2020 Summary and Whisky of the Year

As 2020 draws to a close, I thought I’d record a summary of the year as well as plans for 2021. and, a first for me, my whisky of the year!

Whilst this year hasn’t been fantastic, it has allowed me yo make new friends, and in some ways, recharge. I’m aiming to carry renewed vigour and hope into 2021, not just for the blog but other areas as well.

If we don’t speak beforehand, I hope that you and yours have a fantastic and prosperous new year and I’ll certainly be going into the early hours with a dram in hand!

Andy

Four More Tiers.

This is why I didn’t start a written blog previously.

What you lot can’t see is that I’ve been sat here for 1 hour and 13 minutes watching the cursor flash on and off like the seemingly not-so-weatherproof outdoor LED Xmas lights on next door’s garage.

This blog is here not to replace my YouTube channel, but to work alongside it. If it was up to me, which come to think of it it is, I’d be sat there for hours at a time on the videos because for me, as with many others in the ever expanding whisky scene, whisky isn’t just a liquid, it’s a seemingly endless conversation. Cliche one out of the way but such is life. I also realise this will now likely be the 53,462nd whisky blog in existence at the moment. I want to try and do on here what I don’t or can’t on my channel, like music pairings (except you jazz), opinion pieces and food pairings. Also it will give me the opportunity to think about what I say a little bit more before it comes out of my mouth which isn’t something I tend to do in-front of the camera.

Right then, there are four numbers that will strike fear in to the heart of anyone that reads them; 2 0 2 0. Fear not, I’m not going to sit here and furiously type away as to how bad it has been through various prose and mediums. Unless you’ve been living in the sewers with four pizza eating, martial art practicing reptiles and a suspiciously well dressed rat, we all know that. What I didn’t know until now is how much whisky influences my life on a day to day basis.

I don’t work in the whisky or drinks industry. I work in an industry in which numbers, and the ability to assess risk are king. Like any job, it can be stressful and it can also be rewarding. Either way, whisky is a solid way to temporarily escape. I set up my first blog back in 2011 as the not particularly catchy ‘Affordable Whisky Reviews Blog’, the fact that’s almost a decade ago is frankly terrifying. This targeted bottles under £50 because at the time that’s what my budget allowed. Malt Box came into being as a YouTube channel in 2015 before I took a two year break in the middle because, to be honest, I fell out of love with whisky for a while. There, I said it. My job at the time was becoming increasingly stressful and I was drinking it for drinking’s sake, and woke up with a sore head on several school days. I still don’t think we talk enough about that in whisky. I tried to scrutinize, to taste, to envelop myself into the experience but ultimately it was just something I had a sizable amount of in the house, a commodity of convenience. I restarted the vlog in 2018 alongside a much more sensible approach to week-day consumption.

What I’ve found over the last nine months has solidified that calling to return. This year has made it abundantly clear as to how truly important whisky is to me. When I say whisky, I’m not just talking about the rows of glass bottles with their varying hues glistening under the spotlights in my basement like a disturbing urine sample cache in the lab of an NHS teaching hospital.

I’m also talking about people. People can be absolutely fantastic. Saying that they can also be absolutely not. I think I’ve seen plenty from both camps this year with many examples of civil and agreeable debate, down to outright name calling and the social media equivalent of pulling someone’s hair at break time when teacher isn’t looking.

I’m generally something of an extrovert. My wonderful wife isn’t which in a way is why I think we work so well together. To retain some form of extroverty sanity however (and you’ll discover the irony in that statement after the close bracket) I’ve become a serial Twitterist. I may not post too often but thanks to the various Social Media companies’ and their penchant for abusing human habits such as muscle memory, I find myself checking my Twitter feed on an alarming basis. On the plus side what that has led to is me taking in more content from fellow bloggers and distilleries than I ever have before.

One way that I’ve managed to do this is by being a fully fledged member of the Whisky Circus, if you know you know. If you don’t then congratulations, you’re probably not in danger of being sectioned any time soon. Sorren Krebs, ringmaster, fellow blogger and plough pulling deviant, has single-handedly organised what is probably some of the best content in the whiskyverse right now. Organised Zoom calls with distillers, reps, writers, historians and regular tavern nights mean that I’ve met and interacted with more people than I thought possible. There’s been exclusive bottles to boot. Would this have happened if it wasn’t for the current pandemic? Doubtful, but entirely possible and a testament to every cloud having a silver lining. I live in North West England, I know a bit about clouds.

There are so many out there putting out some fantastic content. Others I once respected and read/watched, not so much.

As I write this, I’m drinking a whisky from a distillery that’s close to my heart, the Arran 10yr Old. Those that know me may know why, but whilst I’ve reviewed the previous iteration on the channel, I’ve not given the newer bottling released in 2019 any air-time so far. This bottling carries a higher proportion of sherry casks than the previous release so the distillery did really change this from the ground up along with the branding. Which by the way I feel is one of the more successful re-brands of the last few years.

Arran 10yr Single Malt Scotch Whisky – 46% – NCF – Natural Colour

Image Courtesy of Oddbins

On the nose there’s lots of honey, black pepper, a touch of tropical fruit but where the previous iteration was like licking the Caribbean, this is a fleeting sniff of an under ripe mango at the greengrocer. Possibly some pistachio gelato in there too but is that a step to far? Do I care if it is? Probably not.

On the palate the mouthfeel is lovely, and you’re greeted with an initial warmth. There’s more of that honey up front but we’re talking solid honey. Then cinder toffee and good quality milk chocolate. A bit like if Waitrose did an own brand Crunchie, we don’t really get Waitrose around here.. maybe that comes as part of the Northern Powerhouse package eventually?

Heading in to the finish the sweetness continues but there’s a touch of warmth from that black pepper coming through from the nose and a delicious salinity too.

Overall this is a lovely dram and well worth the circa £38 RRP. Sure, it’s not the same as the older bottling that I also enjoyed, but it’s a great whisky in it’s own right and we can’t get too stuck in the past. If the current situation has taught us anything its to enjoy what we can now and to look ahead.

Score: Very Good

Fancy some tunes? My Malt Music for this dram comes from New Jersey based quintet Real Estate. The song; Paper Cup, comes from their latest album and brings those soft and flightly guitars alongside a bit of a surf rock vibe that they’ve become synonymous with:

Thanks to all of you who have weathered the storm to this part of the seemingly endless novel. Whilst articles may not always be particularly regular, they will come.

Andy.

Scoring Scale:

Holy Grail – Indiana Jones himself can only hope to find such a treasure.
Unbelievable – Among the best I’ve ever had. Must be tried at all costs.
Outstanding – One you should try to get hold of. Qualities in abundance.
Very Good – One to have on the shelf regularly. Provides consistent enjoyment.
Good
– I’d happily drink this. One to buy at the right price.
Solid
– No particular flaws but no wow factor either.
Fine
– There to take the edge off. Good for highballs and won’t need much thought.
Meh
– Somewhat flawed. More of a chore than a pleasure.
Oh Dear
– Consistent flaws. Gets you where you’re going at the speed you want to get there.
Please Make it Stop
– Not one to seek out. Hope for a gift receipt.