National Piping Museum, Glasgow

Why, you may ask, is a whisky magazine, featuring a festival of piping?
Well, beyond the fact that the skirl of the pipes still gets my blood up, it features whisky tasting sessions hosted by Willie MacDougall, who knows a thing or two about the golden liquid.

In the cosy surrounds of the National Piping Centre museum, Willie took us on an innovative tasting journey, travelling around Scotland in an order determined by the dates of the major piping festivals, checking out the wares of Tomatin, Oban, Edradour, Springbank and Talisker. And not only did sampling these whiskies along a non-traditional dimension need to make sense from a taste perspective, to further complicate the matter, Willie had set himself the constraint that all should be affordable drams.

Spoiler Alert.
There are no spoilers here.

Willie did a fantastic job of taking novices and hardened whisky drinkers alike along a Caledonian road trip that was fun and informative. If school had been like this, we’d all be geniuses. You may not immediately think that talk about hogsheads and butts, American or European oak, sherry and bourbon could be fun but he made the whole group sit up and pay attention..
The killer pop-quiz question was, of course, on whether the distillate or cask had the most impact on the flavour. For most, the answer that the cask is so key came as a surprise.
It’s official, the wood, not the water, makes the biggest difference.

Whisky tasting at Piping Live

On parade


A light sweetness from bourbon barrels and virgin oak casks with vanilla and hints of lemon, sweet candy and apples leading to a light, clean finish.

Oban 14

A rich and smoky nose with a hint of the sea and newly cut hay, thick and full-bodied with notes of sweet citrus and smoke, leading to a dry fruit, lengthy close.


An unusual, almost rum-like whisky, complex fruity and vanilla, barley and toasted almonds with a fruity finish.

Springbank 10

Oak, honey, spices and light smoke, full and sweet with manging teh contradictions of marzipan and smoke, with a smoky finish wandering off to a fruity sweetness.

Talisker 10

Full-bodied and fantastic, strong peat smoke and the sea, rich and fruity with plenty smoke and barley malt, with a long ending closing sweet yet peppery.

An excellent selection of malts fit for a king yet suitable for the wallets of us mere mortals. Thank you Willie..