Archive for the ‘whisky events’ Category

Got this info from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. You do NOT have to be a member to sign up.

Wish I could go…

SMWSA Tasting Invite

Join us as we sample 5 rare and unique Society offerings as well as expressions from the Dalmore & Isle of Jura Distilleries.

Dinner will be served to complement your evening’s enjoyment.

DATE: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
TIME: 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Registration begins at 6:30pm.

The Arizona Biltmore
2400 East Missouri Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85016

TICKET PRICE: $95.00 per person
Business Casual. Jackets Preferred. No denim or athletic attire.

To purchase tickets call 800.990.1991

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The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza is a traveling event put on by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA). Apparently this is the 18th year of the Extravaganza, and the first year that it has come to Phoenix, AZ. I’ve never been to other, bigger whisky shows, but from what I can tell, this is a similar format for the main event (a bunch of booths where you can try whisky and talk to industry representatives), minus the additional “master classes” that are offered at some of the other shows.

The event appears to be run mainly by the Shayne family. Alan Shayne is the president of the SMWSA, and his daughter, Gabrielle, is the one who has provided marketing information to me and other bloggers on the event. Both were also active participants during the Extravaganza itself. There is a pre-show whisky panel session from 6pm to 7pm, then the main show from 7pm to 9pm.

The SMSW Extravaganza costs $120 for SMWSA members, and [theoretically] $135 for non-members. However, it’s easy to get a discount code for the member price. Gabrielle Shayne has worked with a bunch of whisky-related sites and blogs to get word out on the event and make discount codes available. There is a Scotch Hobbyist code of “SH2011” that can be used for this purpose. From one of my emails, it looks like I could have gotten a free ride for blogging about the event, but I actually paid the $120 and went as a non-press attendee. I met up with a friend, Adam, from a local Single Malt Whisky Society (not affiliated with SMWSA), and hung with him during the event.

Whisky Panel

Prior to the main “extravaganza” there was an hour long Whisky Panel session available on a first come first served basis. I got there just before this session started, and entered the room to find what felt like around 25 people in the audience, along with 8 or so Whisky Panel members. The panel was made up of industry representatives, including well known ambassadors such as Simon Brooking (Laphroaig), Mitch Bechard (Glenfiddich), Ricky Crawford (The Glenlivet), and David Blackmore (Glenmorangie). I think a few additional audience members joined in, but not sure of the total count. It wasn’t a huge group, anyway.

We each got a nosing glass, pre-filled with some Laphroaig 10 year. Apparently the Panel members take turns supplying the dram served during the session, and it was Simon Brooking’s (U.S. Ambassador for Laphroaig) turn. We also received note cards, upon which we could write down a couple of questions that we would like to have answered by the panel. The questions are chosen and read by Alan Shayne, and this Q&A process makes up the full focus of the session.

One of my two questions was read and answered. I asked why there are differences in ABV between some of the UK and USA bottlings. Specifically, we get an extra 3% ABV (43 vs 40) in a number of popular standard bottlings. It would appear that it really just comes down to money, and especially the fact that the standard expressions have been reduced to being something of a commodity item in the UK big box stores. They’re getting next to no margin on these bottles, so they’ve dropped the ABV.

My other question was not asked…I was wondering which is better, Ninjas or Pirates. Apparently Mr. Shayne didn’t feel this was the appropriate forum to have such a question answered. And so, I await a chance to ask somebody more in the know.

Main Event

The Whisky Panel Q&A session ended a few minutes before the 7pm official start time for the main show. They led all of us panel attendees in through the back entrance of the main event ballroom with the ambassadors, giving us first dibs at the whisky booths and the excellent buffet. There were booths lining the sides of the room, with food at one end, and large tables in the middle for dining and chatting. There were typically one or two distilleries represented per booth. There was a single booth for the Diageo Classic Malt distilleries, and SMWSA had two booths…one with five of their private bottlings, and another booth representing their “public” face (Spirit Imports), where they had a couple of Classic Cask expressions, some Douglass Laing, and Big Peat.

