A couple of years ago, in and amongst the COVID madness, a few friends and I started something called “Pony Club.”
Nothing to do with BDSM role-play; it’s named after Cockney rhyming slang for £25. Every few months we get together at someone’s house to eat food, chat, and drink a bottle of whisky. The host gets to pick the bottle – the “prize” for evacuating their children and/or partner from their home, feeding everyone and dealing with the aftermath – but can’t spend more than the sum of the ponies (the “string,” for collective noun fans) contributed by participating members.
The first (and only) rule of Pony Club
There aren’t any other rules. Scotch, bourbon, rye, “world whiskies;” all are welcome at Pony Club as long as they are within budget. Obviously, there was some initial hesitation relating to the name, but none of us could afford Monkey Club. Anyway, I think we are all now proud ponies – which definitely sounds like BDSM role-play speak – albeit within the confines of our private WhatsApp group.
At this point non-British readers – and I dare say many British readers as well – might be wondering why “pony” means £25 and why it’s called “rhyming slang” if it doesn’t rhyme. Well, it all started with mid-19th century British soldiers returning from serving in India. The old 25 rupee note had a picture of a pony on it, whilst the old 500 rupee note featured a monkey. For some reason – perhaps not wanting to “get nicked” for villainous behaviour – rhyming slang had started to emerge in the East End of London (the ancestral home of the Cockney) around the same time. Stories of ponies and monkeys – despite not actually rhyming with their meaning words – were music to their ears and duly welcomed into their world with open Chalk Farms.
A healthy string
We had a good turnout for the last Pony Club, so there was a healthy string to play with. The host decided to look beyond distillery expressions and went for an indie bottling from That Boutique-y Whisky Company: a 24-year-old Tobermory batch release bought from Master of Malt for £200. The initial excitement was only slightly dampened when he sheepishly confessed he’d accidentally bought a 50cl bottle (an oversight for which he wasn’t mocked at all). I’ve subsequently discovered that all TBWC bottlings are 50cl… which I now have to pretend to have known all along, having been part of the decision-making process.
For those who aren’t familiar, TBWC isn’t your average independent bottler. Sure, they love whisky and are super serious about selecting the perfect casks etc., but they are far more interesting for their positioning, irreverent tone, and playful branding. All of their labels are hand drawn by Emily Chappel – who has a wonderful “origins story” on the brand website – and feature graphic-novel style scenes full of whimsy, in-jokes, distillery folklore and seeming randomness. Each one is a mini work of art, especially when it’s on a 50cl bottle.
For this particular bottling Emily and the team went full Partridge. I will resist the urge to follow them down the Alan Partridge rabbit hole, so let’s say that the idea stems from the fact that Tobermory is an unpeated whisky and move on. “They do it on purpose, Lynn.”
Of the latest Tobermory release – batch 14 – ours was bottle 20 of 825. Other than that, it’s pretty light on detail, which is confidently on-brand. Don’t worry about the wood strategy or the cut point – someone smart and experienced already did that – you’re in safe hands. Enjoy the craft and skill that’s gone into the packaging and label design, revel in the Partridge references and crack it open.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Tobermory 24 Year Old – Review
On the nose: A great big hit of banana off the bat. Thriker! Fruit cake and almond cake all in one with some jaffa cakes on the side. There’s nothing subtle about this, it’s an in-your-face kind of whisky. You really could sniff this all day, which would be weird.
In the mouth: The banana is still there but sweeter, more like banana toffee. The caramel notes are heightened by the fullness of the body and there’s a gentle peppery spice – like chili chocolate – flickering in the background. It gets chewier – if that’s a thing – the longer you leave it in the mouth, with the fruit giving way to the fudge on the finish.
A successful Pony Club made all the more special by an outstanding whisky. In truth, I knew this was going to be great before we opened it. And, whilst it’s a little pricey – especially for a wee fella – I noticed that Tobermory just released a limited edition 25-year-old for £345. So, I’ve convinced myself it’s actually good value.
Based on the Malt scoring system this is a solid 8. We are grieving.