Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Midlands Whisky VI

Whisky Discovery
We're counting down the sleeps until this show!
You may have realised by now that we love Whisky Shows. We tend to visit between six and eight a year, and if we could afford the time and cost we would visit a lot more! In fact spending our time travelling the World's Whisky Shows would be an ideal past time, however we both have bills to pay!
The Midlands Whisky Festival run by Nickolls and Perks has become one of our firm favourites. The people of Stourbridge love their whisky, mind you it's not just locals that fill Stourbridge's Victorian Town Hall at each Whisky Festival, we've met whisky enthusiasts from all over the country at their festivals.

Nickolls and Perks Stourbridge corner shop
Nickolls and Perks are the UK's oldest provincial wine and spirits merchant and they've been proudly independent since 1797. They held their first Midlands Whisky Festival back in 2010, initially an annual event held on the last Saturday of September, they introduced a Spring Festival three years ago and their next event will be held on the last weekend of March, that's Friday 27th and Saturday 28th March! You can book your tickets here: Tickets

Whilst the Saturday 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 the 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. Once again in addition to the VIP ticket, a 'Devotee' ticket was available which not only gave all the VIP advantages but a selection of Dream Drams samples to take home too! 

We've attended all but the very first show and this will be their seventh event. Each time they are getting bigger and better, and this time they have announced a special Friday evening session alongside the usual Saturday show. Tickets are available for each session individually, and there are special deals for the full weekend. 

We often hear complaints that there simply isn't enough time to visit every stand. Nickolls and Perks have listened and have introduced this new format and we're told that the Friday session, running from 6:00pm until 9:00pm, will have a slightly different feel too it with some added attractions

If you've read any of our previous show reports (and each of the other four show reports can be found on this blog) you'll know that it involves a bit of a train trek from Whisky Discovery HQ to Stourbridge. It's not really difficult, but it is a full day out! 

You can see our previous Show reports here:
You can find out further information from their website here: Midlands Whisky Festival and while your booking your tickets let me tell you about our trip to Midlands Whisky VI last September.

Midlands Whisky Festival VI
Whilst we love visiting Whisky Festivals to discover new whiskies, meeting friends who share our passion is the icing on the whisky cake. Whisky has always been about the people, from those with the skills and passion to make the spirit to those that you look forward to sharing a dram or three with, and with each show we visit, we come away with new friends added to the list. We've been writing our Whisky Discovery blog for a little over three years now, attending our first ever event in April 2012 and it's immensely satisfying meeting people who read our posts and look out for us at these shows, just to say hello, and sometimes to tell us they love what we do!

We arrived in Stourbridge early which not only allowed us to take full advantage of our premium ticket, but also to grab breakfast and visit the Nickolls and Perks Whisky Emporium before heading over to the Town Hall for the start of the show. As soon as we arrived we headed straight over to catch up with Director of Sales and key organiser David Gardner to find out what was new this time. There were more Premium and Devotee tickets available this time and so to appease all, two Masterclasses were available, but you could only attend one of them. David had organised it so that we'd be able to cover both with a seat in each. 

Our first dram of the day was from The Balvenie where The Miss Whisky was in-charge, we chose their First Fill Single Cask 12 year Old, a perfect ‘breakfast dram’ and great way to start the day! As it was a new cask, it was a new Whisky Discovery to record. In addition to the 12 Year Old Single Barrel Alwynne also had the 17 Year Old Double Wood and the 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask on offer.
Kat with Scott and Alwynne
We also caught up with Scott Thompson at the Balvenie stand. It was his first trip to The Midlands Whisky Festival and he was very pleased with his Devotee pack although a little disappointed that he wasn't on the Diageo Special Release Masterclass with Colin Dunn. We've been on many a Colin Dunn Masterclass, and as it was Scott's first show we thought that he really must see him in action so we swapped our ticket (so Kat and I would go to the Macallan class together) To say he was pleased with this arrangement would be an understatement!

I left Kat upstairs while I dashed downstairs and my second stop was to say good morning to The Macallan Brand Ambassador Joy Elliot, where my second Whisky Discovery was made with The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Oak. It was at The Macallan stand that I met Mark from The Malt Review for the first time, it was his first trip to The Midlands Whisky Festival too
Mark from The Malt Review and Joy Elliot from The Macallan
With two ‘Dream Dram’ tokens in my pocket I decided that one of them should be used to sample the Springbank 21 Year Old. I’d heard great things about the Springbank 21 Year Old and it didn't disappoint! It was my third of the morning and another new Whisky Discovery. 

I went for a ‘wander’ while sipping my Springbank 21 year Old and ended up at the Morrison Bowmore stand where I spotted the Auchentoshan American Oak. I remember seeing this during my trip to Auchentoshan in July and seeing as I was coming to the end of my Springbank it would have been rude not to.

After having had a quick look around the stands I decided my attention should be spent at the Springbank Stand and decided to run through the range starting with their 10 Year Old to refresh my palate as it was a recent Whisky Discovery, The 10 was followed my the excellent 12 year Old Cask Strength where I decided that this alongside their 15 Year Old are 'must haves' for my shelf. The 12 CS was followed by the 18 Year Old which too is another fine dram.
Whisky Discovery
A belly full of Springbank
With a belly full of Springbank I headed back upstairs to find Kat who was with Glen Grant/Wild Turkey. I've had very little exposure to the Glen Grant range of single malts so took the opportunity to try the two that were on offer, the no-age statement ‘Major’s Reserve’ and their 10 Year Old. I wasn't ready for a Bourbon quite yet, but wanted to spend my second ‘Dream Dram’ token.

We decided that we should try the Glenmorangie Signet, a new Whisky Discovery for the both of us, but I wanted Kat to also try their fabulous 25 Year Old. I first tried this at the London International Wine Fair with Dave Broome (name dropper!) and I insisted that Kat should try it – she agreed with me – it’s fabulous! 
Whisky Discovery
A brace of 'Dream Drams' from Glenmorangie
Our Macallan Masterclass with Joy Elliot was due to start at 1330 but was running a tad late, however it was all worth waiting for! Six Macallan expressions with four new Whisky Discoveries. 

We started our Masterclass with the Fine Oak 15 Year Old – sadly no longer available in the UK but can be found on the continent. The 15 Year Old Fine Oak was followed by one of my favourites from the 1824 Series, Sienna. The 1824 Range was launched at Midlands Whisky III back in April 2013! 

After reacquainting ourselves with Sienna, the Fine Oak 18 Year Old was next in the line-up, and another from the 1824 Series, Ruby followed. Next came the Estate Reserve, a Travel Retail Exclusive, again from the 1824 Series, and another memorable dram. The final dram from our Macallan Masterclass was their 25 Year Old which was simply stunning! 
Whisky Discovery
The Macallan Masterclass Line up
After the Masterclass and some lunch I wanted to head back to the Springbank Stand and try their Longrow’s I started with their 11 Year Old ‘Red’. I was fairly certain I’d tried this before and on checking the Liquid Log found that I had indeed, way back in the Springbank Masterclass of Midlands Whisky II!  The Longrow was a new Whisky Discovery though, this NAS whisky replaced the Longrow CV. 

With the afternoon zipping along nicely I thought it was time to check out the Bourbons I saw earlier (and Kat had already told me about) and my palate needed a change so I headed back upstairs to find Wild Turkey and took the last dram out of this bottle of their 101, following that up with the 81. Both were a welcome break from the malts, but I preferred the 101 for sipping.
Whisky Discovery
A brace of Wild Turkeys
The over-running Macallan Masterclass meant we missed the Mortlach mini-masterclass with Colin Dunn - he was presenting the 'Old and Rare', which by all accounts is neither, however I needed to have some Mortlach in my life that afternoon. I had spotted this 13 Year Old from the Hunter Laing’s ‘Old Malt Cask’ range and made this my next dram.

Last pours were announced at 1630 and the hard-working stallholders started packing their wares up and emptying their bottles. My last ‘real’ dram was a Johnnie Walker ‘Odyssey’, but the final drink of the show was this ‘Smoky Cokey’ from Colin Dunn – Lagavulin 16 Year Old and coke. I know it sounds so wrong, but was a refreshing end to a fabulous show, we even caught Jon from Living Room Whisky nosing his Smoky Cokey!

And so another great Whisky Show was over and it was time to make our way home, and following our footsteps from the last Midlands Whisky Festival, 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 Friday 27th/Saturday 28th March and tickets are selling fast! You can find out more information here: Midland Whisky Festival
Get your tickets early!
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 @ColinDunnWhisky @thejoyofwhisky @MyWhiskyGuide @MaltReview @SCOTTDOGG11

If we met and I've missed you off of this list please let me know and I'll update the list!

The full dram list included 17 new Whisky Discoveries, 6 revisits and one Smoky Cokey, and you can see all of the photos in our Facebook Album here
  • WD#1003 The Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Cask
  • WD#1004 The Macallan 18 Year Old Sherry Cask
  • WD#1005 Springbank 21 Year Old
  • WD#1006 Auchentoshan American Oak NAS
  • WD#963 Springbank 10 Year Old
  • WD#1007 Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength
  • WD#1008 Springbank 18 Year Old
  • WD#1009 Glen Grant Majors Reserve
  • WD#1010 Glen Grant 10 Year Old
  • WD#1011 Glenmorangie Signet
  • WD#438 Glenmorangie 25 Year Old
The Macallan Materclass with Joy Elliot
back to the Show
  • WD#173 Longrow Red 11 Year Old
  • WD#1016 Longrow NAS
  • WD#1017 Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
  • WD#1018 Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
  • WD#1019 Mortlach Old Malt Cask
  • WD#563 Johnnie Walker Odyssey, and it was all washed down with a Smoky Cokey!
Whisky Discovery
A Smoky Cokey!
Sláinte! Dave

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Whisky Discovery #785

Glencadam 22 Year Old Abbey Whisky 55.3% abv 
Highland Single Cask Malt Whisky

£76.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky

Whisky Review
This is the fourth release from Independent Whisky Retailer Abbey Whisky's 'Rare Casks' series, following earlier releases from Caperdonich, Bunnahabhain and Ben Nevis. I was supposed to have completed this post a long time ago, as my tasting notes were taken on 30th April last year! However other commitments and a few circumstances beyond my control set me back a little on the blog posting last year and I'm trying to play catch up now as I have two notebooks full of 'discoveries'.

