Monday, 22 February 2010

New Queen of the Moorlands Bottlings with the Islay Festival of Malt and Music 2010 on the Horizon

Dates for the diary:

Tuesday 13th April - Single Malt Whisky Tasting
The Wine Shop, Leek. A chance to taste through the range of The Queen of the Moorlands Single Malt Whiskies. Please contact us ASAP to reserve your place. 01538 382 408. Please see below for more info.

Saturday 22nd May to 29th May - Islay Festival of Malt and Music 2010
Once again we will be holding whisky tastings to showcase our Queen of the Moorlands Single Malt Whiskies, including our very own Islay Festival Bottling 2010. Please contact us ASAP to reserve places on these events or to pre-order bottles. More info below.....

Saturday 22nd May 2010 is an important date in the diary at The Wine Shop in Leek, because that is the first day of Feis Ile, the Islay Festival of Malt and Music. It is hard to believe that in 11 or so weeks time, we'll be on Islay in much warmer weather, and if the last three years are anything to go by, glorious sunsets at 11.30pm. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful Islay is at that time of year, and I for one, cannot wait to be there.

We shall be holding a series of whisky tastings during the festival. Venue, dates and ticket prices are to be confirmed but usually they take place in Bowmore. We'll post details nearer the time but if you would like to express interest in attending, please contact me ASAP to reserve a place.

Usually, we taste through 4 or 5 whiskies in each session and typically, there will be around 50 guests in attendance at each event. Each whisky will be from our very own, award winning Queen of the Moorlands Rare Cask range of Single Cask Single Malt Whiskies and it is a chance for the consumer or collector to taste and secure a bottle or two of these incredibly rare delights. Guests also get a chance to meet up with the people who select our whiskies from cask samples, our panel of lucky customers who form our whisky committee.

With all this in mind we've only got a few weeks to finalise our latest Queen of the Moorlands Rare Cask Single Malt whiskies, and samples have started to arrive. All of our Rare Cask whiskies are selected and approved by our whisky committee, a dedicated band of hardcore whisky enthusiasts.

This Friday, 26th February, some of the committee members are meeting up and we are going to taste some whiskies, some of them will hopefully become our new bottlings. I'll be posting the results and tasting notes here. If you see a dram you fancy, please don't hesitate to contact me as, although the whiskies are still in cask, the popularity of our bottlings means that they will pre-sell quite quickly. As always, anybody on Islay wishing to reserve a bottle or two should contact me ASAP and I will save the stock for you and deliver to you between Friday 21st May and Saturday 5th June.

The Whiskies that we will be sampling this week are as follows:

Bowmore (Islay) 1999 if bottled will retail at £49.99

Laphroaig (Islay) 1996 if bottled will retail at £59.99

Bunnahabhain (Islay) 1997 if bottled will retail at £59.99

All of our Rare Cask whiskies are bottled at natural cask strength with no chill-filtration and no colouring. Each bottle is hand labelled and individually numbered and presented in it's own gift tube. There are usually a maximum of around 200 bottles per edition making them highly collectable

We are hoping that we will be able to bottle at least a couple from the list above but we are also looking for one very special dram to become our bottling specifically for the Islay Festival of Malt and Music. This will be our third Festival bottling, the previous being our Rare Cask Port Ellen 1982 (2008 Festival) and Rare Cask Laphroaig 1996 (2009 Festival). As far as we are aware, we remain the only Independent Bottler to bottle a whisky especially for the Feis.

For enthusiasts closer to The Wine Shop in Leek, we'll be holding a whisky tasting on Tuesday 13th April, and this will be the first time that the new whiskies will be on show. Tickets for this event will be on sale at just £10 per head, please contact us ASAP if you would like to reserve tickets. There are only 20 places at this event as we will be holding at in shop.

If you would like any information about our whisky tasting events, new bottlings or how to join our whisky committee please don't hesitate to get in touch.

We hope to see you at Feis Ile 2010!


01538 382 408

PS On the angling front, I will be joined by Stoke - on - Trent's 'vital spark', none other than Glen Pointon from Oshbonk and we'll be fishing Lochs Gorm, Skerrols, Ballygrant and Finlaggan. There's never a dull moment with Glen as anyone who has had the pleasure if meeting him will declare, so I should have plenty to blog about in June!

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Upper Severn, Angling Heaven

Our local rivers were out of sorts this weekend, well, most of them anyway. Glen and I did think of going up to Dovedale or Milldale but we knew that, these being the most likely to be producing fish, there would be a fair few other anglers about, and there are only so many pools holding Grayling there to got at.

And so we mulled it over...over and over, Dovedale or Milldale or somewhere new? Would it be too far to go? Would there be too many other anglers there? What would the river be like? Would the conditions be good? Would it be worth the 2 hour journey at each end of the day?

Within two minutes, and two casts of reaching the Upper Severn, near Caersws in Powys, that last question was answered when I landed my first Grayling, and a cracking fish it was too.

Glen had picked me up at around 6.30am, we stopped for Bacon and Sausage baps on the way, and by 9am, we'd purchased our day tickets from the Spar shop in Caersws, tackled up and were ready to make our first casts. It was a little daunting at first, wondering where to start on this large river. Glen had been given one or two tips by the Bailiff and he'd told us a likely spot to get one or two fish under our belts to give us a little confidence for the rest of the day.

