5 Things TheWhiskyMafia Has Been Up To

Yes, once again it’s been a long while my whisky friends. I managed to skip all of autumn and the first chunk of winter with nary a post to satiate you, my rabid and devoted thewhiskymafia.com readers. In order to get you, and myself, back up to speed, I felt it would be wise to grant you a slew of mini-updates regarding my whereabouts as well as some general musings from the past several months.

1) New Job

The primary source of my attention being drawn elsewhere as of late has been the start of a new job at the prestigious Union Club of British Columbia in beautiful downtown Victoria. The historic, members-only club is home to the wonderful McGregor Bar & Lounge (far and away Victoria’s most well appointed whisky bar), where I’ve been spending some time bartending and dispensing wisps of whisky wisdom to anyone who will listen. I’ve even had occasion to co-host a dynamite Laphroaig tasting (featuring an official 27 year old bottling) with my old partner in whisky crime Adam Bradshaw for a room full of eager Union Club members and staff. Various other work duties have kept me a particularly busy bee, especially in the run up to the holiday season, but we appear to be over the hump now. 2019 promises to be a time to implement some exciting new whisky-centric plans at the Club, which has me looking forward with great anticipation.

2) Christmas Cake

You read that correctly, friends: Christmas cake. I’m personally not a fan of the stuff, but my wife and family are all ravenous fiends for it, so I set out to make a whisky-laden treat for them back in late September of 2018.

Borrowing a recipe from the BBC, I employed a bottle of Teacher’s Highland Cream to feed the cake every fortnight for the months leading up to Christmas. To say my family was delighted with the end product would be an understatement; they were all positively flabbergasted by the results. After several holiday drams I finally got up the courage to try a small piece myself, and while I appreciate that I was able to summon up a desert of good quality, I still can’t say I really dig it. To each their own I suppose…

3) Infinity Bottles

Yes indeed, I’ve been working on a pair of infinity bottles the last several months. I’m actually planning on writing a longer post on the subject as they mature and progress, so for now I’ll just say that they exist, and are coming along rather nicely. Stay tuned!

4) Covert Whisky Tastings

Not covert by design or by choice, but simply by necessity. The British Columbia government is notoriously iron-gripped and heavy handed when it comes to anything alcohol related, and a series of awful and tasteless raids and crackdowns targeting whisky bars and events almost exactly one year ago has forced a number of whisky clubs, groups and events to go underground, particularly as far as social media is concerned. I’ve attended a number of fantastic tastings in the last several months that I would love to share details, photos and generally wax poetic about, but due to fear of reprisal I’m forced to omit them from any postings.

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A fun tasting at [REDACTED]

Something is obviously terribly wrong when adults sharing and enjoying legally purchased alcoholic beverages are made to feel like scofflaws, but that is sadly the situation we find ourselves in at the moment here in our little corner of Canada. Perhaps things will change soon, but in the meantime I’ll have to enjoy these various group events in anonymity.

5) Whisky With Friends

So as not to end on a sour note, I will happily report that I’ve been enjoying a great deal of fantastic whiskies in the privacy of my own home, mostly in the company of close friends and family. One particularly memorable get-together happened in my living room during the hazy in-between days that exist between Christmas and New Year’s.

A variety of whiskies, snacks, and cleansing ales were enjoyed, all under the warming glow of Christmas lights, a beeswax candle, and an unending stream of Horst Luening YouTube videos. With my pal Adam and his good lady Kristen, our malt mate Tyler and Mrs. Whiskymafia all in attendance, it was an evening of malt merriment, thoughtful reflection, uproarious laughter, and unfiltered joy. Cheers to 2019, and cheers to more of these get-togethers, and more of The Whisky Mafia to come.

Victoria Whisky Festival 2018!

I wanted to leave myself a little breathing room between the events of last weekend’s Victoria Whisky Festival and any musings on the subject. This was my fourth year attending the annual festival (which is now in it’s thirteenth year), but my first attending strictly as a guest and private citizen. Prior to 2018, my attendance at the festival was in a professional capacity, my previous job at The Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants (a long time sponsor of the for-charity festival), had been the driving force that brought me there. The previous two years in particular were a great deal of hard work, running a Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting table in 2016, and an ambitious three day pop-up whisky shop in 2017. It was therefore with enormous anticipation that my wife and I awaited this year’s festivities, as we’d finally be set loose to experience all of the sights, sounds, smells and flavours that #VWF2018 would have to offer. Continue reading “Victoria Whisky Festival 2018!”

Ask The Experts! – Whisky Clubs

I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of a private whisky club. I am a proud Scotch Malt Whisky Society member, I’ve attended tastings hosted by the Companions Of The Quaich, and private events like the Ypenburg Whisky Festival, but have never claimed official membership amongst any particular intimate collective of whisky compatriots. My lack of extended, hands on experience with such clubs only intensifies my desire to learn more, and to perhaps fly my own flag as leader of a merry band of malt mates some day. Continue reading “Ask The Experts! – Whisky Clubs”

Return to Canada! SMWS & More!

Apologies for my extended absence, whisky friends, but I’ve been profoundly busy since my rather abrupt return to Canada last month. Between sorting out the business of housing, jobs, acquiring furniture and so forth it’s been a bit of an uphill battle to make room for whisky, let alone writing about whisky, but I did want to utilize this Thanksgiving long weekend (for myself and my fellow Canadian friends at least) for a brief reflection on some of my more recent exciting adventures. Continue reading “Return to Canada! SMWS & More!”

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Netherlands

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will always hold a special place in my heart. Those of you who know me well will already be aware that my most recent place of employment, The Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants in Victoria, British Columbia, was a retail partner shop for the SMWS in Canada, and for all intents and purposes I was the face of that partnership (along with the lovely faces of SMWS Canada founders Kelly and Rob Carpenter). With the help of my trusty sidekick, Mr. Adam Bradshaw (who has since taken up my old mantle of Whisky Specialist at The Strath), I organized and hosted monthly, and eventually twice-monthly tastings for around 50 eager SMWS members and guests. Naturally, when my wife and I spotted a chance to attend an SMWS Outturn here in the Netherlands (as the invited guests of SMWS Benelux Ambassador Hans Offringa no less) we jumped at the opportunity. Continue reading “Scotch Malt Whisky Society Netherlands”

Dram Good Netherlands – Scotch Whisky Samples!

As I concluded in my post documenting the happy experience I had while attending the Ypenburg Whisky Festival, one of the true joys of convening with other whisky people is the immediate sense of community the environment creates. One of the many connections I was able to make through this event was to a gentleman who has a small sideline in purveying 30ml sample bottles of the whiskies in his collection for a nominal fee (mostly to cover costs so he can then procure more whiskies). This is not at all uncommon practice in the whisky world, and national shipping laws permitting, many enthusiasts have taken to trading samples in order to spread the love and knowledge of whisky with friends and strangers alike (there’s even a /r/scotchswap subreddit for such transactions). Continue reading “Dram Good Netherlands – Scotch Whisky Samples!”

Dram Good Netherlands – Ypenburg Whisky Festival

I doubt many of you, either inside or outside of the Netherlands, are familiar with the Ypenburg Whisky Festival. The name doesn’t ring bells or generate press the way popular outings like Fèis Ìle, Limburg Whisky Fair, or the Victoria Whisky Festival do. While it may not be as large, glitzy or well funded as the aforementioned events, it’s almost certainly every bit as fun. Continue reading “Dram Good Netherlands – Ypenburg Whisky Festival”