9 October 2012

07/10/2012 The Whisky Show 2012 (Day 2)

The particularly busy Adelphi stand.
Late again, though earlier than yesterday (12:10 instead of 12:20). No queue at all, yay! idealrichard could not make today, but JS could not make yesterday. That is why I am going both days and, to be honest, I am quite glad after all. I got to find the good bits not to be missed yesterday and I will be able to try the remainders at a pedestrian pace today -- we did not even go to Diageo's stall, yesterday.
The hall is not exactly deserted, but a lot less crowded, and the atmosphere is more relaxed. It is not all tourists trying to taste as much as they can in the few hours they are in town, now. To a point some stalls are so quiet the staff is playing with their mobile phones. :-)

The plan is to head for Diageo, but then Rosebank seems like a sensible starting point for JS. TWE's exclusive bottlings it is. I have:

Glen Keith 22yo 1989/2012 (50.7%, SD Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#57243, 226b): nose: subtle and discrete, with some vanilla and a bit of wood. It is all downplayed. Some flowers, red currant. Mouth: honey and a slight berry-related bitterness. Finish: unripe berries, plant juices. 7/10

Braes of Glenlivet 23yo 1989/2012 (54.9%, SD Single Malts of Scotland, Hogshead, C#689015, 272b): nose: downplayed again. There is a whiff of animal skin, some wood, hay. Mouth: creamy, with orange liqueur (Mandarine Napoleon? Grand Marnier?), coating, yet light at the same time, if that makes sense (probably not). Finish: orange, citrus. 7/10

While taking notes at a table nearby, I hear a couple of Indian punters being treated to something special at the Adelphi stall. I jump in and manage to get a dram.

Lochside 47yo 1965/2012 (54.6%, Adelphi Limited Release, 552b): datz ryte! I missed last year's edition, but this one does not escape me, hahahahahaha! Nose: dunnage warehouse, coffee, orange liqueur (again!?) Mouth: mocha, coffee, then black pepper on lychee cake. Finish: dunnage warehouse, though the dominant is peppered fruit cake. Butter, dark, red fruit (elderberry, black currant). Stunning indeed! I reckon I still prefer TWE's 46-year-old, but yeah, that one is not particularly easy to beat. 9/10

Upstairs to Diageo's before the dream drams run out. What? Brora and Port Ellen are dream drams, this year? Not that it matters much to me, but yes. That is not what we are interested in, though.

Handing the dream-dram token at Diageo's stall.
Glenury Royal 40yo 1970/2011 (59.4%, OB, 1500b): nose: coffee. It is a bit short, but that is mostly what comes out. Mouth: old jam, in which the fruit has all but vanished, pepper, mocha. Finish: balance of dunnage warehouse (really?) and jam, not so fruity anymore. It is a good dram, but the 29yo RMS is still superior to these tastebuds. 8/10

A couple of Irish shepherdesses gather as many people as possible for the Meet the Maker session in the corner of the room. Since we are there, we decide we might as well.
It is an informal interview with Billy Leighton, master blender at Midleton. If that was not good enough, Dave Broom is MCing it.
It is a rather interesting conversation, but the sound is not exactly splendid (not helped by the fact there is a cooperage workshop a few metres from us) and a fan is blowing cold air in my eyes. That unfortunately renders the experience a bit meh. We do get a dram, though:

Meet the Maker with Billy L. and a certain Dave B.
Jameson Select Reserve (40%, OB Small Batch): nose: mocha, cereal, not really my thing, here. Mouth: smooth and agreeable, creamy and floral with some honey. Finish: lots of meadow flowers, ripe, baked pear, more cream, honey, vanilla. Very nice with a so-so nose.

En route to the main hall, we stop by at the SMWS food-pairing stall. We try the munchies and one dram, but are not convinced. We chat with the staff for a few minutes, then it is time to hit the Douglas Laing bottlings again.

Glen Spey 25yo 1986/2012 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50º, Refill Hogshead, C#DL8196, 299b)): nose: subtle, with sugar cane, candied sugar (who said candied camera!?) Mouth: milky. Finish: very, very sweet, sugary, even. White sugar, cake icing... and a little bit of pencil sharpener blade for good measure.

Glen Garioch 25yo 1986/2011 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50º, Refill Hogshead, C#DL7866, 174b): nose: butter and wood. Mouth: milky with some cedar wood. Finish: mocha, coffee, milk chocolate. 7/10

Glen Ord 21yo 1990/2011 (50%, DL Old Malt Cask 50º, Refill Butt, C#DL6856, 492b): nose: sour cream and white wine. Mouth: milk again, almonds. Finish: herbs. 7/10

Meanwhile, JS is seduced by the Carsebridge and Littlemill. I explain to Fred Laing that they are not in the shop any longer and the three bottles of the latter were bought by one customer.
There is a poster about the recent North British 50. I ask about it and we are treated to the story behind it: it was to be the driving force of a special bottling of their King of Scots blend... for Guy Ritchie and Madonna. But then they split up and they had to do something with the grain.

