9 October 2013

05/10/2013 The Whisky Show 2013 (Day 1 -- Part 2)

If you have not read the beginning, the story starts here.

We realise food would be welcome now, as well as a break. We proceed to the brasserie, but we need a dram to accompany our grub, so we stop by Berry Bros where we are welcomed like old friends.

Blue Hanger 25yo (45.6%, BBr, 2nd Edition): came out in 2004, sold out in 2005. RW "found a few bottles in the boss's private cellar and nicked a couple." A good chuckle later, nose: outstanding richness, probably given by the different Glenlivets from the late 1960s and early 1970s (yep). Balsamic vinegar. Mouth: a breathtaking balance. Diluted cola, if  cola was any good. Finish: milk chocolate, chocolate muffin. Very good stuff, this!

They have a freaking yurt in there!
Right before the brasserie, we call at Diageo's to complete the lunch-time dram selection. Auchroisk 30? "The what?" It is not available and the guy apparently does not even know it exists...

Royal Lochnagar 2008 (43%, OB Selected Reserve, 6540b): nose: sulphur and game, not very pleasant. Mouth: improvement. Tickles the tip of the tongue a bit. This displays a huge sherry influence. Finish: balanced, sherried, meaty, caramely and rather meh. Seems like I will not yet find a good Lochnagar today.

Talisker Storm
Knockando 25yo 1985/2011 (43%, OB, 4758b): nose: well, there is a sherry influence, but it is so tame it is hardly worth mentioning. Gingerbread. Mouth: very faint gingerbread. Ginger emerges a bit more after a moment, but it remains shy. Finish: game, milk chocolate, cocoa powder. Not memorable, I'm afraid. The bar tender hands a glass of Talisker Storm to JS and asks, 'can you smell the difference?' ZOMG! DIFFERNET DISTILLEREIES HAS DIFEFRENT FLAVOURS! MY HEAD GONNA XPLODEZ!! Seriously, WTF? Trying to enlighten unsuspecting punters is fine, but in such an event, it seems like a stupidly condescending thing to say.

The brasserie is busy. Whisky Galore is being projected on the wall, but everybody is focusing on the food. A bit of a wait, a stingy waiter, very little food, fewer vegetables (out of the veggie mix of carrot, parsnip and brocoli, JS gets a handful of carrot sticks, period), not to mention they are hardly cooked. The main dishes are good: fish pie for dom666 and JS, lamb & whisky pudding for me. A lady behind me takes the lamb too... and does not get any pudding.

Focusing on the food
Once the belly is full, we stop by Irish Distillers for a dram, but they do not have the promised Red Breast 21.

Back in the main hall, we head to Angus Dundee Distillers to greet Lorne McKillop. No McKillop's Choice bottling this year, as TWE does not sell them anymore. Tomintoul is here with the full range, though. Except for the one I am interested in: the 33 year-old. Not sure why, but "it is not there." I manage to get a little of it all the same. Having connections rules again.

Tomintoul 33 b.2009 (43%, OB): nose: very floral, with honeysuckle and forsythia, and also cut pears. Mouth: yep, floral and fruity it is, still with forsythia and cut pear, as well as honey. Light bitterness too (cedar?), nowt too invading. Finish: the bitterness becomes bolder, then tons of flowers and pears, apricots -- with the stone for added bitterness. Love this. 9/10

The next dram comes from the BenRiach Distillery Company's stand.

It all went pear-shaped
from here
Glenglassaugh 30yo Batch 1 b.2013 (44.8%, OB, 1002b): I liked the 26yo a bit, last year and a lot more earlier this year, at the distillery. Nose: a lot less fruity and a lot meatier than the recent-ish expressions from the the pre-closure days. Mouth: some wine casks in this, I reckon. Fruity to some extent with (black) pepper. Finish: the fruit is finally more assertive (pear or quince) but it remains a rather big dram. I like it less.

