The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 6-8 October 2012, London, UK


For the photo gallery, click here

October 5:

09:00: The list of whiskies presented at the TWE whisky show is online: Lots of good stuff!
This excel list is a good idea and I cannot resist in preparing a list of whiskies that I wish to try. I wish I was already there!

October 8:

After a smooth and pleasant flight, I landed safely to Heathrow and arrived at 11:00 at Vinopolis. It was time for some food before a long and anticipated day. Unfortunately, serving food before 12:00 in the borough was not an easy task. I finally managed to find some food close to Guy’s hospital and then waited patiently for about 20 min under a light rain until the doors opened at 12:00 sharply. In conclusion, a very good day for tasting whisky!

Note: The full tasting notes of most whiskies mentioned below will be provided later once they have been tasted under “standardised” conditions. The notes provided here are preliminary appreciations as tasted in the Whisky Show conditions.

My first planned visit was at Douglas Laing. Unfortunately, as I discovered later on, the Laing were only present on Saturday and Sunday and were replaced by the imbite whisky magazine whisky site.

With no Douglas Laing around, I went for a short tour before stopping to my first stand: Morrison Bowmore.  The different products for the travel retail could not be tasted here, but the range available on the UK market, including the new Glen Garioch 1997 batch. At Bowmore, nothing new was available since the last drops of Bowmore 1985 were consumed before I arrived. However, there was still some left-over of the Auchtentoshan 1979 that will be bottled shortly. Of note, Suntory was represented by the Hibiki 17, 21 and 31 YO.

The Morrison Bowmore Stand

Opposite was located Glenfarclas and the new 105 20 YO, but the honour of the first dram of the show was an excellent Glenfarclas 1963 family cask (7th Release). Complex, rich, intense and rather smoky.

The new Tomintoul 33 YO, replacing the 27 YO, could be found if you politely asked for it. Also present was the new Ballantruan 10 YO, an older version of the Ballantruan. Of note, the non-aged Ballantruan is more peated than the 10 YO version, since the level of phenols in the barley have increased over the years and are reaching now 80 ppm in the last year(s) of production.

Since the new ownership of Glen Moray, (La Maritiniquaise), things have changed and the range has widely expanded, with the 10 YO fully matured in Chenin Casks, a traditional 12 and 16 YO, as well as a 30 YO. A limited released of 25 YO port wood finish (3000 bottles) will be released before Christmas. The Glen Moray distillery is currently working at full capacity with plans to build an additional still house in 2013  to increase the capacity of a further 4 mio to bring the total capacity to 7.5 mio LPA. With all these expression available for tasting, it was a good opportunity to appreciate the products of this distillery better, since I have only tasted a limited number of their bottling so far.

The friendly staff of Glen Moray

On the next stand was a large range of new releases from Speciality Drinks, including a superb, rich, intense and complex Glengoyne 43 YO Director’s special to be bottled before the end of the year. A favourite of several whisky enthusiasts. The price is not yet known, as for the sweet and richly fruity Tamnavulin 40 YO. To be tasted is their new Rosebank 21 YO with a label inspired by the old bottling for Zenith. Their smoky Springbank 1995 was rather peaty and tarry, much closer to a Longrow than a “Springbank”.

The Speciality Drinks (Single Malts of Scotland) corner with an impressive line up

At Ardbeg, I could not see the other Glenmorangie products, but the new Ardbeg Galileo was definitely present.

From Bunnahabhain, the recent 12 YO bottled at 46.3% was available, as well as the Toiteach. The latest addition to the range is the new 40 YO to be released for the December (approximately 750 bottles) with a retailing price of about £2000. On the same stand were Deanston with their Virgin oak (finish) and 12 YO. From the same owner the Ledaig 10 and Tobermory 10 YO rejoined the Tobermory 15 YO.

The new Bunnahabhain 40 years old

The choice of Macallan was  limited to its simpler expression and limited to the new Macallan Gold that will replace both the 10 YO Sherry and Fine Oak. It is about 8-9 YO, very smooth and with a short finish, while retaining some of the spicy notes characteristic of Macallan. I wished the range of Macallan displayed was more extensive. The Highland Park 1968 vintage did not last until Monday, therefore I decided to go for the Highland Park 21 YO bottled at 47.5%. The Naked Grouse from Edrington is a new blend made exclusively of first fill sherry cask. A very smooth whisky, with a rather short finish but overall, pleasant and rather complex. All the new vintages of Glenrothes (1998, 1995, and 1988) were available.

The Edrington stand with Highland Park, Naked Grouse, Macallan Gold and the last Glenrothes vintages

From Campbeltown, one could taste the new Kilkerran Work In Progress 4, as well as the new Longrow Red, as well as the standard range, including Longrow and their redesigned labels.

Tomatin has invisted substantial money in a new refurbished visitor centre and their latest releases were presented: the 15 YO as well as the 40 YO. I was served as well a glass of their Tomatin 30 YO, deliciously smooth and fruity, with rich notes of pineapples and other tropical fruits, as well as some grassy notes. Tomatin reputation is growing, sales and new versions as well.

Berry Bros & Rudd have redesigned their labels as well, with the coat of arms and company’s name more visible than previously. My temptations were the 1973 Glenlivet, the Aberlour 1992 and their Blue Hanger 6th Release, a vatting consisting of 2 casks of Bowmore, 1 cask of Glenrothes  (sherry) and 1 cask of Bunnhabhain (sherry).

When the choice is large, it is not always easy to make a decision...