On to the SMWS for a "brief" chat, which ends up lasting for an hour (JS has some catching up to do and new bottles have appeared).
'It's called a waistcoat, ignorant fool!'

25.61 20yo b.2012 Lemon and vanilla delicacy (51.3%, SMWS Society Single Cask): it was there yesterday, but not available to taste. 25.61 is a 10cl bottle offered to people who join the society this weekend. Not available otherwise. Nose: honey, honeysuckle. Mouth: jam. Finish: a bit of pepper, lots of flowers, huckleberry, raspberry. Delicious. 8/10

JS tries G8.1 (see yesterday's note), the bar guy tells me how he is unable to smell anything else than vanilla, wood, varnish in a grain after our chat yesterday -- I see nothing wrong with that. I get him a glass of the DL Carsebridge. He thinks grains are ok, is not as big a fan. He changes his mind. He also does not like Karuizawa very much. I ask him if he tried C#7576 from across the hall (see yesterday's note), he says yes, and he changed his mind. Also, he found out they have something else I have not tried. I have something in my glass in the meantime, though:

Glenglassaugh 26yo 1983/2010 (46%, OB, 1002b): nose: some coffee. Mouth: nice, with milk coffee. Finish: chilli, milk chocolate, mocha-flavoured candy. Not bad, not entirely convinced. I chat with a couple at the stand and forget to take a picture of the bottle.

124.3 13yo 1999/2012 All the complexities of summer (61.9%, SMWS Society Single Cask, Refill ex-Sherry Butt, 509b): nose: dark oranges, maybe tobacco. Mouth: red chilli. Finish: orange, grapefruit, lovely and balanced, yum! 8/10

We go for food. It is the same as yesterday, which is fine by me. The bread is very good, by the way.
Mussels well on display, today.
En route, we stop for a lunch-time dram:

Port Ellen 32yo 1979/2012 12th (52.5%, OB, 2964b): it is a dream dram, this year and, at 700+£ a bottle, it reads like a rip-off (the first versions were under 200 upon introduction). Is it worth it? Nose: very distant peat, elegant. Farmland, though again, quite noble. An organic farm it is, in which customers come buy butter wearing chequered shirts and designer glasses. Mouth: it is still punchy for a dram that age! It is more like a short coffee than a creamy one -- the sherry influence, surely. Finish: coffee and pepper, never too invading, very nice indeed. It would be a very nice 100--150£ bottle. 800£? Stuff it! I can see why people like it, but it does not justify that price tag, in my opinion. 8/10

"If my name is on it, it has to be good!"
Another Meet the Maker session takes place in the mezzanine: Lorne McKillop is introducing a few bottlings of his range. Now, earlier on, I asked him for a particular bottling, but he was saving it for this session. It would be rude not to be there, then. Unfortunately, we come in too late: they have moved to the third bottling, and the one I am interested in was the first. Since the fan is blowing in my eyes again, we call it quits without trying anything.

Colin D. looking his usual smart.
Rich with a few more dream-dram tokens and lost for inspiration, I decide Diageo is really close by, so I might as well try the new Brora. Colin D. is at the helm, which is a bonus. He cleverly pretends he knows me, which he probably does with everyone, but is nice all the same. No Manager's Dram under the counter and the Brora is gone. He offers a Caol Ila cask strength instead, which I politely decline. The girl from the coffee stall brings hot chocolates -- Colin promptly corrects them with said Caol and she lets me try hers. Nice.
JS decides she wants to try the hot chilli chocolate: it turns out to be disappointing.

Back to Gordon & McPhail, where JS tries the Inverleven (see yesterday's note). I recognise the guy from last year: he just arrived. He pretends he remembers me too, which is very kind.

Pittyvaich 1993/2012 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice, Refill Sherry Hogshead): nose: grass, hay, distant apricot. Mouth: fresh, with more cut grass and faint pepper. Finish: long, filled with peppermint, pepper, juniper berries and a note of pencil sharpener blade.

