of people think Bill Gates is using a health crisis to nefariously microchip a global population of 7.5 billion people and then track our daily bowel movements. The mental gymnastics needed to believe that a guy worth $100b wakes every day wondering what Billy from Cumbernauld is going to have for breakfast is stupefying.
Subsequently, once the knowledge that the UK has suffered tens of thousands of avoidable deaths has been compartmentalised deep inside the recess of the worn-out, emotionally-frayed muscle mass we call a brain, the lumbering, groaning clusterfuck that is Brexit lurches in to view, guffawing empty, generic, little Britain soundbites of “Control!” and “Sovereignty!”. In today’s Britain, real patriots worry about mackarel and straight bananas and ICU nurses dancing on tiktok. Child poverty is for weak-kneed liberals dontcha know.
And should Covid or Brexit concern you (spoiler: both should), then try not to think about the bumbling, duplicitous, reactive clowns who are at the wheel of the car and unable to tell us where exactly they’re taking it.
No, for a brief and forlorn 5 minutes on a cold Wednesday afternoon, let’s be positive! It’s a New Year! IT’S 2021! TWENTY TWENTY ONE, PEOPLE! Let’s forget about all the bad stuff – let’s move on and cast our minds back to the fantastic whiskies we tried over the previous 12 months. Yes, that’s correct, my positive reflection is the alcohol I consumed. Personally, it was a fairly good year: lots of new releases and some old, a heavy lean towards some wonderful IBs, and an abundance of samples swapped with fantastic whisky folk. If the ongoing Covid saga has destroyed the social fabric of pubs, it has in turn sent virtual whisky tastings, festivals, and dram swaps in to overdrive.
Ah, the dram swaps. So many that I lost count and Christine gave up presuming any of the deliveries were gifts for her. With bars closed and everyone at home, the whisky community threw itself head first in to exchanging samples, and for many it was a welcome distraction – the chance to meet new friends virtually, share exciting whiskies, and generally try to stay positive were embraced with both arms by many. Back in October, I did a wee exchange with fellow Aberdonian, Scotty, and having dealt with a backlog of tastings, I can finally get round to a write-up. If you have some spare time – and let’s be honest, you have a fair bit if you’re still reading this – then you should do the needful and digest Scotty’s reviews and articles. Indepth research, knowledge, and in case you didn’t know, he can see a distillery fae his hoose. If you prefer succinct analysis and toasting times for North East of Scotland delicacy, the stunning Rowie, then go no further than his twitter. He may even talk about whisky now and again.
Having shown my Aberdonian-ness by sending him 4 x 30ml samples, Scotty was generous to fill 4 x 50ml samples and sent them to me. Here’s my notes all rattled in to one review:
– Allt Dour 8 YO 59.2% FF Sherry Cask (Robertsons of Pitlochry IB)
Nose: Rich fudge / Toffee / Giant Strawberries Palate: Sweet caramel / Faint christmas pudding and dried fruit / Pink shrimps Finish: Medium with some heat / oily mouthfeel
– North British 30 YO Single Grain (Dramfool)
Nose: Vanilla / Icing sugar / Cream Palate: Oily / Pastry / Faint citrus notes Finish: Medium / subtle / Tame yet pleasant
– Collectivum XXVIII 57.3% Diageo Special Release 2017
Nose: Apples / Polish / Butter Palate: White pepper / Lemons / Leather Finish: Long and Sweet
– Benrinnes 13 YO 59.2% Madeira Cask Finish (James Eadie)
Nose: My attic / Peaches / Strawberries Palate: Sweet / Dry / Berries Finish: Long / Raisins
I even managed to nail down 5 favourites that I got to try in 2020. Given I tried a lot – more than I expected – then it’s reasonable to assume I’ve missed one or two that could have snuck in, but the 5 below standout aff the tap of ma heid:
SMWS 10.199 Bunnahabhain PX Cask (sample from the very kind Colin)
I also moved away from purchasing bottles from Amazon, MoM, and other large sellers, and instead chose to buy from the smaller shops who provide a personal service, possess a deep well of knowledge, and are always happy to help with queries. They also appreciate and need our custom far more than the big players.
Finally, if you find the time then it’s only right that you check out the following twitter handles. Lots of reviews, information, and more.
There are loads. I would be here all day trying to link them, so I’m sorry to whoever I missed!
What will 2021 bring for us all? Hopefully an end to the virus of course, but for January I am trying to lay off the booze a wee bit – I’m not as active as others, however the past 12 months has seen me somewhat startled by the sheer amount of tastings and whisky consumption I see people commit to. Personally, with lockdown and having shielded for several months, I saw my own bevvy consumption go up and it’s something we sohuld all be mindful of during the current situation.
In the meantime, I’ve got my first ever homebrew bottled and an eye on some whisky, but for now it may stretch to a weekend dram and not much else.