World Whisky Day: Find your favourite flavour with Blair Bowman and Nikki Welch

In the run up to World Whisky Day (20.05.17), and ahead of the publication of The Pocket Guide to Whisky: Featuring the WhiskyTubeMap by Blair Bowman (founder of World Whisky Day) with Nikki Welch, we have a guest blog by Blair and Nikki to help you navigate your way through the plethora of flavours and types of whiskies to help you find your favourite dram.

The Pocket Guide to Whisky - flexi-cover artwork

‘Whisky can seem pretty daunting, how do you go from your tried and tested favourite dram on to new things without spending a fortune or getting some duds, that don’t suit your tastes, in the process? Whilst reading whisky books and blogs (like this one) help with the background the only way you’ll really know is to get your tastebuds involved in the process. Tasting with a group of friends can be a really good way of doing this. Formal whisky tastings are good for education but can be a bit serious (and expensive) and big whisky festivals have a huge selection which can mean it’s often overwhelming. So grab some whisky loving mates and create your own tasting, in the comfort of your living room or in a local whisky bar.

Whilst most whisky tastings either focus on trying the different regions (highlands, lowlands, islands) or different whiskies from the same distillery the WhiskyTubeMap means you can explore whiskies by flavour, meaning you can go on a flavour journey whatever your preference. You just need to select a starting point on the map and then pick out the closest whiskies, or pick a whisky from each line to see the difference.

Blair Bowman

Blair Bowman, author and founder of World Whisky Day

The WhiskyTubeMap guide to tasting
Try this at home or go to a bar with a decent selection of whiskies and engage the bar staff in your exploration.

The basics . . .
● Pick 4 whiskies* that take you on a journey around the map (stay tuned for part 2 of this blog for some proposed itineraries).
● Make sure you’ve got clean glasses, ideally whisky tasting glasses (their shape means the flavour is more concentrated), but a small wine glass or tumbler will do.
● A jug of fresh cold water – if you live in a hard water area you may want to use bottled. Make sure you’ve got water to drink too.
● Some nuts, crackers or oatcakes to cleanse your palate.
● A copy of the Pocket Guide to Whisky so you’ve got the WhiskyTubeMap in front of you.

The format
● Pour a dram of each whisky, if you’re limited you can just pour one of each and share (we do sometimes).
● Organise them in order of the WhiskyTubeMap lines, lightest to heaviest.
● ‘Nose’** each in turn – start by putting your nose in the glass and taking a short inhale through your nose to get you used to the whisky, then breathe a bit more deliberately. Don’t sniff hard, you’ll just smell alcohol and get a sore prickle sensation. What differences can you smell, what do you like about each one, can you smell anything in particular (it’s ok if you can just smell whisky!).
● Take a small sip of each one – think about how it feels as well as how it tastes, does what you smelled smell carry through to the flavour?
● Add some water (just a wee splash) and try them again. This helps open up some of the flavours in the whisky.
● If you go between the whiskies rather than drinking one and then moving on to the next, you’re more likely to spot the differences
● Which is your favourite? Why?
● Read the pages of the relevant stations to identify what caused the flavours you did/didn’t like
** technical term for smelling

What next
● Struggling with the strength? Add a bit more water, just remember you can’t take it out again so do it with a teaspoon so it’s controlled.
● Find one you liked? Note it down so you can explore the closest stations on the WhiskyTubeMap.
● All beginning to blur into one – give your palate a rest, drink some water, have some nuts, a cracker or oatcake. It’s normal that your palate gets tired so don’t try too many at once.
● All done? Refresh your palate with a cheeky beer!

*Where to get your whisky from
Miniatures are good for this kind of tasting, most good wine or whisky shops will have some, but if you’re looking for a bigger range Drinks by the Dram bottle A LOT of whisky into miniature size so you can try a much wider range. Buy them here. Or find a local bar where they have a good selection. That way you only fork out for full bottles you actually like.’

Blair Bowman with Nikki Welch
May 2017

WWD_Master_LogoYou can find out more about World Whisky Day, which is on 20 May 2017, here. Events are popping up all over the globe. If you want to get involved and raise a dram with the world, head over to the website where you can register your own event. It’s completely free, and anything goes – whether that’s a dram with friends at home, a tasting flight put on at a local bar, or a full-blown street party.


The latest episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature is available now

Podcast Logo1Kristian and I are very much enjoying creating our podcast, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Scottish Literature, as part of Birlinn’s twenty-fifth anniversary year, and we’re delighted to bring you the latest episode, celebrating the life and work of the first woman to be published in Scotland, Elizabeth Melville, and in particular, her dream vision poem, Ane Godlie Dream.

We are excited to shine a light on a name that is probably not so well known in the twenty-first century, but back in Reformation Scotland, Ane Godlie Dream was hugely popular, running to thirteen editions in Elizabeth Melville’s lifetime. And the poem is not only noteworthy because Melville was the first women published, her work stands on its own merits. Her poems are passionate, powerful, and highlight the strength of feeling in religious worship as the power struggles between church, court, and state increased.

Shirley McKayWe stay in the murky Scotland of the sixteenth century with an enlightening interview with Polygon’s own Shirley McKay. Over the last few years she has given us the hugely enjoyable historical crime series starring her hero, Hew Cullen, a lawyer and academic, who, returns to his home town of St Andrews after educating himself in Europe. Throughout the books he finds himself solving local crimes – including murder and blackmail – as well as falling deeper and deeper into the court intrigues of the newly crowned James VI. If you like a little mystery with your history, they are the perfect read!

