Saturday, 6 October 2012

Midlands Whisky Festival

A dram fine day out!
Trains, Planes and Automobiles (and a short walk!)

On the last Saturday in September, the Midlands Whisky Festival is held in Stourbridge's historic Town Hall.

I first learned of this whisky festival by fellow tweeter and whisky collector @Ardbaggie who after sharing a bottle of Ardbeg Day with me said I should really and try to get up to meet him there. I checked out their website and worked out that it would be possible to get there by train, as long as we could get to Milton Keynes station and back.

Organiser David Gardener
I made a call to the organiser, David Gardner the owner of Nickolls and Perks if he could fit us in and it was all set up. I booked the train tickets, there would be three changes and four trains each way!

Kat says: We started our journey bright and early as it would take us just over two hours to travel from Milton Keynes train station to Stourbridge. I think it was the first time I've been on the high speed train but I'm not sure, if I had, this time was different as it made me feel very queasy. The cabins of the train felt like they were floating.

Apart from the train ride, all four of our connections were straightforward and we arrived as planned into Stourbridge for just after 11.00 am. As we were a bit early for the show we spent some time in the Nickolls & Perks shop admiring their collection of whiskies for sale. They really have an excellent choice of whiskies and hold tastings in their cellars too!

A Bagpiper to open the show
As we waited in front of the doors of the Town Hall (being keen, we were right at the front!), we got nabbed by the film crew who were filming for the festival. We obliged and said some words on film so keep an eye on YouTube for this! To entertain everyone as we waited and to proudly announce to Stourbridge that the Whisky Show was about to open on today, there was a lovely man playing the bagpipes.

Dave says: While waiting at the head of the queue to be let in we caught up with Jon and Mike from Living Room Whisky, we were all looking forward to the first Master Class with Colin Dunn, Diageo Ambassador Supremo, and knowing what he had in store for the lucky participants, decided it would be foolish to wake up the palate with anything beforehand.

Kat says: This was the the third time we'd met Colin and went to our first master class with him at Stratford upon Avon in April. As ever he was very engaging and had a trick or two to help break the ice. If you've been along to one of his masterclasses before you will know what I mean, if you haven't then you should try to get along to one at the earliest opportunity. Here we sampled seven very special whiskies including a Rosebank and Port Dundas.

Dave says: Colin had lined up seven drams for the masterclass. Our last session with him was called 'the magnificent seven', this was spectacular! All seven were not something you'll find easily, or cheap! With three of them being from closed distilleries.
  • Rosebank 21 Year Old (53.8% abv)
  • Port Dundas 20 Year Old (57.4% abv)
  • Caol Ila 12 Year Old unpeated (64.0% abv)
  • Port Ellen 11th Release 32 Year Old (53.9% abv)
  • Johnnie Walker Platinum 18 Year Old (40.0% abv)
  • Knockando 25 Year Old (43.0% abv)
  • Lagavulin 12 Year Old (57.5% abv)
The Diageo Special Releases from 2011
We started by nosing the Rosebank 21 Year Old, and comparing it against the Port Dundas 20 Year Old Single Grain Whisky. Colin likes to get the senses working before tasting and regularly asks you to return to an earlier dram to notice the differences in the nose. 

Kat had tried the Rosebank earlier at Whisky Live and I had tried the Port Dundas then too. Colin brought out a huge bar of dark chocolate and proceeded to give us all a piece of chocolate to taste with the Port Dundas.

From here we moved onto the wonderful Caol Ila 12 Year Old, another whisky we had tasted at Whisky Live London before moving onto what I was really waiting for.

I have heard of Port Ellen, but never thought I might get the opportunity to taste something from this Islay distillery. Closed in 1983, stock of this whisky is getting scarcer and prices are rocketing as it is sought after by collectors. This 32 Year Old was distilled in 1979, I was still at school and Kat hadn't even been born! Colin went on to tell us that we were drinking 'liquid history' and we savoured every last drop and it certainly was the highlight of my trip to Stourbridge.

We followed the Port Ellen (although how can you follow a 32 year old Port Ellen?) with Johnnie Walker's new Platinum, a blended scotch whisky, all over 18 years old and from the Speyside region.

From Johnnie Walker we tried an excellent Knockando 25 Year Old and finished the class off with another favourite Islay Lagavulin 12, we first tasted at The Whisky Lounge Midland Fest

Kat says: The masterclass over ran slightly which meant we didn't have long before the start of the second masterclass. However, we did manage to fit in an Eldorado 15 Year Old Rum, a Bowmore 18, and a Hibiki 17 before making our way back upstairs for the masterclass. 

This was the second time I've tried the Hibiki, the first time was in Sheffield, thanks to Jeff @sheffieldwhisky. I wasn't sure if I liked last time as I found it too floral, not really making me want to go back for more. This time round I did enjoy it more but again left me with the feeling that its a whisky that I would have to be in the mood for, not one that I would enjoy at any-time.

