7 October 2014

05/10/2014 The Whisky Show 2014 (Day 2 -- Part 1)

The story starts here.

We are better prepared, today. So much so that we arrive early. Sunday is always more relaxed, in my opinion, because it is less busy. The queue today, however, is absolutely huge. Mind you, there are still twenty minutes to go before doors open. PS is third or so in the queue. He probably pitched his tent there. We are 127th.

Annoyingly enough, the shop does not open any sooner, this year. Argh! Well, at least, the weather is good. Cold, but sunny.
The doors open bang on time. We are in the lobby in no time at all. Today's staff is much less convincing, however: the girl confuses tickets and masterclass tickets, despite our handing her exactly the right ones in the first place. She also wraps the wristbands too tight and takes forever. Students are cheaper staff, I assume. Anyway.

With years of experience (haha!) we know to rush to the store and pay now, not after the show, when the hordes invade the space and keep the staff busy.
Would you know it? There is a line there too. A long one, to boot. We make a bet as to what that line is: I win. A staff member asks us whether we are there for the Karuizawa. We are not. No line for us, then. Yay.
We get in and pick the bottles we want: one is missing. While DR (from TWE) looks for it, I spot Ian Buxton. I tell him I liked his latest book, but was intrigued to read Linlithgow is located in Ireland -- he knows, is upset that it slipped through the proofreading and tells me it is being reprinted already.
We pay: another painful experience with a student; none of the bottles are in the system, she only adds up half of them and is completely lost when we tell her we do not need a bag. My patience is challenged to its core, but we make it outside alive and proceed back to the halls. Meanwhile, the sheep* who want the Karuizawa are still queueing.
For those who have not followed closely, TWE is releasing two Karuizawa this weekend (with a third to follow). In an attempt to tackle speculation (as if), only festival-goers may purchase one. Not both of them, not one per day, one per ticket. That means one going to the festival on their own cannot purchase more than one bottle of one expression out of the three. If TWE still has bottles after the festival (as if), they will go on the Web site for sale. There are 48 bottles of each, each day, and at least 70 people waiting, as we walk out.

We have very limited time, today. We have two masterclasses to attend, you see. And many dream-dram tokens to spend, so let us get some work done! First stop: Signatory Vintage.

Springbank 40yo 1969/2009 (54.4%, SV Cask Strength Collection, Refill Sherry Butt, C#263, 356b): nose: Bramley apples, Cox apples, cut grass -- my, is this lovely, or what! I wish we were in a different environment: I would spend an hour on this nose and do it justice. As it stands, the above will have to do. Mouth: soft and smooth, ripe with olive oil, brine, anchovies, green olives and sweet custard. Finish: drying wool (yes, that can be a line-drying, woolly sweater), green olives, olive oil, peppered custard. Wonderful, elegant balance. Despite a slight dryness, I reckon this is the best Springbank I have had. 9/10

Quick trip to Berrys'.

North British 50yo 1962/2012 (58.9%, BBr Exceptional Casks, C#90592/3, 472b): JS is upset with the dose she gets. Indeed half a measure: the bottle is almost empty and, out of the 1.5cl that remain, they try and make two drams, which means she gets 0.75cl. Disappointing. Nose: a musty warehouse, undergrowth, humid cellar. Mouth: salty, fiery, though not really roaring. Finish: briny, leathery. dom666 does not like it at all. It is ok to me, about three times too expensive, and not as good as the 45yo that Signatory bottled a while ago. Disappointing. 7/10

The Doors - Glenlivet or Talisker Storm
Time to take a hike to Diageo's, where MC Colin Dunn greets us like old friends. He does that to all the boys, mind. We confirm we will see him at the masterclass in twenty minutes, tease him about his Johnnie Walker badge and order drams.

The Singleton of Glendullan 38yo (59.8%, OB Prerelease, 3756b): nose: very mild coffee, lemon rinds, a whiff of smoke, burning herbs (thyme, bergamot, maybe gentian). Mouth: green tea (makes your tongue and teeth grind). Finish: bitter green tea again, as well as lots of white pepper. JS likes it more than I do, yet I am happy to try the most interesting offering in this year's special releases. Of course, it is vastly overpriced, in my opinion (RRP 750£). 7/10

dom666 tries a Talisker Storm and does not like it. Me? I do not attend the Whisky Show to drink supermarket whiskies. ;-)

JS fetches a Balblair 2000 OB for TWE that happens to be just on the wrong side of sherry maturation.

It is almost 13:00. The Brasserie is about to open and we need to make our way to our first masterclass of the day, which is detailed here.