On arriving at the first pool, we instantly started to spot fish, the water being crystal clear. We soon found that these visible fish would not be playing ball, as they paid no attention to our nymphs whatsoever, and so we moved a little further downstream.

Glen started to take fish on his point fly, a JT Flashback, on a 3 fly Czech Nymph rig. I was also taking fish on the JT Flashback but on a duo rig. Both methods fished well. Glen and I both had fish to 1lb 8oz and by the end of the day, we'd managed about 35 fish between us.

We really enjoyed fishing the Upper Severn and will definitely be returning to this beautiful spot. It's certainly up there with the best rivers that I have ever fished. The water was gin clear, the wading was relatively easy, the river bed being largely free from bolders, branches, roots and other obstacles. Best of all, the fishing was ace, even the small Grayling of about 3/4 lb put up a huge fight, which was great sport on our light tackle.

We may be taking the 7 seater Wine Shop van next time so anyone who fancies joining us, leave me a comment.


Monday, 1 February 2010

(Technique) + (Confidence) = (Fish) @ Milldale

I've been an angler since I was a little lad. I've tried ledgering for Chub and Tench, trotting a float for Roach and Dace, and smoking a pack of 20 L&B whilst stillwater float fishing for shy, bank hugging carp in the late summer evenings. All of this I've enjoyed, once that is, I have grown my confidence sufficiently in each technique that I start to catch one or two fish.

I started Fly Fishing about 18 months ago, purely because I was in the Hebrides working quite a bit, and if I wanted to fish with my mates, it would have to be with a fly rod, some Peter Ross, Butcher, and one or two wee Katie MacLarens.

I asked other fishermen, which rod to buy. I would only need one because I wouldn't be fishing that often, I explained, and any more than that would be ridiculous, I'm not like all those other fishermen, I said, no, I'm a one rod man me.

Well where will you be fishing with it, they said, what techniques will you be using, will it be lochs or stillwaters, big rivers, small rivers, deep rivers, shallow rivers, streams, dry fly, wet fly, teams of up to 5 wet fly, duo, New Zealand, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All?

Yes, I said. Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and All. And so, it was to be, one rod to suit all waters and conditions, one 9Ft 6" 7Wt Orvis that would have to cope with everything from huge Salmon on Jura to tiny wee troots from the Dove...oh how Pointon mocked the "Pike Rod" and how it didn't bend even the tiniest of a fraction when I had a fish momentarily on before the lack of give made it prang off.

But I'd get my revenge. The moment I saw Glen's Hardy 7Ft 3Wt Demon, I mocked him for it's 'weak handshake', ridiculously soft action, and pathetic length. It didn't matter to me that he was catching 3 fish to every 1 of mine.

And so, apparently, having said all that, I appear to have become a bit of a 'Tackle Tart'. Last year, I bought a Streamflex 6Ft 6" 3wt and it changed my fishing completely. I started to catch fish. Then something else happened, Fly Forum's Fishcake showed me the 'duo' technique, and I started to catch more fish.

There's a bit of a chain reaction here because, if you start to get to grips with a technique, you grow confident. If you're comfortable with your rod, so to speak, you grow more confidence. If you start to catch fish, you grow even more confident and so on. You can be casting to a peice of water that is absolutely chocka with fish, but if you're not confident with your technique, tangling in trees, swearing, getting blood pressure, swearing some more, you're not going to catch many fish, and I found out the hard way at the beginning of last season.

Pointon is the perfect example of this. Yesterday, he fished at Milldale and he caught 24 Grayling having decided to use the Czech Nymphing technique that he has become super confident with. I too am a great fan of Czech Nymphing at this time of year and, like Glen, was lucky enough to get some great tuition from John Tyzack whilst fishing the Teviot a couple of weeks ago.

But today, I was determined to fish with a short rod, because at Milldale in particular, I find I can fish more water, avoid tangles, spend more time in the water, and therefore, I catch more fish.

I met Brian at The Yew Tree Inn at 10.30am and he'd join me as a guest on the Dove. It was a beautiful morning but pretty chilly. I thought it looked great for the fishing.

I managed a few small fish from the first few pools and we made our way slowly down towards Ilam Rock. The fishing was tougher down that end and I looked forward to trying my luck in a couple of pools on the way back.

Yesterday, Glen had quite a few fish from his newly named "Deliverance" Pool. Don't ask. He'd told me the exact run where he was taking them and had painstakingly described every detail about the pool over the phone so that I understood where he meant. I had a few casts. Nothing. I had a few more casts. Nothing. So I started to cast an inch or two further towards midstream each time and eventually, when the Klinkhammer and Pheasant Tail Nymph had landed near enough dead on midstream, there was a flash of silver and the Klink had gone.

Fish on.

Tyzack had shown me how to land a Grayling when we were on the Teviot, so again, I was confident and I was always going to land that fish, no matter what.

I cast again. The same spot. A silver flash and a quickly disappearing pink Klink and another Grayling was on.

I cast again. The same spot. Another silver flash and another disappearing pink Klink.

Another great day's fishing and it was great to have a catch up with Brian. I'd caught 7 lovely Grayling, all quite small, but great fun on light tackle.

So I've gone over to the dark side. I've joined "Pointon's Light Brigade", I'm armed to the teeth with short rods and boxes upon boxes of dry flys of all manner of shape size and description, ready for the nearing Trout season and I tell you what...this angler cannot wait.

Oh. The battle cry of Pointon's Light Brigade......"Dry Fly Only".