This Glencadam was distilled in 1991, aged in a refill bourbon cask for 22 years, and is a worthy addition to this cask strength series of malts. As one would expect of a cask strength malt, this has been bottled at 55.3% abv, without chill filtering or colour additives. Just 96 bottles have been released.

Checking the liquid log we have had very little exposure to whiskies from The Glencadam Distillery and the only other one listed was the 21 Year Old that was in my Drinks By the Dram Advent Calendar last year.

I decided I needed to find out a little more about the distillery and reached for my Malt Whisky Yearbook along with some older books by Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson's World Guide to Whisky from 1987 tells us that the distillery was founded in 1825, and was bought by Ballantine's and extensively modernised in the 1950's. Most of it's Whisky went for blending at the time Michael wrote this book, but he describes it as having a very fruity aroma and a smooth, almost creamy palate. He also goes on to say that it's a 'most unusual and characterful Whisky.'

His Malt Whisky Companion (4th Edition) from 1999 describes the House Style as 'Creamy with a hint of berry fruits.'

Having previously been mothballed in 2000, the distillery was brought back to life in 2003 and is the only existing distillery in the region of Angus. 

So What Did I Think?
Twenty two years in a refill bourbon cask hasn't imparted a great deal of colour to the spirit during its slumber, but with the colour of a Sauternes wine, it immediately looks light and refreshing. 

The dominant aromas for me were coconut and vanilla. It always amazes me when I find these coconut flavours, I'm easily pleased! It's all down to the right wood conditions you know. This has a very pleasing, fragrant nose, and alongside the initial flavours I was finding ripe barley and some zesty citrus notes. The palate came across with some good malty flavours, biscuity almost, and although initially creamy and sweet, there was an interesting spicy build up towards the end. The coconut remains throughout and lasts right through to the very end, albeit turning a little soapy. 

(I'd like to point out that we eat a lot of coconut in our house, so know what a soapy coconut smells and tastes like. When anthropologists dig up our garden in years to come, they will believe there was once a coconut plantation and processing plant in the Bedfordshire countryside)

The empty glass the following morning gave notes of milk chocolate. Astonishing!

But don't just take my word for it, Jim Murray awarded this 92/100 in his 2015 Whisky Bible

Many thanks to Abbey Whisky for providing the sample, and for their continued patience in waiting for my this blog post! For further information and how to purchase this fine single cask single malt check their website here: Abbey Whisky 

Sláinte! Dave

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Aultmore - The Last Great Malts

Whisky Discovery
The Still House
At the beginning of January John Dewar & Sons Ltd. unveiled a new range of bottlings from Aultmore distillery, forming the next part of its ‘Last Great Malts’ of Scotland. This new range launches from January 2015 with a 12 Year Old, a 21 Year Old Travel Retail Exclusive and a 25 Year Old in limited quantities. It will be released initially in ten markets around the world including Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Travel Retail.

Dave visited the distillery at the end of June 2014 (and is logged as Distillery Discovery No.12) when he was invited along on a press trip that encompassed all five of the Barcardi groups single malt distilleries. You can see his photos of this distillery in our Facebook album here: Aultmore Photos

Aultmore was founded in 1896 by Alexander Edward, then owner of the Benrinnes Distillery, and has been producing malt whisky (with the usual on and off periods') since 1897 yet little is known about this obscure distillery. 
Whisky Discovery
Aultmore's sweeping hills in light fog or is it Scotch mist?
Located in the sweeping hills of Moray, just north of the town of Keith on the rolling road to Buckie, it's often cloaked in thick fog, exuding an air of mystery. Its name is a derived from the phrase An t-Allt Mòr, Gaelic for big burn, referring to its water source the Auchinderran burn. The sparsely populated land surrounding its site has always felt somewhat isolated. The distillery was originally powered by a waterwheel, and was soon adapted to use a steam engine instead which ran day and night for seventy years, apart from maintenance. During maintenance hours power was provided by the mainly retired waterwheel. The steam engine is now on display at the distillery.

Whisky Discovery
Early 12 Year Old
In the 1950s Aultmore was one of the first to use the draff, a wasteproduct of whisky production, as animal feed. The distilleries malting floors closed in 1968 and the entire distillery was rebuilt and expanded in 1970. In 1998 the distillery bought by Bacardi subsidiary Dewars, (which had previously owened Aultmore between 1923 and 1925) and produced their first official bottling, a 12 year old, in 2004, after an earlier flora and fauna release, and an earlier rare malts release from 1996

There's nothing left of the original buildings, and it's now installed with a modern 10 tonne Steinbecker full lauter mash tun. The distillery operates seven days a week and they achieve 16 mashes per week with a minimum fermentation time of 56 hours in the six wooden (larch) washbacks feeding two pairs of stills, and last year achieved 3.03 million litres of spirit.
Whisky Discovery
The Washbacks at Aultmore
The Scotch itself is often dubbed the ‘Rarest of Speyside’, yet its taste has long been rated top-class by industry insiders and is much sought-after for its grassy notes and exceptional smoothness. Despite its rarity, for more than 100 years it’s known to have been a secret dram of locals and Buckie fishermen, savoured by those who knew to ask at nearby inns for ‘a nip of the Buckie Road’. Most of the whisky produced like most malt distilleries goes for blending, and Aultmore, has up until now been used exclusively for blends.

Legendary whisky writer Michael Jackson describes Aultmore as a 'fine malt in the oaky style' and goes on to describe the house style as 'Fresh, dry, herbal, spicy, oaky. Reminiscent of a Fino Sherry, albeit a very big one. Before dinner' (Malt Whisky Companion 6th Edition). 

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society describe Aultmore as a Speyside (Deveron) and go on to say it is considered Top Dressing by blenders, and is bottled only in small amounts by John Dewar & Sons (Bacardi). The first Society bottling was in 1989 (Distillery No.73)

During the press trip Dave got to try the 'work in progress' cask sample of the 25 Year Old (Whisky Discovery No.882) and later at a Masterclass at Dramboree 2014 Brand Ambassador Stephen Marshall brought along both the 12 Year (Whisky Discovery No.913) and 21 Year Old (Whisky Discovery No.914) expressions, albeit the unfinished product, as all three were cask samples of 'work in progress. 
Whisky Discovery
Work in progress

All three new releases have been released at 46% abv, are non chill filtered and natural colour. I was was sent samples of all three for the following reviews:

Whisky Discovery #1140

Aultmore 12 Years Old, 46% abv
Speyside Singe Malt
Circa £45.00 700ml
Whisky Discovery
Official Tasting Notes: Born of fog, bog and brimming wee burns, a verdant nose of dewy moss and delicate flora, sweet liquid tracking a secluded path, gliding through green grass and fresh wild herbs.

So What Did I Think?
The nose was very Clean and fresh with grassy citrus notes which softens after a little time in the glass. The freshness transfers nicely to the palate too with the citrus notes more lime like. It's quite peppery too. Once it has had time to settle and a drop of water added the gentle sweetness comes through, citrus remains with tangy cheesecake and shortbread biscuits. The finish is long and dry, while remaining grassy, with perhaps more herbal notes developing at the very end. The following morning the glass gave notes of malty chocolate with hints of heather.

Verdict: Well this is certainly within my whisky budget and certainly something I'm looking forward to introducing to friends at the Bedford Whisky Club as soon as I can

Whisky Discovery #1141

Aultmore 21 Years Old, 46% abv
Speyside Singe Malt
Circa £tbc 700ml
Whisky Discovery
The 21 Year Old will only be available at Travel Retail outlets and we do not have any price details yet.

Official Tasting Notes: Ethereal summer nights, gloaming air tinged with fruity olive oil and rosemary, then velvety sweetness with soft melon and cereal hues; a sleekit-smooth secret, shared at last.

So What Did I Think?
The nose comes across immediately much richer in style with more fruit notes, softer tropical notes but still has a youthful freshness. Herbal notes come a little later, perhaps a hint of dried rosemary. The mouth feel is initially sweet, but there is a surprising hint of 'old Whisky' notes that I wasn't expecting. It's certainly a very smooth and silky dram once given some time to settle in the glass. The citrus flavours reminded me of a watered down orange juice , which is accompanied with some polished wood notes which turn very dry towards the long finish as the tannins take over. The following morning the empty glass gave rich fruity notes with wet wood and malted biscuits.

Verdict: I suspect this might be a little out of my budget, but it certainly is an interesting expression which deserves further investigation.

Whisky Discovery #1142

Aultmore 25 Years Old, 46% abv
Speyside Singe Malt
Circa £300.00 700ml
Whisky Discovery
Official Tasting Notes: Reclined in damp shorn grass, vapours of lime and baked apples, each silken sip unveiling lush vanilla and buttery biscuits; dreich skies deserve a top-class dram.

So What Did I Think?
The nose opened with some icing sugar before the 'old whisky' notes really come through. There are all the cliché notes of polished wood, old leather book covers, cartridge paper and linseed oil. The 'house style 'grassy notes' are there but more subdued. A drop of water releases baked apples with cinnamon notes. Simply glorious! The palate is rich and creamy, decadent with typical vintage whisky notes of worn leather and polished wood and hints of shortbread biscuits. Once again the finish is very dry, but this has a peppery zest at the very end too.The following morning the empty glass was still glorious reminding me of old violins and rosin.

