1st November 2014

Some lovely SMWS whiskies to be enjoyed in esteemed company.  We want a big turnout – Christmas will be upon us all too soon…

invites you to our end of year bash

Ten Steps to Heaven!

Canberra’s SMWS members and whisky lovers have an opportunity to enjoy our top class drams in style, at a sunset Steps Tasting on The Deck @ Regatta Point, which overlooks Lake Burley Griffin, the Captain Cook Fountain and our lakeside national institutions.  There is one chance only – Tuesday 18 November – 6pm for 6.30pm.

November weather usually permits us to open the doors at The Deck, to savour the picturesque atmosphere whilst enjoying brilliant company and even more brilliant drams!  We shall have a few holiday prizes to set the summer holiday season mood.  Some of your best Canberra SMWS friends will be hosting the tables and sharing the whiskies and their knowledge.  So dress up a bit, come along and indulge in sensate pleasures, in company with SMWS members. A delicious light supper is included.

We want everyone to enjoy their whisky responsibly and travel safely. Please arrange designated driver, or pickup, or taxi, or an invigorating walk!  Taxis 132227 or 6239 3666 or 6126 1600.

Slainte mhath
Drew McKinnie, ACT Manager | 0447 655717

Tuesday 18th November
6.00pm for 6.30pm

The Deck at Regatta Point
Barrine Drive, Parkes
Members/Partner – $80 incl GST
Guests/Non-Members – $120 incl GST


16th October 2014

Hi folks.  Where has all the time gone?  Busy busy busy…  Our midwinter SMWS tastings at regatta Point were well attended and much appreciated by participants.  The Canberra whisky scene is going from strength to strength.   The Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championships were great fun, a hoot, with some more ACT participants coming along.  The SMWS Managers Meeting was a success, and we are seeing great new things online and in partner bars through our new colleague Nick Rose.

Arrangements are now being made for our Spring-Summer Steps Tasting – ten magnificent malts will be on offer.  18 November at Regatta Point.

Just to let you know how much our efforts are appreciated, I have just been advised of a very positive review from our July tasting in The Taratory – See  Some great words and photos, first impressions and colourful observations.  We are glad you enjoyed the experience!  Thank you!


16th June 2014

It’s great fun, so come along and enjoy!



28th May 2014

I am often asked about best whisky bars in Canberra.  I usually refer people to talk to professionals in the ACT hospitality industry, working behind the bars.  They usually know best.  The good news is that the ACT restaurant and bar industry has recognised that we Canberrans like our drams of whisky, and the range is improving!

I have a few favourites.  My favourite research establishment / waterhole / bar is The Wig and Pen. (Alinga St, Canberra City)  There the attraction is fine microbrewery ales made on premises, and Lachie and his staff also have a good selection of whiskies at the back of the bar.

For a dedicated tour of whiskies I would go to Hippo Co (Garema Place, Canberra City) or to The Ox Eatery (Hotel East, Canberra Avenue, Kingston).  Both establishments have great atmosphere and a great, eclectic, wide range of whiskies, plus cocktails and other refreshments for your friends.

For more detailed descriptions, please see my Good Food Page at

Other establishments where you can get a decent dram include Ostani Bar at Hotel Realm (National Circuit, Barton), The Parlour Room (New Acton Precinct), King O’Malley’s (Garema Place, Canberra City) and the new Rum Bar (Kingston Foreshore, Kingston).

In The City Summer 2012-13.  Bar hopping.  Hippo Bar

Hippo Co, upstairs lounge in Garema Place, Canberra City


21st May 2014

More good news for Canberra whisky lovers.

We are delighted to inform you that The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will be an Exhibitor at WHISKYLIVE on Friday 30th and Saturday 31st May in Canberra. There are 2 sessions, commencing at 6pm on the Friday and 2pm on the Saturday, so book online on the Whisky Live website if you’d like to come along. There will be a few Society bottlings that you won’t have had the opportunity to taste yet, so we recommend dropping by if you’d like to enjoy a new gem or two.

Of course, Members will be entitled to a special bottling designated as our Members’ Only dram – so don’t forget to bring your membership card with you!  You might even spot a Society bottling at the Old & Rare Whisky Bar

There will also be a whisky dinner held on Thursday 29th May, with special guest speaker Damien Riley-Smith, owner of the Whisky Live events, Whisky Magazine and World Whisky Awards. Damian is in Australia to present the exciting developments and events in the whisky industry that are arising around the world. Details on the attached flyer – please book in with Whisky Live directly on their website if you would like to attend.  Happy dramming!



20th May 2014

Winter in Canberra can be cold, windy, bracing – perfect whisky weather!  If you are in the mood to enjoy our best SMWS cask strength single malt drams, in the great company of SMWS members and whisky lovers at The Deck @ Regatta Point, then set aside the evening of Wed 16th or Thu 17th July.

This will be a seated tasting, and we will work with the chefs at The Deck @ Regatta Point to provide some light accompaniments to enhance your enjoyment of our whiskies.  We have planned for two tastings, to ensure we can reach as many existing members as possible without overloading the room, plus a reasonable number of guests and newchums.  There will be a few prizes and giveaways, to help us celebrate the festive chill.

There will be a bonus prize if we get snow, sleet or hail at Regatta Point on the day of the tastings.  See for the snow outlook.

For bookings, please go online to or call Suzy Tawse (02) 99743046 with your credit card details.  Please don’t forget to arrange a taxi or designated driver home.


15th May 2014

This cake celebrates the wonderful marriage of chocolate, citrus and a splash of whisky; Ardbeg works wonderfully. Subtlety with addition of whisky works best. The combination is hedonistic!  It can be made as a single cake or a bunch of decadent cupcakes.  If you can make a good chocolate sponge, this recipe is so easy…  (This is based on an Annabel Langbein recipe, which is very reliable.)

