Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Midlands Whisky Festival V

One of our favourite Whisky shows run by independent Wine Merchants Nickolls & Perks takes place in Stourbridge Town Hall in September and The next Midlands Whisky Festival is on Saturday 27th September 2014

Originally planned as an annual show held on the last Saturday in September, an additional show was added in April 2013 due to demand. Dave has been to every Midlands Whisky Festival apart from the very first, which took place during the very first year of his Whisky Discovery journey and before he'd even realised such Whisky show existed! You can see our previous Show reports here:

Midlands Whisky V
Whilst Kat hasn't always managed to make it to the Midlands Whisky Festival with Dave, she was able to accompany him on their most recent trip at the end of March. It is a bit of a trek from Bedford involving two taxi rides, eight trains and two short walks for the return journey, but certainly possible to do within a day trip even if a little exhausting!

The show has evolved bigger and better each year, and it got off to a great start. Recent improvements to the Town Hall over the winter months since the September 2013 Show meant finding the new entrance to the town hall, which now encompasses the new shopping centre and library, and is completely covered meaning if the weather is a little unsettled, queuing to get in under cover is another added bonus. Fortunately the weather on this Saturday in March was glorious

Whilst the show ordinarily opens at midday for ticket holders the are a limited number of VIP tickets which allow access from 1045 which not only gives you an extra 'Dream Dram' token, but more importantly to serious whisky fan, unrivalled access to the Brand Ambassadors and shop for a full hour and a quarter, in a relaxed unhurried atmosphere whilst canapés are served. This year in addition to the VIP ticket, a 'Devotee' ticket was available which not only gave all the VIP advantages but a sample of every Dream Dram to take home too! Both VIP and Devotee ticket holders are also treated to an exclusive Masterclass which starts at midday when the show doors open to the remaining ticket holders

Our first stop in Stourbridge was to go straight to the Nickolls and Perks Shop as it's always worth a browse when you're up that way, and because we had a very early start we had a good forty five minutes to peruse the shelves to see what might tempt us. We also bumped into a few of the #whiskyfabric from Twitter, some we'd met before like good friends Jon and Mike from Living Room Whisky, but also great to meet new faces @MikeJack1976 and @NickDaBird

Having spent the previous weekend at London's Whisky Live, it was impressive to note the number of exhibitors at the Midlands Whisky Festival V, with an additional room opened upstairs. Notable absentees from Whisky Live London were definitely in attendance at The Midlands Whisky Festival; Talisker, Highland Park, Jameson, Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, Glenmorangie, The Glenlivet, Arberlour Bowmore and Jura to name just a few!
An impressive Exhibitor List
With our VIP tickets in hand we headed for the new entrance for the 1045 start and made our way upstairs to say hello to the man who holds the key to all of the Masterclasses, @Ardbaggie, half Ardbeg and half West Bromwich Albion FC, it is @Ardbaggie who determines if you may enter the Masterclass room! With pleasantries exchanged we headed off to the new upstairs room and spotted Colin Dunn of Diageo who had a couple of great Dream Drams on offer.

I've found it's always best to study the Dream Dram list as soon as you can, and then make sure these are the first drams you try, or certainly very early on in the show. Leave it too late and your plate will probably be well past its best to take any real notice of what you've just enjoyed, or worse still the Dream Dram is nothing but an empty bottle.

We started with the Johnnie Walker King George V release, one that eluded me at the last Midlands Whisky Festival (did not heed the advice I'd just written above) which was followed by a Brora 35 Year Old - both of these whiskies needed time to sit down to ponder over, and fortunately there were indeed leather armchairs in this hall to do just that. Colin also had a couple of 'extras' under that table and I followed those two Dream Drams with a drop of the Talisker 1985 vintage which was just wonderful.
Our second Dream Dram of the day - just fabulous!
Scott Laing from Hunter Laing whiskies was our next port of call where we stopped for a quick catch up having last met at The Whisky Exchange Show back in October 2013. I went for a single grain and chose the 36 Year Old Strathclyde from their Sovereign release.

The first Masterclass was for the VIP ticket holders and was hosted by Duncan Ralph of Duncan Taylor Whiskies and we were treated to a five dram line up, starting with their Black Bull 12 Year Old Blended Scotch, a 50/50 malt to grain ratio bottled at 50% abv. It was a new Whisky Discovery for Kat but Dave had tried this before at a blind Whisky tasting. You can read what he thought about that here. We then went on to taste four of the Duncan Taylor single cask releases, three from their 'Dimensions Series' Dailuaine, Glen Grant and Bruichladdich and an 18 Year Old Mortlach from their Octave Series. Our favourite from the five was the Glen Grant 18 Year Old.
The exclusive Duncan Taylor Single Cask Masterclass
After the Masterclass I rushed back to see Colin Dunn to see if he had any more of the Talisker 1985, firstly because Kat didn't manage to try this and secondly a good friend had replied to my tweet posted and was desperate to try this! I was just too late, it had all gone, but Colin did have a drop of the Oban 21 to pour me in consolation!