Verdict: I really loved this, but unfortunately it's out of my league!

Many thanks to Dewers for the samples and for my invitation to explore their five malt whisky distilleries. For more information about the Aultmore releases check out their website here: Aultmore For more information on the new single malt expressions, the five distilleries, tasting notes, crafting, and heritage, please visit: Last Great Malts

Slàinte! Dave

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Whisky Birmingham 2014

With 2015 firmly established now it's time to start planning the Whisky Shows we'll be attending this year. The first one we're planning on attending is The Birmingham Whisky Club's show 'Whisky Birmingham' on Saturday 7th of March. This will be their third full show, which once again will be held at The Bond, Digbeth, a unique group of Victorian buildings fronting onto the Grand Union Canal in the Warwick Bar Conservation Area, just a short walk away from the city centres main railway stations. The centrepiece of the complex is The Icehouse, an outstanding 19th century warehouse. This local landmark dominates the area with its majestic front and fine cobbled entrance courtyard surrounded by the original buildings.

The venue is perfect which a large exhibition hall for the main show, on site catering with the centre's cafe as well as street food under the canopied area alongside the canal. The line-up is coming together and this show is the only one we have come across that holds a cigar and Whisky Masterclass - the location is simply perfect!

Tickets are on sale now, and this year the standard ticket price includes a Festival glass (previous years they were loan glasses) and there is a VIP ticket available this year which allows early entry at 11:00am. Organiser Amy Seton tells us that the show has expanded further this year with two exhibition rooms and additional Materclasses.

For all the information and tickets I'd suggest you take a look at website as tickets sell quickly and it's bound to be another sell out! Click here for more details:

It was our first Whisky Show of 2014 and we thought to set the scene we'd tell you all about our day out last year:

Whisky Discovery HQ is just a stones throw from MK (we have a large trebuchet) which is dead handy for trains into Birmingham. The Bond is a fifteen minute walk from the City centre so getting to and from the show is really no more difficult than the London shows. We arrived early bumping into a number of our Whisky pals who tweet and blog, hailing from all points north and south.

There was a very impressive line up of exhibitors with well known names like BenRiach, Glenglassaugh, Bruichladdich, Glenfarclas, Gordon & McPhail, Isle of Arran, Kilchoman, Glen Garioch, Auchentoshan Bowmore, Penderyn, Suntory and many more! There was also an onsite shop from Hard to Find Whisky.

Along with the Whisky and Cigars Masterclass with Hunters and Frankau there were Beginners Guide to Whisky, Whisky and Chocolate matching and Whisky and Cheese matching Masterclasses on offer during the afternoon.

Our great pals from Living Room Whisky were our first port of call. Mike and Jon have run a 'Bloggers Choice Stand' for the last two shows and they had an impressive line op of whiskies for pouring, and we enjoyed three drams with them while catching up, starting with Dominic Roskrow's Discovery Road 'Smile'. It wasn't a new Whisky Discovery, but it is a Whisky I really enjoyed and was a nice way to start the day. Two new Whisky Discoveries followed with a 16 Year Old Ledaig from Douglas Laing's Old Particular range and a Caol Ila from That Boutique-y Whisky Club

John and Mike from Living Room Whisky and some of the drams they had on their Blogger's Choice Stand
Hearing that there was an Glenglassaugh 30 Year Old on the dream dram list I went to spend my token before heading over to the Morrison Bowmore stand to catch up with Brand Ambassador Ally Dickinson. Whilst there was nothing 'new' for the liquid log I'd never turn down the opportunity to revisit their Glen Garioch 1995 and 1986 vintages.

A fine brace of Glen Gariochs
Food was our next port of call. Food is listed as another of our passions (although we don't write about it!) but eating is definitely one of our favourite pastimes. Whisky Birmingham is well catered for as alongside the venue's Cafe Bond, street food vendors Soul Food Project and Pop Up Dosa were on hand to rustle something up right in front of your eyes (and yes, before the day was out we had eaten at both!). The Bond has a great covered area outside the main hall aptly name The Canopy

Organiser Amy Seton had arranged a special Whisky tasting with Hard to find Whisky for bloggers, where Sales Director, Jason Bourne opened a bottle of 1960 Glen Moray for us to taste, a real treat! This rare bottle of 1960 vintage Glen Moray was bottled in 1987 making it a 26 Year Old. It was was bottled at 43% abv and it appears that it was bottled from a single sherry cask (the bottle opened was No.534). It was in remarkable condition and was fresh and lively seeing as it had been in a bottle for the best part of 27 years! They still have a bottle available on their site if you're interested. Click here for more details 
Jason Bourne from Hard to Find Whisky presents the 1960 Glen Moray
After eating we went back into the show and seeing that Mike and Jon could do with a break decided to pitch in and take over their Bloggers Choice stand for the rest of the show. Whilst I love attending Whisky Shows and finding new Whisky Discoveries to add to The Liquid Log, we have found standing the other side of the table immensely satisfying, talking Whisky and getting across our passion for the spirit to new Whisky drinkers. My final drams were both peat monsters, the penultimate dram being one of my all time favourites, Compass Box Peat Monster, I seem to always gravitate to finding a dram or two of this before the day is out!

