By Rupert Wheeler

Summer Approaches

It's all about the bike
The evenings are drawing out and I am getting out on my bike to enjoy the Norfolk countryside. Having cycled extensively in the Alps and the Pyrenees, ridden up some famous cols such as the Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez, I am now contemplating tackling a 400 miler over four days cycle ride in Scotland later in the year. I think it's going to need some serious training. I know you all think Norfolk (where Whisky Magazine is based) is as flat as a pancake, but the part I live in is described as 'gently undulating' and we have our own 'cols' to climb!

Scotland and its whisky features heavily in this issue and I note from a recent newspaper article that, and I quote, 'Hospitals should allow dying patients a tot of whisky to ease their final days.' I was thinking, some enterprising distillery should approach the NHS and see if they could provide the necessary dram. Professor Sam Ahmedzai indicated that when his father-in-law was dying, he would bring him a tot of whisky every night and states that this can give the patient 'fantastic relief' in their final days. The Professor had even tried to persuade the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence to include the option of a 'tipple' in its recent guidelines about care for the dying.

We at Whisky Magazine were absolutely delighted that once again you readers have come up trumps with a record number of entries to our Photo Challenge. It proved extremely difficult to choose the final 12 images and then the final three but I hope you agree when looking at the winning shots on pages 12-17 that the quality and variety of images is superb. Although not the winner, taking a bottle of whisky to the summit of Mount McKinlay surely wins the prize for supreme effort.

I congratulate all the winners and especially Andrew Smith who I hope will be able to travel to Dublin to receive his prize of a bottle of Teeling 23 Years Old and Teeling Distillery Exclusive Single Cask. We will also be presenting him with a framed copy of his winning shot.

I receive many press releases weekly here in the office and I still cannot believe how many new distilleries have been recently approved or are planned. For this reason, I asked our contributing editor in Scotland Gavin D Smith to do a round-up of what was happening in Scotland, and if you add up how many litres per annum are being forecast, it amounts to an enormous increase in whisky that will become available.

In the next issue of the magazine we are doing a similar feature on what is coming on streams, as well as planned, in the United States and Canada.

We launch our next Battle of the Blends challenge with Neil Ridley taking on a new contender, George Keeble, who is Manager at the The Soho Whisky Club. This year things will be slightly different. For a start we have commissioned Benjamin Filby to produce a comic strip to accompany the feature and you can see this on page 33, which I hope you enjoy over the issues.

We are also going to have a half way stage in the competition to give both contenders an opportunity to deconstruct their blends. In addition we have John Glaser founder of Compass Box giving his opinion of the two blends, as well as giving a talk on the art of blending. We are planning a Q&A at the end of the evening.

I am giving way 40 free places to attend this event which will be on Wednesday 31 August in London starting at 6pm. All you need to do is contact me at the usual email address editor@whiskymag.com. The first 40 'out of the hat' will be given full details and an entry ticket will be posted out.

With our experience of sending out samples last year to our readers to judge the Battle of the Blends competition, we were recently contacted by Laphroaig to do something similar for their new expression - Laphroaig Lore. You can read about this and a Q&A with the Distillery Manager John Campbell on page 46.

I hope that we can arrange similar tastings later in the year, and I look forward to working with other distilleries on a similar approach.