Douglas Laing is next. It always seems a good idea to finish there. Fred is absent today, though, which is a pity.

Macduff 21yo 1992/2013 (41.9%, DL Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, C#DL9905, 252b): nose: butter and tobacco. A strange combination, but it works. Mouth: desserty, pudding, rice pudding. Finish: dom666 finds it acrid. There is a certain floweriness to it -- flowers soaked in milk. I like it.

Port Dundas 21yo 1992/2013 (55.7%, HH Clan Denny, ex-Bourbon Hogshead, C#HH9452): nose: pine cigar boxes, wonderful. Mouth: what a balance! Lemon, lemon cake -- just how lovely is this? Finish: perfectly balanced. Love it. Butter, pine, lemon.

Glen Scotia 21yo 1992/2013 (51.5%, DL Old Particular, Refill Barrel, C#DL9903, 240b): nose: this one has more body. It is meatier, but not in an overpowering way. Grass or herbs too. Mouth: grass, oregano, herbs and alcohol or varnish. Finish: long and lingering, with notes of cappuccino and dark, hot cocoa. 7/10

At some point, I spot a certain "Manchester United player" from the Manager's Dram master class, two years ago, which amuses me greatly.

Dailuaine 1998/2012 (46%, GMP Connoisseurs Choice): nose: lemon and herbs. Mouth: pleasant and balanced, milky, creamy, even. Finish: long, with hints of butter cakes, almond dough and sour cream. 8/10

I run to the other room for a final dram.

Octomore 06.1 5yo (57%, OB): another one that was supposed to be available but was not, then was, but not to all, as only one bottle. Apparently, it only reached the venue halfway through the day. The guy had to turn down early comers, then hide it to avoid their ire. First Octomore for me, so pretty psyched. Nose: peat, peat, peat, smoke and butter. Mouth: solid! and punchy too. Caramel, alcohol (a hard-hitter, this one), berries (blackberries, blackcurrant, blueberries) charcoal and soot. Finish: what a steamroller! Yet it still gives out black fruit in a very interesting way. Annoyingly amazed -- would cost a lot less if I hated it. This is much more pleasant than earlier, overly peaty efforts such as Ardbeg Supernova: it is peaty, but also has other qualities and flavours to offer, when Supernova seemed to only cater for the peat section.

What a day! From unpleasant to stellar drams, merry atmosphere most of the time, and much better planning from our part: we did not "waste" time trying things we were not interested in only to cry about the lack of time to try all the things we wanted to try. No, no, and that is mostly due to one thing: the pre-published list of drams that appeared a few days before the show (more about that below).

The organisation was very, very good. Spittoons everywhere, including on the tables, staff to empty them often and replace the empty water bottles (they were even throwing away half-full bottles, which, of course, annoyed me). There were still absent-minded guests to empty their glasses in the bins, but it was even easier than last year to point out to them what the process should be.
The whole show remains very ambitious and trying to cover everything would be suicidal (food pairings, cocktails, workshops etc.), but it seemed easier this year to not feel deprived, as the rooms seemed more separate and therefore less tempting. Having said that, everything was busy all the time, so do not think some stalls had no reason to be.
Outstanding point: the staff at the reception desk took extra care sticking the wristbands together. No fur-stripping this year, yay!
Another outstanding point in the organisation: the list of drams. It allowed us to short-list what to try and how to go about it. A necessary strategy. However, it is a bitter advantage when you consider that today only, four drams we wanted to try were not available after all.
The brasserie, despite our misadventure with what was clearly a reluctant waiter (Parisian, perhaps?), was very effective. Quick turnaround, quality food (considering it is cooked on an industrial scale), impressively quick staff when it came to undress tables (9 seconds on average to get your empty plate removed -- no joke).
Finally, as with any festival, going year after year means seeing the same faces again and again (exhibitors as well as festival-goers), so that it turns into a much more social event.

Carry on reading my Whisky Show report here.

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