With last pours called and the show starting to pack up Whisky Birmingham has an additional treat for you in their after show 'Speakeasy' held on site in The Waterside where cocktails featuring anCnoc 12 Year Old were enjoyed alongside the nibbles and live music.
Lots of fun people at Whisky Birmingham 2014
This really is a show worth visiting, superbly organised with an impressive venue, don't miss it!

Make sure you're following the following accounts on Twitter too, there will be more information in the lead up to the show and news of competitions and offers: Amy Seton aka @TheWhiskyMiss  @WhiskyBrum and @LRWhisky

You can read our previous show reports here:

The full dram list is as follows:
  • Whisky Discovery #669 Discovery Road Smile
  • Whisky Discovery #709 Douglas Laing's 'Old Particular' Ledaig 16 Year Old
  • Whisky Discovery #710 That Boutique-y Whisky Company Caol Ila
  • Whisky Discovery #711 Glenglassaugh 30 Year Old
  • Whisky Discovery #455 Glen Garioch 1986 Vintage
  • Whisky Discovery #454 Glen Garioch 1995 Vintage
  • Whisky Discovery #712 That Boutique-y Whisky Company Kilchoman
  • Whisky Discovery #713 Glen Moray 1960
  • Whisky Discovery #714 Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney 8 Year Old
  • Whisky Discovery #324 Ichiro's Floor Malt 
  • Whisky Discovery #715 That Boutique-y Whisky Company Aberlour
  • Whisky Discovery #716 The One British ( Lakes Distillery)
  • Whisky Discovery #94 Compass Box Peat Monster
  • Whisky Discovery #147 Ardbeg Uigeadail 
Slàinte! Dave

Friday, 2 January 2015

Hankey Bannister

Whisky Discovery
Back at the end of October I had my first introduction to the Hankey Bannister range of blended Scotch whiskies. Whilst I had heard of the brand before, having seen a few press releases over the course of my journey, there was no mention on the 'Liquid Log' and I don't think I had actually even seen a bottle in real life. That all changed when I was invited by Inver House Distillers to a Masterclass held in Ruffians Barbers, an award-winning barber shop and store, in Edinburgh. Yes, you read correctly, a whisky tasting in a barbers shop, and another first for me. I don't think I've set foot in a barbers shop for quite a few years now, difficult for you to imagine I'm sure, but this fine grooming is all my own work!

The evening started off with being sat in an old fashioned barbers chair and given a facial. A hot towel wrap and head/shoulder massage and another first too. (although I could tell you a story or two about some 'salon experiences' from my time working in Thailand). Once we were suitably relaxed our Hankey Bannister masterclass, started with an opening introduction from Brand Manager, Lynne Buckley before Master blender Stuart Harvey took us through three core expressions starting with their 'Original blend', followed by the 12 Year Old and then the Heritage Blend. I was in great company too, as alongside Lynne and Stuart were our hosts for the week, Lukasz Dynowiak and Digital Brands Manager Samantha Peter, and fellow tasters Annabel Meikle a.k.a. The Whisky Belle (@thewhiskybelle), Mr. Whiskycast himself Mark Gillespie (@whiskycast), Chris Hoburn (ChrisHoban1) from the esteemed Edinburgh Whisky Blog (@EdinburghWhisky) and Dave Alcock, The Whisky Dramalista (@whiskyrepublic)
Whisky Discovery
Chris Hoban and I settle down to our Facial at Ruffians
I thought I'd be clever on this masterclass, and brought along a small dicta-phone so I could record the whole experience to save me from writing notes through the evening and so I could revisit later in order to write an informed blog post. I should have spent a little more time reading the instructions as when I went beck to review the evening I found I had recorded absolutely nothing. It was definitely a case of the 'bum on the machine' and not the machine on the bum. So without my audible notes I've had to request all the information from Lynne and Samantha again, sorry!

Mark Gillespie's recording equipment didn't fail him (well he is a professional!) and you can listen to his interview with Stuart Harvey in this podcast here: Whiskycast Episode 506

You can also read Dave Alcock's version of the events on his blog post here: The Whisky Dramalista
Whisky Discovery
Three core expressions for our Hankey Bannister Masterclass

Hankey Bannister - the Story
The Hankey Bannister brand originated way back when Beaumont Hankey, a sophisticated socialite and a man of distinction teamed up with astute businessman Hugh Bannister to establish a wine and spirits company in 1757 which lead to the creation of the Hankey Bannister Blended Scotch Whisky. It's popularity grew and and noted drinkers include The Prince Regent (King George IV) King George V receiving a Royal Warrant under his reign and war-time Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.

