Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show Part 1

I have been really fortunate this year, I've won a few whisky gifts from the competitions entered this year, as well as having some great invitations to attend whisky shows. I was really looking forward to the ‘Trade Day’ of The Whisky Exchanges Whisky Show at Vinopolis, but really wanted to go to one of the public days too.

It’s not a cheap day out at £99.00 a ticket and so was resigned to the fact that I couldn't really stretch the budget this year, and would have to settle for the Trade Day only which was booked for Monday 8th. However, I wasn't going to simply give up and wait. I entered every competition I could find, on the internet, on Facebook and on Twitter surely one of my numbers would come up.

Slowly throughout the week leading up to the show, winners of pairs of tickets were being called up, and I wasn't one of them, no emails, no phone calls, and by now the show had opened. There were tweets from friends who were at the show saying how wonderful it was, it only made things worse, I really wanted to go on Sunday.

Then late on Saturday afternoon a Tweet went out from The London Distillery – simply re-tweet to win a pair of tickets for Sunday’s show, I did, each time I was asked to, and so late Saturday evening I received the tweet I was waiting for. A pair of tickets were mine!

I asked my wife to join me on this special day out, to come and meet some of the wonderful people I have met at the whisky shows this year. I was so excited I could hardly sleep on Saturday night!

It’s quite easy for us to get into London, the trains run from Bedford into the heart of London every 30 minutes, and with Vinopolis located just ten minutes walk from London Bridge Station, it was very simple as the Bedford to Brighton train stops right there, no underground, buses or taxis to worry about.

By the time we got into the city the sun had burnt off the morning mist that we saw on the way down, and it was starting to look like a beautiful day. We arrived at the venue a little after midday. The initial queue we saw lining up had subsided while we enjoyed a coffee, and were able to walk straight in to the first hall and to be met with a mouth watering selection of whiskies from around the world.

Where should we start? 

First we went over to catch up with Darren Rook and his team, Distiller Andrew MacLeod and Online Marketing ; Marco Nijholt from The London Distillery, to thank them for the pair of tickets, and to catch up with progress with his project.

After leaving The London Distillery stand we bumped into Diageo Supremo, Colin Dunn, who told us that we must come upstairs to see him as he had some very special drams on offer. Not knowing where to start first I spotted a Three Ships Whisky, decided I should start with my first ever South African Whisky as a palate awakener!

Three Ships Limited Edition 10 Year Old South African single malt whisky, distilled and matured at the James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington South Africa, bottled at 43% abv, there’s a wonder that there is any of this left at all after 10 years in the South African climate – a huge ‘Angels Share’ of circa 10% was quoted! It certainly was just the ticket to wake up the palate

Scotch Malt Whisky Society
As always, a fabulous line up at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Stand
From here we made our way over to the SMWS stand to catch up with John McCheyne and discuss where I should be looking to spend my ‘dream dram’ tokens, while there John poured me a lovely drop of SMWS 116.25, a 25 Year Old Japanese Whisky from the Yoichi Distillery, distilled on 20th March 1987 and matured in a first fill ex sherry butt, yielding just 485 bottles at a 59.2% abv. John warned me that this was a bit of a sherry monster, very rich and very sweet, he was not wrong!  The sweet sherry influence was massive on the nose, and the sweetness was throughout the taste and finish.

From one sherry monster to another as I decided that I should make my way over to the Glenfarclas Stand to go for my first dream dram. We met George S Grant who poured a generous dram of the Glenfarclas Family Casks 1963 release VIII. Ever since starting my whisky journey I've been searching for whisky that was distilled in 1963, my birth ye
ar. I know it’s just a ‘pipe dream’ as at almost £600 it’s way out of my league, but it was fabulous! 

My first 'Dream Dram' of the day - Born in '63
This was another 'liquid history' moment. After 48 years in a Sherry Hogshead this was bottled in October last year at 50.4% and yielded just 194 bottles. After nosing it for as long as I could stand, I dived in.

Nose: Huge Sherry hit initially, almost Port like. Stewed oranges and lemons seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.

Palate: Rich and luxurious, more sherried fruits and chocolate notes. Just fabulous!

Finish: Sweet rich fruits, long and luxurious.

Overall: So pleased I was able to taste this great whisky.

After sampling my dream dram 48 year old I decided I should try it against their 40 Year Old, just to compare.
I then asked George what his favourite dram was, he recommended that I tried the Glenfarclas 105 20 Year Old, which I did immediately, but his everyday favourite was the Glenfarclas 15 Year Old – which was my favourite when I tried my first three Glenfarclas’ at The Whisky Lounge London Fest earlier this year.

With lunchtime calling we headed off to the Brasserie for the hot buffet where all of the dishes had used whisky in the cooking. There was a choice of three mains including a Thai Green Curry! Well we had to didn’t we?

The vaults of Vinopolis are just enormous there was so much room around the stands and the three show halls were well seperated. 

The oldest Auchroisk released to date
After lunch we made our way upstairs to the Diageo stand and sampled a 30 Year Old Auchroisk which was just beautiful. Despite being told a number of times, I was still unable to pronounced this distillery properly, but then I heard a couple of different pronunciations during the afternoon too, so I wasn't the only one!

I tried this without water initially and then went back for a second to try with water. This is Diageo’s oldest bottling from Auchroisk released to date. 