The booths were staffed by a combination of the ambassadors, other distillery representatives, and models. Alan Shayne spent a fair amount of time at the SMWSA booths, and his lovely (and knowledgeable) daughter Gabrielle was the primary host for the SMWSA private bottlings. There was also a booth where you could pick up a couple of cigars (Warlock and VegaFina) and register for a raffle at the end, where you could win one of a number of bottles of whisky or a full box of cigars. Finally, there was a booth dedicated to SMWSA membership information.

Glenfiddich Booth (featuring Snow Phoenix)

I have mixed feelings on the models at the booths. I mean, they looked great, but I also want to ask questions about the expressions and the distillery. I guess my vote is for a combination Ambassador/Model approach (or find more all-in-one hosts like Gabrielle). Win/win :-). It was also amusing to see the interaction of some of the attendees with the model hosts. I waited for the ridiculously good looking woman at the Aberlour booth to pour me a sample of the 18 year while some guy chatted her up. Nice try, but I don’t think so.

All in all, I was very satisfied with the layout and flow of the event. I got to try quite a few better-than-average expressions (detailed below), eat some great food, and enjoy some entertaining conversation. Towards the end of the show, they made an announcement that the “Super Pour” period had begun. Some of the booths pulled out special expressions that had been held back prior to that point.

Coolest Booth: Laphroaig/Ardmore – They had raw barley that you could chew on to get a feel for the taste, and blocks of peat representing both the Laphroaig and Ardmore styles of peat. They would light up the peat so you could take in the aroma, noting the differences between peat types, and better understanding how this fuel type influences the flavor of the heated barley, and ultimately, the distilled spirit.

Picking nits? A few of the booths offered underwhelming expression selection. Highland Park only had the 15 and 18 year. I sure would have liked to see a bottle of 25 or 30 year brought out for the Super Pour period. Some might have also been disappointed at not having the Glenfiddich 30 year make an appearance, but I get the focus on Snow Phoenix right now. Maybe next time. Also, if I had a ride, or was staying at the hotel, another 30 minutes to sample a few more expressions would be welcomed.

Whiskies I tried

  • Aberlour 18 – Perfectly nice, I tasted this towards the end of the evening. Hard to say if it’s worth the premium over the excellent 16 year. Didn’t seem like it tonight.
  • Ardmore Traditional Cask – I’ve had Ardmore in Compass Box blends, but never as a single malt. It’s actually better than I thought it would be. Not a huge peat, but some pretty nice spices. It has a notable pine taste that you could also smell in the peat at the booth.
  • Balvenie 17 Year Peated – This was very good. The barley isn’t actually peated. They start with regular Balvenie whisky casks, and then do a finish using barrels that previously contained peated whisky (peated Balvenie whisky in fact). The peat cask influence is fairly subtle, but makes for a very balanced whisky. Not sure about paying $120 for it, though.
  • The Classic Cask – Rare Scotch Whisky 35 Year Blend – This was the first and last whisky I sampled on the evening, and my favorite overall. If I recall the information on this expression correctly, it’s comprised of 30 or so single malts, matured for 25 years in varying cask types. They’re then vatted together with about 15% grain whisky (making it officially a “blend”) and matured another 10 years in first-fill sherry casks. A total of 600 bottles were produced. More notes on this one at the end of the blog post…
  • The Dalmore 18 Year – A solid dram, very much of the Dalmore profile. The subtleties of this one were somewhat lost on me, though, having tried it later in the evening.
  • Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix – Another solid dram. You’ve probably read about this one, produced from casks of various types ranging from 13 to 30 years old, plucked out of warehouses where the roof had collapsed in last year’s winter storms. I’ve not been a huge Glenfiddich fan (relative to some other Speyside distilleries), but I did enjoy this quite a bit. It’s another one that probably calls for a more controlled environment and a dedicated glass. Worth another try in the future.
  • Glenmorangie Finealta – This was my second sample on the evening, and I was very impressed with it. Peated to a mere 8-10 ppm (according to David Blackmore), you’re certainly not going to confuse it for an Ardbeg. However, I really liked the peat that showed up…very earthy like a Talisker or Bowmore, and a nice compliment to the vanilla and citrus notes more typical of a Glenmorangie whisky.
  • Glenrothes 1985 – Here we go…a sherry cask matured Glenrothes. I’ve been wanting to try one of these. It was a very enjoyable whisky, but not as bold as the Classic Cask 35 or Yamazaki 18. I’d like to try this one on its own sometime. It seemed like a very “clean” sherry presentation, with no sulfur to speak of.
  • Glen Spey 21 Year – A limited release for 2010, this Super Pour demanded a stop at the Diageo Classic Malts booth. Great dried fruits and wood spices on the nose, and the mouth was fantastic at the bottled 50-ish percent. No water necessary. A real treat!
  • Isle of Jura 16 – Another perfectly enjoyable whisky, but sorry, I just couldn’t get much out of it late in the evening after so many other whiskies. Another one to try on its own.
  • Laphroaig 25 – This was the Laphroaig super pour. I was really excited to be able to taste this. Now I’m especially glad I did, as it confirmed my preference for the less expensive 30 year old. The 25 year was great, don’t get me wrong. And it’s certainly bigger on the palate (at 51% ABV) than the 30 year. I just don’t find the sherry flavors to be as developed here. Interestingly enough, Simon Brooking stated that the 30 year only contains 20% sherry casks vs. 40% sherry casks in this 25 year expression!? I find this really hard to believe, but he said those extra 5 years in the sherry casks really drew out the flavors in the 30 year.
  • Scappa 16 – A pleasant surprise, this is very sweet, but also super clean and quite enjoyable. What a great warm weather whisky this would be! There’s probably a bottle in my future.
  • SMWSA – “Deep and Dynamic” Cask No. 41.46 (Dailuaine 7 year) – A young Speyside whisky from a distillery I hadn’t even heard of. I don’t recall specific flavors, but it was big, fruity and sweet. Big, and a little “hot” on the palate, yet not rough or even particularly immature. Pretty impressive for a 7 year.
  • SMWSA – “Master and Commander” Cask No. 93.39 (Glen Scotia 10 year) – Mmm…a sherry cask Campbeltown whisky. I’m pretty sure I like this better than the 10 or 15 year Springbanks.
  • SMWSA – “What a Magnificent and Handsome Nose” Cask No. 29.88 (Laphroaig 9 year) – Laphroaig spirit matured 9 years in a refill sherry butt. What’s not to like?!
  • Suntory Hibiki 12 – Wow, is this sweet and fruity! You really do get a sense that this was partly matured in plum liqueur casks. It’s not sickly sweet or syrupy, though. Very nice balance, and an impressive blend. I asked why it was so slow to work its way across the U.S., and it sounds like it’s just the economic reality of trying to get the masses to purchase a $65 12 year blend. Ok…so sell it to us cheaper! 🙂
  • Suntory Yamazaki 18 – As impressed as I was with the Hibiki 12, I followed it up with a sample of Yamazaki 18 for a little perspective. Boy does this one leap out of the glass and dance on your taste buds. Big, deep sherry and wood spices. Very much worth a premium over the Hibiki 12.

Glen Spey 21

Whiskies I wish I had tried

  • Auchentoshan 18 Year
  • Douglass Laing Double Barrel 10
    • Highland Park and Bowmore (this sounds very interesting!)
  • Glen Grant 16
  • Glenfiddich 21 – I’ve been wanting to try this for ages, and keep missing the local Glenfiddich tastings. In this case, Ambassador Mitch was out mingling with the 21 year in hand when I went to the Glenfiddich booth. I tried the Snow Phoenix instead, and never made it back to try the 21. Doh!
  • Isle of Jura Prophecy – I really would have liked to compare this directly to the Superstition…just ran out of time.
  • Loch Chaim – Isle of Arran 1996 13 Year
  • SMWSA – “Innocence and Depth” Cask #25.55 (19 year Rosebank)
  • SMWSA – “Gradual Seduction” Cask #125.88 (16 year Glenmorangie)

Awesome whiskies I could have tried

These are all great and/or unique whiskies worth trying, but I either already own a bottle of them, or have tried them on multiple occasions, so I focused elsewhere.