Benromach 42yo 1969/2011 (42.6%, OB, Refill Sherry Hogshead): as far as I can remember, this might be my first Benromach. Might as well make it a noteworthy one and this one is recommended (dream dram). Nose: leather bags etc. You know the score. More subtle than other sherry monsters I have tried recently, so all good. Mouth: sherry influence shines through and through. It is wide, with pronounced orange-rind notes. Finish: Dark chocolate and orange. Some marmalade. Pretty nice, though not my favourite thing, today. 7/10

Mr whiskyfun passes by again: I grab his attention to say hello and have a quick chat. Martine Nouet quickly joins us. She initiates her own conversation with Serge and I leave, forgetting to compliment her on the food. Martine, if you read this... Now corrected.
In the other hall, we head back to Angus Dundee Distillers, which is also where Mr McKillop keeps his stash. He has some left. Yay.

Linlithgow 28yo 1982/2011 (57.3%, Mckillop's Choice, C#2206): YES! The Whisky Cyclist told me yesterday that it was there and there it is indeed. Nose: hay, grass, olive (?) oil. Mouth: The kick! Pungent, grassy, with lots of honey in the end. Finish: long, with grass and hay again. Lovely indeed. 8/10

We talk about the magic of the cask and the distillation process, 'well, it's my job, so I don't see it as magic... but I get your point.' Hehe.

Bruichladdich 19yo 1992/2012 (57.8%, Mckillop's Choice, Sherry Cask, C#1874): nose: hazelnuts. Mouth: almond liqueur, hazelnut -- Frangelico? Finish: some (white) coffee, millk chocolate. Quite good too, though he poured too much for each of us and I end up discarding some of it. Only dram I did not finish (not that it is an achievement).

BenRiach 35yo 1976/2012 (54.1%, OB, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Butt, C#5317, 204b): need to spend the last token and want to finish this festival in style. No notes, it is still a great dram! 9/10

The festival is over for today (tomorrow, the trade). I manage to secure a bottle of both the Carsebridge and the Littlemill with some help from SS and FL, yippee! Thank you!
Selecting a new everyday dram with a moustachioed novice.

A quick trip to the shop, where it seems even more hectic than yesterday. A brief chat with Serge whiskyfun again (+1 for his correct use of the subjonctif imparfait -- not every day do I come across someone who can and will do that! :-) ), before we are joined by Martine Nouet again (it is quickly becoming a habit).
It is soon time to go try and recover before next year's edition.

Well, that was an experience, was it not! I am very grateful that some of the ideas for improvement I mentioned last year were implemented (less waste, more time between special events, more space), but then that was complemented by even more special events: between the master classes, mini-master classes, food pairings, Meet the Maker sessions, book signings etc., there was little time to get bored (that did not prevent at least one person from falling asleep on the sofas upstairs on Saturday). Some were over the top for me, like having a cooper on site lead workshops: extraordinarily interesting, but there was simply too much to try and too little time to do it, as far as I am concerned.
Nevertheless, it felt perhaps more rewarding this year for different reasons and despite other things.

'You want a piece of me, boy?'
Pros: it seemed better organised, there were tables everywhere inside to put your glass down, take notes, what-have-you. It was spread over two days of the weekend, which means one day was less busy than the other (visitors working on Monday did not show up on Sunday) and there was more time to taste more things without heading to a certain ethyl coma (mind you, two days in a row can be quite hard-hitting). The dream drams were available most of the time. Only the most popular ones were out on Sunday, in the late afternoon (Diageo's, unsurprisingly).

Cons: there seemed to be fewer incredible things to try both on the stalls and in the dream-dram realm. More things were kept under the counter as well, which bargaining did not always give certain access to. The master classes were far less appealing to me (one bottling of one master class was tempting alright, though: Gold Bowmore) and, considering they were advertising last-minute tickets for some as late as ten minutes before they started, I tend to think I was not the only one to think so. The Meet the Maker sessions were a good feat. Might be worth having them outside the air conditioning stream (my eyes are all swollen on Monday) and the sound installation was not all that. The price went up and, if two days are probably the best option, the weekend ticket's price is quite steep, particularly if the higher-end bottlings are under the counter -- but then the W world is boiling, at the moment, so nothing comes cheap and I can understand that. Last but not least, marketing is creeping up badly. I was relieved to see more familiar faces on Sunday (i.e. men who have been involved in whisky making for years and years), yet it seems Ardbeg does not have the monopoly anymore, when it comes to sending good looking girls to do the talking or indeed, show the goods (+1 for the school-boy attire, by the way). Jameson also delegated attractive barmaids, as did Highland Park and others. Nothing wrong with them and surely, they do a good job. It is still interesting to see that older men are being replaced by young women across all brands, roughly simultaneously. Precisely when silly packaging takes more and more importance.

Nothing to do with the festival organisation, though. That was very, very good and I am looking forward to next year's edition. Well done Ollie, Alex, Chris, the whole TWE staff, and thank you to SS and RS for making it happen.

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