Heat oven to 160-175 C. Grease sides and line base of two 20cm pans or one 30cm pan with baking paper.

Pour a dram of Ardbeg.  A Blasda or 10yo is a good start.  Have a taste, then a morsel of chocolate.  Enjoy sips whilst making a ganache icing.

Take 500ml cream or double cream, heat in saucepan until almost but not quite boiling around the edges of the pan.  Whilst heating, break up 500g top quality dark chocolate of your choice into small pieces.  When first bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, remove from heat and add chocolate.  Leave alone for 2-3 mins off the heat (no tasting yet) then stir s-l-o-w-l-y at first, then more vigorously until it melts fully into the cream, until it turns smooth and glossy. Let it cool for about 15mins, stirring occasionally to keep smooth and glossy.

When the chocolate-cream mix cools, then it is time to let the Ardbeg loose.  Two dessert spoonfuls should give a noticeable accent, so I recommend adding teaspoonfuls, to your taste, with a good stir each time.  You want a flavour accent, rather than an overwhelming hit. Let the whisky lift the chocolate, not overpower it.  Leave in glass bowl to cool further.  Meanwhile, clean the pan of chocolate residue with index finger whilst enjoying another sip of Ardbeg.

The cake comprises a simple mix:  3 cups of self-raising flour combined with 2 cups fine sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1-2 tsp baking soda, 1-2 tsp vanilla paste, 2 large or 3 medium eggs, 200g soft butter, and 1 cup moo juice (milk) or greek yoghurt if you prefer, and a small cup of black coffee.  Mix in a bowl or processor until smooth.  Add a 20ml dram of Ardbeg.  Stir in well.  Pour into the greased baking trays.  Into the oven, cook for an hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.   Clean the bowl, with another sip of Ardbeg to keep up the enthusiasm.

Whilst the cake is cooking, peel an orange or tangello and cut segments, removing all pith and membrane and seeds.  You could also use tinned mandarin segments if you prefer an easy method. Place in a glass bowl and then add a few drops of Ardbeg.  Let the segments marinate. The Uigeadail works wonderful, as do 33.XX SMWS offerings, so does the 10yo or Blasda.  Actually any Ardbeg!

When the cake cooks, let stand for a while to cool in the tin.  Get some sweet seville orange or mandarin conserve – or raspberry if you prefer.  If you have made two 20cm cakes, trim one to a flat base, spread a layer of conserve, then the top layer.  If a 30cm cake, cut the “hat” and do same.  Now you need to use your nose.  You want to smell both the cocoa-chocolate and hint of whisky aromas.  If not, just splash a few drops of Ardbeg on the top of the cake until the aromas start to rise.

Next step, the cake has to be cool and the ganache thick and spreadable.  Now spread layers of chocolate-whisky ganache over the top and sides of the cake. Cheats method, put the cake on a revolving base or lazy susan, turn the cake to spread real smooth and evenly. Slowly does it.  A dram of Ardbeg will aid your concentration, accuracy and enjoyment. Any leftover ganache will keep in fridge in a jar for a week, assuming that kids and your partner don’t find it…

When the coating is smooth, add segments of orange or tangello or mandarin on top of the cake, preferably in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  If you feel fancy, grate some chocolate over the top again with a zester. Chill, enjoy with friends, preferably with an Ardbeg dram in hand.

Chocolate ganache:

500 ml cream
500g good quality dark chocolate
Dram of whisky, Ardbeg or similar high quality Islay

Chocolate cake:

3 cups self-raising flour
2 cups raw caster sugar or fine sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1-2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp vanilla paste or concentrate
3 eggs
200g soft butter
1 cup milk or plain greek yoghurt
Small cup black coffee, espresso style
Dram of whisky
Orange or mandarin conserve, or raspberry conserve as alternate
Orange or tangello or mandarin segments, free of pith and seeds
Grated chocolate to garnish


Enthusiastic cook
Sense of humour
Dram of whisky, repeated as necessary

Ardbeg – a classy dram, always interesting


8th May 2014

As the ACT Manager for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), I am pleased to promote the responsible enjoyment and appreciation of fine single cask malt whiskies bottled by SMWS.  SMWS is a world-wide, Australia-wide society.  Membership gives access to some of the world’s best cask strength single malts, bottled by the society in Edinburgh, Scotland, and imported by SMWS Australia.

These whiskies are exceptionally flavoursome, and being undiluted single cask bottlings, are unique ‘expressions’ that are very rare, often quite different to their retail cousins.  The whiskies are identified by Distillery No, then Bottling No;  for example, 33.115 “Man, that’s braw!” is distillery 33 (Ardbeg) and the 115th bottling by the society from that distillery.  SMWS whiskies often feature very highly in world-class rankings of best whiskies.

SMWS tastings are arranged in Canberra several times each year at The Deck @ Regatta Point.  Sometimes we use a “steps” walk around format, with a wide range of malt whiskies.  Sometimes we have seated “masterclass” tastings where we explore a smaller range of whiskies and enjoy matched foods.  At all times we celebrate the camaraderie and social appreciation of finest single cask malts.

See the SMWS website for booking information at as well as SMWS on Facebook and Twitter.  In addition to Canberra, tastings are also held in Wollongong, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and now in New Zealand.

The SMWS Australian Cellarmaster, Andrew Derbidge, also provides an excellent Whisky and Wisdom blog at

Sometimes it is too foggy to fly…

SMWS9717 Too Foggy to Fly copy

…in fact whisky is only ever enjoyed when flying operations are over

The Deck @ Regatta Point is here