JAMES JOYCE: “The light music of whiskey falling into a glass—an agreeable interlude.”

Whiskey. The Irish type, yes, much to the eternal dismay of the Scots, the first licensed distillery was in Ireland. So let’s talk a little Irish.

Mark Backhouse runs a liquor company and writes a blog. He also led one of the first whisky tastings I attended. It was perhaps 15 years ago and I think the spirits on offer included Bell’s & Jack Daniels. We’ve come a long way since then and perhaps I bear some responsibility for the shortage of the outstanding Aberlour Single Malt about a decade ago. Whisky is Whiskey is a wonderful thing and one of the better experiences is a visit to the Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey department.

Have a look at Mark’s blog for something about Irish Whisky, the Single Pot Still variety, as a teaser for my story about a Friday night at the One & Only.

Enjoy your whisky travels round the world.

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Here it is – get thinking, send an email, get tweeting, win whisky! @CheckersSA #PrivateBarrelCo

No I’m not going to make it easy.

There are a couple of my blogger brothers and sisters that are running the same competition and to win, you don’t need to do much. But as I’m a whisky lover first and blogger second I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to insist that you think a bit. Oh come on, I know it’s Friday and if you’re in Cape Town the brain slows down…but indulge me, please.

I have a bottle of Mortlach 14 for you. The whisky is beautiful and delicious. If you run, quickly, you may be able to get one of the few remaining bottles. Only 600 were produced.  My mates and I are responsible for a few of them being emptied. There aren’t many left.  It costs R 599 and you can buy it at Checkers liquor outlets.

If you want to win it, and I know you do, you have to tell me:

What drinking vessel with its origin in Scotland has two hands and is a symbol of friendship?

And then email me bernard@waterfrontwhisky.com by noon SA time this Wednesday. There’ll be a public draw to find the winner.

Then – you have to tweet: I entered the @CheckersSA @bernardgwhisky #PrivateBarrelCo

First thing is to get the answer correct, second thing is to get that tweet flying round, so go wild, get your friends to RT, you know what to do.

And…if you are 18 or older, then enter, if not, be patient, your time will come, and for now, SA residents only.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY – Drink Less, Drink Better.

Oh… here is a link to another post about the whisky:




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Monkey Shoulder: a Reiki infused, bikini-clad journey into cocktail perfection. @MonkeyShoulderSA @WalshDom

I had mixed feelings about an invitation to interview Dominic Walsh, the Monkey Shoulder Brand Ambassador, at Tjing Tjing bar. Not because I don’t enjoy the whisky – I do, very much, thank you. And Tjing Tjing is one of the best drinks spots in Cape Town. And I’d heard very good things about Dom. But the marketing speak I’ve seen in the whisky world over the past couple of years had taken its toll on me. I hoped I would not be subjected to a standard scripted show. Dom is described as an “Esoteric Alchemist”. Monkey Shoulder is called a “Triple Malt”. Come now – let’s get back to reality. Thankfully, my apprehension was misplaced – whisky and passion won the day over marketing mayhem.

I accept that whisky companies have to sell their products and need to come up with innovative ideas to set aside their products from all the others on the market, but let’s sit back and think about things. But there is a line. The Scotch Whisky Association is the legal authority in the Scotch Whisky world. Whether you like it or not – and a lot of people don’t – the SWA defines the categories of whisky.  Recent history has seen some fun and games around Cardhu and Compass Box (invite me for a drink, we’ll chat) but there are five Categories. Triple Malt is not one of them.

Another gripe is the description of bartenders. For some reason a bartender is no longer a bartender. A bartender specializing in cocktails evolved from bartender to cocktail bartender to mixologist to esoteric alchemist. Seriously? I believe that being a waiter is a noble occupation. A bartender is even more so, as he is often privy to much of the customer’s soul. A bartender will hear good news and bad, see the customer in a state of elation or despair. He has to read the customer, to understand the mind, to work out if the customer wants to chat or be left in silent contemplation. To do his job a bartender has to have an encyclopedic knowledge of drinks: cocktails, whiskies, beers with a bit of psychology 101 thrown in. There is no need, in my view, to seek out new names for what people do. Bartending has become an art form. Let’s give the bartenders and their profession the respect they deserve.

