Not everyone's been lucky enough to be able to come to a Dramboree before, so we thought we'd give you some idea of the sorts of things we've done in previous years to whet your whiskying appetite...
2016 was a huge year for Dramboree - for starters, our awesome sponsors That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottled us up a delicious 19yo Arran! We sampled it enthusiastically during the ferry trip across Loch Lomond to Rowardennan Lodge - and it won't be a surprise to anyone that it was an award winner, netting a Gold Medal in the 2016 Independent Bottlers Challenge.
For our distillery tour we were honoured to be received by Loch Lomond Distillery - not an experience open to the general public. A powerhouse of distilling on a large scale, it was a real treat to see that as much care, expertise and attention goes into their production as other smaller or more well-known distillers. We saw the cooperage and the stills in action (Pot, column and Lomond stills), had a tasting with the master blender, a session in the lab with their chemist, and tried our hand at blending. They're doing some great things over there and we look forward to bottlings in their new range hitting the marketplace.
For Friday night's headline tasting we brought together 3 of the UK's most highly regarded independent bottlers - WM Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, and Berry Brothers & Rudd - with a "head to head to head" tasting of some of their releases, insight into how the custodians of the modern companies maintain and continue the legacy of 100+ year old names, and some great stories.
Saturday evening whisky tasting with Alwynne Gwilt, William Grant & Sons Whisky Specialist showing their bottlings from Ailsa Bay, Kininvie, and Girvan, and highlighting how a family-run company with an increasing global market share needs to do things differently but keep everything in balance to maintain supply and exemplary levels of quality.
Whisky author Rachel McCormack partnered up with Chris Hoban of R&B Distillers to give us a class on some simple cooking with whisky ideas: showing that flavour combinations can work in fantastically unexpected ways. Caledonia Cream with peaty whisky in it? You bet it works!
Alongside the "formal" tastings we had a couple of bonuses - Herman van Broekhuizen from Compass Box won hearts and minds with Herman's Midnight Malt Sermon, showing us that blended whisky's where it's at. And Maverick Drinks Portfolio Ambassador James Goggin then blew those minds with a very interesting & odd session called "Grey Doggin' with Goggin", taking qhisky separated into alcohol and 'other' in a rotovap still, tasting, and recombining.
And of course, there was the tasting table...
In 2015 we went on a distillery visit to the beautiful highland home of Cragganmore, where we were treated to a magnificent day experience comprised of a tour (with expert guidance by distillery group manager Andy Cant), a copper/still masterclass (with the incomparable Douglas Murray), a maturation masterclass (with whisky specialist Emma Walker), a tasting of some fine examples from the Cragganmore range (led by none other than master blenders Stuart Morrison and Maureen Robinson), and a Q&A panel session with production, technical and marketing people from Diageo!
Our headline tasting on the Friday was a selection of Unreleased Distilleries - or to put it another way, whisky that it's not possible to buy yet! We were very lucky to be joined by Brian from Ballindalloch Single Estate Distillery, Tony from playfully experimental Strathearn Distillery, and Ludo from William Grant & Sons showing us some whisky from their powerhouse Ailsa Bay Distillery.
The session was a great way to compare and contrast the styles and philosophies (as well as spirit) of three new producers, and learn that there's room, reasons, and rationale for all of them in the marketplace.
Iain Allan of Glen Moray took us through a selection of whiskies and cask samples from this often overlooked and always fascinating distillery, talking about things like wood policy and experimentation, along with maintaining a commitment to sell affordable whisky.
We even finished with a whisky cask aged dark beer - those guys are into all sorts of cool stuff!
In addition to the already excellent idea of the tasting table we figured we'd add a bit of People's Choice to the proceedings, with the 1st place prize going deservedly to Phil Woodhead and his lovely 1965 Glenturret.
And last place to Jon Webb with the "memorable" bottle he brought.
In 2014 we ran 4 smaller tastings on the Saturday afternoon and people could choose the 2 they most liked the sound of.
One of these was a session with Highland Park's Global Brand Advocate, Mr Daryl Haldane - who led an in-depth tasting of the whiskies from Orkney to reach a better understanding of the liquid, the brand, the island and the traditions... including a sneak preview of the then unreleased sherry-enriched Dark Origins bottling.
Award-winning independent bottler and members' club the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was introduced to people by way of the incomparable Annabel Meikle and her Super-Sensory Tasting, unlocking ideas of flavour, sight, and smell description through a panel of the Society's single-cask cask-strength bottlings.
Internationally renowned retailer Mike Lord from The Whisky Shop Dufftown is a huge promoter and proponent of whisky in Speyside and Dufftown in particular, and is a regular organiser and fixture of the Spirit of Speyside Festival.
Mike presented a selection of Speyside whiskies to accompany an impassioned description of the many reasons why Dufftown should be considered as a whisky region in its own right alongside Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Campbeltown and Islay.
Vintage whisky specialist Angus MacRaild from Whisky Online Auctions chaired a tasting of a selection of old bottlings from years gone by, and explored comparisons between the way whisky's made now and the way that things were done in days of yore.
John Dewar & Sons' global marketing manager Stephen Marshall was our headline tasting for day 1, giving us a sneak preview of the upcoming bottling series The Last Great Malts and sharing all manner of tales and stories about things pertaining to the whisky, life in their distilleries, and a lot else besides.
On the Saturday night we held a discussion panel with a group of experts from various facets of "the industry" (a marketer, an enthusiast & festival organiser, a writer & retailer, a consultant, and an auctioneer) all united by their common love of whisky - with lots of lively discussion and audience questions and participation.
The first Dramboree kicked off with a magnificent tasting by Francis Cuthbert from the Daftmill Distillery - a farmhouse distillery in Cupar, which has been running since 2005. He gave us a very special tasting on differences between spirit distilled in summer and winter, with cask samples to illustrate. It was also the first time Daftmill's been tasted outside of the distillery walls!
Following on from that, Angus MacRaild from Mulberry Bank Auctions led us through a tasting of some fascinating old single malts from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and we discussed differences between the whisky and the marketing of whisky between then and now,
Our first ever distillery tour was at the nearby Aberfeldy Distillery, home of the John Dewar & Sons whisky experience. After an "off the beaten track" distillery tour with Stephen Marshall we retired to the warehouse for a cask tasting, followed by an amble back through the beautiful town.
Springbank Distillery's Melanie Stanger visited us with a tasting of cask samples featuring some new upcoming finishes, as well as a cheeky peek at a couple of drams from their "cousin" distillery just next door, Glengyle - the birthplace of Kilkerran.
Saturday night was capped off by The Whisky Lounge's "Physical Quiz Tasting Feis Ile Challenge" - a tasting of 6 of the 2013 Feis Ile bottlings amid a quiz, charades, physical challenge, and a whole lot of silliness.
ALL in addition to the usual fun of being in the beautiful Scottish countryside with a bunch of interested & interesting people who all share the same passion, and not to forget the ever-magnificent whisky sharing table which everyone brings bottles to contribute to and nobody leaves having been underwhelmed.
So as you can see - a Dramboree is a pretty special weekend, and no two are ever alike (other than that they're ALWAYS brilliant fun).
It'd be silly to miss out.