So, please sit back, get comfy, and join us as we head back in time to a very different era. We hope you enjoy listening.

Vikki Reilly
April, 2017

You can listen to the latest podcast below, and you can catch up on all previous episodes on iTunes, or on SoundCloud.

Denzil Meyrick talks about the creation of his DCI Daley Thriller series

Meyrick, Denzil (smaller)
In this guest blog, author of the DCI Daley novels, Denzil Meyrick talks about the genesis of his thriller series, and he introduces his latest book Well of the Winds. The book is to be launched on Saturday the 1st of April on Gigha. The event will be streamed live on Facebook. So keep an eye on the Polygon Books Facebook page to join in.

‘It’s hard to believe that it’s almost seven years since I first had the idea of writing a novel. I knew I wanted to write, and initially toyed with the notion of penning a work of historical fiction. However, I was well aware that to do such a project justice, and in pursuit of period authenticity, a great deal of research would be required. The question was: did I have what it takes to write a book, one of any genre?

I decided to follow the age-old advice and write about what I knew. As a former police officer, a crime novel was the obvious choice – but what form should that novel take?

There were three things I was determined to incorporate into this book: humour – not just the dark variety, but also in the way police officers banter with each other in real life; an unusual setting – in that it hadn’t been used before and had something to offer in its own right; and finally, interesting, well-rounded characters who could populate not just one, but a number of books.

Having decided this, I then needed to work out the infamous who, where and when.

The ‘who’, began with the main protagonist. In my mind, this detective had to be of a certain rank – normally either Inspector or Chief Inspector – he had to be solid, dependable and a natural leader. But there had to be something that made him real – he had to have flaws, the like of which we all carry with us. I decided early on that this detective would be a male, slightly overweight, tall and thoughtful – but not oppressively so – he also had to be confident, and not completely enamoured with his choice of career.

I’m a huge fan of some of the fantastic TV dramas that have been produced in the USA over the last twenty years. For me, ‘The Sopranos’ is a work of genius. Visceral, turn-your-head-away violence leavened, juxtaposed even, with comic, laugh-out-loud humour, strong characters, a well-founded setting, and great storylines.
In my search, the ‘where’ came in an instant: Kintyre.

Campbeltown was my home for many years, and though I no longer live there day-to-day, I still think of it as home.

I thought of all the people I’d known over the years – real, genuine characters – and with this in mind, synthesised the personalities of the likes of the enigmatic Hamish to the formidable hotel chatelaine Annie and the supporting cast who populate the town.

Though aspects of them remind me of many people, they are products of my imagination, distilled in my head in the same way a good dram bubbles in a pot still. To make that distinction, I decided to make my Campbeltown the fictitious Kinloch. Though it shares the geography and spirit of the real-life place, the things that happen in my Kinloch would – thankfully – never happen in Campbeltown.

Because Kinloch is a port, it is easy to imagine the shifting sands of humanity who blow in and out of such places across the world, bringing their lives and problems with them. Certainly, many criminals blow into Kinloch, but DCI Jim Daley is there, equal to the task.

There was one piece of the jigsaw missing: I needed a character who could bridge the gap between redoubtable locals and harassed detectives. Brian Scott, Daley’s long-time friend and colleague, sprang to mind. Always ready with a jaundiced-eyed sense of humour, a healthy contempt for authority (including his bosses and force standing orders), and an unerring knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a talent matched only by his bravery.

Wherever I go to talk about the books, whether it be in libraries, at festivals, book signings, or in press interviews, I’m always asked most questions about Brian Scott. He seems to have captured the readers’ imaginations, something for which I’m very glad, as he’s a dream to write.

Well of the WindsIn the latest book, Well of the Winds, Daley, Scott, Hamish, and Annie all play their parts. Partially set in World War II, this book has an almost epic setting. It’s the first time I’ve woven real events into Daley’s fictitious world.

When the postman on the Isle of Gainsay tries to deliver a parcel to the Bremner family, long-time residents on the island, he discovers a pot boiling on the stove, breakfast on the table, overturned chairs; but of the occupants, there is no sign.

As the investigation progresses, Daley leaves work on the island in the capable hands of DS Scott and new boss Chief Superintendent Carrie Symington, he returns to Kinloch to ponder this mysterious case.

When he comes into the possession of a journal written by his wartime predecessor, William Urquhart, Daley realises that in order to solve the crimes of the present, he must first solve those of the past.

At the heart of this novel lies a fascinating story from the real world. Without giving anything away, it is likely to surprise, even shock the reader. Though I cannot claim credit for its discovery – it’s been in the public domain for many years – I have been able to draw attention to it.

We live in strange, worrying times. It seems that much we hold onto as being solid, immovable – timeless even – is proving less so. It is interesting, if not surprising to note: ‘there is nothing new under the sun’, and that throughout human history, people have been unsettled, even surprised by change.

As Daley tries to straddle the decades, the question is, can he bring justice to bear on both past and present?

Prepare to be surprised – I was!’

Denzil Meyrick, 30 March 2017

Have a look at this book trailer for Well of the Winds: