Next year will bring many momentous anniversaries. My 10th wedding anniversary for one! (I’ve got about one dram left in the bottle of Antiquary my
wife gave to me on the eve of our wedding which I’m saving it to toast the eve of our anniversary next May), 2018 marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Aberlour Distillery, and last but by no means least, the 10th anniversary of The Whisky Lounge.
I first encountered The Whisky Lounge (TWL) in 2015 when I attended the Bristol Whisky Festival. This was their first event to be held in Bristol, and my hazy recollections were of a well-run, friendly, informative and fun event. It was where I first met many of the great whisky bloggers I’m still in contact with today (albeit far too infrequently!). Dave Alcock (thewhiskydramalista.com), Steve Prentice (somersetwhisky.com) and Jonathon Webb (scotchandscifi.co.uk) all write excellent blogs and inspired me to try to do the same.
Following the festival, I always kept an eye open for emails from TWL and checked out their website from time to time to see what other events they were planning that I might be able to attend. One thing I was keen to do at that time was to arrange a trip to Scotland with my dad to visit a few distilleries… it was something we’d discussed doing together, and so when I read of TWL’s ‘Backstage Speyside’ trip my interest was piqued! After a quick phone call to the old chap to run the details past him, we were booking our places.
Fast forward a few months, with the trip looming, I was a little concerned that the final itinerary for the trip had yet to be communicated… I dropped Joe from TWL an email and received a reassuring response “Don’t panic, it’s coming together and you’re in good hands… trust us!” – they were right :-)
I remember meeting Eddie (TWE founder and whisky evangelist!) for the first time in Aviemore on the first Friday of the trip… he rocked up in a hired minibus crammed with food, drink & other supplies for the week. After quick intros, we were on the road to our accommodation in Grantown on Spey. The journey gave us the opportunity to chat and get to know each other… it didn’t take too long to figure out that Eddie had a dry sense of humour and an huge passion for whisky. Dad quite likes no-nonsense, down to earth people, I get the impression Eddie likes the same, so it’s not much of a surprise that they seemed to hit it off from the outset. There was one thing in particular that Eddie did for my Dad for which he was really grateful (and quite touched by!). After our first night around ‘the mighty dramming table’, Dad had been telling Eddie that as much as he liked whisky, he’d be more likely to go for a brandy or cognac of an evening than a dram. The next morning, Eddie had contacted Joe & Connas who were travelling up later that day, asking them to gather up whatever brandies they had knocking about their office… so when Eddie subsequently presented Dad with collection of brandies, cognacs and an Armagnac or two thrown in for good measure, he was well chuffed! What a nice gesture that was though, it shows what a good chap Eddie is. He did his very best to make sure everyone was taken care of and not left wanting on the trip. One thing he did ask of people was that we chipped in to help out with preparation and clearing up at meal times… not much of an ask when you consider there were between 8-10 of us in the house at any one time, and it was a self catering affair, not a hotel! Let’s just say that some of us were more helpful than others, and Eddie was grateful for that.
Whilst I’m singing Eddies praises, I should also say that he’s not the only member of TWL’s crew with whom we build up good relationships. Back in 2016, Joe was still a member of the team and he really impressed me with his knowledge of all things whisky… he’s like a walking encyclopedia of malty knowledge! He’s not big headed about it though, he quite simply likes to talk about whisky and will happily educate without being patronizing. He’s no longer with TWL, having become involved with the Yorkshire Distillery, but I understand he maintains a relationship with TWL. I can’t forget to mention Connas… what a character, he’s a funny f*cker! Get him to quiz you about the brothel on top of the hill :-D. Quick witted, amiable and (unsurprisingly) passionate about spreading the whisky word, he’s a good lad you can’t help but get along with.
Having met Eddie, Joe & Connas on the Speyside trip, and subsequently Eddie and Connas and both the Birmingham Whisky Festival in 2016 and the Bristol Whisky Festival in 2017, it’s always good to catch up with them. With Eddie especially it feels like we’re catching up with an old mate. As well as future Whisky Festivals, I really hope to join them on their Islay tour one year. Not so sure my dad will attend that one though, despite the beauty of Islay, the history of the distilleries and the great company we’d enjoy, he’s really not a lover of peat!
The Whisky Lounge website states “Whisky is our mission”, and “We are here to turn you onto whisky” to do this, they enthuse and educate with a passion, warmth and vigour that is infectious. Whether you are new to whisky and want to learn, or you’re a ‘whisky anorak’ who can explain the whisky making process in detail and describe from memory tasting notes of a specific independently bottled cask, The Whisky Lounge provides something for everyone.
So, on the date of their 10th anniversary in 2018, I’ll be raising a dram or two in their honour and toasting their good health. Thanks for everything Eddie & The Whisky Lounge!