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Dram Team Time In?

How language has changed over the last month or so has fascinated me. The word ‘furlough’ is now common parlance although let’s face it; not many of us actually knew what it meant until very recently. We’re also now ‘zooming’ each other on a regular basis – it is to video calling what ‘hoovering’ is to vacuum cleaning, albeit with more privacy problems.

But it is the existence of such technology which is keeping most people sane during these times of self-isolation, social-distancing and WFH. It’s also what’s keeping some businesses afloat. Just.

And so, with great rapidity, we have moved into the realm of online whisky tastings. I’ve participated in quite a few now and have wondered if this is a concept which will continue even after this awful Covid-19 situation has been resolved. With the power of technology, you can get your message across to a much bigger audience without the huge financial burden of hiring bigger venues.

But as much as a future of online whisky tastings would make great financial sense, such a virtual substitute just isn’t the same. Whisky is as much about the sense of community as it is the liquid in the bottle, and nothing beats sitting down with friends and sharing a dram or two. It’s what we enjoy the most; well, with the possible exception of Jason Nae Pals.

Right now, though, it’s imperative that we stay at home to keep ourselves and others safe. So, in these strangest of times, these online events go some way to reducing those symptoms of having to withdraw from real life, away from the people we choose to spend our time with.

One such event – or moreover a number of events right up until the end of May – has been organised by Felipe Schrieberg in conjunction with the Dram Team. Taking place on Zoom, the two hour ‘virtual whisky masterclass’ is hosted by Felipe and involves five 25ml drams plus one 10ml dram.

I must admit, I don’t actually like the 10ml dram concept which forms part of the Dram Team’s tasting packs. I understand that in some sets that teeny bottle might contain a more expensive, limited or rare whisky but when I see it, I just can’t help but feel a bit sorry for it.

Anyway, back to the tasting. First of all, I can’t fault Felipe’s hosting skills. I think hosting a tasting online in this way must be so much more difficult than in real life. Sometimes technology isn’t always on your side; there are times when it’s difficult to tell whether someone is really engrossed in what you’re saying or whether their screen has simply frozen. There were, however, plenty of opportunities to ask questions and Felipe’s knowledge, along with the way he conveys it, does lend itself to the former.

On the night, most of the participants seemed to be very new to whisky and I think the line-up reflected this. The drams themselves were good quality, core range drams: Glen Moray 12, Old Pulteney 12, Glen Scotia Double Cask, Glenfarclas 10 and Robert Graham Hoebeg (with Paul John Edited as the teeny dram) although these can change from week to week. And whereas I’m not being a snob here – I’m a fan of all of those whiskies – I just think that events such as this should be about discovering something new. Therefore, if you’re a little further along on your whisky journey, you’d probably be looking for something a little less entry level for the price.

Ah, here we go: the price! It wouldn’t be MALT if we didn’t mention it. Now, there was something here which confused me – although I’ll admit it doesn’t take much these days. The event was advertised on Time Out at £34.99 reduced from £70. As I’ve never used Time Out as a promotional tool for events, I’m not too sure how it works. What I’m guessing though, is that organisers invent an inflated price to make it look as though it’s a fantastically discounted deal. I hope so because £35 for this kind of event is fair. But seventy quid? Well, that’s steeper than a cow’s face.

All in all, I would say that if you’re relatively new to whisky, or if you know someone who is, this would make the perfect night in. It’s an opportunity to taste six different drams and learn a great deal all in the comfort of your own pyjamas (or someone else’s if you’re that way inclined). However, if you’ve already travelled a fair distance along the whisky path, I’d get in touch with the organisers first before ordering; just to check what the drams actually are.

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    Smeds says:

    Although it’s not for me, I applaud the concept of virtual tastings. Value is in the eye of the beholder. If you’re new to whisky, trying new whisky by the dram in a controlled and friendly environment has a value all of its own, beyond the cost of bottles. BUT! – NOTHING beats a festival (or whisky club meet), amongst like-minded people, rubbing shoulders, pointing real-time directions (“over there, the bloke with the beard and slightly smaller bottles, Dave-y brand name or something”) or ( “I know, Swedish, but give it a go, it’s brilliant/different, ask for Alex”) or (Grant, his stuff sells itself – he’s not even trying). I wouldn’t, personally, tweet-taste or zoom a Brora/Port Ellen (overrated and overpriced as they are) showdown but I’d visit the Lakes, Bimber, James Eadie stands at a show and soak up the enthusiasm of the folk behind the counter because….well, YOU know, J. I’ve been lucky to have been spoiled on my “Journey” (1980s Macallan 18 for £40 was all-day/everday/everywhere and taken for granted, so I know the price/value of apples vs pears) – but if a journey of a million miles starts with spending £35 on £20 worth of whisky it’s money very well spent. Vive Le Kingdom. Slanjeevaurus

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