  • Ardbeg Corryvreckan
  • Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask
  • Balvenie 21 PortWood
  • Big Peat
  • The Glenlivet 21
  • The Glenlivet XV
  • Glenmorangie 18
  • Glenmorangie Signet
  • Laphroaig 18


After the raffle and “last call” from the whisky booths, I stopped back by the Spirit Imports booth and was given a pretty generous sample of the Classic Cask Rare Scotch Whisky 35 Year Old. I found my way to a comfy couch in the stylish Biltmore Hotel lobby and nursed it for 30 minutes while enjoying some conversation with Adam.

The Classic Cask 35 year has a huge nose of red fruits, and raisins, along with bourbon-like sweets and wood notes. It had ample body in the mouth (though not huge), and then a finish that lasted forever. Bottled at 43%, it didn’t feel weak at all (not that I’d complain if there were 3-5 additional ABV%). What really struck me about this whisky is that it had the same distinct, fantastic taste at the end of the night that it did at the beginning. Where other expressions seemed to start running together, this one held its own. It’s pretty expensive…$250 to $300 a bottle. Upon first tasting it, Adam and I both thought it was excellent, but kind of pricey for a “blend.” By the end of the night we agreed to go in on a bottle and split the cost. I can’t wait to try it again in my home to see if it’s all I thought it was.

Bottom line – I hope we (Phoenix) showed well enough to become a regular stop on the SMSW Extravaganza tour. Gabby Shayne said we had around 200 people, which is actually quite good for a first time venue. I will definitely sign up for the 19th Annual Extravaganza if it comes here. Kudos to the Shayne’s for putting on a great event! Now…what to do with these cigars. Don’t tell my wife, but I just might try one.

The Classic Cask 35 Year

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Ahh…back in the WordPress blog editor after a little over a month. My day job has been more of a day and night job since the start of the year. Fortunately, we’re in the process of wrapping up the project that has kept me so busy. I needed something to jump-start me back into writing about whisky, and the Single Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) has provided just the jolt I needed…

(Click banner for link to official site)

I posted a couple of times last year about the Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza, and heard good things about it, but wasn’t able to get away to Los Angeles to check one out. I received a notice of the 2011 Spring schedule, however, and my very own Phoenix, AZ is now included as one of the tour stops! They’re coming to The Arizona Biltmore on Thursday March 24. Finally, a real live major whisky event in our sprawling desert metropolis! Dallas, TX is also a new venue this year.

Here’s the official blurb describing the event:

Ladies and Gentlemen are cordially invited to enjoy a connoisseur’s evening featuring over 120 rare & exceptional single malt and Scotch whiskies. The evening includes a delicious dinner buffet as well as a selection of premium imported cigars for our guests’ later enjoyment. The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza brings the discerning enthusiast the opportunity to sample the participating whiskies in a sophisticated and elegant environment with genuine camaraderie and knowledgeable representatives from each participating distillery.

All events from 7:00pm-9:30pm. Registration begins at 7:00pm. Business casual, Jackets preferred. Jackets are required at the Chicago & Philadelphia events. No denim or athletic attire may be worn to the events.

The standard ticket price is $135 for non-members and $120 for members, but you can use the promo code “SH2011” to get the member price. Tickets are available for purchase here: https://www.amerisurf.com/singlemaltextravaganza/form_tickets.html.

I hope we can get a decent crowd to attend here in AZ, so that we can continue to attract this, and possibly other significant whisk(e)y events. If we can just find enough people here in the desert who actually own business casual attire. 🙂

There are six other venues in the spring tour as well, so take a look below and see if an extravaganza is coming your way (Note: I blacked out one of the venues, as they’re not allowed to advertise for it. Apparently there are a bunch of psychic whisky drinkers there who will just know to show up):

Spring 2011 Extravaganza Schedule

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Hey, this is pretty cool. Anthony Wills from Kilchoman [kill-HOE-man] will be visiting the U.S. in November, and doing bottle signings. The Kilchoman Summer 2010 release will be the first Kilchoman bottling officially imported to the U.S. (by ImpEx beverages). ImpEx just sent out information about Mr. Wills’ visit and I’ve included his schedule below. You can see my thoughts (and links to other reviews) on previous Kilchoman releases here.

