Limburg Whisky Fair 2013, 27-28 April

click here for the photo gallery

The day started on a raining journey to Limburg, with many expectations regarding one the largest whisky fair in the world. Gathering thousands of whisky enthusiasts around the golden liquid, being Scotch, Irish or world whisky. New releases can be tasted, but the Whisky Fairs host as well, certainly the largest number of old bottles opened for tasting, with many bottles from single malts distilled or bottled in the 1960s and 1970s.  This appeals a fair number of whisky enthusiasts from all around the world and it is a perfect gathering point for all the whisky anoraks.

Since you need to pay for each dram separately, better to take enough cash with you (this is Germany, so take cash!). if you do not want to do window shopping the whole day …

For the first time, they introduced the pre-ordered tickets. A very welcomed new feature.

Rain followed me all the way to Limburg and the queue was spraying like the tentacles of an octopus to avoid the light rain.  By judging the number of people queuing, the popularity of the whisky fair has not decreased. On the contrary!

one of the "arm" of the queue

Thanks to the help of some whisky friends, I could get hold of a prepaid entry ticket and managed to get inside much faster than previously (5 min vs 45 min). This new offer is very welcomed!

Being part of the first wave, I aimed directly to the stand of the “Dutch connection”.  The sight was delightful, with the full range of Ardbeg 1966 Moon, Ardbeg 1974 Samaroli,  Bowmore 30 distilled 1963, Springbank 1965 Local Barley and many other highly desirable whiskies.  After having spent a fair amount of time there (and money as well. Of note the price for the bottle mentioned above was ranging between 22 and 45 euros for 2 cl). The Springbank 1965 Local Barley was rich, complexe, slightly maritime and very enjoyable.

The Dutch Connection and its impressive collection of rarities

Next move was to Whisky Antique. On my way to his stand, I met Max Righi on the hallway, who explained me that due to the recent increased in taxes in Italy, he had to adapt his pricing accordingly, pushing prices to further heights.
After sampling a couple of Oban (the 19YO manager’s dram and the old 12 YO) and Port Ellen (a 1975 from Signatory and 1981 19 YO from The Bottlers), I selected diverse sherried single malts (The Buichaladdich Penny Black, Glendronach 1968, Tobermory 33Y) and a few legendary bottling (Longrow 1974 Samaroli and Clynelish 12 YO 56.9%).  The Black Bowmore First Edition was also on displayed and after some hesitations, I returned to have a small taste to it (60 euros per cl).  It was then not my first dram of the day, but it felt slightly short of my expectation: it was not as fruity as the recent Bowmore bold and gold, with slightly harsher and oakyier flavours.  I will taste it again. It was a very good whisky, but not as stunning as I was expecting.

An impressive collection of "oldies" at Whisky Antique

The stand of The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram and the Liquid Sun was rather crowed, but managed to find some place in one corner, where I saw a few old bottles, such as a sherried Glen Grant 1972 for Velier and  the Glendronach 1970 Prestonfield . From the Whisky Agency, my choice went for the  Tanininch 40 YO and for the 10 YO Heavily Peated Tomintoul from the Liquid Library, with a dry,  heavily peated, slightly aromatic and meaty nose. The Braeval Liquid Library smelled very nice as well.

At the stand of Villa Konthor / The Nectar, I was seduced by the red robe of the Bunnhahabhain 1990 Villa Konthor, two new Kilchoman single casks (1 bourbon and 1 sherry) bottled for Belgium, as well as a 2002 GlenDronach Virgin Oak for The Nectar and a 1993 GlenDronach Oloroso selected for La Maison du Whisky and The Nectar.

The Villa Konthor stand

At the stand of the Whisky Fair, I tasted their new Laphroaig 14 YO Sherry. A good smoky and round whisky, but with a rather faint and discreet flavour. The influence of the sherry is barely perceptible. It was joined by a 1976 BenRiach bottled for The Whisky Fair and a 1982 Caol Ila from Coopers Choice.

General overview from the balcony

Since I never tasted any of their Director’s Cut, I tasted the Tomatin 45 YO and Bruichladdich 1990 bottled by Douglas in that range. The Tomatin was smooth, very mellow and balanced, while the Bruichladdich was more vibrant, intense and spicy. A rather sharp contrast.

At another stand, my choice went for the Brora 1982 30 YO Chieftain’s and a 30 YO Port Ellen distilled and bottled at the same period. At the same stand, the new Glenlivet Kilimanjaro for Germany was available.

The Chieftains range

At the stand of Highland Inn, I tasted my only Japanese whisky for this event, the Ichiro Ace of Clubs, finished in a Mizunara Puncheon. A very smooth well rounded and aromatic whisky, with just a touch of exotic spices.

One of the last whiskies tasted was a spicy and rather peaty Brora from 1981 19 YO bottled by Signatory Vintage.


One of the densely populated wing of the main hall

Finally, I closed the whisky fair by tasting the new Talisker Storm 45.8%. Slightly peatier, but also less spicy and more creamy than the 10 YO.

As you might have realized, I tasted only a limited number of whiskies during this event. Since the whisky fair was overcrowded from 12h to 16h, the exhibition hall being very warm, myself slightly dehydrated, I mainly samples whiskies to taste them more quietly and in more controlled conditions at home.

Although the prices indicated are for 2 cl, the retailers have no problems with servings of 1 cl. This allows you to taste more whiskies, without exploding your budget. If you taste 20 to 30 whiskies at an average price of 20 euro per 2 cl, the maths are quickly done.

The range of whiskies presented is impressive and I only managed to taste a very small selection of whiskies opened for tasting. I went mainly for the old and rare whiskies, but the offering is much larger, with a large range of new products at fair value (e.g. Talisker Storm at 2 EUR for 2 cl). However, considering the difficulty to move between the alleys and to reach the stands, you will not be able to taste a whisky at each stand, at least not during a full day (I spent actually 6 hours there, with only short breaks).

The whisky fair is always well organized and the retailers were friendly, with a fair proportion of non-German whisky enthusiasts, in particular, a large proportion of Swedes. The pre sale of tickets has been much appreciated and I hope this will be retained. On the “to improve” section, I found access to the water rather limited. During such events, the organizers should ensure a good and sufficient access to water, to avoid dehydration. We want Spitoons as well !

The Limburg whisky fair was well organized, unfortunately, the regional train between Limburg and Frankfurt was as reliable as previously experienced and my correspondence was missed and suddenly my returned journey extend from 4h to 6h…

I went home later than expected, but I really enjoyed returning to Limburg after a 2-year break and appreciated very much chatting with numerous whisky enthusiasts from all around the world.

Interestingly, to get a feeling about the pricing evolution, I went back to my 2007 report: the most expensive whisky I tasted then was the Clynelish Royal Marine Hotel for 20 EUR for 2 cl, the same price I paid this year for 2 cl of Port Ellen 30 YO from Chieftain's...


www.whisky-news.com ©27 April 2013