Sunday, 21 April 2013

Midlands Whisky Show III

I wasn't expecting to be heading back up to Stourbridge until September following our trip up to the second Midlands Whisky Festival. Due to the popular demand in the Midlands this new addition to the calendar conveniently places a Whisky Show midway between the September Show. You can read about our first trip to Stourbridge here.

Unfortunately Kat couldn't make this show due booking a birthday treat for her baby sister on the same day. So the long trip to Stourbridge was done all on my own, but armed with my iPod for music and a copy of Davin De Kergmommeaux's 'Canadian Whisky' I was well prepared. My first train left Milton Keynes at 0820 for the short hop up to Rugby, switching trains here to get up to Birmingham New Street. It was a beautiful morning with bright sunshine and clear blue skies!

I had to walk (the horror) from New Street to Moor Street to get my next train to Stourbridge Junction where the last leg in the journey started by hopping onto the Stourbridge shuttle into Stourbridge Town. By the time I had reached Stourbridge the blue skies had gone but at least it was still dry.

There's a short walk up the High Street to get to the Town Hall, where I met up with Andy Purslow (@ardbaggie) the shows chief whip cracker, who let me in before the show opened to help with the final details before the show officially opened for the VIP ticket holders at 11:00

With the show about to open I grabbed my glass and goodie bag and head over to catch up with Lukasz Dynowiak of @EdinburghWhisky. Although we 'talk' via twitter from time to time I hadn't seen Lukasz since last years TWL Midland Fest in Stratford upon Avon. Lukasz was pouring for Inverhouse Distillers; Balblair, Old Pulteney and anCnoc were on offer and I took my first dram of the day with the recently released anCnoc 22 Year Old.

One of my plans for the day was to get to know Glengoyne Distillery as I'd not come across them in my journey to date. On my way over to find them I caught up with Alistair Mutch with his range of Tomatin Single Malts where the new Tomatin Legacy was being showcased alongside their 12, 15, 18 and Dream Dram 30 Year Old malts. I also noticed their Antiquary 12 Year Old, a blended Scotch whisky that featured in our recent 12 Blends Challenge. I didn't stop for a dram with Alistair as he had taken us through the range at last November's Wine and Spirits Show.

Alistair introduced me to Alan Wardrop from Glengoyne where I enjoyed a vertical tasting through the range, starting with the 10 year old.
Whisky Discovery
How's that for an introduction to a range from Glengoyne?
Glengoyne have the slowest stills in Scotland, running at around 5 litres per minute compared to  around 9-15 litres per minute at other distilleries. All Glengoyne whisky is unpeated, and always bottled with no added colouring, the colour coming from the top quality sherry casks they source.

So starting with the 10 Year Old I went through the core range; 12, 15, 18, and 21 Year Old whiskies finishing with their Cask Strength. I enjoyed each of the expressions, with each offering a little more, one of these is definitely going to be on my shelf soon, the 15 and 18 year old stood out for me, with the 15 Year Old just edging it for me, and the cask strength would be a strong contender too. In fact I would be very happy with any of these on my shelf!

As my introduction to Glengoyne was coming to an end the first call for The Macallan Masterclass was announced and I started to make my way to the stairs meeting up with Joe Ellis (@WhiskyBrum) and Mike and Jon from Living Room Whisky (@LRWhisky)

The Macallan Masterclass was hosted by Joy Elliott who took us through the new 1824 Series, a range of no age statement whiskies replacing the the current range up to the 18 Year Old (in the UK).

Whisky Discovery
The Macallan 1824 Series; Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby
The 'Gold' was released around six months ago, but I'd not tasted it before, but this was the first public tasting of the other three, Amber, Sienna and Ruby.

Joy went on to explain the 'six pillars' of The Macallan, the first being it's spiritual home Easter Elchies House, overlooking the River Spey (the estate having river frontage too) has been the home of The Macallan for over two centuries.

The second is their curiously small and uniquely shaped copper stills which concentrate the flavour of the ‘new make’ spirit, and provide the rich, fruity, full-bodied flavours.

Thirdly Joy explained that The Macallan takes one of the smallest ‘cuts’ of the new make spirit of any distillery in Scotland, which means only the best of the best goes into filling The Macallan oak casks. The result is a very rich and oily spirit.

Pillar No. 4 and it's all about the wood. No ex-bourbon casks at The Macallan. All casks are  handcrafted in America and Spain. European Oak is selected, seasoned and then crafted into casks before being lent to Spanish bodegas to be filled with a dry Oloroso sherry before being  used to mature whisky.

Naturally coloured whisky is pillar No.5 and The Macallan insist on this. No colouring is ever added to their whisky. Which led to the last pillar, being the 'Masters of Spirit' monitoring the maturing whisky, selecting the moment when each cask is at the peak of maturity and perfect for bottling.
Whisky Discovery
The new 1824 Series from The Macallan, Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby
We started with a drop of 'new make spirit' at 70% abv, with it's gristy, grainy nose and sweet pear drop palate and after taste, before moving on to our first whisky.

