By Rupert Wheeler

So close... Yet so far

A visit to Royal Lochnagar; not that far from Balmoral
The response I received to my request from you readers to take part in the judging of our Battle of the Blends competition has been superb. Thank you to all of those who have expressed an interest and I will be in contact in August with more details. The blend has only one more round to go which means that Dave Broom and Neil Ridley are having to finalise their blends very soon. We will then leave them for about two months for maturation before sending out for judging. There is still time for anyone else interested, please get in touch in the usual way.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the feedback I received on my pairing whisky with music. I intend to take this forward and we will be covering this in more detail in future issues. Again if any reader wants to contribute then please get in touch.

Last month I was fortunate enough, along with our Tastings editor Rebecca Sterritt, to be invited by Diageo to attend their Malt Advocates course. The course was based at Royal Lochnagar situated not far from the Queen's estate at Balmoral. Although the weather was typically Scottish, raining on and off for the duration, the knowledge acquired in just two days was enormous. My thanks go to all those at Royal Lochnagar, and to those who came from other Diageo sites, who helped run the course.

Whilst at Royal Lochnagar, the subject inevitably came up about grain whisky, and in particular Haig Club and Cameronbridge. With this in mind we include a very informative feature on the making of grain whisky and the astonishing statistic that Cameronbridge has the ability to produce 105 million litres per annum, whereas the larger malt distilleries produce about 10-12 million litres per annum. We have, in this instance, included a number of tasting notes which we think are extremely useful. It is our intention in forthcoming issues to include more tasting notes with relevant articles. This will be especially pertinent in our next issue when we are running a special feature on Global Travel Retail where we will have in the region of 20 different exclusive expressions. Distillery companies worldwide see this route to market as extremely important, and many have appointed specialist brand ambassadors to promote the many expressions now available.

This is our US special issue and having recently visited Kentucky I was surprised by the news received recently that Jim Rutledge of Four Roses has announced his retirement. I had the privilege - yes, I do mean privilege - of meeting him at Four Roses Distillery. He even took the time to show me around the distillery and answer in great detail many of my questions. I did ask him whether he had any intention of retiring, but received a non committal answer. After nearly fifty years with the company, he is surely going to be extremely difficult to replace. I wish him all the best in his retirement.

Fred Minnick our Kentucky based contributing editor has provided a very pertinent feature in this issue about regulation and non regulation labels. On the labels issue, consumers should be in a position to clearly identify what they are buying and with the vast array of different whiskies / Bourbons available in the United States, clearer labelling can only be for the better. Fred's clear and concise definitions should help.

Being a massive fan of rugby I am really looking forward to the Rugby World Cup taking place in UK from 18 September through to 31 October. I note with interest that William Grant & Sons are, for the very first time, one of the sponsors of this event.

You know that old adage of 'you should always remember where you were when President Kennedy was assassinated'? I can clearly remember where I was when England last won the Rugby World Cup in 2003. I was unfortunately on a business trip bound for Brazil. I stayed as long as I could at Heathrow watching the match but then had to catch a flight to Lisbon where I was to change for an onward flight to Salvador da Bahia. We touched down in Lisbon and the captain announced that England had won the World Cup. There was a most tremendous cheer from all the passengers. A great day indeed and let's hope for a repeat this year.