So let’s ignore the official description of this whisky, because it’s not what it says it is. I suppose the creative teams needed a different descriptor so a blended malt became a triple malt. Monkey Shoulder is not a triple malt. There is no such animal. Monkey Shoulder is a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky. Three single malts harmoniously married into one whisky.  The individual malts – Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie  – are very good. The master blender is one of the best in the world, the staff involved in the production have a sense of pride in what they do and the Grant family, owners of the company, don’t have outside shareholders seeking short term profits at the expense of quality. The end result is a superb whisky.

Let’s add something to the marketing message that Monkey Shoulder is a cocktail whisky. If we swear blind allegiance to the marketing message we’ll miss out on a great Monkey Shoulder experience – a whisky that can be enjoyed on its own.

Back to Dom, Monkey Shoulder and an afternoon at Tjing Tjing bar.  Monkey shoulder is the term used to describe the repetitive strain injury suffered by malt men turning the malted barley with a wooden shovel. The injury was temporary, the healing possibly aided by liberal consumption of good whisky. It relaxes muscles, loosens ligaments. That’s my view. And if you think I know not of what I speak, a couple of weeks ago I was in Scotland at the very distillery where Kininvie and Balvenie are produced, and I turned the barley, and I had a stiff shoulder, and after a whisky or two my shoulder felt better. I have the photos to prove it or you can see the video here.

Dom is a bartender and of the best around. His job, no, not his job, his passion, is sharing whisky, talking about it, making cocktails from it and spreading the good word about in the bars and clubs in South Africa. His official title is Brand Ambassador. He is a drum-playing twirly mustache bearing vegan person who began his journey into professional drinks at 18. What’s his future? Enhancing, even further, the consumer experience, teaching and learning, strengthening relationships, helping people become more aware about Monkey Shoulder and its mixability. Easy job!

And the future of bartending, generally? Yes, we called it bartending. More and more professional, increasing knowledge, improving skills, more people treating the job as a profession, not a stepping stone to something else or a filler while at university. Bartending will have more and more recognition as an honourable career path. And it should and it is.

Now for the drinks. I’d planned to have a small sip of whatever was on offer as I was on a 21 day Reiki journey where alcohol was not really recommended. But ja well no fine as we say down here at the foot of Africa. Dom mixed four drinks: A mojito; an old fashioned; a whisky sour and a Boulevardier number 3. They all worked well but like life in an office environment where the bosses allow Facebook access during working hours, some worked better than others. The old fashioned had maple syrup and walnut bitters and was perfect. The best I’ve had. The crowning glory was the Boulevardier number 3. Monkey Shoulder, sweet vermouth, Campari. I searched for this drink in a book called “The Complete Bartender”, a 550 page tome, one of the first booze books I purchased, way back in 1991. The pages are dog-eared, yellowed, we’ll call it a vintage book.  Couldn’t find it the Boulevardier in it. Pity. My younger days would have been more complete, had I known about it. It’s my type of cocktail. Have a look at the Monkey Shoulder website for the recipe and description: It “tastes like a bikini-clad snowmobile ride into a volcano”. But now I know about it, because I put myself in the hands of a professional. Thank you Mr Walsh.

The whisky, on its own, (and again, I know of what I speak as I have a decent tot plus a splash of water in my glass, as I write this,) is damn good. Glenfiddich and Balvenie are well known. Kininvie, not so much, but it comes from the same place as Balvenie. And to get it on its own is not exactly easy, if at all possible. Which is a pity. So anyway, the whisky is aged in bourbon casks, made in small batches, the malts married for a while then bottled.  Here is a photo: Ten-best-2

To summarise: Monkey Shoulder is a damn fine dram, on its own or in a cocktail.

Try it.

Drink less, drink better.

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GoPro meets Whisky meets Scotland meets Manchester United thanks @RiaanRautenbach #GlenGrant50

You’ll be seeing lots about what I think is the ultimate bucket list trip – A day at Old Trafford, a day at the British Open, a week in Scotland and the significant matter of a very special whisky – The Glen Grant 50 year old.

To whet your appetite here is a video produced by Riaan Rautenbach, one of the fortunate few who experienced this magical adventure.







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Ke Nako – the time has come – #GlenGrant50 – news from Scotland.

The official phrase is “Presenting the Glen Grant 50 Year Old. The Time has Come.”

Today a group of whisky lovers from South Africa will be saying “Ke Nako – it is time.”

We’re going to Glen Grant Distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. We’re going to listen to Dennis Malcolm, the Master Distiller of Glen Grant. And he’s going to share a 50 year old whisky and 50 years of memories about the world of whisky.

It’s a special time for me, my Ke Nako moment, because sitting beside the waterfall at Glen Grant I’ll be raising my glass to the late Don Paul, my friend and whisky mentor, who captivated crowds and pioneered teaching and talking about whisky, properly, professionally, responsibly, in South Africa.
Whisky is about many things: history; patience; dedication; adventure, so the Glen Grant distillery, founded by a gentleman who enjoyed adventures in Africa, is the perfect place for our group from South Africa to enjoy a dram of something very special.

The official press release is below.

“This year Glen Grant is releasing an exceptionally rare edition, the Glen Grant 50 Year Old – a fitting tribute to the innovation and whisky craftsmanship woven into the legend of Glen Grant.
On 28 October 1963 a rather special cask was hand filled by a young man who, at the time, was unaware that this liquid gold would ultimately shape his destiny. It would slowly mature for 50 years until 25 November 2013, when it reached its zenith – a robust, full-bodied and perfectly balanced single malt of distinction.
That young man, Dennis Malcolm, became the Master Distiller of one of Scotland’s finest distilleries, Glen Grant. The cask he watched over for half a century, containing a true masterpiece, is now ready to be presented to the world – once again proving that Glen Grant excels at making single malt – from barley to bottle.

Dennis Malcolm comments, “Only time measures our pursuit of perfection. Maturation cannot be rushed. Like people, casks mature at their own pace. I have protected and cared for this barrel for 50 years, letting it breathe and patiently waiting for the magic and interaction of whisky and wood.”
Only 150 bottles of this exclusive timeless collector’s item will be released globally. Each piece is unique and handcrafted in every sense – presented in a hand-blown crystal glass decanter, masterfully created and individually refined by the skilled craftsmen at Glencairn Crystal, the last family-owned crystal glass company in Scotland. Each decanter is hand engraved, hand numbered and finished with the number 50 in 18-carat gold lettering. The design of the decanter is an exact replica of Glen Grant’s tall, slender pot stills – a creation of Glen Grant’s legendary innovator, James ‘The Major’ Grant.
It is housed in a copper-lined Scottish oak box – made from new oak, worked by a skilful cabinetmaker with a practiced carpenter’s hand and an astute eye for detail. Each Glen Grant 50 Year Old comes with a certificate of authenticity, signed by Dennis Malcolm and every craftsman involved.
In an age beset by instant gratification, that which has been expertly crafted by hand – with skills honed and passed down through the ages – is a true rarity.
The Glen Grant 50 Year Old is the apotheosis of master craftsmanship: a wide array of age-old skills creating a collective masterpiece that is unquantifiable. It is both aged and timeless. But now, the time has come.



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Quality from @BEERHOUSE & tardiness from @bernardgwhisky

Beer – it used to be so simple. And very occasionally women drank it. 30 years ago if a man and woman sat at a bar (a bar that welcomed women) and ordered drinks the man would have a beer and the woman, white wine. Coffee was a choice of coffee or cappuccino. Sushi was almost unheard of in Cape Town. There was a choice of maybe 3 pizza places in Cape Town and whisky – yes, one had a choice of 4 or 5.

So the times did, as promised, do its changing and thank heavens for that. While things aren’t as simple we have much more choice and far better quality, in everything. There is an array of superb quality coffee shops, whiskies, sushi restaurants, practically everything food and drink related has improved exponentially over the past few years.

This rise was started, I’d like to think, by my generation, brought up on a diet of 80’s music but the youth must be credited for keeping things going. The youngsters aren’t help back by convention and are willing to experiment, bartenders gave become mixologists, a barista now serves you coffee and so it goes on.