The Macallan Gold is the entry level from the series, and replaces the 10 Year Old Fine Oak and Sherry Oak standards. Bottled at 40% abv this is the one you may have seen in the supermarkets over that last six months. (circa £30).  Vanilla, citrus and cantaloupe melons featured on the nose. Gentle sweetness on the palate with some ginger spice too.

The Macallan Amber, 40% abv (circa £45) and from a combination of first fill/refill casks and a higher proportion of European Oak casks. Toffee, vanilla and a light orange note feature on the nose. Again a light sweetness on the palate with crisp apple, ginger and a good peppery spice.

The Macallan Sienna, 43% abv (cica £75) and my favourite of the four tasted. Only first fill casks used in the make-up of this, with lovely sherry notes and cinnamon on the nose along with some pineapple and cloves. The clove note featured on the palate too and complimented the sherry fruits of dates, figs and raisin.

The Macallan Ruby, 43% abv (circa £120) and from the finest matured whisky from first fill sherry casks only. Much darker in colour and richer in taste. Dried fruits feature on the nose, spiced oranges on the palate and a long warming finish

With the Masterclass over it was time to return to the main show, I had no real agenda, but was considering GlenDronach or BenRiach as both have been fairly absent from this journey to date. I caught up with Dave from The Whisky Dramalista (@whiskyrepublic) who had travelled up from Bristol for the show, and recommended I try the GlenDronach range. It was a little busy when I checked so decided I would look out for a couple of drams on my 101 Whiskies list, starting with the Highland Park 21 Year Old and then Glenglassaugh Revival

With two 'Dream Dram' tokens in my pocket I thought I would sample the Glenfiddich 'Age of Discovery' a rich 19 year old single malt matured in oak casks previously used to age fine Madeira wine for my next dram while catching up with Show organiser and Nickolls and Perks owner Dave Gardiner
The Jura Masterclass Line up: 10, 16, Superstition, Prophecy, The Journey (Mackinlays) and 1977
The Jura Masterclass was the main event for the afternoon and I helped Andrew set up before settling down to be entertained my master distiller Willie Tait. I had tasted all but one of the six whiskies laid out for the masterclass  but I had never met Willie before, who was as entertaining as I had hoped for!

We started with the Jura 10 year Old which was one of the first bottles of whisky I bought at the beginning of my journey. We moved on to the delicious Jura 16 year old which was followed by Superstition and Prophecy, four core expressions from this remote distillery.

We then moved on to 'The Journey' the second recreation of Shackleton's Whisky which had been locked under the ice of Antarctica for almost 100 years, and Willie told us how he had tasted the original whisky before Richard Paterson and his team recreated the taste profile.

The finale dram was the recently released Jura 1977 Vintage 'Jaur', the product of three first fill bourbon casks, finished in a ruby port pipe for twelve months. Just 498 bottles are available  at around £600 each. This was real treat and one of the highlights of my show - I have a review sample which I will be writing about in due course.

With time ticking away I made a beeline to GlenDronach after the masterclass where Stewart Buchannan took me through some GlenDronach single malts, starting with the cask strength, a fabulous drop of drammage, non chill filtered, naturally coloured, and matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks.

This was followed by their 18 Year Old, now renamed Allardice,  is the third expression in the GlenDronach core range. Again non chill filtered, naturally coloured, matured in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks, and was another great dram. There was a bottle of their 21 Year Old 'Parliament' alongside the 18 which was my next dram. The Parliament is similar in it's make up to the cask strength expression, being matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks, but for at least 21 years old and bottled at a respectable 48% abv. A fabulous introduction to some of The GlenDronach range!

My final dram of the afternoon

With the last pour about to be called I flipped my last Dream Dram token to Stewart for a healthy measure of the fabulous BenRiach 30 Year Old.

With the show over it was time to say my goodbyes and find my way back home to Bedfordshire. Another four trains and with a little more confusion as the route was slightly different, but I eventually made it back to Milton Keynes.

The Midlands Whisky Festival in Stourbridge was another fabulous day out, meeting the guys and girls with whom I tweet is always a highlight of the events these days. Meeting Willie Tait was also a highlight.

Whisky highlights include the vertical tasting of the Glengoyne range, all new discoveries, The GlenDronach range, the Jura 1977 and of course my final dram the BenRaich 30 Year Old.

A huge thanks to David Gardner of Nickolls and Perks for inviting me, to Joy Elliot and Willie Tait for two great Masterclasses and for all the staff and volunteers who put on another dram fine day. Once again I met some great people in the Midlands and look forward to seeing you all again at the next 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

The full dram list with links as and when they are completed!

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