Thursday, 9 January 2014

Midlands Whisky Show IV

Whisky Show Review
The last Saturday in September has been the date for The Midlands Whisky Festival for the last three years running. Although we missed the very first one, we did attend our first Stourbridge show in September last year (Midlands Whisky II), and so I made the pilgrimage up to Stourbridge for Nickolls & Perks' excellent Whisky show, Midlands Whisky IV.  This year they added an additional date back in April, which I also visited and you can read about that here: Midlands Whisky III

Plans are already in place for Midlands Whisky V which falls a little earlier this year, Saturday 29th March. See the bottom of this post for contact details

I won't bore you with the journey details, nothing has changed, there is no direct route meaning taking a multitude of different trains to reach my destination, and having done it twice before now, is 'old hat' and in a strange sort of way almost pleasurable. I travelled alone again as Kat had a function to be at in the evening and wanted to be able to at least start the evening off sober. Unfortunately Kat also missed the last show too, so hopefully she will be able to travel up with me in April. The show has definitely improved in leaps and bounds and the quality of the Masterclasses are just superb.

I knew that whisky and twitter pal Adrian Barnett @mynameisgone had also travelled up for the show and arranged to meet him there and literally bumped into him as soon as I had walked into Stourbridge High Street after stepping off the train.

Both Adrian and I had VIP tickets which allowed us to enter the show at 10:45am, a full hour and a quarter earlier than the standard price tickets. The VIP tickets are limited to just 75 tickets and allows plenty of time to meet the brand ambassadors and talk whisky, one to one while sampling their wares.

Whisky Festival Review
Arran Amarone Cask Finish
Our first stop was to Bruichladdich where we tried a couple of their lighter flavoured drams starting with their Scottish Barley Classic Laddie which was followed by Islay Barley 2007, both bottled at 50% abv. While their peated drams were available, we decided to pass on these so early in the day, wanting to retain our palates for a little bit longer!

Arran Distillers were alongside Bruichladdich and whilst I had tasted their 10, 14 and 16 Year Old expressions I wanted to try their Amarone Cask Finish which was next on our agenda. I'd heard only good things about this expression from Arran and wasn't disappointed.

Wandering around the hall looking for something 'new' we spotted Teeling Irish Whiskey and stopped of to try both their small batch Rum Cask matured small batch Irish Whisky and their Poitin, made from malted barely and so effectively 'new make' spirit or moonshine. One of the other perks of having VIP tickets is that canapés are served during the first hour of the show.

Spotting Alistair Mutch we stopped to catch up and to sample some Tomatin starting with The Antiquary 12 Year Old Blended Scotch, having tried their 21 Year Old at the 12 Blends event in April. This was followed with a large dram of the Tomatin 18 Year Old which never fails to please.
Whisky Festival Review
Alistair Mutch - always a pleasure to catch up with as well as tasty Tomatin Whisky to enjoy
Dalmore Masterclass
The VIP tickets include entrance to the first Masterclass which starts at midday, the same time the hall is opened up to the standard ticket holders. This years VIP Masterclass was a real coup with Dalmore brand ambassador David Robertson who had brought along four vintages from the prohibitively expensive Constellation Range.
Whisky Festival Review
The Dalmore Masterclass Drams, the Constellation Drams are across the back
We started with The Dalmore 18 Year Old which spends 14 years of its maturation in American oak ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to 30 year old Matusalem Sherry Casks from Gonzalez Byass.

The second of our 'warm up' drams was The Dalmore King Alexander III which is matured in a staggering six different types of wood in its make-up; ex-bourbon casks, Matusalem oloroso sherry wood, Madeira barrels, Marsala casks, port pipes and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques. Both of these Dalmores had been tasted previously at other whisky shows and both had featured in The Dalmore Tweet Tasting.

With these two drams 'under our belt' we were introduced to the Constellation Collection. The Dalmore Constellation Collection is a collection of twenty one single cask vintages from between 1964 and 1992
Whisky Festival ReviewWe started our journey with the 1978 Vintage cask No.1. A thirty three year old, distilled on the 6th November 1978. This spent the first 29 years of it's maturation in American white oak (ex-bourbon casks) and then in 2007 transferred to a Matusalem Sherry butt for a further four years. Bottled at 47.1% abv 778 bottles have been released at a incredible £6400 list price.

Second on the list was one of the the two 1981 Vintages released. Cask No.3, a thirty year old, distilled on 24th November 1981 spending the first 25 years of it's maturation in American white oak (ex-bourbon casks) and then in 2006 transferred to a Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butt for a further five years. Bottled at 54% abv 669 bottles have been released at a staggering £3950 list price.

Next up was the 1990 Vintage. Cask 18, a twenty one year old distilled on the 17th December 1990, spending the first 19 years of it's maturation in American white oak (ex-bourbon casks) and then in 2009 transferred to a Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butt for a further two years. Bottled at 56.5 % abv 777 bottles have been released at a amazing £2650 list price.

Our final vintage from the Constellation Series was the youngest on the range, a nineteen year old from a 1992 Vintage. Cask 18 (yep, me too?) was distilled on the 17th December 1992 spending the first ten years of it's maturation on first-fill American white oak (ex-bourbon casks) and then in 2002 transferred to a Port pipe for a further nine years. Bottled at 53.8 % abv 737 bottles have been released at a unbelievable £2500 list price.

Adrian and I totalled up the 'value' of the Whisky on the table for the VIP ticket holders, a staggering £15,705 from the six bottles of Whisky we had just tasted. While I feel incredibly privileged to have tasted these whiskies, as there surely can't be many that will get to taste them at these prices, I just can't get my head around spending £2,500 for a 19 year old single cask whisky. 

Lagavulin Masterclass
The second Masterclass of the Show was with Diageo supreme Colin Dunn who had brought along some Lagavulin for attendees to enjoy. This Masterclass was open to everyone and it looked as it was going to be a packed house as we helped set out the room following the Dalmore Masterclass.
Whisky Festival Review
Lots of lovely lush Lagavulin
Colin had brought along five different Lagavulin expressions along with the new make spirit. Whilst I had tasted most of the expressions before, two of them residing on my Whisky shelf at home, it is one of my favourite distilleries and it's always good to revisit them. I'd not tasted the new make spirit before, which is always an interesting part of the experience.

Starting with the core expression, 16 Year Old we moved onto the 12 Year Old cask strength which has many of the new make spirit characteristics still. Our third Lagavulin was the 1995 Distillers Edition which is a 16 Year Old that has had a second short spell of maturation in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.

Our fourth expression was the 21 Year Old, a limited release of just 2800 bottles that has spent all of its maturation in sherry casks. I tasted this at last years TWE Whisky Show and it was one of my highlight drams of that show. The final expression was a real treat, just 580 bottles were ever released to the attendees of the Lagavulin Feis Ile in 2008, and we were treated to one of them at this tasting, a 'money can't buy' dram.

We returned to the main show after the Masterclass and it was really buzzing by that time. I first went to see the Douglas Laing stand and picked a 34 Year Old Port Dundas from their Clan Denny series, before going back to talk to Colin Dunn for a while and taste Johnnie Walker Blue Label, something that had been on my list for a while.

Catching up with Twitter friends is always one of the highlights of visiting Whisky Shows and it was great to spend the afternoon with @mynameisgone and catch up with @Ardbaggie @LRWhisky @chriswebb1984 @Double_Clicks. All top gents and well worth following on twitter if you're not already.
Whisky Festival Review
With time rapidly running out I returned to the Douglas Laing stand to recharge my glass with the 34 Year Old Port Dundas which was my highlight dram of the afternoon. I wish I could have gotten a bottle, but it seemed as if I wasn't the only one who thought so.

Nickolls and Perks always have an in-show shop giving you the opportunity to purchase most of the drams that have been exhibited, and a healthy discount off of their already competitive prices is offered to all show goers. My second placed dram of the day was the Teeling Small Batch Reserve Irish Whiskey so I settled for a bottle of that to take home, I wish I'd picked up a bottle of their Poitin too!

New for Midlands Whisky V is the 'Devotee Ticket' In addition to the VIP package each ticket holder will also be able to taste all Dream Drams at the show and then take away samples of each of the Dream Drams as well

A huge thanks to David Gardner of Nickolls and Perks for inviting me, to David Robertson and Colin Dunn 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 soon

For more information and updates visit: and check out their blog too at: as well as The Midland Whisky Festival website

Slàinte! Dave

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

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