For the return to Cardiff, SWWIG teamed up with the Brewdog, Cardiff’s latest home for craft beer which opened this summer. To tie in with Brewdog’s philosophy on craft beer, as well as the recent vote in Scotland, we decided to run an ‘Independent Bottlers’ tasting evening. Read on to see how it went…
Finding the venue
Still ones to indulge in unique beverages of all kinds, Matt and I visited Brewdog a few weeks after it had opened. Sat around the bar, while enjoying one of their many beers, we both agreed it would be a perfect place to hold a tasting – but unfortunately there just wasn’t anywhere that we could see that would work, without having to calve up the space somehow. Then, after visiting the facilities we spotted a perfect little spot downstairs, with room for a dozen or so people.
A quick chat with the guys behind the bar pointed us to (another) Matt, who told us that the space was created with the intention of having events like tastings there. Very quickly we both realised that the space would be perfect parties; SWWIG to find a space in Cardiff and Brewdog to offer their first whisky tasting.
So after agreeing the date, creating the format, the posters, the advert etc and most importantly selling the tickets – which actually sold out within just one week of going on sale – we were ready for the event. This was the largest SWWIG event so far with the space filled to capacity with 16 attendees, we had quite a lot of seats to prepare. But by the end it looked fantastic and we were ready for the guests!
So as I mentioned, we decided Independent Bottlers was the theme for the evening, complimenting both the venue and the recent Scottish Independence vote. The tag line for the evening was ‘The Scots may have said no to Independence, but we say yes to Independent Scotch!’
The theming provided a great opportunity to show of some whiskies most of the attendees had never heard or, but also provided a bit of creative license for me; each of the whiskies we sampled we voted on afterwards using Yes or No flags from the campaign. Although it was just a little bit of fun, the actual prop seemed to open up people to voicing their opinion – especially through their level of enthusiasm for the waving! It’s definitely something I’ll be looking at building into future events in some way.
So onto the whisky! The night’s selection was a real success, not just in the difference in whisky, but I’m also quite proud of how well the whiskies built up throughout the night. I remember trying the whiskies when they arrived and already knew we were onto a winner. The selection was as follows:
- Wemyss The Hive – 8 yr old. (Welcome dram)
- Gordon and McPhail Speymalt 2005
- Signatory Ben Nevis 22 year old
- Compass box The Spice Tree
- Douglas Laing’s Big Peat
- Berry Bros and Rudd Bunnahabhain 2006 Cask #80088
Highlights of the evening were the Wemyss and Speymalt before the break – but the real winners of the night were the two peaty expressions at the end – Who knew 90% of people a room would all love peated whiskies?! Big Peat got a lot of love, but the clear winner was the fantastic BB+R Bunnahabhain 2006. The first time I tried this whisky was late at the day in the festival and I asked the guys at Berry Brother’s and Rudd for something with a good measure of peat, and I remember it having a good hit then! But on the tasting night, trying after just 5 other whiskies before, the whisky has more of a full on knockout punch of peat than a mere hit! Cast strength and an undisclosed phenol level, this stuff is up there with Octomore than a standard Islay. Easily this is one of my new favourites and a fair bargain at just over £50 a bottle.
It’s fantastic to return to Cardiff and we couldn’t have done it without the help we received from Brewdog supplying the venue and promoting the event, so thanks to everyone there for helping us, it is greatly appreciated. Feedback for the night was all very positive with as usual a diverse range of whisky fans, from those learning about the first time, to those with a well stocked whisky shelf at home. It’s great that we’ve struck a balance where we can appeal to both groups and everyone in between. What’s most promising is we’re still finding all these people interested in whisky in South Wales! I knew they were out there!