Thursday, 7 March 2013

Whisky Birmingham 2013

Last Saturday I had a fantastic day out at Whisky Birmingham, Birmingham's first large-scale festival devoted to whisky and whiskey. Amy Seton (@thewhiskymiss) Birmingham Whisky Club's founder, organised her first event in December as a 'taster' for this, the main event. 

Whisky Birmingham 2013 was held at The Bond Company in Digbeth just a 10 minute walk out of the city centre, and what a superb venue it is. situated alongside the historic canal.

The key events line up for the day included the first public opening/tasting of Paul John Cask 163, three Masterclasses: A cheese and whisky matching; A cigar and whisky class; and a Dominic Roskrow class talking about the place for independent distilleries. A 'Bloggers Choice' stand with Living Room Whisky which included a 'Tweet Meet' in order to get whisky tweeters together in actual real life! And it didn't end after last pours at 16:45 either. An after-hours 'Speakeasy' had been organised to follow with Glenfiddich whisky cocktails created and served by cocktail-alchemists The Victoria, giving a chance to chill, relax, drink, eat and chat that extended the day till 20:00. Can it get any better than that?
Mike and Jon in their new 'whisky geek' T-shirts
My first port of call was the 'Bloggers Choice' stand hosted Living Room Whisky (@LRWhisky), to catch up with Jon and Mike, who had set up a very comfortable lounge, had an impressive array of whiskies to try and came sporting flash new T-shirts. 

Jon poured me a glass of Ichiro's Malt 'The Floor Malted' from the Chichibu distillery, a punchy 3 Year Old from Japan bottled at 50.5% abv. I could have settled into their comfy armchairs all afternoon, and while I was enjoying the first dram of the day Billy (@cowfish) arrived and stopped for a dram.

Deciding that I should move on, I headed into the main hall and spotting Dominic Roskrow (@WhiskyTasting)  I headed over to his Craft Distillers Association (@craftdistilling) stand and tried some really interesting whiskies.

Dominic's first suggestion was from Australia and a single cask Sullivans Cove, matured in a French Oak Port cask. Award wining stuff too, as it was named Spirits Business magazine’s World Whisky Grand Master 2012, Wizards of Whisky Australasian Distiller of the Year 2012 and Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible.
The first of two from New Zealand
From Australia I moved across to New Zealand and tried two expressions. The first one came from independent bottler Thomson and an 18 Year Old single cask which was rather good. This was followed by a blended whisky from the Dunedin Distillery and their 10 Year Old DoubleWood.
2011 heralded the rebirth of the New Zealand Whisky Industry. The Dunedin Distillery DoubleWood was the first whisky launched as part of that revival. This is a blend of 70% Single Malt whisky, and 30% grain whisky, bottled at 40% abv. Aged In American-Oak barrels for 6 years and then finished for 4 more in French-Oak North Island Wine Barrels, which gives this whisky a rich burgundy hue. This came across as quite thin, very 'winey' but eminently quaffable.

Dominic had quite a few interesting drams with him, including some cask samples in medicine bottles, one of which supplied my next new 'discovery' and a whisky from France. I've been wanting to get my hands on some French whisky for a while and had heard good things about the Glann ar Mor distillery in Brittany. Kornog is their peated expression and this was one of the highlights of my show.

I could have spent the rest of the afternoon with Dominic, but knowing I had already booked to be in his Masterclass later that afternoon, I decided I must move on, but really wished I had returned and try some of the other 'world whisky' he had brought for tasting.

Alongside Dominic was a stand from Ireland and another whisky (whiskey) that had been on my list since reading Ian Buxton's 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die, 'Writers Tears'. 

Trevor Gillespie introduced me to the next highlight of the show, a cask strength expression of this whiskey. Writers Tears is a pot still Irish whiskey and fitted in perfectly from last weeks Tweet Tasting of Single Pot Still Whiskey from Midleton. Trevor told me how The Hot Irishman was planning to start distilling their own whisky in the very near future. I followed Writers Tears with a dram of their single malt called The Irishman
Cask Strength version of Writers Tears (not available in the UK yet)
Thinking I ought to start thinking about getting some food I started making my way out towards the BBQ but got distracted as I returned to the Living Room Whisky Stand as it was now approaching 1400 and the 'Tweet Meet' was starting. 

I met local whisky enthusiast Sarah Waters (@Mad_Morag) and enjoyed two more drams here starting with the fabulous Karuizawa Spirit of Asama, first tasted at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show last October, which I followed with another new discovery and Port Askaig 12 Year Old, and independently bottled Islay whisky, from and 'un-named' distillery that one would assume should be close to Port Askaig on the Isle of Islay (there are no prizes for telling me which distillery this is from!)