Special bottlings

The Whisky Shop in San Francisco, and Binny’s in Chicago have each selected a single cask from the Summer 2010 release, and will have these available bottled at cask strength! If you live in San Francisco or Chicago…get your butts over to these stores and get your signed single-barrel bottling. The Whisky Shop signing event will be on November 6th. Binny’s, November 8th.

Anthony Wills U.S. visit schedule

Nov 6: The Whisky Shop 360 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA  415-989-1030
Bottle Signing
Nov 7: Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel, 170 Railroad Street, Santa Rosa, CA
Sponsored by:  Traverso’s  707-542-2530
5:00 to 7:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 8: Binny’s  1720 N. Marcey Street, Chicago, IL 60614  312-664-4394
6:30 to 8:00 Bottle Signing
Nov 10: Gary’s Beer & Liquor 9555 S. Howell Ave, Oak Creek, WI  414-762-3010
10:45 to 11:00 Bottle Signing
Nov 10: County Clare Irish Inn & Pub  1234 N. Astor, Milwaukee, WI  414-272-5220
12:30 to 2:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 10: Waterford Wine C0mpany  1327 E. Brady Street, Milwaukee, WI  414-289-9463
3:00 to 5:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 10: Union House S42 W31320 Hwy 83, Genesse Depot, WI  262-968-4281
6:30 to 8:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting

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Doh! I got this press release that Richard Paterson is going to be hanging out and signing books near Newport beach this coming Tuesday, a mere 6 hour drive from Phoenix, AZ. Unfortunately, I’ve got prior commitments and won’t be able to go. If you’re in Southern California, you should stop by and meet the famous Master Blender:


COSTA MESA, CA – Award-winning master blender, Richard Paterson, will visit Hi-Time Wine Cellars at 250 Ogle Street in Costa Mesa from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 12th for a Grand Single Malt Scotch Bottle and Book Signing.

Richard is one of the most respected blenders in the Scotch world who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary with Whyte and Mackay. He constantly challenges palates the world over with his unique blending style, award-winning whiskys, and of course, stories of his travel. Richard’s passion for Scotch stretches back three generations to his grandfather William Paterson, who changed his career from being a coal merchant to a Glasgow whisky broker. His father continued as a broker and Richard followed – and chose the path that he was most curious about – creating whisky.
Richard is the author of Goodness Nose and can be found online at:



EVENT: Grand Single Malt Scotch Bottle and Book

Signing with Master Blender, Richard Paterson
DATE: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TIME: 5:00 – 7:00 pm

LOCATION: Hi-Time Wine Cellars

250 Ogle Street

Costa Mesa, CA 92627

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Updated 9/7/2010 with the Fall schedule. See below…

The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza (SMSWE?) is co-sponsored by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) and Robb Report. If you plan to attend, make sure you get the discounted ticket rate. There are a bunch of whisky bloggers and web sites posting details of the event, and offering discount codes to get the SMWSA member rate of $120, rather than the full non-member price of $135.

The SMWSA provided me with a discount code to share as well: SH2010. Just go to the Tickets page on the event web site and put SH2010 in the promo code field.


The Whisky Extravaganza will be coming to 13 major cities in the United States (unfortunately, Phoenix, AZ isn’t one of them): Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Denver, New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Here is the official invite information provided to me by a SMWSA representative:

Ladies and Gentlemen are cordially invited to enjoy a connoisseur’s evening featuring over 100 rare & exceptional single malt and Scotch whiskies. The evening includes a delicious dinner buffet as well as a selection of premium imported cigars for our guests’ later enjoyment. The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza brings the discerning enthusiast the opportunity to sample the participating whiskies in a sophisticated and elegant environment with genuine camaraderie and knowledgeable representatives from each participating distillery.

