If you didn’t see the day one recap, you’ll find it here…
On day two, the line went considerably faster, First Torben and I got on line earlier with our coffees taken with us, and secondly, this year all holders of two day passes got a special color coded waterproof bracelet on their wrists, making entry on the second day a breeze. Nice touch, TWE!
Once again, I was slated for two masterclasses, both of which were very exciting! Before the first masterclass, however, I had time for a couple of tastings, and made a beeline for three drams I haven’t had yet. The first was an Overeem from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, a distillery I have not tasted before, and as this was going to be a day of untasted distilleries (as you’ll see in the first masterclass), I headed over to the Gordon and MacPhail stand to try the 1980 Glen Mohr that was just beautiful. I finished this early afternoon flight of loveliness with the quite fascinating Balcones Texas Single Malt Whisky (yes, spelled with no E).
It was now time to head up for my first masterclass of the day, Colin Dunn’s ‘Gone But Never Forgotten’ looking at six of Diageo’s closed distilleries. Colin is a rock star presenter (and I guess performing onstage with The Lagavulins would make him also a real life rock star), and I’ve been waiting for his masterclass for a long time, after missing out on last year’s Brora masterclass because of a stupid mistake in time conversions between London and Tel Aviv. This year, I secured my ticket on time, and boy, was I ready for this one!
The tasting consisted of six bottlings from six closed distilleries. Four of these were new to me, and revisiting St. Magdalene/Linlithgo and Brora is always nice, especially given that the 20 year old St. Magdalene is the Waterloo Street edition, a dram who’s 396 bottles were each accounted for when issued, and is considered one of the most scarce bottlings from the distillery. Additionally, the 2010 Special Releases 30 year old Brora was featured. The four distilleries I tasted for the first time were Glenesk/Hillside (1969 Glenesk bottled in 1993 in celebration of 25 years of the Glenesk Maltings, so score another birth year dram for me), Glenury Royal (36 year old 1970, Special Releases 2007), Convalmore (36 year old 1977 vintage at cask strength from the 2013 Special Releases) and Millburn (1975, 18 years old Rare Malts Selection). As each of these merits a post of their own, with scarce pictures Colin pulled from the Diageo archives, but I will say that Colin’s theme was Sunday Church services, and he had the room in stitches suggesting we all come up, kneel and receive a biscuit and a sip of the holy spirit 🙂 Did I say he’s a rock star?
All the selections were presented at natural cask strength, and for most of them that’s right around 60% ABV. By the time we got to tasting the Gleury Royal, my palate was shot and I had to take the dram with me and take some time to sit down and take notes for it after lunch. During this break I also had some time to chat a little with Colin Dunn at the Diageo stand. Incidentally, the booth designer had a little blunder that had me chuckling there for a bit…
After another rather short break, It was time for my fourth masterclass, the Legends of Whisky featuring Dave Broom leading a masterclass featuring three whisky from each of the three legends: The Balvenie’s David Stewart, Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan and Whyte & Mackay’s Richard Paterson, for a total of nine drams.
There was some incredible liquid in this masterclass, and some memorable stories too. It all started with Richard Paterson’s Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt, and him recounting the story of the recreation this whisky waiting under the ice for almost a century. Following it was the Balvenie Classic, put on the market in the 1980s, it was an 8-12 year old malt and this was the first whisky that was actually finished (or double matured) when David Stewart put the whisky into a sherry cask for a finish. This bottle is a real relic of the past. Jim McEwan presented a 1984 single cask (cask 08/125-10) that was originally put in “substandard wood” by then owners Invergordon, and was moved in 2001 into a first fill bourbon cask.
The next trio saw two of The Balvenie’s selection: a 25 year old 1974 single barrel, bottled in 1999 and a one off bottle blended by David Stewart for this masterclass called ‘Offspring’ which included whisky from three single casks distilled in the years his three children were born: 1980 (refill bourbon barrel), 1982 (refill hogshead) and 1986 (refill sherry butt, comprising 60% of the vatting) and presented at natural cask strength of 47.1%. This was a beautiful expression and I’ll have my tasting notes of it out at some point. Separating the two Balvenies was the Dalmore King Alexander III, the six wood whisky (cabernet sauvignon, Madeira, sherry, Marsala, port and bourbon), and after threatening to kill us if we hold our glasses in the palm of our hands, Richard Paterson gave his well rehearsed tasting spiel “halooooooo”, “nice to meet you” and chewing the whisky to loud humming noises, until being allowed to swallow it reaching (this is a direct quote) “multiple orgasms”. Entertaining, though hot overly conducive to actually thinking about the whisky.
Dram number 7 was the Bruichladdich Black Art 5, the last whisky created by Jim McEwan. After sharing a story about Richard Paterson’s induction to the International Spirits and Wine Competition’s judge panels (I’ll just say that it had to do with a blind nosing and latex), he went on a diatribe against marketing hype and bullshit and absolutely refusing to say anything about the casks he used for this whisky, other than that there’s whisky from 1989, 1990 and 1991 in it. Whatever is in there, it’s good!
This was followed by a special Richard Paterson Blend for this masterclass, which was composed of 50% 54 year old grain from Invergordon vintage 1961, 1964 Dalmore (51 years old), a 62 year old Dalmore which has whisky from 1868, 1878 and 1926, some Glen Scotia 1972 – the youngster here – and a vatted malt from 1957 made from Scapa and Fettercairn single malts. It was presented at natural cask strength of 45%, and will be reviewed in a dedicated post. I will say that while I’m not crazy over most of the single malts from Dalmore and Jura, ‘The Nose’ sure can blend whisky!!! It was really good!
The final dram was the original Octomore, distilled in 2002 and created by cold smoking the malt to get the ppm count as high as possible. The finished product was matured in first fill Oloroso sherry butts and at 62.3% and 80.4 ppm, the sherry and peat combination really works. Over this dram Jim McEwan ended the masterclass with his signature Highland toast, shown here in a video from the 2015 Fèis Ìle:
I forgot to mention the Karuizawa Nepal Charity masterclass, which I didn’t attend, where a special bottling of Karuizawa was introduced and tasted alongside a 1981 sherry cask #6056, last year’s dual show bottlings from the 29 year old bourbon cask 8897 and the 30 year old sherry cask 5347 (both reviewed here), and the 42 year old 1970 cask 6177. But the star of the £6000 tasting (yes, you read that right: Six thousand Pounds Sterling) was the 50 bottle Karuizawa 1983 ‘Nepal Appeal’ cask 3557, of which the 45 participants took home a 70 cl bottle, looking like this:
The proceeds were dedicated to five charities working to help victims of the Nepal earthquake, and there were over 160 applicants to be drawn for the 45 seat masterclass.
I’ll end with some highlights of some other amazing whiskies I got to taste during days two and three – the trade and press day held on Monday: The 1965 Strathisla and 1952 Glen Grant by Gordon and MacPhail, Glenglassaugh 40 year old, Glenmorangie 1978 Pride, Glenfarclas 1956 Sherry Casks, The new Loch Lomond 1990 Littlemill in an Oloroso Sherry finish, the 21 year old Rosebank by Specialty Drinks, the Douglas Laing XOP 25 year old Bowmore, Tobermory 42 and a lovely 35 year old Mosstowie by Signatory Vintage. Most of these will get their own review in the coming weeks.
Overall, the Show is a fabulous event, and from what I hear, some drink company executives visited the Show, and there’s already interest in taking their stands to the next level in 2016. If you can make it, this really is the place to be!
See you next October!