23 February 2017

19/02/2017 The Whisky Show Old & Rare (Day 2 -- Part 2)

The story starts here.

While we keep a presence at the table, others keep bringing drams to try.

'Oh! Hi, pat gva.'
'Try this!'

DH and MV have a lively conversation
Springbank 31yo 1966/1997 (52.1%, OB Local Barley, Bourbon Oak Cask, C#488): I mistakenly claim I have had this and only take a drop. Love it. Beautiful wood influence, magnificent balance of power, great whisky. Still, I believe it is overrated, as is the rest of the series -- or the few I have tried, at least.

SLK finally makes an entrance. He was at the Clynelish vs. Highland Park masterclass, earlier, as were MV, whom we met yesterday, and MR, who promptly join us and let us try Highland Park St Magnus (100° PROOF, OB) and Highland Park 30yo 1955/1985 (53.2%, GMP for Intertrade, 216b). The latter, I have already had.

Glen Grant 50yo (49.4%, GMP Book of Kells for The Whisky Exchange, Refill Sherry Hogshead, C#3720): nose: as with so many drams here, the depth of this is flabbergasting. It has old books, wet stones, old furniture. Mouth: superb balance, with ground, dried orange, old books again. Finish: slightly drying furniture wax and marzipan. 10/10

'Oh! Hi, pat gva.'
'You should try this.'

Stromness 1894/1918 (unknown ABV, OB): yes, this is from the Stromness distillery that closed down in 1928. A ghost hunter's wet dream, to say the least. This one was, of course, not available to the general public. The organiser is not very good at keeping a secret, or even at being discreet, though. 'How is it?' asks a passer-by. 'Educational,' says pat gva. Refined peat and smoke, roasted barley. The smoke gets quite loud in the finish, while the mouth is very watery. It is obviously a spectacular box to tick, yet I cannot help but think this has spent too long in glass and it has evaporated. Almost impossible to rate, because of that, but I will do it anyway. 7/10

Table mates pour this undisclosed Speysider

At this stage, the drams fuse from every corner. Between my table mates, JS, who is our of control, pat gva, the Swissky Mafia, MV and others, I simply cannot get up to get my own. Also, I am out of tokens.*

* I will discover tonight that two tokens have gone AWOL in my trousers pocket. There are so many things in my pockets (flasks, glasses and business cards) I cannot find the tokens during the day, argh!

Millburn 18yo 1978/1997 (65.6%, GMP Cask, C#3166): nose: rather austere, with fruit and a strong mineral character. Smokey too. Mouth: hot and spicy, before it turns velvety and creamy. Finish: warming, with something akin to high-strength wine. 8/10

Royal Lochnagar John Begg (unknown ABV, OB, b. late 1930s): nose: animal, leathery, with animal smoke -- wait! What? A herd of wet dogs around a camp fire. There. That is better. Mouth: velvety and peachy. Finish: milk chocolate, creamy as fook, with a hint of bitter coffee. 9/10

Hard to figure out from the picture, but this is a scene of nuclear hilarity

The Swissky Mafia giggle like schoolboys who just made a prank. I need not ask why; they are too proud to tell me.
They approached Serge Valentin (of whiskyfun.com -- he was doing the Clynelish bit of the masterclass) with a camera in hand. As he was making sure his hair was presentable, they asked him... if he would take a picture of them!
Shits 'n giggles indeed.

'Hi, pat gva.'
'Try this Sheriff's Bowmore 7yo'
It turns out to be watery, but the nose!...

7.11 17yo 1976/1994(59.6%, SMWS Society Cask): nose: fresh and grassy, with hay and small flowers (saxifrage). Mouth: flowery, then ginger heat and vinegar come out. Finish: green wood, ginger and galangal. This is not what I expected, but good all the same. 8/10


We observe the group of Asians at our table, who have tried some of the most expensive whiskies on display and, according to the exhibitors, have downed them in seconds. Although it is good that the whisky is being drunk, we are at loss to understand the lack of patience and respect for the liquid, even given the festival conditions. Their show seems like a navigation game to tick boxes, much the same way people were collecting Pokemon, in 2016. I cannot help but think they are missing the point, especially after seeing one spend over an hour on the phone with his parents in the middle of the flipping festival. It takes all sorts, I guess.

pat gva, who is infinitely more patient and magnanimous than I am, offers them his Miltonhaugh (see earlier). They study the label carefully, but seem unimpressed and struggle to show much gratitude -- or perhaps it is down to cultural difference, I do not know. In any case, one leaves his full glass on the table.

Glen Mhor 1963/1994 (40%, GMP): nose: so fruity, with plasticine and gentleness, pears and pomelos. Mouth: elegant and delicate, it has pear compote. Finish: soft and classy, with squashed peach flesh. 9/10

I spot SS with an empty glass and run up to him. I ask him what his favourite dram is, after two days. He does not answer, but something more surreal happens.

'Do you remember we talked about auctions, the other day?'
'Errr... yes?' I lie.
'Come! I will introduce you to someone... This is IGY. She is in charge of the auction site. [to IGY] IGY, this is my friend from Switzerland. [to me] We are trying to set up partnerships with different countries. A, B and C are covered, now we are looking at D, E, F and others. Right, I will let you discuss.'
And off he goes.


'Hi IGY, I am actually from Belgium (it is in the name, innit) and I do not live there any longer. Nice to meet you, but I do not see how I can help you.'