The second masterclass was hosted by Melanie Stranger from the Springbank Distillery. She also treated us to some special whiskies, some had not even been released and one of them drawn direct from the cask.

Dave says: Melanie had six fabulous Campbeltown whiskies for us to taste, which I was really looking forward too, especially after tasting my first Longrow recently.
  • Hazleburn 12 Year Old (46.0% abv)
  • Kilkerrin WIP 4 (46.0% abv)
  • Springbank Calvados 12 Year Old (52.1% abv)
  • Springbank Local Barley Cask Sample (53.6% abv)
  • Longrow Rundlets and Kilderkins 11 Year Old (51.2% abv)
  • Longrow Red 11 Year Old (51.2% abv)
The six from The Springbank Distillery
We started with the Hazleburn 12 Year Old, a dram I had tried before in a Skype whisky tasting with @whiskyrepublic following a sample swap. From the Hazleburn we moved onto Kilkerrin WIP 4, a relatively new expression released in May of this year.

Next we were treated to Springbank Calvados, a 12 year old due to be released in October 2012 (not 2013 as in incorrectly stated on the masterclass notes) This peated whisky had been triple distilled, then matured for six years in bourbon casks and then six years in Calvados casks

We were then treated to a sample drawn directly from the cask of Springbank local barley, distilled in 1999 before trying Longrow Rundlets and Kilderkins, an 11 Year Old, due to be released in January 2013. This spirit had been matured in smaller casks which resulted in a much higher 'Angels Share' at a whopping 5-7% 

We finished the session off with a Longrow Red another 11 Year Old, released just a month earlier. This whisky had spent seven years in bourbon casks before being 'finished' in Cabernet Sauvignon casks for a further four years of maturation, it was my favourite of the Springbank Masterclass.

Kat says: After the second masterclass time seemed to fly, the festival was all over before we had a chance to sample from some the distilleries we've never tried yet. It was great to meet up again with the guys from @LRwhisky and we finally met Andrew Purslow (@Ardbaggie) and Joe Ellis from HTF Whisky for the first time. Its always nice to meet other 'whiskyheads'.

Dave Says: We managed to sample a few more 'new' whiskies before the show closed, a couple of Glenmorangies, and Ardbeg's Corryvreken before heading over to catch up with Andrew Purslow who after managing the masterclasses all afternoon was now helping out on the BenRiach stand where our final dram was the 'Dream Dram' and their 25 Year Old 'Authenticus'.

The Midlands Whisky Festival in Stourbridge was a fabulous day out and well worth the two taxi rides, eight trains and the short walk up and down Stourbridge High Street. Yes me managed to get home and make all of the connections without any problems.

We'd like to thanks Andrew Purslow (@Ardbaggie) for letting us know about it in the first place, for David Gardner of Nickolls and Perks for inviting us, for Colin Dunn and Melanie Stanger for two great Masterclasses and for all the staff and volunteers who put on 'a dram fine day out'. 

A couple of the great people we met!
We met some great people in the Midlands - enjoy your whisky journeys wherever they they take you, and we look forward to seeing you all again next year on September 28th 2013.

For more information and updates visit:

and check out their blog too at:

as well as The Midland Whisky Festival website too:

The guys at Living Room Whisky have also got a great blog post of their experiences and their photos are way better than ours!
(Note to self, buy a camera and stop relying on your very old phone)

If you are on Twitter you must follow the following top class acts: @Nickolls_Perks @midlandswhisky @Ardbaggie @LRWhisky @whiskyrepublic @JosephEllis and @whiskysheffield

The full dram list, with links to separate blog posts where applicable and when finished!
  • Whisky Discovery #163 Rosebank 21 Year Old (53.8% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #47 Port Dundas 20 Year Old (57.4% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #151  Caol Ila 12 Year Old unpeated (64.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #164 Port Ellen 11th Release 32 Year Old (53.9% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #165 Johnnie Walker Platinum 18 Year Old (40.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #166  Knockando 25 Year Old (43.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #118  Lagavulin 12 Year Old (57.5% abv)
  • Rum Discovery #1 Eldorado 15 Year Old Rum (43.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #167  Bowmore 18 Year Old (43.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #168 Hibiki 17 Year Old (43.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #137 Hazleburn 12 Year Old (46.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #169 Kilkerrin WIP 4 (46.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #170 Springbank Calvados 12 Year Old (52.1% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #171 Springbank Local Barley Cask Sample (53.6% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #172 Longrow Rundlets and Kilderkins 11 Year Old (51.2% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #173  Red 11 Year Old (51.2% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #174  15 Year Old Nectar D’Or (46.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #175  15 Year Old Artein (46.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #176 Ardbeg Corryvrecken NAS (57.1% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #177  17 Year Old Solstice (50.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #178  25 Year Old Authenticus (46.0% abv)

No comments: