The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 5-7 October 2013, London, UK

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Day 1: Sunday October 6

Travelling within London on a Sunday is not always easy. With the Jubilee line closed for maintenance, access to the region of Southwark where I had my hotel was rather problematic and time consuming. I managed anyway to reach the Whisky Show at around 3.30 PM and an intense tasting session started, beginning with Hunter Laing and a rich, intense, complex Glencadam 34YO with a well integrated sherry influence. In a random order, the whiskies tasted on that day were the following ones:

From Buffalo Trace, I went first for the Rye whiskies first with the Sazerac 18 yo, a light, subtle, elegant whiskey on mild spices and nice fruity notes (apricots and some peach), while the Sazerac Antique Collection 2013 had strong spicy notes of rye, oak, with a slightly rough edge becoming smoother with water. The George Stagg was oaky, woody, hot, intense and with some bubble gum. A whiskey that required water.

The Buffalo Trace stand

Ardbog:  A nice, rather dry, peaty and smoky Ardbeg, less zesty than the regular 10 YO, with the manzanilla casks contributing to some softness. About 100,000 bottles of this Ardbog have been released.

All 5-6000 bottles Bowmore Devil’s casks were sold out, so no chance of tasting this one, unfortunately.

At Kilchoman, I enjoyed a nice chat with Anthony Wills, who is pleased with the progress of the brand. At the start of the distillery, the production of Kilchoman was 50,000 and steadily increased to 125,000 LPA in 2012, following the trend in sales. Amongst the new products, I tasted the Kilchoman 2007 6 YO: A nice dram, with some peanut butter flavours, a nice peatiness and oiliness, followed by the Kilchoman Single Cask for TWE: a very peaty, intense and rather oaky version of Kilchoman. Between this bottling and the 2007 vintage the contrast is pronounced, showing how the Kilchoman whisky evolves with maturation.

The Kilchoman stand enjoying a break

Tomatin: The new version, the Cu Bochan is a vatting of peated, sherry and virgin oak casks giving a rather light, but nicely peated and balanced whisky. The new Legacy is a new non-age statement containing a certain proportion of virgin oak. Slightly young.

Glen Garioch Sherry Cask: A very round and rather waxy whisky, with the sherry giving more weight to the body and a sherry rather on the vegetal-yeasty side and some light rubbery notes. It will definitely need to be tasted again.

The new Tamdhu 10 YO is 100% sherry matured. A very smooth, well rounded and full bodied whisky, with just a trace of rubber.

Paul John is a single malt from India, more precisely from the region of Goa. One version, the lightly peated  (The Edited?)one is young, sweet and smooth, with fruits from the orchards and some lightly dry peaty notes., while non-peated  (The Brilliance ?) version tasted rougher and slightly immature, with more pear notes. In any case, they are rather well made whiskies and a comparison with some Amrut will be interesting.

The Paul John stand

The Ben Nevis traditional is a new medium peated whisky, rather light and reminding me somewhat of an old style of whisky, similar to the Shackelton.

The Ben Nevis Tradional, with its retro label and style

The Bruichladdich Scottish Barley was surprisingly smooth and rather smoky considering than unpeated barley was used. There was no age statement on the Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, but it was very peaty, smooth, with some pear drops and appeared rather young.

The Caol Ila for the Whisky Show was a good and clean middle aged Caol Ila, maritime and very enjoyable to drink.

Nez Zealand: I tasted several versions of this single malt, but unfortunately not the details of the bottles tasted (it was going to fast, with one dram served after the next one). However, it was old New Zealand single malts aged at least 20 years. Some versions (the 21 YO and the 1988?) were very smooth and on fruits from the Orchards suggesting much younger whiskies than they were, while (the 1990?) some had a more spicy bite.

The New Zealand Whisky Collection, with a large range of aged whisies.

The Balvenie 12 YO single cask was light, smooth with strong honey notes and some vanilla. It seemed less intense and complex than previous 15 YO Single Casks.

The Limmerick 11 YO from Adelphi was a nice smooth and fruity whisk(e)y, with some oakiness, while the Glenrothes 6 YO from a sherry butt was well rounded and very smooth, with a pleasant sherry influence showing a surprising maturity.

Compass Box 10th Anniversary is a special edition to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Peat Monster, bottled at cask strength with 7 malts instead of 3 for the regular Peat Monster and containing 70% of Laphroaig of different ages and higher strength. It was a very peaty whisky, tasting rather young.

BenRomach Origins is a batch made exclusively from Golden Promise, the main strain of barley used in the 1970s-80s for the production of whiskies.

The full range of AnCnoc and Speyburn

From the Knockdhu distillery, the new 22 YO is a vatting of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, giving a nice smoothness and roundness to the whisky, as it was for the AnCnoc 1975.

At Signatory, I could not resist tasting the Craigduff 40 YO, the peated malt from Glen Keith. An excellent whisky, complex, rich with a nice peatiness. Probably my first Craigduff, but what a lovely experience.

Finally, the GlenDronach 1971 42 YO was a nice thick sherried GlenDronach, with strong berries notes, some walnut, tannins and some woody notes.

The stand of the BenRiach distillery company.

I skipped the food buffet that looked pretty oaky, but I wanted to keep my palate as sharp as possible, therefore, I skipped this part.

And as part of whisky literature, Ian Buxton  (101 whiskies to try before you die) and Ingvar Ronde (Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014) were signing their respective work.

Ingvar Ronde signing is new version of the Malt Whisky Yearbook

Well, it was already a good start of the whisky, with many interesting and good whiskies. A good night of rest was well needed, after all this excitement.

Day 2: Monday October 07

Another sunny day in London.
I arrived at the door of the show 20 minutes before the opening and although I was not the first one, I was in front of the door and one of the first to enter the show heading straight for Glenfarclas to look at their Glenfarclas 105 20 YO, the famous Coronation cask from the Whisky Exchange and the Family cask 1962. I moved quickly then to International Beverage to taste my first dram, the AnNoc 12 YO, a nice smooth and rather spicy dram, rather similar, although slightly more robust than the produce of its sister distillery with the Speyburn 10 YO.
In the AnCnoc range, the 12 YO is a vatting of ex-sherry and bourbon casks, as for the new 22 YO, while the 16 YO is exclusively from ex-bourbon casks. From Speyburn, the 25 YO is from ex-sherry casks. AnCnoc is mainly reserved for the European Market, while Speyburn is a big seller in the US, with a volume than Balblair or AnNoc. From Old Pulteney, the 21 YO is a maritime and slightly salty whisky, with a nice round and sweet influence. To celebrate sail racing sponsored by the company, the Old Pulteney Navigator has been just launched. This is the first non-age version of Old Pulteney, smoother and slightly less salty and maritime than the older versions. The Balblair range is now being bottled at 46% and some of the new versions, ie. Balblair 1969, 83 and 2003 will be reviewed soon on this website.

The Balblair 1969

After a long discussion and tasting at this stand, I moved to the other side of the hallway and of the world, with Number One Drink and Marcin Miller with his Karuizawa, starting first with the Asama Vintage 1999/2000 that will be a widely available Karuizawa, a very nice rich, complex, smooth and slightly fragrant, with round sherry notes. Lovely. It is more complex and balanced the previous versions bottled for France (46%) or for UK. It is from the same batch of 77 cask used to draw these previous versions, but with one extra year of maturation. Specially selected for the Whisky Exchange, with beautiful labels were the Karuizawa 30 YO bourbon, a mellower version than last year, while the 31 YO sherry was on big sherry notes, lots of spices, some fragrance and tannins.  A Karuizawa that won’t disappoint the Karzuizawa Sherry Fans. 

The delicious and new Karuizawa Asama

Bruichladdich presented Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, a slightly spicier and oakier version with the Islay Barley 2007, a heavy peaty and rather young Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and the super heavily peated Octomore 5 YO Scottish barley on dry peaty, tarry and ashy notes.

The Bruichladdich stand

Further, at the Whisky Show Bottling, I tasted a very nice Tormore 25 YO from The Single Malts of Scotland, a surprisingly robust, balanced and smooth whisky. Following the recommendation of Billy, the next one was a surprisingly peaty, maritime and slightly meaty Ledaig 7 YO, with a delicious sweetness from the sherry cask. A whisky that could be easily confounded with a single malt from the South of Islay. A very good and positive surprise.

At Douglas Laing, I opted for a young, sweet and “feisty” Talisker from the Provenance range before tasting a robust, maritime, intense Glen Scotia 21 YO, with some toffee notes, more complex than the official 18 YO Glen Scotia. The high strength (51.5%) might also give more depth to it. Of note, the new Douglas Laing Range, the Old Particular is now bottled at either 48.4% or 51.5% based on the age of the whisky.

