Latest News

Whisky Squad – 2015 In Review

As 2015 comes galloping to close, it is time to reflect upon the year that was at Whisky Squad and preview another great year in 2016.


The Year in Numbers

In 2015 we ran 19 session, tasting a grand total of 115 whiskies. The growing diversity of the whisky world is reflected in the fact that the whiskies we sampled came from ten different countries, including drams from Switzerland and Slovakia! Of course, old faithful Scotland still dominates, with around 70% of our drams coming from whisky’s heartland. For a full run-down of the whiskies we tasted this year, head on over to our What We Tasted page.

The drams are one thing, but Whisky Squad would be nothing without the people who attend the tastings. This year has seen over 100 individuals joining us for at least one session, and while we don’t keep figures on how many sessions everyone has been to (thankfully!), we do know that we have had a healthy proportion of new people come along in 2015. Our continued success hinges as much upon these Whisky Squad newcomers as much as it does our regulars, so don’t forget to invite a mate in 2016.

Just some of the drams of 2015, as photographed by Whisky Squadders
Just some of the drams of 2015, as photographed by Whisky Squadders


Our Highlights

Each year, Whisky Squad throws up some great moments and some classic drams. Billy has been doing a spot of reminiscing – here are some of his 2015 highlights:

  1. The point at the Old vs New III session where an unnamed work colleague of mine turned to me and pleaded, ‘Please let this be the new whisky, so I can still get it!’. It wasn’t. The whisky in question was Talisker Distillers Edition – the 2003 vintage, which we had at Whisky Squad, was just named The Whisky Exchange’s 2015-16 Whisky of the Year…
  2. The whole of the Indoor Picnic Session – great food, great whisky and whiskey, and a top crew attending. An excellent session by Elise.
  3. The moment in the Island Hopping session when Whisky Squad veteran Dave(y) Haste turned to our table and said ‘This is definitely not Scapa’. It was Scapa. It was also very nice.
  4. Pouring the last dram for rye whiskey fan Elise at the “What? Really?!” session and asking her where it came from. It was a Dutch Rye whiskey, which fooled the entire room, including Elise, who now owns a couple of bottles.
  5. The moment during Rob Whitehead’s “Class of ’97” session where we realised that every whisky we were tasting that night was Clynelish – astonishingly, five whiskies into a session of six drams – only to discover that the sixth dram wasn’t from Clynelish!

As for the whiskies themselves? Each year throws up a great list of stonkers and, inevitably, one or two stinkers. This year’s stand-outs included aforementioned raft of 1997 Clynelish from Berry Brothers & Rudd and another from the folks at Wemyss, the brash Millstone 2004 Single Cask Rye, the award winning new sherry cask 12 year old from Benriach and a pair of old and new Talisker Distillers Editions. I won’t name names on the drams that entered the Whisky Squad Hall of Shame, but tasting them is all part of the fun and we enjoy reminiscing about the drams that aren’t so great as much as we do the best.

All the food and whisky at our Indoor Whisky Picnic
All the food and whisky at our Indoor Whisky Picnic


The Birthday Bash

Without doubt, the biggest moment of 2015 was the celebration of Whisky Squad’s fifth birthday in April, doing so in style with a big shindig at the Finborough Arms. A packed out room tucked in to pizza, delicious cake (thanks to Kirsty Chant and Su-Lin Ong) and toasted our ongoing success with plenty of beers and few choice drams specially chosen for the occasion. In attendance were Squadders old and new – some had attended the very first session back in 2010, others had recently joined the fun.

The night really typified what makes Whisky Squad so great; a room full of people sharing a passion for a spirit that truly brings them together. No pub in the world could match Whisky Squad for the diversity of the whiskies and the quality of the company (not to mention the prices of the drams!). I have been taking part in Whisky Squad for over four years now and I have lost count of the number of brilliant whiskies I have tasted that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to try. I also have Whisky Squad to thank for many brilliant memories and for the opportunities to meet such great people, many of whom I now genuinely call friends. I even have Whisky Squad to thank for the opportunity to meet and get to know my now wife! I don’t doubt that there are many others that share similar sentiments to mine and if that is you, then I hope you continue to join us for another five years and beyond.

