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Limburg Whisky Fair 2011, 14-15 May 2011.

click here for the photo gallery

For once, I decided to travel on the Friday in order to capture the events before the official start of the fair.

After a detour in Alsace, with a few friends, we made our safe way to Limburg. Thank you Serge for the drive.

Once the rooms secured, we quickly moved to the Josef Kohlmaier Halle, where the exhibitors were busy preparing their stands for the next day opening.  Everyone was working efficiently and silently inside the big and empty exhibition hall and tent; a very strong contrast to the normally buzzing activity reigning there during the festival. I appreciated this very much, since this is one of the rare moments where you can have time to talk to retailers for more than a minute.


The Whisky Fair in preparation.

From the backstage of the Whisky Fair, I then attended to the Opening Dinner of the Whisky Fair, where we had the opportunity to taste 6 different whiskies, including 3 bottles bottled for the 10th Anniversary of the Whisky Fair festival. The whiskies were agreeably presented by the team Whisky Fair. The first whisky served was a 13 year old (YO) Clynelish distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2011 at 48.9%. A very good and typical cask strength waxy Clynelish on vanilla custard notes. This was followed by the 20 YO Bowmore (1989-2010, 51%) from a bourbon cask, with strong maritime and peaty notes. Very good. According to my neighbour, this was his favourite dram of the evening. The last dram before the food was a lovely sherried 32 YO Glenlivet (1978-2010) on Christmas cake flavours. Another very good whisky, maybe slightly weak on the finish. It was finally time for the buffet and the fine food waiting for us! After a copious (and spicy) meal, it was time to resume the tasting with the 35 YO Inchgower (1975-2011, 41.9%). I tend to appreciate the old Inchgower very much and this one did not disappoint me:  a complex, flawless maritime and salty Inchgower, with quite some pepper.  The next dram was a sharp contrast, with a return to Islay with a 30 YO Caol Ila (1981-2011). A very elegant peated and complex Caol Ila. I found this Caol Ila more balanced and intense than most 30 YO Caol Ila I tasted so far.
Finally, more than 3 hours after the start of the dinner, I was time for the last dram of the day: Glen Keith 40 YO (1970-2011). The nose was most appetizing, with its rich and full fruity notes and a pleasant finish. Unfortunately, my palate was not anymore at the best of its capacity and I will taste it again in better conditions to provide a fair and accurate evaluation of this whisky. It was time for a much wanted sleep.

Most of the Whisky Fair bottlings 20111 served during the dinner (missing: Clynelish 1997).

Saturday 14 May:

I left my Hotel rather early morning for a small tour in the pretty town of Limburg and to enjoy a quick breakfast. On my way back at 9h30, a small group of whisky enthusiasts was already waiting behind the closed door of the whisky festival. When I came back less than 1 h later, the queue was already consequent, with probably 50 persons in front of me. Needless to say that the queue was impressive at the time of the opening. Fortunately, the sun was shining in the morning.
Once in, my first stop was to the Jack Wieber’s / Whisky World stand. The Lochside and the Coleburn were very tempting and since it was difficult to make my way to the bottles, I decided to move to next and less attended stand of Whisky spirits for tasting a fine Glen Garioch 1970  27 YO OB, noticeably more peated than the 1968 version, but not as much as a 1973 or 1975 Glen Garioch, for instance. A good start for the day!  After some hesitations (due to the rather hefty price of 16€ for 2 cl), the Brora 30 YO  OB bottled in 2010 was then tasted: a fine example of  a sweet farmy Brora. Very good!

An overview of the Main Hall at rush hours

At Malt Mara, I could not resist to the old sherried 31 Ledaig (19743) Chieftains, with its big intense peaty, meaty and maritime notes. If you want to taste the excellence of the Ledaig distilled during the early 1970s, this one is a prime example. The stands and the alleys getting more and more crowded with the influx of new visitors, it was time for a short break and I joined the last part of the Tomatin presentation, where the new single casks for 2011 were presented, including a 1967 Tomatin. 1967 is the oldest vintage stored in their warehouses. I wished that we could taste this one. Instead, we were giving the opportunity of tasting a Tomatin 1990 Single Cask 58.6% from Cask 16352. A nice Tomatin, full bodied and spicy.  The presentation was mainly given in German by a rather boring speaker. I wished that the Distillery Manager could express himself more. But this is a different story.

The Tomatin Master Class

At Westwood Whisky, I decided to taste the new Caol Ila Moch. It tasted like a rather young and slightly less peated than the normal Caol Ila. A well-made whisky, not very complex, a soft entry in the peated Caol Ila range.

Once you stay to long in front of the Whisky Kanzler (Dutch Connection/ World Wide Whisky), you feel attracted like a magnet towards the old rare bottles. First one was the Glen Garioch 1968, 29 YO, OB, Cask 624 an excellent example of medium peated sherried whisky. This was followed but the non-less delicious Glen Garioch1975 50% from Samaroli, with its round, complex and peated notes It was maybe not as peaty as other Glen Garioch from the same vintage, but it was more round and mellow. Once the selection on the first row was completed, it was time to move to the Brora 1981 19 YO from the Bottlers: a surprisingly meaty and peaty Brora, with strong farmy notes. The top row coincided with my most expensive drams of the fair:  a farmy old Lagavulin 12 YO 43% OB with strong notes of old peat smoke and charcoal, an Ardbeg 1973 57% bottled for the 20th Anniversary of Samaroli, rather subtle and complex,  a contrast to the superb very peated Ardbeg 1974 Kingsbury 50.0%. To complete my selection, I decided to go for the Caol Ila 1966 57.2% bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for Meregalli: a big sherried Caol Ila, peaty, mineral and tarry, but with a finish fading rather too quickly to my taste.

