Hello, Loungers! Connas here, and I’ve been on the road again!

Once again, I’ve pried myself away from the universe’s cultural epicentre and travelled south of the Gateshead Angel in the name of whisky exploration! This time, my destination is That London, specifically TT Liquors in “Trendy” Shoreditch for the first ever launch of the “Malt Gallery” by Distell, the South African owners of Burn Stewart Distillers.

I know what you’re thinking: “The Malt Gallery? What’s all that about?” Quite simply, it’s the name that Distell are giving to a range of whiskies they will release annually to showcase their three Scotch Malt Whisky Distilleries: Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory (which also produces the peated Ledaig). Master Blender Kirsty McCallum draws on the distinctive characteristics of each distillery’s spirit to match them with the best possible finishing casks and promote an authentic and unique expression of each of their single malts.

Now, the more perceptive among you may have noticed that That London is not high up on my list of favourite destinations. But this time I’m genuinely looking forward to it. Since hearing about these new releases from Distell I’ve been really keen to try them, mainly because I’ve been impressed previously by a Ledaig with similar specifications, and Bunnahabhain has always been a go-to dram for me.

Not only that! At the launch event, Bunnahabhain’s distillery manager Andrew Brown, Deanston distillery manager Stephen Woodcock, AND the aforementioned Dr Kirsty McCallum would all be on hand to generally chat and socialise with. Which is great, I’d not met Andrew, and only exchanged brief pleasantries with Stephen on a recent visit to Deanston, and Kirsty at Edinburgh Whisky Festival.

And I’m thoroughly glad they were there! In a relaxed and more than equipped space our hosts were comfortably able to pour and chat with everyone in attendance. And I had ample opportunity to discuss opinions and catch up with other attendees – I even managed to offload the Iron Brew Nougat I’ve been carrying about for Billy Abbott since Campbeltown in May! Billy, if you’re reading this, I’m sure it’s as safe to eat now as it was then!

If any of you are still of the opinion (and you bloody shouldn’t be!) that people in the whisky industry are in some way unapproachable, over-opinionated, dour, old, sour-faced prigs, this was a brilliant example of proof to the contrary.

Andrew, on having recently had to move home (on Islay) because of subsidence in his house (which was lucky to survive recent high winds, next door was not so fortunate):

“Don’t worry, I managed to salvage my satellite dish!”

He was duly informed that they have been recycled and used as woks in Gateshead.

Stephen, on the correct pronunciation of “Ledaig”;

“Well, you’ve probably heard the philosophical question concerning “The Chicken and The Egg?……”

“Yes….”

“Just order the Chic to Lay…… “Lay Chic!”

The man’s a genius!

Incidentally, I remember how to pronounce “Bunnahabhain” via thinking about “Night-time German Curry” – “Bunna-abend” (just make the last “d” silent, you’re welcome). [I’m taking your word on this, but I confess I’m completely baffled – Ed.]

All of that, AND the whiskies were great! Unfortunately, health issues prevented Kirsty from attending, but if her Distell colleagues are anything to go by, she must be a very quick-witted individual! Not to mention the fact that she deserves some kind of award for making me rethink my stance on Brandy and Wine casks – there ones here that I liked…

As an aside, the obvious comparisons with a certain other yearly release from Diageo will certainly add fuel to the debate concerning pricing, quality and availability of “Limited Release” whiskies. Hopefully for the better. But I don’t get to decide what “better” is, that’s your job…

Tasting notes to follow people! Stay Tuned!

[Connas, you heathen – it was a Gallery and you haven’t mentioned the art even once! – Aesthetic Ed.]