We also bumped into Kirsty and Stewart from @Whiskycorner who had travelled all the way from Edinburgh to visit this show and must have been the furthest travelled guest that day! We'd met Kirsty and Stewart at the previous weekend'd Whisky Live London for the first time.

We headed downstairs after the class and caught up with Lukasz Dynowiak from The Edinburgh Whisky Blog who was busy talking all things Balbalir, Old Pulteney and anCnoc we quenched our malt thirst with a drop of the magnificent anCnoc 22 Year Old. We also bumped into another new face with a first meeting of @MyWhiskyGuide

Dave headed off to the Douglas Laing stand afterwards hoping to find the Clan Denny Port Dundas he found at the last Midlands Whisky Show. Unfortunately there was no Port Dundas on hand, but he did stop to sample another old single grain by way of a 21 Year Old Cameronbridge from 1990

We also caught up with Phil Huckle at the Pernod Ricard stand where there was a line up from Aberlour and The Glenlivet on offer before heading off to find some lunch. It was during our chatting and lunching that we missed one of the Masterclasses that we really wanted to attend, The Miss Whisky's Chocolate and Whisky one. It was a full house and by all accounts was a great session too. while we have known Alwynne from almost the very start of our journey, well certainly since we were allowed out in public, Dave has never seen her in action. (and I'll have no smutty remarks here please!)

We did make it to Lukasz's Balblair Masterclass though. Four Balblair vintages were in the line up alongside two Old Pulteney releases. although there were no new Whisky Discoveries to be had, it's always interesting to watch friends hosting a Masterclass as we're always looking to learn.
The Balblair/Old Pulteney Masterclass Line up
We started with the recent 2003 Vintage, one that featured in our Whisky Tasting we held in March, before moving onto the 1997, 1990 and 1983 Vintages, the latter of the two being new Whisky Discoveries at the previous weekends Whisky Live London Show. We then moved onto the Old Pulteney 21 Year Old finishing off with their fabulous 1990 Vintage.

Time was once again moving faster than we were anticipating and with last pours at 1630 looming we rushed off to speak to people we'd missed previously and stopped off to say our farewells to Scott Laing while sipping their delightful 26 Year Old Glenturret. Dave had tasted this previously, but wanted Kat to experience it. Then as last pours were announced managed to squeeze in a good measure of Glengoyne 21 Year Old to wrap up the show and say our goodbyes.

And so another great Whisky Show was over and it was time to make our way home, however the journey home was brightened up with the company of The Miss Whisky who coincidentally was not only booked on the same train as us from Birmingham, but also in the same carriage - how spooky was that! We stopped of in the City Centre to grab some dinner before heading to the station and arrived safely home after around 14 hours from when we left that morning!

The next Midlands Whisky Festival is on Saturday 27th September and tickets are selling fast! You can find out more information here: Midland Whisky Festival September 2014 

We met a great number of people at the show and they're all definitely worth following if your on Twitter: @Ardbaggie @Nickolls_Perks @Midlandswhisky @LRWhisky @themisswhisky @NickDaBird @MikeJack1976 @Whiskycorner @KirstyClarke29 @ StewartCraigon @MyWhiskyGuide @ChrisWebb1984 @Double_Clicks @PTwhiskypenguin

If we met and I've missed you off of this list please let me know and I'll update it!
Kat and me with @Double_Clicks and @ChrisWebb1984 #Whiskyfabric
For more photos check out our Facebook page!

The full dram list as follows:
Whisky Discovery #754 Johnnie Walker King George V
Whisky Discovery #755 Brora 35 Year Old (2013 Release)
Whisky Discovery #756 Talsiker 1985
Whisky Discovery #757 Strathclyde 1977 a Hunter Laing 'Sovereign' release 36 Year Old

Duncan Taylor Masterclass with Duncan Ralph
Whisky Discovery #227 Black Bull 12 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky
Whisky Discovery #758 Dailuaine 1998 15 Year Old Dimensions Series
Whisky Discovery #759 Glen Grant 18 Year Old Dimensions Series
Whisky Discovery #760 Motlach 18 Year Old Dimensions Series
Whisky Discovery #761 Bruichladdich 20 Year Old Octave Series

back into the show
Whisky Discovery #762 Oban 21 Year Old
Whisky Discovery #383 AnCnoc 22 Year Old
Whisky Discovery #762 Cameronbridge 1990 a Douglas Laing 'Clan Denny' release 21 Year Old

Balbalir Masterclass with Lukasz Dynowiak
Whisky Discovery #747 Balblair 2003 Vintage
Whisky Discovery #272 Blablair 1997 Vintage
Whisky Discovery #748 Balblair 1990 Vintage
Whisky Discovery #751 Balblair 1983 Vintage
Whisky Discovery #58 Old Pulteny 21 Year Old
Whisky Discovery #638 Old Pulteney 1990 Vintage

back into the show
Whisky Discovery #690 Glenturret 26 Year Old from Hunter Laing
Whisky Discovery #388 Glengoyne 21 Year Old

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