18 September 2014

Extreme Whisky. Steve Adams from Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom.

I love Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom. Have lost plenty of half days challenging Eve, Steve or Dave to take me on weird and wonderful whisky tours. From what I understand, they also have the second largest collection of whisky (and whiskey?) in the world. Very much worth a stop if you're ever in the area.

They're getting involved with the upcoming FNB Whisky Live festival and Steve did an interview with the festival journos.

Thought I'd share it with you. Because whisky.

What follows is like a "to do" list for Whisky fans. Challenge accepted :)


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There’s nothing vanilla about whisky…

There may be a brand of whisky to suit the tastes of every palate, but when it comes to the golden dram, spirits run high, and competition is great to produce the finest, the rarest, the most intriguing expression of this globally popular drink.

What happens when this fierce passion for the category is taken to the extreme? The FNB Whisky Live Festival spoke to Steve Adams, one of the founders of Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom, to learn more about ‘Extreme Whisky’ in South Africa and abroad. He answered some of our curious questions about the spirits that add colour and character to the industry – as if any more was needed!

What is the oldest whisky available on the market?

The Glenlivet 70 year old and Mortlach 70 year old are the oldest commercially available whiskies I know of. If you can find them, you would have to pay around R300 000 per bottle – and then you’d have to ask yourself if you could bring yourself to drink it. Furthermore, these are bottled at 45.9% alc/vol and 46.1% alc/vol respectively, which would pose the question: After 70 years in oak casks and giving up around 2% per year to the Angels, how is it possible that they have maintained such a high alcohol content?

What is the rarest whisky around?

From time to time, someone finds a whisky that’s been lying in a cask, forgotten in a dark corner of an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Scotland, and they’re bottled and released as rare limited editions… if the marketing speak is to be believed.

However, the rarest known whisky is probably the Mackinlay’s that lies beneath Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut in the Antarctic. Whyte and Mackay’s Richard Patterson is credited with recreating the whisky after having drawn a sample from that bottle and then returning it to its home under the ice.

What is the weirdest whisky you know of?

The weirdest flavours come from casks that lend unusual aromas and flavours to the whisky. The strangest flavour I’ve encountered is bubble gum, with one Chinese whisky I’ve encountered tasting a lot like jelly beans dissolved in jet fuel…

Which blend contains the most individual whiskies?

The Chivas Regal Century of Malts contains single malts from 100 distilleries.

Which is the most expensive whisky you’ve come across?

That has to be The Macallan 1946, in a fine Lalique Crystal decanter that sold for US$460,000. The most expensive commercial available whisky in South Africa would be the Glenfiddich 50 year old, which recently sold for R300,000.

What is the strangest thing you have heard of mixed with whisky in a cocktail?

There’s a place in Seattle that offers a peanut butter bourbon milkshake – that pretty much takes it for me!

What is the most surprising whisky you have ever come across?

Although I’ve had whisky from all over the world, the most surprising one was a whisky distilled by two gentlemen from Nelspruit! They came up with an excellent single malt matured for only three years in a brandy cask. They only produced a few bottles, and have no plans to do it again, sadly.

Which is the peatiest single malt that you know of?

That has to be Bruichladdich’s Octomore. There have been several batches to date, peated to as much as 167ppm (parts per million phenols – a measure of the amount of smoke particles) compared with around 50ppm for Laphroaig 10 year old, for example. They’re young malts, a tad over three years, which makes them especially smoky as over time spent in a cask the wood tends to mask and extract the phenols.

What is the most unusual use for whisky (apart from drinking it) that you have heard of?

Driving a racing car on Islay must rank right up there! James May of Top Gear once fuelled a car with Bruichladdich’s quadruple distilled “X4” and drove it around Islay! At around fifty times the price of petrol I’m not sure it was a cheap way to get to see the island...

What is the biggest bottle of whisky you have ever seen? And the smallest?

The biggest bottle I’ve ever seen has to be the 105 litre, 1.44m high bottle of Tomintoul 14 year old that holds the Guinness World Record. It now takes pride of place in the Whisky Castle, a whisky shop in the village of Tomintoul. The smallest bottles are available in most whisky and gift-shops in Scotland, normally sold in packs of three. Each one contains a little under 1.5ml, and has a perfectly recreated label and a sealed cap.

What is the most unusual shape whisky bottle you’ve ever seen?

That has to be Wild Reeds – a South African product, in a bottle the shape of Africa. They have a South African grain whisky, as well as an imported Scotch whisky.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about whisky?

Invest in whisky. If the market ever collapses, at least you can drink it and enjoy it!

17 September 2014

ZA Tech Show Episode 314 - Back in Service

After a series of failed recordings, a one-week holiday that entailed a 7-day 700km cycle trip from Johannesburg to Kosi Bay and a Skype call gone bad, Brett Haggard finally gets it together and puts out a new episode. He’s joined by Andy Hadfield and Adam Oxford for a bumper show, all about:
  • The African (and Kenya-specific) startup/tech scene;
  • Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge and Gear S;
  • Sony’s Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, Smart Watch 3 and SmartBand;
  • Apple’s iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Watch;
  • Apple Pay and what some of the local players think;
  • Mojang getting bought by Microsoft (and Notch’s departure);
  • The Android One programme and why we think it’s cool; and
  • Intel’s Edison and Galileo.

Our technology picks of the week are:

06 August 2014

ZA Tech Show Episode 371 - Show me the (mobile) money!