From the event web site, here’s the official “what’s included” (for the $120/$135 entry fee) list:

  • Taste over 100 single malt & Scotch whiskies
  • Savor a sumptuous buffet dinner
  • Premium imported cigars for your later enjoyment
  • Robb Report magazines for attendees
  • A souvenir tasting glass
  • Raffle prizes

My own additional note: If you plan to taste the 100+ whiskies on hand, make sure you get a ride. In fact, think about being proactive and taking an Bambulance ambulance to the event:

Tour Schedule:

The full tour schedule can be found here: http://www.singlemaltextravaganza.com/schedule.html

UPDATE: The fall schedule is now available. The LA event is looking tempting for this AZ resident:

OCTOBER 7, 2010
The Union League Club of Chicago
65 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604
Jackets Required (No denim or athletic wear)
OCTOBER 21, 2010
The Taj Boston
15 Arlington Street
Boston, MA 02116
OCTOBER 27, 2010
JW Marriott Hotel
1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
OCTOBER 29, 2010
The Union League Club of Philadelphia
140 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Jackets Required (No denim or athletic wear)
NOVEMBER 16, 2010
Intercontinental San Francisco
888 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
LOS ANGELES THURSDAY NOVEMBER 18, 2010 Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
1700 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
DECEMBER 2, 2010
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
1 Seminole Way
Hollywood, FL 33314

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I got a press release from Diageo about a special Father’s Day deal. I’m attaching the full release below, but here’s the short version: Buy a bottle of Singleton 12, Talisker 10 or Dalwhinnie 15 and get two tickets to a “whisky master class,” which sounds like a really fun and educational whisky tasting. Note that the classes are only available in the following UK locations: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Cambridge, Norwich, Oxford, Cardiff, Bristol, South London, North London, Chichester, Exeter

If anybody goes to one of these, I’d love to hear what you think of Diageo’s master class. Here’s the press release:

With Father’s Day rapidly approaching, the hunt begins for the ideal gift for the deserving Dad. The Ultimate Single Malt Whisky Experience could just be what you’re looking for.

This year help is at hand, for the first time, The Classic Malts Selection is offering the perfect solution. Buy a bottle of either THE SINGLETON® OF DUFFTOWN 12 year old single malt scotch whisky, TALISKER® 10 year old single malt scotch whisky or DALWHINNIE® 15 year old single malt scotch whisky, and receive two complimentary V.I.P invitations to a whisky master class. The Classic Malts team of whisky ambassadors will be hosting masterclasses in 17 major cities nationwide.
Research shows that over a third of alcohol gifts bought for Father’s Day[1] are single malt whiskies. So why not take it a step further this year, at no extra cost, present your dad with two tickets to a malt masterclass where he will try four different Scotch malt whiskies in the company of an experienced ambassador, who knows, he might just invite you to go with him!

The complimentary whisky master class, hosted by a single malt whisky ambassador, will guide you through the world of single malt whisky using THE SINGLE MALT WHISKY FLAVOUR MAP™. With so many ages, regions and distilleries out there, there’s a diverse and exciting world of flavour for your father to explore. With the aid of the Single Malt Whisky Flavour Map, which has been created by experts, you/he can pin-point each flavour and identify what type of whisky suits your taste.

Your whisky ambassador will provide a selection of four Single Malt Scotch Whiskies for you to experience and savour, after the tasting they will leave you with your very own flavour map and some serving suggestions to inspire your newly acquired whisky knowledge.

For the perfect original gift this Father’s Day, choose either the ‘Perfectly balanced, naturally rich and smooth’ The SingletonÒ of Dufftown 12 year old, the ‘characterful and smoky’ TaliskerÒ 10 year old, or the ‘mellow, soft and fruity’ Dalwhinnie®  15 year old, available at all major retailers. Don’t forget you’ll also receive two invitations to this exclusive whisky master class.

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