The Douglas Laing stand

The Tullibardine range has been completely redesigned, with the core range containing a sherry, Sauternes or Burgundy finish. The Sauternes worked very well with the Tullibardine, slightly better than the sherry version, to my opinion.

The new packaging of Tullibardine

In addition to this core range, a 20 and 25 YO have been added. The 25 YO  was very pleasant, round and with a nice sweetness coming from sherry casks. If you have never tasted Tullibardine before, you might be positively surprised.

Several new products have been released by the Benromach distillery, including the Origins Golden Promise, a new Peat Smoke with a phenol level of 67 ppm, a very peaty version, drier than the previous one, with more meaty and tarry notes.

At the stand of the BenRiach Distillery Ltd, Glenglassaugh joined GlenDronach and BenRiach. From BenRiach, the 1998 single cask was a triple-distilled version of BenRiach with a PX sherry finish. I will taste it soon.

Kilkerran is maturing well and for the first time, two versions have been released, a sherry and a bourbon version, allowing to compare the effect of the cask on the spirit. The Kilkerran are now 9 years old and the age of maturity (12 YO) is coming soon. Of note, volumes of production are small and approximate 30,000 LPA. The current bottleneck at Springbank is the bottling capacity and a new bottling line will be added soon.

The bourbon and sherry version of Kilkerran

Teeling is an Irish company and while waiting for the distillery to be built, the Teeling whisky is coming from the Cooley distillery. A new single grain will be released in the months to come. This was a smooth Grain whiskey, with pleasant notes of apricots and spices, with the sherry giving a nice smoothness to the grain. Bottled at 46%, it was rather intense, suggesting a higher strength. The Teeling small batch is a rather young whisky (approximately 5 YO) matured in a rum cask in order to give sugary and molasses notes to the spirit. Pretty good, but not as well balanced as the single grain. The Vintage Reserve 21 YO is a very different whisky, rich, intense and complex. Older expressions are expected very soon, but in a higher price category as the current 21 YO.

The Teeling range

I was invited to taste the Wemyss The Hive, a 12 YO blended malt that carried its name very well, with strong honey notes and leaving the impression on the palate that beeswax was present in the whisky. The Spice King was a spicier blend, slightly heavier and with some beeswax as well. The Glen Garioch 1989 Brandy Casket was much to my liking.

Some of the Wemyss products

At Chivas, I tasted the newly repackaged Strathisla bottled now at 40%. While the alcohol went up when Longmorn was repackaged, the reserve occurred with Strathisla, probably due to constraints of supplies, since Strathisla is the signature malt of Chivas Regal?

From Balvenie, I tasted the 17 YO Balvenie Double Wood, with the final maturation in sherry casks giving more weight and fruity notes than the other ex-bourbon expressions of Balvenie.

At Adelphi, I gave a try to a 8 YO Caol Ila, a very clean and peaty expression, clean and well rounded, without any roughness. A very elegant variant of Caol Ila.

Some of the Adelphi bottling

The Whisky Exchange selected a refill sherry Laphroaig 15 YO from the Signatory stocks that gave a bright red colour to the whisky. The combination of peat and sherry worked very well. The Mosstowie 1979 Signatory was a very smooth and mellow whisky, with nice mild floral notes and vanilla.

Present for the first was the French whisky from Brittany, the Armorik. The Double Maturation is the best seller of the distillery, but I tasted the Whisky Breton Classic, a smooth, well-rounded and slightly spicy whisky. The Double Maturation and the Single Cask will be tasted later.

The Armorik range

At Buffalo Trace, I took the very last drops of the Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch, an excellent bourbon, complex, smooth, with nice notes of apricots and surprisingly little oaky influence for a Bourbon.

Well, this has been two very good days in London, with the opportunity of tasting a very large range of whiskies, including my first tasting of Brittany and Nez Zealand single malts. The offering was very large, unfortunately, the Diageo Special Releases 2013 had not yet arrived, nor the Redbreast 21 YO that is already available in France.

On Sunday starting at 3.30 PM many Dream Drams were not anymore available and most of the remaining ones were removed on Monday. So, if want to make sure to taste the Dream Dram you want, make sure to be sure early to at the show on the Saturday at the opening!

The disposition was different from the previous year, with master classes taking place on the first floor and some exhibitors were not present (e.g., The Scotch Malt Whisky Society or Glen Moray).

It is a very well organised event, with knowledgeable staff and an exceptional choice of whiskies.

Patrick Brossard ©08 October 2013