IGY asks me a few questions regardless and figures out pretty quickly that I can indeed not do much for her. We have a slightly awkward chat (I have been drinking for five hours!) before she offers me a drop of:

Lagavulin 24yo 1991/2016 (52.7%, OB 200th Anniversary, Sherry Butt, 522b): it is a Lagavulin, bold and peaty. I do not care much for it, to be honest. I give it to SLK, who is a much better audience for it.

Linkwood d.1961 (40%, GMP, b. ca 1990): nose: mentholated tobacco. Mouth: more mentholated tobacco; the menthol freshness is strong. Finish: menthol, grapefruit slices, lemon. Lovely. 8/10

Laphroaig 12yo (43%, OB imported by Bonfanti, ceramic jug): the label reads: 'Bonfant.' Ha! Ha! Nose: jam on toast. Mouth: jammy and marmalade-y, amazing. Finish: jam, preserved fruit -- phwoar! 10/10

I run to Skinner's stand to take pictures of the bottles I missed. A punter is timidly trying to buy the remainders:

'What do you do if you don't have enough whisky left to take the bottle back?'
'Fill it with tea and sell it on eBay,' I say.

It did not get a laugh, that one :-)

Long John jug

The show is over, people are leaving. We are simply delaying the inevitable.

Dailuaine 30yo d.1973 (46%, Direct Wines Limited First Cask, C#14736, b#70): nose: grassy, with hay and drying citrus peel. Mouth: citrus-y and creamy, lemon yogurt. Finish: long and milky. This is lovely. 9/10

Littlemill 17yo 1966/1984 (46%, Cadenhead): nose: fruity wine. Mouth: slightly drying, with the freshness of green grapes. Finish: long, fruity, sharp. More green grapes come through. 10/10

Springbank 1965/1987 (46%, Brae Dean Int. imported by Moon Import The Birds, Sherry Cask, C#367, 504b, b#462): nose: rancio, tobacco, menthol and stellar fruit. Mouth: fresh menthol and a hint of Virginia tobacco. Finish: menthol, tobacco, walnut flesh, walnut. Beautiful. 9/10

Time to bid EG and GG good bye, at the far end of the room. Nadi Fiori says good bye too and tells me to eat pasta.

'Actually, I could eat pasta, right now.'
'It is a piece of advice! Eat more pasta!'

We leave pat gva (we will see him again in the morning) and MV, who needs to prepare for his flight. He will tell us tomorrow morning that his suitcase finally made it to Glasgow, hours before he has to leave.
Time to go. Apart from the exhibitors dismantling their stands and the cleaners, we are the only ones left.

What a day!

My mood and impressions after day 2 are far more positive than yesterday's. This formula requires a lot of planning and discipline, yet it can make sense. Well glad I joined in on the fun, after all. It was also much more pleasant with seats and tables to spend time at, although it made for less efficient dramming (or did it?)

As many have observed, though: where are the locals? I think we saw half a dozen Scots only. I suspect the price point is too high to appeal to them and, considering most of the whisky enthusiasts live elsewhere (south of the border, the Continent, Asia, ...), this unfortunately might be perceived as an upper-class shindig that the locals cannot afford and are not interested in, with a similar effect to setting a golf club for billionaires in a ravaged, post-industrial town. Of course, this is where whisky is made. I simply am not sure how it is perceived by the local clientele, the very people who make the whisky.

Another oddity is that some stalls were almost always empty. Then again, some prices seemed less fair than others, and the offer varied quite dramatically, from eight bottles at Catawiki's to over 150 at Bero's. It made certain stands more popular than others and some exhibitors look sometimes very 'ronery.'


Now would be a good time for food. I fancy a curry. The Swissky Mafia took JS's and my recommendation for lunch, earlier, and went to Bread Meats Bread. They will now follow us anywhere when it comes to food.

The Wee Curry Shop it is, with backup plan at the Pig and the Butterfly.

The WCS is almost empty; they must be reaching the end of their shift. I believe it is with a mixture of satisfaction and dread that they see seven of us pass the door (SLK will join us after he has checked in).
One quick glance and the waiter goes, 'Seven pints?'
Laughs all round.

We giggle like schoolgirls after a gin and tonic when CD observes the waiter looks like Dave Broom; he *sort* of does -- a tanned Dave Broom.

One of the Mafiosi goes to the loo. When he comes back, the waiter asks the whole restaurant if it is OK to close the toilets for twenty minutes. More laughter (it seems to be unrelated, by the way).

The food is the usual great, with haggis pakoras stealing the show for everyone. No doubt they will go down in legend, as the fabled haggis nachos the Swissky Mafia had in Campbeltown. I have lamb sunghundi, JS has chilli garlic chicken and we share a peshwari naan and a saag panneer broccoli

Haggis pakoras
Chilli garlic chicken
Lamb sunghundi
Saag panneer broccoli

After the meal, CD pulls out a 1993 Laphroaig, which ends up in my mango lassi -- tropical fruit and peat, lovely.
R pours a dram of the Tomatin 20yo d.1965 (40%, GMP CC), which we had yesterday and still goes down a treat.

Possibly the highlight of the whole weekend, however, is when PG empties a sample in a nosing glass and passes it around for dessert. A terrifying intensity, this -- think of Listerine. It is Karuizawa 1983/2014 (59.1%, OB for Nepal Earthquake Appeal, Sherry Cask, C#3557). I am not usually a fan of the distillery, but after the curry, this is top notch.

SLK departs as we leave the restaurant: he has an early flight tomorrow morning. The path back to our respective accommodations takes us past the Pot Still. That is where DH takes a leave. We enter, of course, and bump into the whisky-loving pianist, ceremoniously taking notes. He tells us we smell of curry...

...and spends ten minutes sniffing our clothes!

Great day. Legendary night.


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