In 1988 Inver House purchased the brand from International Distillers & Vintners, and in 2009 the brand was repackaged and became their core blended whisky brand globally. Since then they have had double digit growth year on year which is a fabulous achievement. It's now available in over 100 countries, with key markets being Global Travel Retail, Russia, Ukraine and Mozambique where they're continuing to build brand awareness. Whilst the UK market strategy is under review, I was told that they'll be continuing to focus on independent stores and smaller wholesalers to slowly spread the Hankey Bannister cheer by word of mouth.

Whisky Discovery
Stuart Harvey in action
Stuart told us that all five of the Inver House single malt distilleries; Old Pulteney, Balblair, Balmenach, Knockdhu (anCnoc) and Speyburn, are used in the make up of the Hankey Bannister blend and these are combined with other selected single malts and grains. The single malts from their distilleries along with the others and the grain whiskies sourced from a number of suppliers, are brought together in their blending facilities in Airdrie and placed into holding tanks. Casks are filled for maturation at Airdrie and a recently installed state of the art automated cask filling machine can fill up to 500 casks per day. Last year 125,000 casks were filled purely for blending.

There are currently 32 warehouses at Airdrie, with both racked and palletised styles giving a capacity to store a total of half a million casks. A further 18 warehouses are under way increasing maturation capacity by a further 212,000 casks. An automated process for 'dumping' casks allows 500 casks to be processed each day. The malts selected for blending are treated the same as single malts, the strength is reduced and chill filtered before blending commences with the malts combined with grain whiskies, usually 60-85% grain whisky to 15-40% malt whisky, left to marry together before bottling. In June 2009 a state of the art bottling facility was opened in Airdrie and they currently bottle around five million bottles per year.

Whisky Discovery #1073

Hankey Bannister Original NAS 40% abv
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £17.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
Official Tasting Notes
Colour: Creamy toffee with a golden hue.
Nose: A light aroma with a spiciness which gives extra depth.
Taste: A light, subtle blend, clean, sweet and spicy with honeyed tones and a pleasant lasting finish.

So What Did I Think?
I think we were all pleasantly surprised on first sipping this, especially when told the price. I must admit I'm not a fan of sipping Johnnie Walker Red Label, however was quite happy to sit and sip this. The nose is quite light, yet rather punchy. There are notes of winter spice and black pepper with a touch of caramel. The palate is quite fresh and crisp with medium-body. There are notes of buttery biscuit and toffee fudge with cereal sweetness and a creamy mouth feel. The finish is of good length with a fudge sweetness.

Verdict: Whilst this probably won't appeal to hardened single malt drinkers, we all found this to be an easy drinking blend, and like I said, far more appealing to me that a Johnnie Walker Red Label, so if that is your tipple, I'd urge you to give this a try.

Whisky Discovery #1074

Hankey Bannister Regency 12 Year Old 40% abv
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £25.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
Official Tasting notes
Colour: Golden amber with reddish highlights
Nose: Slightly sweet aroma with hints of vanilla and oak
Taste: Medium bodied, well-balanced with sweet soft vanilla and a slightly smoky finish.

So What Did I Think?
I fully understand the necessity of consistency of colour within blended Scotch whiskies and so the 12 Year Old has the 'mit farbstoff' on the label. It certainly has been used sparingly and not day glow orange as some blends appear these days! It's quite tame on the nose initially but give it some time and some lovely aromas develop. With a fairly high grain content it's hardly surprising that ripe, plump soft grains were the first notes I was picking up. It comes across as a very clean nose with green apple skins and a touch of citrus which seem to sweeten with honey as time goes by.
On the palate it's smooth and velvet like. Initially sweet, again with citrus flavours; a weak orange juice or satsumas and a touch of honey again. The spices are fairly gentle in their approach and bring a hint of ginger in the finish which goes on to leave a butterscotch flavour for me.

Verdict: This is an easy drinking, inexpensive Scotch with and age statement. I took a bottle of this along to one of our club nights (The Bedford Whisky Club) and it was very well received by everyone I introduced to it.

Whisky Discovery #1075

Hankey Bannister Heritage Blend 46% abv
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £25.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
This was the most interesting of the three expressions showcased in our masterclass. Interesting because of the story behind it. Two years ago an extremely rare bottle of Hankey Bannister Fine Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky was unearthed. The bottle was dated by the address on the label and the bottle/paper production clues and put it somewhere between 1924 to 1928. Remarkably the seal was still intact and the whisky within perfectly preserved. Upon tasting the liquid a very different style was revealed when compared to the current original blend, it was much sweeter, with a pronounced peaty note. Full analysis was undertaken and Master Distiller Stuart Harvey was tasked with recreating this piece of whisky history. 

Whisky Discovery
The inspiration for Heritage Blend
Using the Original Blend as a starting point, Stuart added the necessary profiles to come up with the modern equivalent. This expression has a very high malt content and a peated malt of 0.5 - 0.8 ppm and gives a a fascinating insight into what Hankey Bannister was like some 90 odd years ago!

Just 5,000 cases of this recreation were initially produced, however this expression will become part of the core range going forward. Stuart had brought along the bottle, which was sadly empty, to show us. 