An extract of the Whisky Kanzler / Dutch Connection stand.

To continue with old and rare whiskies, I visited Diego Sandrin and Massimo Righi (Whisky Antique) to taste the famous Glen Garioch 57% “Hand Written label” bottled by Samaroli: a choice that I did not regret at all. Simply lovely, rich and spicy, with the right dose of peat. The next one was a Clynelish 12 YO 57% brown & yellow label: a very satisfying old Clynelish that I enjoyed so much that I bought the bottle on the spot. I left them with a very enjoyable Highland Park 18 YO Silver Seal bottled this year, from an excellent sherry cask.

At Douglas Laing, amongst the selection of new products, I decided to Islay whiskies from their Platinum range: a 22 YO sherry Laphroaig, a whisky with a profile similar to the previously 1989 Laphroaig bottled for La Maison du Whisky and a very good but ridiculously expensive Ardbeg 1991 20 YO. With a recommended price of 405 euros !! I would be interested in knowing how quickly the 83 bottles will disappear from the shops.

Ardbe 1991 20 YO Douglas Laing Platinum

I moved then to one of the conference room, where the new Pot Still products of Irish Distillers were presented for the first time to the grand public according to the programme. I left the lecture about 10 min, once the speaker informed us that the new products behind him were for show only and they could be tasted (against a certain fee) in the stand downstairs.  If the plan was to promote their new Irish Pot Sill products, why did they not serve their two new products to the audience? This was a good example of bad commercial/communication event. Either you charge a few euros to attend to this 45 min long seminar and allow the audience to taste these new products or you do not do it with that title.

Well, after this, it was time for a good dram of whisky and the fruit bomb Tomatin 1966 45 YO from The Whisky Agency and The Nectar was just what I needed (Thank you Whiskywalker). Talking about Tomatin, the Tomatin 1976 34 from the new brand “Liquids Sun” (a sister company of The Whisky Agency for Japan and Sweden, if I recall correctly) was just as good. If you like fruit bombs, you should also give a try to the Tomintoul 1967 43 YO from the Liquids Sun.
Caperdonich is now the latest addition to the lost distillery list, but the products from this distillery in gaining in interest amongst the whisky enthusiasts and the 1972 Caperdonich 30 YO 50.1% from Hart Brothers is a very good example of this creamy-honey whisky. I have not brought much attention lately to Hart Brothers, but their prices are surprisingly low for good quality whiskies. At the same stand could be found the Scott’s selection and the products from the Speyside distillery. Scott’s selection is an independent bottler owned the same owner of the Speyside distillery.  During my discussion with Phil Smith, the Export Sales Manager for the company, I was surprised to hear that 50,000 cases (6-bottle case) of The Speyside were sold last year and Scott’s selection will bottle approximately 300 casks this year, either under their own label or someone else label.

The Tomatin 1966 45 YO, joint bottling for The Nectar, The Whisky Agency

A bit further, I met John McLelland, the distillery manager of Kilchoman. While tasting a cask sample of 5 YO Kilchoman, I learnt that the production at the distillery was slightly above 100,000 litres of pure alcohol (LPA) and that the production should attain 115,000 LPA this year, the maximal capacity of production. From their future bottling of 100% Islay whisky (produced, distilled and bottled 100% on Islay with barley malted on their own floor maltings), 12,000 bottles will be released this year: 1000 bottles at cask strength for sale at the distillery only and 11,000 bottles available worldwide and bottled at 50% abv. This was my last “official” whisky at the whisky fair.  During the festival, I had the chance of tasting a few other whiskies, such as the very winey Ka Va Lan Solist (thank you Ho-Chang), the delicious Springbank 100 Proof 50% Single Dark for the US (thank you Tom and Patrick) or the spicy and mustardy Clynelish 12 YO Glenhaven for the USA (Thank you you Tom). I might have forgotten a few of them, if so, accept my apologies.

The Whisky Fair was well attended.

With my wallet empty and time running low, it was time for me to leave Limburg and take my train home. As for the previous years, I enjoyed Limburg Whisky Fair very much. With the growing attendees from outside Germany (e.g., Belgium, Switzerland, France, Russia, USA, Sweden), the Whisky Fair Limburg is an excellent opportunity of meeting whisky enthusiasts from the whole world while tasting rare and excellent whiskies. Prices are correct, but the temptation is huge, so please make sure to allocate a decent budget for this event, in order to make the best experience.


Note: During 6 hours of presence at the whisky fair, one cannot visit all the stands.  The selection of available whiskies is very large with a wide range of prices (between 2 and 30 euros per 2 cl).

www.whisky-news.com ©15 May 2011