Once the masterclass is over, we have a (very) limited amount ot time to get food. On the way, I offer a sip of Dram #5 from the masterclass to RW at Berrys', Ian Buxton, who happens to be talking to our new friend MB (he also gets a sip before joining us for lunch) and AH from TWE. Except for Buxton, none had had it. They seem pleased to have tried it.

Will I
Will I
Be Faaaamouuuuuuus?
The food (lamb for JS and me, veggie lasagna for dom666) is good and warmer. We get
potatoes, but no greens (I do steal a brocolo from someone who left their plate). On the other hand, some eat two bites, then leave a mountain of food on their plate. Waste.
The whole experience is better (shorter wait), not perfect (the wait is still long and the supply is short). They split the queue into two, which means they are shorter queues, but double the probability to run out of anything. Someone needs a project manager, there! Oh! and the veggie lasagna is in fact fusilli. Ah, well, we are replenished.

En route to our second masterclass of the day, we stop for more drams. First is Speciality Drinks.

Bowmore 25yo (50.1%, SD): nose: delicate peat, butter, lemon, roasted chicken. Mouth: tarragon chicken, a slightly metallic note. Finish: warm and comforting, with a touch of candied apple. 8/10

Ben Nevis 43yo 1970/2014 (44.5%, SD): yes, again. TWE's own AH finds it unusual. He is happy enough, since he tried it yesterday and found it unusual. Consistent.

Downstairs, JS gets:

Glenglassaugh 40yo (42.5%, OB, b.2013): nose: quince, melon, shoe polish. Mouth: melon juice, cedar wood, cigar leaves. The melon dominates, still. Finish: tobacco leaves, Herm├Ęs leather belts, then tropical fruit kicks in. Terrific dram! 9/10

The second masterclass is about to start -- off we go.

Back from that nonsense, I make sure dom666 catches his tube, then rush back into the hall for the last thirty minutes of the show. We still have one dream-dram token to spend.

Glenglassaugh 41yo 1972/2014 (50.6%, OB, Sherry Butt, C#4114, 582b): nose: quite sherried, this; quince, blood oranges, leather, shoe polish. Mouth: blood oranges, slightly drying and acidic, with a touch of varnish. Finish: more of the same with added floor wax. 8/10

anCnoc 22yo (46%, OB): I remember liking this, last year. Everyone is gathered around the Adelphi stall and anCnoc is next to it, so I go for it. Nose: grape juice, greengages, cut grass. Lovely. Mouth: milky, with some white-grape-pip bitterness. Finish: white wine, white grapes -- sod it! This is good, end of the story.

JS manages to get the Adelphi Bladnoch she liked yesterday (which I did not try). Antonia Bruce from Adelphi and we are amused that, for two years in a row, the one bottle JS wants is not available in the store and has to be secured at the stall, depleting the stock for the Monday. It turns out to be available after all -- DR simply did not look well enough, this morning.

A thoroughly absorbing conversation
The show is over, we are gently kicked out. I join JS in the shop, where a happy chaos prevails. We collect our earlier purchases and the Bladnoch.
The Swiss from the masterclasses are there; we spend an hour chatting with them. A Scando is with them too: he was at the first masterclass today and did not enjoy any dram, apart from #5. The peat was not prominent enough in the others. He was also at today's second masterclass. He did not enjoy that either -- he was looking forward to dram #3 after reading so much about the 1960s Bowmore, and was disappointed with the lack of peat. What exactly did he read about the 1960s Bowmore is unclear to me, since it is well known the peat, if present at all, is very much in the back seat.
Although he is a nice enough bloke, I am shocked. Many people did not manage to get tickets for those masterclasses, so it is disappointing to hear some of the ones who did make it in are upset because they were expecting monolithic drams and got subtlety instead. Rookie's mistake.

Good show, altogether and a whirlwind of an experience. It has become way too big and ambitious. However you approach it, there is absolutely not a chance to see it all, let alone try it all. The consequence (in our case) is that it becomes more about the social interactions than the whisky -- the same way the later Maschinenfest we went to were more about meeting friends than hearing music. The air conditioning is a little too omnipresent for my taste, though it is perhaps easier to circumvent than a thousand drunkards' smelly armpits.
The farce with the Karuizawa was laughable. Not the concept of a limited, exclusive edition and controlling who gets it, but the fact that it sucked at least an hour out of the schedule of the sheep* who wanted to procure a bottle. Is it good, at least? They were available as dream drams -- one token for both. Everyone we met who bought one bought it blind before trying them. Everyone we met who tried them thought they were both dreary (too woody) and considered selling the bottle. So much for tackling speculation, then.

* No disrespect is meant to genuine Karuizawa lovers (each to their own). All disrespect is meant to speculators who only buy Karuizawa to resell with a profit.

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