Official Tasting notes
Colour: Golden Amber
Nose: Sweet smoke, with traces of burnt orange and green apple, spicy notes of vanilla and caramel.
Taste: Full bodied with hints of honey and butterscotch, with a long complex finish.

So What Did I Think?
I was really impressed with this blend, perhaps it was the history behind it that sold it to me, but more likely it would be the passion shown by Stuart to recreate something from this point in time. I didn't scrawl any tasting notes during the evening thinking I'd be able to rely on my recording of the event, but from my recollection we were all suitable impressed by this expression and I'm fairly certain it was everybody's favourite of the evening.
Verdict: This is definitely something I want to revisit and will be one of my next purchases....OK I've just ordered a bottle!
Whisky Discovery
The original seal
After the official tasting and finished we all went out for dinner together and a bottle of their 21 Year Old was opened for the table and became my next Whisky Discovery.

Whisky Discovery #1076

Hankey Bannister Partners Reserve 21 Year Old 40% abv
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £75.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
I've not been able to find this to buy in the UK yet, but it should become available sometime next year hopefully? Again no notes were taken during the evening but I'm very grateful to the Inver House Team for sending me a review sample after the event.

Official Tasting notes
Nose: Soft and smooth creamy toffee with slight vanilla overtones.
Colour: Dark honey with bronze highlights.
Taste: Aromatic with pleasant malty overtones and a warm lingering finish.

So What Did I Think?
This has a very soft gentle nose, there's a hint of lime within the creamy vanilla notes. On the palate it's quite sweet, silky smooth and very easy drinking. There's a good malty feel to this blend and quite chocolatey which continues right through to the finish.
Verdict: I wrote in my notes 'I really like this' 

There was another Hankey Bannister discovery registered on the Liquid Log that week (No. 1100) but as yet I'm not able to tell you anything about it at all (what a tease!) The next two Hankey Bannisters we enjoyed at Whisky Discovery HQ

Whisky Discovery #1125

Hankey Bannister 25 Year Old 40% abv
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £250.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
Again I've I've not been able to find this to buy in the UK yet, but it should become available sometime next year hopefully, however I did managed to beg a sample for this post. Specially selected by Stuart Harvey, the spirit is matured for at least 25 years in American oak ex-sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks.

Official Tasting notes
Colour: Deep Golden Amber
Nose: Citrus Green Apple overtones with vanilla and toffee notes and a hint of leather rising in the background
Taste: A truly rich and complex palate with refreshing lemon, orange and green apple, perfectly balanced by velvety toffee and honey, with hints of vanilla and coconut. The finish is incredibly long lasting and spicy with just a trace of leather.

So What Did I Think?
As you'd expect the profile of this 25 Year Old expression would be fairly similar to the 21 Year Old. Again a soft and gentle nose needed some time for it to open up, and I was finding butterscotch and chocolate limes. The palate too was similar, again quite malty, which I enjoyed, smooth, creamy and very nicely balanced. There was also a hint of orange juice and more spices came through. The finish did seem to go on for a very long time.

Whisky Discovery #1126

Hankey Bannister Regency 40 Year Old 44.3% abv
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £625.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
The 2013 release of Hankey Bannister 40 year old, the 2007 bottling of which won Best Blended Whisky in the World at the World Whisky Awards. The blend includes some 1967 and 1970 sherried Highland whiskies combined with Lowland grain. Only 1480 decanters of this expression exist. Whilst I knew this was one of the Dream Drams at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show, and was on my list of drams to taste, I missed it completely so was very pleased to receive a sample for this post

Official Tasting notes
Colour: Dark Copper Gold
Nose: Sweet home baking aromas, brown sugars, vanilla cake dough, butterscotch, with notes of spiced caramelised bananas
Taste: Incredibly rich and complex, spicy and peppery, yet with fruity notes of figs, dates and cinnamon. The finish progresses through subtle traces of autumn spices to the tinges of bitter chocolate and honeycomb toffee with the tannins lingering long in the mouth

So What Did I Think?
As you'd expect with a blended whisky of this age there is a lot going on in this. I was picking up notes of new leather, Christmas spices, brown sugars, malt loaf and sugared cinnamon doughnuts. On the palate it was quite spicy but this worked perfectly with the rich chocolate flavours. I found a hint of Cherry Liqueur too and the wood spices follow that reminded me of a pencil box. It starts to become drier towards the end with tannins and grape skins. The empty glass on the following morning has a wonderful minty chocolate note
Verdict: This indeed is very special!
I love my Hankey Bannister top hat - next mission is to add the bowler to my hat collection!
In Summary
I've thoroughly enjoyed my Hankey Bannister experience, the vintage blends were superb although not easily obtainable in the UK (and beyond my normal whisky budget). For everyday drinking the 12 Year Old is a great session whisky but my personal favourite is still the Heritage Blend. 

For more information why not check out their website HankeyBannister.com and you can find them on Facebook too here Hankey Bannister FB

Slàinte! Dave