The offering from Benromach was large and included their new 30 YO, a new Organic special edition and their new Peat Smoke 53 ppm. From their Gordon & MacPhail brand, the Strathilsa 1970 looked most appetising with its dark amber hue.

Most of the new releases from Benromach

Glendronach had the 1971 GlenDronach from their last batch, as well as a 1993 exclusive for UK, complemented by two recent products from BenRiach, a 1976 Pedro Ximinez Finish and a 1990 Tawny Port Finish. The new GlenDronach cask strength (non-age specified) is expected by end of November.

I might have missed the Mezzanine on the first floor last year, but it was definitely worth a visit, starting with Chivas Brothers, including a very fruity and smooth The Glenlivet 1972 cellar collection, an old sherried Glenlivet 1968, as well as the Minmore 18 YO specially bottled for The Whisky Exchange.

A fraction of the bottling available at Chivas: The 1972 Cellar Collection Glenlivet and the 18 YO Minmore for the Whisky Exchange

Opposite were several stands from Diageo, with the new Talisker 25 and 30 YO 45.8% prominent, as well as several of their new Special Releases: Lagavulin 12 YO, Dalwhinnie 25 YO, Caol Ila 14 YO unpeated and the two latest additions to the Cardhu range: the 15 and 18 YO. Tasting notes of the new Special Release 2012 expressions should be available starting mid-October at www.whisky-news.com.

The very friendly and efficient Barman of Diageo (single malts). A five star service.

The Johnnie Walker has recently changed and two new versions captured my interest: the new Platinum 18 YO that will be soon replaced by a non-aged version and their Double Black, a peatier version of the Johnnie Walker black.

At Irish distillers, I enquired about their Jameson range, that I did know well, with the exception of the standard Jameson.  The flow of information I received was rather intense and after a couple of drams, my attention might have been slightly attenuated… Please feel free to consult their official website for accurate information. From what I remember: Jameson Gold contains some virgin oak casks, the 18 YO first fill sherry and bourbon casks, and the Vintage, a finish in a Port Pipe. My Dream Dram at Irish distillers was the Midleton 1973 from the Old Midleton distillery. In 2000, a 27 YO version was bottled for the millennium, with some spirit left for a further maturation until it reached 30 years. The last maturation took place in Port pipes. The pot still whisky was very pleasant, more robust than the current Irish production with notes of Pu-Erh. This might be the most expensive Irish whiskey bottled so far.

The famous Midleton 1973

From White and Mackay, the 30 YO Jura was hidden behind the front bottles, since the final packaging is not yet finished. It should be available in December for about £350.

Marcin Miller and its Number One Drink Company have bottled two aged and vintaged versions of Karuizawa, a 1982 Sherry and a 1984 Bourbon, both exclusive for The Whisky Exchange, while the 1983 YO Noh is a general version. The Spirit of Assam consists of a selection of 77 casks that have been (are?) used for several expressions. The Spirit of Assam 46% (red label) for France, Taiwan and some selected markets, while the 48% and 55% have been bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange.

Speciality drinks had several Port Askaig, including the recent 19 YO. The new 30 YO could unfortunately not make it on time for the Show. Several new bottling of the Spirit of Islay were available and my preference went for the Pl1 and the BW1, two new “brands”.

The range from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was impressive, with many diverse bottling. Since the end of the day was coming, I decided to go for an all-peated tasting, starting with a 10 YO Ardmore sherry matured, rather meaty, medium peated and with a sweet sherry influence. Sherried versions of Ardmore are uncommon and this bottling was very good. The Port Charlotte (127.1) was nicely peaty, clean, briny, tarry and ashy. I enjoyed it very much and  I am longing forward comparing it to the PC10. This was followed by a 7 YO Ardbeg, very clean and peaty, with some vanilla notes and lots of camphor and iodine. The final one was from the last distillery to be added to the SMWS list (129), This 5 YO Kilchoman offered a rather different profile than Ardbeg and Port Charlotte, rounder, but also probably more maritime.

The impressive display of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Beside the SMWS was Kilchoman with the 2nd batch of Kilchoman 100% Islay and the new edition of the Machir Bay.

The day has been very intense, but most pleasant, with a superb range of whiskies and the opportunity of talking to a few Whisky bloggers and other Whisky professionals. Due to some synchronisation issue between the UK and continental time, I left the show 1 hour before the official end, with a very last and quick stop at Glengassaugh for a wee dram of some of their Massandra Connection, a selection of very old Glenglassaugh finished in Italian wine casks.

Many new releases were available at Glengassaugh, including their Massandra Connection.

I wished I could taste the new expressions of Inverhouse (e.g., An Cnoc Peter Arkle 2, An Cnoc 35 YO, the new versions of Balbair or some version of Old Pulteney that I have not tasted yet), William Grant & Sons (e.g., Balvenie Doublewood 17 YO),the latest bottling from the US (e.g., Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace or Four Roses) or from other countries (e.g., Macmyra of Sweden), but this will have to wait for next year.

16:00: I leave Vinopolis and the Whisky Show for the journey back home. After several hours in the train, plane and lounge, I finally completed my first version of the report and try to relax with reading the last version of the Malt Whisky  Yearbook (2013).

I will try to be there next year, for more than a day. The organising team did an excellent job, correcting some small flaws from the previous edition and the range of products excellent. Well done guys!

Some might criticise the price of the Show, but taking into consideration the range of product and the quality of the organisation, it is a good value show and to my opinion, number one in its segment (new products).

23:50 First draft of the report online… what a long but beautiful day!



www.whisky-news.com ©08Oct2012