It's a vatting of refill European and American oak matured whisky, distilled in 1982 and bottled after 30 years. Outstanding quality, but at around £230 a bottle and only 2976 bottles available it won’t be around for long.

Nose: Light initially but soon grows in depth and complexity. Fresh, crisp, juicy fruit; orange peel, banana, and pear. There's a slight suggestion of smoke. Water increases brings a more floral fragrance and brings up sweet fruit with vanilla custard 

Palate: Smooth and sweet, with a mouth-filling texture, then warming, with notes of my dear old Mum's 'big fruit-cake'. 

Caribbean Cask
Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old, with' man's best friend' in the foreground
By now, Ian MacDonald, Head Cooper from The Balvenie started showing everyone his cooperage skills – there was quite a din while he was knocking a barrel into shape as you can imagine.

With the banging over we went across to where we met Dave Craig from Spirit of the Spey , who was helping out on The Balvenie stand, while sampling some Balvenie Caribbean Cask., a 14 year old Balvenie finished in specially selected Rum Casks for six to eight months. We also caught up with Andrew Forrester, Balvenie’s UK Ambassador. I was hoping to be able to try the new 17 Year Old Balvenie Doublewood, but unfortunately it hadn't been brought to the show.
David Fitt, Master Distiller from The English Whsky Co.
Next up we headed over to a new feature for this show, ‘Meet the Makers’ where David Fitt, Master Distiller at The English Whisky Co. was being interviewed by Ian Buxton.  David had a bottle of yet to be released Chapter 12, a five year old whisky that had been matured in a PX Sherry Butt. We managed to catch up briefly with Ian Buxton afterwards, who kindly signed my 101 Whiskies books before stopping to chat with David and find out a little more about Chapter 12. Due to be launched in November, David had spent all day Friday bottling this single cask, and thought it was only fitting to bring a bottle to the show. I can tell you it was fabulous and will be looking to get myself a bottle of this very soon.

We then found the Irish Distillers stand, where I spotted a bottle of Yellow Spot 12 year old Irish whiskey, something I had been looking to try since tasting their Green Spot earlier this year. We were very fortunate to be introduced to Billy Leighton – Midleton’s Master Blender who introduced me to ‘Barry Crocket Legacy’ first before sampling the Yellow Spot.

Seeing Ian Logan was free on the Glenlivet stand was free, we introduced ourselves and sat down to talk about whisky, The Glenlivet as well as what Ian does when he’s not working. While there Ian pulled out a small bottle of something he had drawn from a 1977 European Oak Sherry Hogshead just four days previously from The Glenlivet warehouse #1 . I can tell you that this was just amazing!
Ian Logan, Brand Ambassador from The Glenlivet
With time running away with us we returned to the Great Halls, the second ‘dream dram’ token was now burning a hole in my pocket, and following the great experience of my first Bowmore last weekend decided that I would try the Bowmore 1985. This was the first Islay of the day, and the first whisky my wife did not like the nose of!

I followed this with a drop of Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest, which unfortunately did not follow the 1985 that well for me. 

In addition the staff on the Bowmore stand were not that attentive, it was the first time we had experienced this less than enthusiastic welcome all day. I was hoping to find out a little more about Bowmore, but the inattention led me to pour away the remaining 15 Year Old Darkest, a first time ever I have thrown whisky away at a show.

With the final half hour of the show already starting we headed to catch up with Billy Abbott who was busy looking after the Whisky Show Exclusive Bottlings who selected four fantastic drams for me.

Starting with a wonderfully fragrant Rosebank 21 Year Old, which I think was my wife’s favourite ‘nose of the day’. 

We followed this with a Glentauchers 35 Year Old, a Glenrothes 40 Year Old and my final dram of the day a wonderful Littlemill 22 Year Old, which also happened to be my 200th Whisky Discovery!

Last pours had been called and so we made our way around to say some last goodbyes and thank you’s before heading home.

What a fantastic day out we had and I'm certainly starting to save towards attending next year’s event immediately!

Kat and I attended the following day, so for PART TWO click here:

The full dram list, with links to separate blog posts where applicable and when finished!
  • Whisky Discovery #184 Three Ships 10 Year Old  Limited Edition (43% ABV)
  • Whisky Discovery #185 SMWS 116.17 25 Year Old Yoichi (59.2% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #186 Glenfarclas Family Casks 1963 Release VIII (50.4% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #187 Glenfarclas 40 Year Old (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #188 Glenfarclas 105 20 Year Old (50% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #189 Auchroisk 30 year Old (54.7% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #190 The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask (40% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #191 English Whisky Chapter 12 (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #192 Midleton Barry Crocket Legacy (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #193 Yellow Spot 12 Year Old (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #194 The Glenlivet 1977 European Oak Sherry Hogshead Cask Sample (58% abv est)
  • Whisky Discovery #195 Bowmore 1985 26 Year Old (52.3% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #196 Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest (43%)
  • Whisky Discovery #197 The Whisky Exchange Rosebank 21 Year Old (48% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #198 Single Malts of Scotland, Glentauchers 35 Year Old (50.9% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #199 Aged and Rare Glenrothes 40 Year Old (45.1% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #200 Single Malts of Scotland, Littlemill 22 Year Old (55.7% abv)

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