Which brings me to a few things: Beer and apology. You see, way back when, on Monday the 17th March, a time when the skies were clear and the Cape Town evening was warm I went to a beer and food pairing evening at the Beerhouse, Long Street, at the invitation of Murray Slater, the GM. I was part of a group of bloggers (anybody got any ideas about a collective noun for bloggers?) including Chris von Ulmenstein (whose blog you can read for the real detail about the evening and to which I have referred for some info as my notes have vanished).

I promised I’d write something, but due to circumstances – I lost my notes; whisky work took me to Uganda, I was struck down for a lengthy period by this evil flu; I am focused more on my Reiki classes than writing or you can just say general laziness – I’m only doing this now.

Ag ja well you know, I can’t really add much to Chris’ post so I’ll focus on Beerhouse and how lucky we are in Cape Town to have such a place to visit.

Craft Beer survived and now thrives because of the passion and knowledge of the brewers and the entrepreneurial spirit of those establishments and the public that began to step out of the comfort zone of the regular – I’ll have a Castle, please – mindset to try something new. The big players such as SAB have also helped by putting some money behind beer festivals to grow the beer category. They believe, correctly, that by growing the beer category, they’ll sell more beer, and if their competitors sell more, well, that’s ok.

The first thing you’ll notice at the Beerhouse is, of course, the beer. And then there is the menu with over 100 beers on offer. But the most important thing and what makes the Beerhouse so special is the staff – knowledge, passion, professionalism, pride. They’ll happily guide you through the menu and share their enthusiasm.

Beerhouse has got that warm pub feeling, like a comfortable pair of jeans, but with the added bonus of a superb food offering and of course with the World Cup on and the specials they have…what more motivation does one need.

For a still amateur beer drinker (yes, I’m learning, as I suppose we all are) I quite like the fact that I can be guided through the flavours and styles. I can hold my own with whisky and wine but I need help with beer.

Now, to check the schedule and pick a game or two to watch at Beerhouse on Long, with beers, food and mates for company…

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Quick – kids 18 plus – 15th June is Father’s Day. You drove him to drink…now reward him.

Ah, that time of year when my kids wonder what to get me for Father’s Day. I’d like a bottle of whisky but can’t really suggest to my under 18 year old offspring that they wander into the nearest liquor outlet and buy me a bottle. I suppose that would be a bit irresponsible.

But….as they have already worked out how to use my card to book movie tickets online and my son and I have long realised that we are much happier having lunch while my daughter goes shopping with my card, the time is near when they turn 18 I’ll be able to say – yes darlings, I’d very much like you to get me a bottle of whisky for Father’s Day. And if they ask which one and I say the Three Ships 5 special select, they may say, “But Daddy, you already have a couple of bottles” and then I’d have to explain whisky evaporation to them. You know the concept…good whisky seems to disappear quite quickly from the bottle.

Anyway, enough of that, here is a press release about the World’s Best Blended Whisky. And it’s homegrown just under an hour away from my front door. Convenient, ne?


To thank dad for being the great man that he is, choose the proudly South African, Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old, gold medal winner at the 2014 International Spirits Challenge (ISC) held annually in London and announced on 5 June.

The whisky, an artful blend of grain and malt whiskies, is crafted by master distiller Andy Watts, who for the past 23 years has firmly placed the South African whisky industry on the global map. The whisky is produced at The James Sedgwick’s Distillery in the Boland town of Wellington, along with the Three Ships Select, Three Ships Bourbon Cask and the limited-edition Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt.

The Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old is a tribute to the time Andy spent on the Isle of Islay where many years ago, he fell in love with the island and its iconic peaty whiskies. Andy uses peated barley, distilled in copper stills along with grain spirit, distilled in column stills, to create a beautifully balanced and well-integrated blended whisky. The whisky spends five years in oak developing its aromatic, full peaty and fruity character. Andy recommends enjoying this full bodied whisky neat with a dash of water and pairing it with blue cheese, chicken liver pâté, smoked chicken or Pancetta.

The Three Ships Premium Select 5 Year Old is available from leading liquor outlets and retails for about R125.”

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