Birthday cake!
Birthday cake!


A Look Ahead

Without giving too much away, here is a sneak peek at what you can expect from Whisky Squad in the first half of 2016:

  • A full line up of whisky tastings – in the mix are a selection of our annual favourites, tastings with a couple of our favourite London whisky retailers, the return of the hugely popular Punter’s Choice and something a little cheesy. We’ll also be running our first premium session with some iconic whiskies to taste.
  • We will be holding more social events at various establishments around the town.
  • An online London Whisky Calendar, so you’ll never miss out on any of this city’s whisky related events
  • A sexy new look for our monthly newsletter

Keep your eyes peeled for all this and more in 2016.

Over To You

So that’s what we thought of the year and now we’d love to hear what you thought. Did you have any stand out drams or highlight moments? Which was your favourite session of the year? Do you have any session ideas or suggestions on how we could improve Whisky Squad in 2016? Please get in touch with us by leaving us a comment below, sending a tweet to @whiskysquad or sending me an email at joel@whiskysquad.com.

All that is left for me to do is, on behalf of Jason, Billy, Elise and myself, wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope your festive season is full of tasty things and a at least a few good drams. Thanks for your ongoing support this year and we look forward to seeing you at Whisky Squad in 2016.

Slainte!

Joel

Recap: Whisky Squad #118 – A Dram for Movember

Tis the season…

December is but a short throw away and we’ve got a pair of sessions to end the year.

Whisky Squad #119 – 10×10

Ten whiskies, a mix of old and new – it’s time to kill some bottles and try some drams.

More details and bookings >

 

Whisky Squad #120 – Happy Seasonmas!

It’s that time again – Whisky Squad’s Christmas session. Bring a bottle to share with the gang and support Shelter.

More details and bookings >

 

Tickets go on sale on Wednesday 18 November at 11am.

We’ll have more sessions in the new year – stay tuned…

The Burning Month Of Mo!

The Burning Month of Mo. Need we say more?

Yes, probably. Here is the low down on our whisky tasting sessions in November:

Whisky Squad #117 – Burn It!

First up this month is an homage to Bonfire Night and our bemoustached gunpowder plotter Guy Fawkes with an exploration of the smoky, the firey and the rebellious.

Whisky Squad #118 – A Dram For Movember

From the sublime to the ridiculous to the just plain old patchy, it’s Movember again and at Whisky Squad we take the ‘stache, the mo, the whisky-strainer very seriously. So much so that we’ve organised a Moustache and Whisky pairing in support of WS regular Mitesh who is raising money for the charity.

Bookings open on Friday 23rd October at High Noon. Hope to see you in November!

It’s October. Whisky Squad Time.

It’s been a busy few months, and thanks to work, travel, illness and weddings (congrats to Joel and Kirsty!) there’s only one Whisky Squad in October. Don’t worry, though – it’s going to be excellent…

Whisky Squad #116 – Bang for your Buck II

Strangely, we’d not done a great-valued whisky session since Whisky Squad #44 – it’s long enough ago that Billy even wrote it up on his blog. In the past three years we’ve learned a lot about whisky and some fantastic new drams have been released, so it’s time to go back – Bang for your Buck II.

We’ve been seeking out the best-value whiskies and will present them at the session. Expect the unexpected and a line-up of very tasty drams.

Bookings open on Monday 28 September at 11am.

September – The Month Of Billy

billyabbottBilly Abbott, our very own walking whisky Wikipedia, brings us a delicious double header this September. He is presenting two of our favourite formats that are sure to be a hit. Partly because they feature old whisky and sherried drams…but mostly because they are presented by Billy.

Whisky Squad #114 – Old vs New 3: Something something with a vengeance

In this third Old vs New session, we’ll again have three pairs of drams on the tasting mat, each the same whisky according to the label on the bottle, but all very different – can you guess which is which?

3rd September, 19:30 at The Red Lion, SW1Y 6PP

Whisky Squad #115 – Sherry, can you come out tonight?

In these days of austerity, hardship and greater whisky sales than ever before, fewer and fewer whiskies are matured in casks that used to hold sherry. These are the classic casks that made the great whiskies of the past, and their slow disappearance is much lamented. But not at Whisky Squad!

17th September, 19:30 at The King & Queen, W1S 6DL

Whisky Squads #114 and #115 will go on sale on Wednesday 19th August 2015 at 3pm.

Whisky Tastings for August

campbeltown

Another month, another couple of tastings. Look out, all the juicy detail are coming at ya!

Whisky Squad #112 – Capital of the Whisky World

Sometimes it’s nice to put all the wacky session themes aside and have a good old fashioned regional whisky tasting. So that’s what we’re doing! For the first time in our five year history we dedicate a session to a little town with a big history

6th August, 19:30 at The Ship, EC3R 7NB

Whisky Squad #113 – Dram, That’s Refreshing!

Other times it’s fun to tip the idea of a whisky tasting on its head and do something completely different. Sound like fun? Then check out this summery session, complete with whisky, BBQ and a bit of mixology.

Whisky Squads #112 and #113 will go on sale on Monday 21st July 2015 at 11am.

Island Hopping with Elise

One of the problems with running two tasting sessions a month is coming up with new ideas. We’re now at least 109 Whisky Squads down – our numbering is not necessarily as accurate as we might like, but we’re fairly certain that’s the minimum – and have done close to 100 unique sessions. Fortunately, Elise, the newest member of the so-called ‘management team’ has a bunch of ideas, and our first June session was one of hers – Island Hopping.

Continue reading Island Hopping with Elise

July – time for more whisky

With June drawing to a close, it’s time for another pair of Whisky Squad sessions to drag themselves into the limelight. This time, we’ll be welcoming back a friend and getting you lot to do some work for once…

Whisky Squad #110 – It’s all about the bass – 9 July

johnmccheyneRecently, the squad management gang have become slightly obsessed with how new make spirit has been made. But during some late night discussion we realised we’d been neglecting the most important bit of whisky production: the casks.

This sessions is our apology to the humble oak tree and the coopers of the world. We’ll have John McCheyne from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society on hand to feed us some excellent drams and talk about wood.

Whisky Squad #111 – Punter’s choice – 23 July

puntersWe’re busy folks at Whisky Squad and putting together two whisky tastings a month takes more time and effort than you might think, especially if you’ve been to a Squad session and seen how organised we are. That changes now: you’ll be organising Squad #111.

Now, we’re not mean enough to get you all to find venues and carry glasses (although suggestions for the former and offers of the latter are always gratefully received), but we will be getting you to choose the whisky. We’ll have six whiskies on the mat, all tasted blind, all chosen by the attendees. Will your dram be chosen? Will you be able to tell if it is..?

Whisky Squads #110 and #111 will go on sale on Monday 22 June 2015 at 11am.

Whisky Tastings in June: Part 2

We said last week that the announcement of the second session for June was imminent, and now that Billy has almost recovered from his trip to the fabled whisky island of Islay, we can announce:

Whisky Squad #109 – Fast Times at Islay High

During his travels around a pleasantly rainy Islay, Billy grabbed a few bottles and tasted a few whiskies. He’s brought a few back south with him and acquired another couple, all of which will be opened to taste at June’s second session.

Tickets go on sale on Wednesday 3 June at 11am.

Keep an eye on your email for news of July’s sessions – we’ll have something appearing quite soon. If you’ve not signed up to our mailing list, you can do so over here.