From the canteen, I spot the Loch Lomond stand at last. I rush to it to try...
Loch Lomond Single Grain (46%, OB): nose: lemon zest, light custard. Mouth: zesty and fresh, with custard. It turns velvety after a bit. Finish: soft, sweet and custard-y. This is pleasant. 7/10
Springbank 25yo (46%, OB, b.2014, 1200b): the drams list promised an early-1990s bottling, we get last year's instead. Talk about a disappointment: I have already had it (no notes). Nose: kumquats, a sprinkle of dust, citrus tart. Mouth: light and gentle, pineapple juice, crisp, lively too. Finish: lots of fruit abound -- tinned pineapple, clementines, mandarins. It was worth it after all: I like it much more than the first time. 8/10
Glenglassaugh 45yo 1968/2014 (44.3%, OB, Sherry Hogshead, C#1601, 349b): nose: pâte de fruits kept in a leather bag. Mouth: rich and marmalade-y. Finish: explosion of spices, then fruit. Lovely. 9/10
|This is not London Bridge|
After a trip to the terrace and much deliberation, we go for...
Littlemill 25yo (50.4%, OB Private Cellar Edition, Oloroso Sherry Finish, b.2015, 1500b): nose: fruit at first, slightly tropical, then leather notes. Mouth: the leather comes out much more, now, with chocolate and mocha. Finish: dry leather, initially, belts and so on. Tropical fruit comes out shortly thereafter. Fresh and good, though it is in the shadow of other bottlings we have had... that cost 1/20th of this one's price. 8/10
|MR likes the Littlemill|
Inchmurrin 12yo (46%, OB Island Collection, b.2015): nose: herbs and fruit. Lots of fruit. Mouth: a pleasant stroll under the foliage, with cut fruit on top. Finish: waves of tropical fruit now kick me in the face. Amazing dram. The price of one bottle of Littlemill will buy ca 70 bottles of this one. Shocking. 8/10
Time to finish ourselves off.
Laphroaig 1997/2015 (53.8%, BBR, C#46): nose: peat smoke. Mouth: big and powerful. Finish: a discharge of peat, barley, smoke and fruit. Nice! MS hates it. 8/10
Laphroaig (unknown pedigree, SV): nose: barley and peat smoke. Mouth: TCP, peated barley. Finish: yeah, medicinal and peaty. Well made for someone into that style. It feels a bit young to me. I prefer the BBR. 7/10 (if anyone reading this knows the details, I am all ears)
We meet our Swiss friends back from the Three Legends masterclass. They warn us that OB is bringing stuff for us to try.
anCnoc 22yo (46%, OB, b. ca 2015): every year, I seem to end with this one. Nose: gentle and mild. Bland? Well, it is not assertive, but it is pleasant. Considering this is the end of day 2, it is an achievement it manages to hold itself. Mouth: milky, creamy even, with subtle spices and honey. Finish: bitter chocolate, orange PiM's. 8/10
I grab some chocolate at the food-pairing stall. I am given a Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold to match it. Nothing bad, yet I will not be buying it.
OB comes back from his masterclass with three drams indeed:
Balvenie Classic (43°, OB, b.1980s): nose: nutty and bold, with hazelnut liqueur, orange liqueur, Cointreau. Mouth: generous mouth, with notes of polished dashboards. Finish: mild bitterness, with ginger chocolate and toffee. 7/10
Balvenie 25yo 1974/2000 (46.9%, OB Single Barrel, C#15204, 250b): nose: a great mix of varnish and fruit. Mouth: orange PiM's again (that is Jaffa Cakes, but better, for those who have not had the far-superior, Continental version), diluted Cointreau, fruit. Finish: zesty, sugary, orange-y. Good, very good. 9/10
The last dram, OB insists we try blind.
Nose: lichen, old staves, mossy warehouses -- this is so deep and complex I am a bit intimidated. Mouth: orange sponge cake, grand liqueurs in old crystal decanters, the smoking room in a gentlemen's club. This is noble alright. Finish: a richness I have never encountered in anything before. It has tentalising coal smoke (direct-fired stills, no doubt). The whole is integrated to perfection, extremely complex and works on every level of the flavour palette. I will not even try to understand this, it is beyond me. When we all have had it, OB explains this is R-Patz's blend at 45%, made specially for today, limited to one bottle. It contains Invergordon 1961, Glen Scotia 1972, Scapa 1957, Fettercairn 1957 and, naturally, Dalmore. Dalmore from 1964, 1926, 1870 and... 1868. Although the quantities of the latter are probably infinitesimal, I would be lying if I said my jaw did not drop. Goodness. 11/10
There is no point trying to top this. We all run out of steam -- to the point MS leaves the show almost an hour before closing time. I try to compose myself and go grab a drink (twice): Lost Distilleries Blend from Boutique-y.
I spend a lot of time talking to a jetlagged Australian blogger who flew in this morning. My tolerance level is getting lower and lower, however: the hectic weekend is catching up with me. Before I lose it over the Twatter and blogging arguments, I duck out of it and join the gang when the whole thing slowly comes crashing down.
It felt less impressive this year, really. Until I stopped to look at it from a distance, that is. Impressive selection, impressive and/or interesting drams, mostly, often from unexpected sources -- who would have thought a Caol Ila would impress me so much? New exhibitors showed up (whisky.auction, Loch Lomond), while others disappeared (e.g. Adelphi, Hunter Laing). Some of them felt a bit out of place (the cocktails stands were often not busy for a reason: the whisky show).
The biggest change, of course, is the venue. I had a soft spot for Vinopolis, it is not a secret. The convoluted layout, the many rooms, the maze, the exposed yellow brick of the Victorian construction. Old Billingsgate is as grand as it gets; at the same time, the way it has been set up is less breathtaking: carpet tiles, white partitioning, blinding lighting in places. In fact, it looks very much like a big, corporate event. Clean, slick and sterile. Of course, it is more spacious, which allows for everything and everyone to be in the same room. Of course, it makes the Saturday feel more leisurely, removing the feeling of having to compete at any stall to get anything. I might not like it as much, yet it was a necessary move, as the attendance was growing too big for the smaller venue.
The good bit, to me, is that they turned the ambition down a notch to focus on whisky. No more cooperage on site, no more distilling at the festival. As said in previous editions, those were interesting, yet they were taking time away from the stalls and, ultimately, seemed like a waste of the craftsmen's time.
|Douglas Laing sent their most convincing experts|
I cannot fail to notice, that the interesting stuff is increasingly to be found amongst the dream drams. Including things that were previously readily available (cue Teeling 21).
That being said, I trust Gordon & MacPhail will still come up with off-the-scale stuff at the Whisky Show that is unaffordable for home consumption. Signatory keeps impressing in the rarely-seen department too.
Let us see what next year brings.
Oh! Dram of the show (outside masterclasses and dream drams) was the Caol Ila SV for dom666, OB and myself. Aultmore BBR for JS.
|Old Billingsgate from the riverbank|