Festival Food was being catered for by Birmingham 'Soul Food Project' and I enjoyed a bowl of Chicken Gumbo out in the sunshine alongside the canal (yes I said sunshine! it was a glorious day in Birmingham on March 2nd)

Returning to the main tasting hall I caught up again with Paul John Indian Single Malt Whisky. We had tasted their first release at the Birmingham Whisky Show in December, and now they were unveiling their second single cask release, another limited release of just 150 bottles which will be available from The Whisky Exchange very shortly, but it was really interesting to learn that Paul John will be releasing a core expression Single Malt whisky in the very near future.

It was The Whisky Shop (Birmingham) that provided my next two drams, two that had been on my list for a little while, firstly the Glenfarclas 21 Year Old from the independent, family owned distillery, who are famed for their rich full flavoured sherry cask matured whiskies. This was followed by a Single Grain whisky simply named Cameron Brig. Very few grain whiskies are marketed in their own right and so this is definitely worth checking out as part of my continuous whisky development.
With the time fast approaching 1530 and the Masterclass with Dominic Roskrow imminent I made my way to 'The Boardroom' to make sure I could get near the front. Dominic had brought five different whiskies, and we started with a single cask release from Wemyss Malts, and a 1996 vintage from the Benrinnes Distillery named 'Ginger Compote'.

This was followed by a Japanese whisky, Ichiro's Malt Double Distilleries, a vatting of whisky from both the Hanyu and Chichibu distilleries. This whisky had been matured in Japanese oak, vatted and bottled at Chichibu in 2010.

From Japan we travelled to Sweden and tasted Hven Urania Single Malt Whisky which came in an unusually shape chemistry lab flask shaped bottle. The Spirit of Hven distillery is located on the small island of Hven in the strait of Oresund between Sweden and Denmark. They state that they are the worlds smallest commercial Pot Still distillery, and everything from mashing to fermentation, distilling, maturation and bottling is carried out on site. 
The final two drams of Dominic's masterclass came from closer to home, The fabulous Spice Tree from Compass Box and magnificent Blue Hanger from Berry Bros & Rudd, both of which I have tasted before at a number of different events.

With the Masterclass over I decided I really out to add American whiskey to my truly international experience and headed over to the Buffalo Trace stand where I was keen to try their White Dog Mash #1

White Dog is the un-aged distillate that eventually become bourbon. In Scotland we'd call it 'new make'. If you've never tasted spirit straight from the still, this is something you should really try! For my final dram of the day I stayed on the Buffalo Trace stand and sampled the Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10 Year Old.

I had a train to catch so was not able to hang around for the Speakeasy, but what a fabulous idea! I had  a wonderful day out, it was great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones too. If you're on Twitter and aren't following these maltheads, do something about that soon. @thewhiskymiss @LRWhisky @cowfish @WhiskyTasting @craftdistilling @whiskybrum @Mad_Morag @Double_Clicks

I had tasted nineteen different whiskies during the day, which was only a fraction of what was available. Of those nineteen, sixteen were new to me and seven of the ones I tasted are in Ian Buxton's 101 books. I'd also tasted whiskies from nine different countries, and at least three more were represented there. (England Wales and The Netherlands)

Whisky Birmingham was a huge success in my book, great venue, great whisky, exceedingly well planned, and a sell out! Well done Amy and her team, ably project managed by Joe Ellis (@whiskybrum) for pulling this off. Look out for Whisky Birmingham 2014!

The full dram list, with links to separate blog posts where applicable and when finished!
  • Whisky Discovery #324 Ichiro's Malt The Floor Malted (50.5% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #325 Sullivans Cove French Oak Port Cask (47.5% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #326 Thomson 18 Year Old (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #327 Dunedin Distillery DoubleWood 10 Year Old (40% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #328 Glann ar Mor Kornog (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #329 Writers Tears Cask Strength (52% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #330 The Irishman Single Malt (40% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #210 Karuizawa Spirit of Asama (48% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #331 Port Askaig 12 Year Old (45.8% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #332 Paul John Single Cask P1-163 (57% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #333 Glenfarclas 21 Year Old (43% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #334 Cameron Brig (40% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #335 Wemyss Malts 1996 Benrinnes 'Ginger Compote' (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #336 Ichiro's Malt Double Distilleries (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #337 Spirit of Hven Urania Single Malt Whisky (45% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #93 Compass Box The Spice Tree (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #317 Berry Bros & Rudd Blue Hanger 6th Release (45.6% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #338 Buffalo Trace White Dog #1 Mash (62.5% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #339 Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare (45% abv)

No comments: