Monday, 23 April 2012

The Whisky Lounge London Fest 2012

I have been looking at attending one of The Whisky Lounge events for a while, but to date most were either out of reach or bad timing for me. I saw the London event advertised, but was too slow to get Saturday tickets and so was resigned to reading the tweets of the event while re-furbishing our bathroom. On the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the show the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tweeted a competition for a pair of tickets to the event, and all I had to do was re-tweet their tweet. With fingers firmly crossed I re-tweeted each time I was asked, and on Friday morning received a message from Joe McGirr of the SMWS that I was ‘the chosen one’!

A quick call to my daughter Kat, to see if she was free, and whatever plans she had were immediately cancelled – my arm had truly been bitten off.

So in within four weeks of our first whisky show we were attending a second! We decided to attend the last session on Saturday 21st which started at 1600, took the First Capital Connect train into the City, a short leg on the Tube and we emerged from Victoria Station to warm sunlight as we made our way down to the venue. Arriving a little early we found a coffee shop and waited before joining the queue to collect our tickets. True to form the weather turned as we made our way to the back of the queue, but were soon inside in the dry.

First dram of the day
After being wrist banded, we collected our glass, water and guide, and made straight for the SMWS stand to say thanks to the team that put up the tickets for us. I knew Joe McGirr wouldn’t be there, but we had met John McCheyne at the recent Whisky Live Show. John was quickly over-run with members wanting to talk to him so had a our first dram of the show with Sam on the SMWS stand. Sam chose 36.56 for us, which he told us was a 22 Year Old Speyside Malt (Benrinnes). It was a great way to start the show. 

Seeing that John McCheyne was tied up with members we thought we would come back and see him little later, and headed over to the first stand that was on our right when we came in and made our way anti-clockwise around the room.

First stop was the Glenfarclas Stand. I’ve never had any Glenfarclas before and we sampled three of their core bottlings, their 10 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 25 Year Old. Three cracking drams, but my favourite was the Glenfarclas 15 Year Old, and went back for seconds of this one

Next up and The Midleton Distillery had three Irish Whiskies I really wanted to try. Ed McAvoy, the Jameson Brand Ambassador took us through Green Spot, Redbreast 12 Year Old and Powers 12 Year Old. Another three great drams and will be looking out for a cask strength Redbreast 12 for my collection. My favourite was the Powers 12 Year Old and I went back for seconds of this one too. A colleague is just on his way to Ireland tomorrow, so I gave him my wish list!

The next stand was The London Distillery Company where we met Darren Rook who told us of his plans to build the first London Distillery for 100 years. I had heard of this project and have been following it on-line. There is an excellent interview with Darren on Whisky Marketplace TV

Darren also had bottle of the SMWS 36.56 that we started our day with, and shared a dram with us while outlining his plans. For further information check out their website but the key points are that they plan on using organic malted barley from Wiltshire, and will then use innovative handcrafted copper stills to produce a spirit which is aged in oak casks. The whisky will be natural from the cask. non-chillfiltered and won’t contain artificial colouring. Capacity will be small so whisky released from the distillery will be in limited quantities.

Darren outlines his plans to Kat
With funding now complete they are planning to be up and running later this year, and there is a release schedule now on the website, and after the New Make and Aged Spirit releases the first London Single Malt Whisky should be available in 2016

From The London Distillery we moved on to the Glenfiddich Stand.

I’ve enjoyed the Glenfiddich 12 in the past, and I’m still enjoying a Glenfiddich 18 but was keen to sample a few more of the core range. We collared Dre and asked him to run us through the range and sampled four of the core expressions on display starting with the Rich Oak a 14 Year Old and moving on to the 15 Year Old Solera Vat, the 15 Year Old Distillers Edition and finishing with the 21 Year Old Rum Cask Finish. Four top drams and all worthy of being added to my shelf in the future, but my particular favourite was the Distillers Edition 15 Year Old.

Nicola and Kat
Next door to Glenfiddich was The Balvenie where we stopped to chat to Dr Andrew Forrester. I’m a big fan of The Balvenie and currently have five expressions on my shelf, with my most recent find being a bottle of their 10 Year Old Founders Reserve.

I asked Andrew if he had anything special behind the counter and he produced a bottle of their 17 Year Old Peated Cask which I have tasted before, but don’t have on my shelf yet, tho' is on the list! 

If you haven't joined Warehouse 24 then you really ought to, it is one of the best Distillery Clubs on-line that I have found

Andrew then introduced us to Nicola who is one of the Whisky Boys. The Whisky Boys are a Father and Daughter team, which we were becoming! Nicola told Kat that she must start writing on this blog too, then let us have a wee sniffer of the new make spirit which was hidden under the stand. At just over 70% abv it was very over powering, but a great experience none the less. We finished off with a dram of 21 Year Old Portwood before moving onto the next stand.

There were a number of brands on the next stand, but we only managed to sample a few as it was very busy around the Bowmore bottles. Three different expressions tasted; Auchentoshan 12 Year Old, Auchentoshan Valinch, which I went back for a second dram, and a Yamazaki 12 Year Old which was very good too. We weren’t able to get close to the Bowmore and with the SMWS still over-run we proceeded to Compass Box

We pushed our way to the front and asked about the brand and the range on display. We were fortunate to be able to spend some time with Céline who took through them all and tasted seven different expressions; Asyla, Great King, Oak Cross,Spice Tree, The Peat Monster, Hedonism and finished with Orangerie which was served in a small plastic tot in order to preserve the Glencairn! The Orangerie did exactly what it said on the label and I’m glad it hadn’t tainted my nosing glass! My favourite from Compass Box was The Peat Monster, so went back for a second which helped clean the palate of the citrus flavours and set me up nicely for Kilchoman on the next stand.

On the Kilchoman stand we sampled everything on offer and tasted four top quality drams; Their 100% Islay, 2006 a 5 Year Old, their recently released Sherry Cask and finished off with Machir Bay a no age statement blended malt of 3,4 and 5 year old whiskies. All four were magnificent Islay drams, and my favourite of the stand was the 2006.

With time starting to run out now, we decided to rush over to try some Indian whisky. Amrut has been on my wish list, but unfortunately we arrived just as they had finished poring all of their samples on offer – they had been drunken dry and were starting to pack up early.

Moving to our right there were a couple of Benromach on offer and before last pours were announced managed to try both the 10 year old and the Organic.

With the show now packing up and most of the visitors making their way out we managed to get a few words with John McCheyne at SMWS as well as finally meeting Alwynne, (@themisswhisky, and @gwiltypleasures) Billy (@cowfish) and Joe (@TWLJoe) who we’ve tweeted with, but never met in person.

All in all another great experience, a great venue, well organised and we met some wonderful people from both behind and in front of the stands and certainly looking forward to doing this all again in the near future. I also passed the 100 mark and have now tasted 101 different whiskies in my journey to date.

A final HUGE thanks to the Single Malt Whisky Society who kindly gave me the two tickets, The Whisky Lounge for organising events like this and to everyone we met at the show.

For more information checkout the following and  

The full dram list with links to separate blog posts (as they are finished)

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