Brett Haggard gets together with his favourite Internet booze-hound, Andy Hadfield and his favourite analyst, Steven Ambrose for a mobile (money) heavy episode. Topics discussed by the panel include:

  • Vodacom’s new R550 smartphone;
  • Pep’s partnership with Google on an ‘African’ Android;
  • The Internet.org app;
  • Xiaomi overtaking Samsung in China;
  • What’s going on in the mobile money space;
  • Yo and Red Alert Israel Integration;
  • What’s the latetst on MXit; and
  • Andy and Brett’s impressions of Bodytec.


Our technology picks of the week are:


04 July 2014

What pisses me off about the NGO sector...

In this interesting stage of my life (post startup) - where the party line is "actively seeking next gig", I've had a rare and cool opportunity to start exploring the commercial landscape to see what's out there and what I want to work on next.

Something that has always appealed to me is the NGO sector. The chance to use your skills to actually do some good in the world. Sure, money is nice - and I want lots of it. But sometimes the job satisfaction isn't all its cracked up to be. When you look back at age 55 (young retirement these days) - how will you feel about the jobs, startups and projects you undertook?

Photo Credit: B. Baltimore Brown (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bbaltimore/9064647)

And yet. The more I investigate the NGO sector, the more broken it appears. Forget the fragmentation - if just 20% of the millions of amazing projects out there could just find a way to band together, can you imagine...

Forget the people (who are awesome). I have grown an enormous amount of respect for those that ply their trade within this sector. They're more than tireless, many are superhuman.

Here's the crux. If you think corporate politics are bad - you should just dip your toe in donor funding.

I wanted to try and outline these thoughts, because I'm sure there are many NGO's that are breaking this mould. I'd love to know who they are. One of the trends in this sector appears to be towards "social business" as opposed to "non profit". That's starting to make some sense. Making money while making an impact - a positioning I can get behind.

A quote to kick things off. From the bastion of capitalism, Private Equity...

"You’re probably wondering why a private equity magazine is writing about impact investing.Well, three reasons, really.

The obvious answer is that some of the world’s leading impact investors don’t believe they have to sacrifice financial returns to deliver social returns; indeed, in some cases, they think that addressing a social problem can actually deliver outsized financial gains. In other words, these groups differ from regular private equity firms only in the strategy they pursue to achieve their returns (and the dual proposition they can offer investors, of course).

Perhaps more importantly, though, we take the not-very-controversial view that the future significance of impact investing – the scale of its own impact, if you like – depends to a large extent on its success in gaining access to institutional money and the capital markets more broadly. And this is the audience that we speak to every day.We know from talking to big investors that they have a growing interest in this area; we also know that they’re still a bit nervous about it. So we’re interested in looking at this issue from their perspective, and examining the pros and cons in a way that’s useful to them.

There’s also a third (slightly selfish) reason: this stuff is just really interesting to write about. The prospect of unlocking private capital to help solve big societal problems – from recidivism in the suburbs to malaria in Africa – is a hugely enticing one."

-- James Taylor, Senior Editor of Private Equity International 

My fundamental problem informed from early stage investigations into this sector: you're expected to have made your money first, before you can make an impact as a senior role-player in the NGO sector.

If you want to work your way up from the bottom, you have to make an enormous lifestyle and wealth sacrifice, very contradictory to human nature (and the primary reason why I've developed such immense respect for the 1000s of committed NGO grinders I've come across lately).

WHY? Why will NGO's not pay market related salaries (broadly speaking, there will obviously be exceptions) for senior people? Or just for people full stop?

The answer lies partially in the politics of donor funding. How every donor buck has to be accounted for - to the point where some NGO's spend more time accounting for their actions than taking actions. Every donor buck wants to make an immediate impact. Not an impact to an organisation or team that might make a bigger overall impact over a longer time period.

I came across one Managing Director of a kick-ass NGO lately. He was currently earning what I used to earn 9 years ago - as a fresh faced whippersnapper in the ad industry. And I haven't been exorbitantly paid throughout my career. It was disgusting. And yet he continued on, doing invaluable work that actually helps people - on the ground - where they need help.

Have we created a situation where NGO's are scrambling for cents instead of making sense out of the myriad of problems we, as a developing country, are faced with?

There's a TED Talk, given fairly recently, that I highly recommend you watch. It tackles the some of the issues I've raised: the lunacy of donor funding, donor restrictions and procedures on how that funding can be spent - and how "impact" is best achieved.

Don't get me wrong. I know very little about the NGO sector. If I'm way off here, tell me. If not, watch this. Talk about the problem. Go hug your friends that are working in the NGO sector and say thank you.

It may sound selfish, but it looks like I'm going to have to go and make some more money to pay off debt and fund the sproglet's education - before I'm "allowed" or able to enter this sector. Perhaps. Or perhaps someone will show me there's hope out there.

Perhaps I've found a problem I want to help solve one day. One day.

TED: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.


04 June 2014

ZA Tech Show Episode 304 - Sour Apples

It’s back to the usual rhythm this week as Brett Haggard, Adam Oxford and Andy Hadfield gather to discuss Apple’s announcements, the world’s first Afrikaans social network and 3D printed limbs.

  • iOS 8 announced at WWDC;
  • Google’s new designer Glass;
  • Toeter;
  • Tizen on Samsung Phones and Smart Devices;
  • Vumatel winning the Parkhurst Fibre tender; and
  • The doubling of mobile data usage in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our technology picks of the week are:

  • Adam picks Roboleg;
  • Andy picks the Discovery Insure Driver App for iOS; and
  • Brett picks Cyclemeter for iOS