Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Wine & Spirits Show 17th November 2012

The Spirited Wines and Nicolas's Wine and Spirits Show took place on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th November 2012 and was held at 8 Northumberland Avenue, an impressive building just 3 minutes walk from Trafalgar Square

Kat and I made our way down for the early session on Saturday morning, starting at 10:00am, perhaps a little to early for some as we had the Spirits Section, held down in the basement, to ourselves at the beginning of the show.

Meeting Master Distiller, David Fitt, from the English Whisky Company as we entered it was good to catch up and find out how the show had been on the opening day. We also caught up with the news from England's currently only operating Whisky Distillery, and look at the new packaging of the 'Classic' replacing Chapter 6 and the 'Peated' which replacing Chapter 11. Having already tried these previously we decided to start our morning with an Islay distillery that I've very little exposure to in the journey to date, Bunnahabhain.

Our first dram of the day
I have a Signatory Vintage bottling from Bunnahabhain on my shelf, and have also had a single cask bottling from Cambridge Wines, but I've never tasted any official bottlings from this Islay distillery, and knowing that they were going to be at this show, had them on my list. The Bunnahabhain stand was alongside the English Whisky Co. one and  David introduced us to Brand Ambassador Scott Martin, who in turn introduced us to Bunnahabhain.

Starting with the 'entry level' expression, Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old. This edition was launched in summer 2010 when it increased it's strength to 46.3% and declaring non chill-filtration and natural colouring.

Bunnahabhain uses very lightly peated malt, and this 12 year old is matured in a mixture of Bourbon and Sherry casks, resulting in a fresh sweet single malt, with a briny 'beach' nose with a toffee fudge sweetness, a perfect start to our morning.

We followed the 12 Year Old with the next in the core expressions and the 18 Year Old, one that's been on my list since buying Ian Buxton's '101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die'.

The Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old is also bottled at 46.3% and is naturally coloured and non-chill filtered. However the maturation this time is all in sherry casks. Another light and fresh dram, with lots of fruit on the nose, and a lovely rich colour.

I was really impressed with both expressions and certainly want to have both of these in my drinking collection.
A 'vertical tasting' of the Tomatin range of single malt whiskies
Following our introduction to Bunnahabhain we moved across to the Tomatin stand and met Alastair Mutch who had the full range of core expressions on show and took us through a fabulous vertical tasting starting with the Tomatin 12 Year Old, first introduced in 2004 and matured for eleven and a half years in bourbon casks and finished for the final 6 months on sherry casks and bottled at 40% abv. Light and fruity, a lovely everyday drinking dram.

Next up was the Tomatin 15 Year Old, first introduce in 2009 and matured solely in ex-bourbon casks before being bottled at 43% abv. Being all bourbon cask matured there was more of a citrus and spice element to this malt which leaves a crisp, dry and clean finish, until right at the very end when a light smokey char come through.

The 15 Year Old was followed by the Tomatin 18 Year Old which has spent 16 years in ex-bourbon casks, and then spends the final two years in first fill Oloroso Sherry casks. Bottled at 46% abv it's also non chill-filtered and naturally coloured. The nose on this reminded me of the teak wood store in the boat yard I ran in the Far East, lovely woody nose.

The finale of our vertical tasting was the Tomatin 30 Year Old. Also bottled at 46% abv, non chill-filtered and naturally coloured, the cask make up is 80% bourbon casks and 20% sherry. Again there was a teak wood element on the nose and tropical fruits too. This had the longest finish of the four expressions tasted.

Four new Whisky discoveries to register as well as the first from the Tomatin distillery too. All four were great tasting whiskies, with interesting taste profiles in each. My favourites were the 18 and 30 Year Old, but would be happy to have any of these on my shelf.

David had recommended that we stop off at the next stand and try something a little different. Here we met Andy La Fontaine who was manning the Glenmorangie and Ardbeg stand. 

Andy introduced us to the 'Smoky Mary' a Bloody Mary made with Ardbeg 10 Year Old instead of the vodka, and damn good it was too!

While enjoying the Smoky Mary I noticed that Andy had a Bailie Nichol Jarvie (BNJ) on the table, which I knew was in Ian Buxton's 101 and one I had to taste next. 

BNJ is a blended Scotch whisky reportedly to have the highest percentage of single malts in it's make up, and a minimum age of eight years.

Also on the table was a Glenmorangie that I hadn't tried before, the 12 Year Old Lasanta, although I have got a miniature on my shelf from a sample swap, so a full review will be due soon.

The next Whisky stand on our horizon was Benromach, and here we met Richard Urquhart from Gordon & MacPhail. I've come across a couple of expressions of Benromach at The Whisky Lounge London Fest tasting their 10 Year Old and Organic Special Edition, and I'd recently won a bottle of Benromach 10 Year Old from their website competition which I've yet to open. If you haven't been on the Benromach website yet go an have a look, it's a great website.

Richard had a couple of Benromach expressions that he wanted us to try; firstly The Organic Edition, matured in virgin American oak for six to seven years, and bottled at 43% abv. Lots of spicy oak hear and was very good This was followed by Benromach Peat Smoke (Batch 4). Distilled from malted barley with a phenol level of 35ppm this fourth batch of Benromach Peat Smoke has been matured in Refill American Hogsheads for many years. 

The Exclusive Balblair '96
Richard was keen to show us the range of malts from Gordon & MacPhail, a name steeped in whisky history that has been bottling Single Malt Whiskies for over 116 years. Gordon & MacPhail is an independent family owned and managed firm, from its humble beginnings as a retailer, it has grown to become a diverse and dynamic company with a number of different business interests. Today the company is a retailer, wholesaler, exporter, bottler of Single Malt Scotch Whisky and distiller, owning Benromach Distillery.

We started with the Show exclusive bottling a single cask from Balblair, distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2012 at 46%, which gave us wonderful sweet vanilla custard creams with a peppery kick, however with the end of the morning session ending we broke for lunch after this dram.

After a bite to eat we returned to the show and resumed our Gordon and MacPhail journey tasting a few more of their special editions, however with our palates starting to fade, we weren't able to make any real meaningful notes We blamed the dram of gin we tasted immediately after our lunch which we felt stripped our palates.

The full dram list, with links to separate blog posts where applicable and when finished!
  • Whisky Discovery #242 Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old (46.3% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #243 Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old (46.3% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #244 Tomatin 12 Year Old (40.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #245 Tomatin 15 Year Old (43.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #246 Tomatin 18 Year Old (46.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #247 Tomatin 30 Year Old (46.0% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #248 Bailie Nichol Jarvie (40% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #249 Glenmorangie 12 Year Old Lasanta (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #250 Benromach Organic (43% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #251 Benromach Peat Smoke Batch 4 (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #252 Gordon & MacPhail Balblair Exclusive 1996 (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #253 Gordon & MacPhail Balblair 10 Year Old (43% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #254 G&M Speymalt Macallan 2003 (43% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #255 G&M Mortlach Speyside 15 Year Old (43% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #256 G&M Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1994 (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #257 G&M Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 1998 (43% abv)

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