Whisky Live Paris 2009, 26-28 September 2009

For the pictures click here

Unfortunately for me, the Whisky Live Paris overlapped with the Speyside Autumn Whisky Festival this year. Since I do like attending both events, I decided to do a Swiss compromise and go to a bit of both.

The theme of this year’s Whisky live Paris was multimedia. With only 7 hours at my disposal, my objective was to focus on Scotch and Japanese Single Malts, therefore, I skipped the multimedia part, as well as the other attractions.

As in 2008, the Whisky Live was held at the Pavilion Gabriel, a venue very well suited for the purpose. The first noticeable improvement this year was the timing, since the door opened almost on time.

After a very quick tour, the stands became busy very soon and my first stop was at Glen Garioch, a newcomer at the event, proposing their new Glen Garioch Founder's reserve. As part of their new range, a 1990 and 1978 vintage have been released. I found the new Founder's reserve quite different from the older 8 and 15 YO; more spicy but slightly rougher. I presume that it contains a large proportion of first fill bourbon cask.

The stand at Suntory

At Suntory, no Karuizawa Vintage was available for tasting, although I was told afterwards that the 1984 Vintage would only have been available on the Sunday in the VIP area. I moved on to the next Japanese stand, Nikka, with its new Yoichi 1991 Single Cask 58% for La Maison du Whisky (LMDW). Matured in a virgin oak cask, this peated Yoichi offers quite some contrast with the previous bottling for LMDW: cleaner, smoother and more "polished". The Miyagikyo 1990 62% for LDMW from a refill sherry butt was all in sweetness. From there, I moved to Glencadam to organize my visit at the distillery for the following Saturday (please see Highland Tour 2009) and to take samples of the 10 and 15 YO. Those whiskies will be reviewed at a later time, but I enjoyed their personality, a heavier style of whisky than the Speyside ones.

At Bowmore, I went for the new Bowmore Tempest, a 10 YO whisky matured in first fill bourbon casks and bottled at cask strength. I found it more peaty than usual, without being too oaky. A good surprise. Good value for money.

At Glenglassaugh, I had a taste of the 21 YO and greeted Stuart Nickelson, the Managing Director and Graham Eunson, the Distillery Manager (DM). More on Glenglassaugh and its whiskies on the Highland Report (FYI, the 30 YO batch 2, which will soon be released is excellent).

At Douglas Laing, the selection was impressive. In addition to their Old Malt Cask products, the Peat Monster and the new Double Barrel ranges was available. I went for the two bottlings for LMDW, the Laphroaig 20 YO sherry matured at Cask Strength and the Ardbeg 18 YO. I found the Ardbeg rather tasteless, but I appreciated the nice balance between the peat and the sherry in the Laphroaig. A very nice and gentle Laphroaig.

At Kilchoman, Anthony Willis was assisted by his son. The Inaugural batch was available for tasting, as well as a sister cask of the single cask bottling available only at the Collector's (Icons) dinner the night before. (Tasting notes will follow).

Kilchoman Single Cask for the Icons Diner

At Balvenie, the new 17 YO Madeira Cask was available. At Balblair, I could get a taste of the 1975, a nice and smooth sherried whisky. A few extra % ABV would have been welcomed. If you like the old Balblairs, do not wait too long, since the stocks are getting very low. The 1991 is now replacing the 1989 vintage. The new vintage is slightly more spicy and intense. In my opinion, this is a nice improvement.

At BenRiach, the full "standard" range was there, up to and including the 25 YO. At GlenDronach, the sister distillery, I very much enjoyed the Glendronach 1993 Single Cask for LMDW. I should compare it head to head with 1993 from the batch N°1, but both seemed to be at the same high level of quality.

The next stop, was "down under", at Larks and their single cask. A rather peculiar whisky, quite similar to a Swiss whisky I tasted a few months backs (Käsers Schloss): the texture and the flavour profile is quite different from a Scotch single malt: more on cereals and with a "porridge" texture. Simply different.

At Arran, few bottles were available and I opted for the Arran Peacock and a single cask 1999 Sherry. Both were correct whiskies, but the packaging was nicer than the content.

Signatory was proposing a wide range of products, from the unchillfiltered and Cask Strength range I particularly appreciated the sherried Glenburige 1983, rich and spicy.

At Gordon & McPhail, I sampled the Strahisla 1960 and the Linkwood 1990 for LMDW;I will review these at a later date. At Ardbeg, the new Corryvreckan was available. A very good whisky, but it seemed more marked by first fill bourbon casks than the committee editions. It was also less complex, but I will taste them later head to head.

After this first round of tasting, I headed towards the VIP area for a short break. I was attracted like a magnet to their table, with all the bottles on it. Jean-Marc B. from LMDW kindly served me with the following bottlings exclusive for LMDW: Clynelish 1972 G&M, Lochside 1981 G&M, Macallan 1970 Speymalt G&M, Auchentoshan 1988 OB Bordeaux Finish, Ben Nevis 1975 Prestonfield, BenRiach 1976 OB, Port Ellen 1983 Signatory and GlenDronach 1972 OB. The tasting notes of these whiskies will be published at a later date, but at a few exceptions, all these whiskies were excellent. The selection done this year by LMDW was quite impressive. Well done guys!

On my way in leaving the VIP area, the group assisting to the Balvenie master class blocked my way out, so I ended up having a quick taste at the Balvenie 1978 OB. A welcomed stop.

I went on exploring the first floor and my first visit was at Drink One. Marcin Miller, former editor of Whisky Magazine, and current director of Drink One, kindly allowed me to sample all his Karuizawa and Ichiro's Malt. Thank you Marcin! The tasting notes will be published at a later time. I could not resist tasting quickly the Karuizawa 1967, which was most impressive.

Some Ichiro's malts


At Berry Bros and Rudd, accessing the stand was difficult. After a few minutes, I finally manage to get a wee taste of the Caol Ila 1984, a nice old Caol Ila. Since the whisky live was at peak of activity, I went back to the VIP area, which coincided with the Glenrothes Master Class with John Ramsay. I arrived right on time for the Glenrothes 1978 and for the deliciously sweet and fruity Glenrothes John Ramsay. This limited edition is mainly composed of refill cask from the late 1970s up to the late 1980s. This is probably one of the best official Glenrothes I have tasted. Shortly afterwards, Ho-Chen Yao, the Taiwanese Malt Maniac, uncorked a bottle of 3 YO Single Cask Ka Va Lan Taiwanese Whisky. At full strength, it was a bit rough, but diluted, it became nicely smooth and fruity. Thank you Ho-Chen.

At Duncan Taylor, the choice was more restricted than for the other independent bottelers, but I gave a try at the Imperial NC2 1996 Cask Strength. A very nice Imperial, but I found the previous Imperial NC2 bottled at 46% more complex.

In the Collector's corner, I stopped by Alexandre Vingtier from la Maison du Whisky, hidden by a row of nice old whisky bottles. He kindly poured me a blind sample of a superbly fruity malt whisky, with an exquisite balance between the peat, the fruits and the smoothness. Without doubts, a Bowmore from the 1960s. It was indeed a Bowmore 1961 from the cask 324. I prefer not to know the price that this whisky will be sold for. Thank you very much Alexandre!
I will never be able to buy such a bottle, but yes, it is indeed an exceptionally good whisky.

Later on, I moved towards Compass Box to get a sample of their new Spice Tree. Since it is no anymore allowed to add wood chips in the casks as for the first Spice Tree released, this new version contains ends and staves of virgin oak to give an extra spiciness and the proportion of Clynelish has been increased. In addition to the regular 46%, a cask strength version was exclusively available during the whisky live. I also went for the Hedonism. Tasting notes of the Compass Box products will be issued later on.

It was not easy to get close to the Dalmore stand, with Richard Patterson, the Master Blender of Whyte & Mackay, making his show. I was quickly served with a measure of the new Dalmore 18 YO, but before I could give it a try, a dash of water was added to my whisky. Fortunately, I managed to taste it straight later on at Heathrow. The new Dalmore 18 YO is a very smooth whisky, with a pleasant structure and more complexity than the younger expression. A nice improvement in my opinion. The Dalmore 1981 matured in an amoroso sherry cask was very fruity and surprisingly sweet.

At Lagavulin, I went for the Lagavulin bottled for the Friends of the Classic Malts, as well as the fresh and intense Lagavulin 12 YO cask strength bottled in 2008. Not waiting on the look out for me.

After having spent more than 6 hours chasing whiskies, I headed towards Iain McWilliam, the author of "Bottled History", a book I wholeheartedly recommend. The photographs are really beautiful. Well, I left him with a glass of Ardbeg Supernova in my hands. Thank you Iain. Hopefully, you will release your next book quite soon!

At Benromach, I noticed the new Benromach 10 YO, as well as the 21 YO, both whiskies that I will review later on. The Laphroaig 25 YO Cask Strength was unfortunately unavailable and I opted for the 10 YO Cask Strength batch 1.

And finally,as my last stop, I went for a chat with some old friends, standing close to the stand of Alexandre. Since I was to leave on the next day, he generously gave me a taste of the gorgeous Mortlach 1954 from Gordon & McPhailat full strength. Superb!

With some regrets, I had to leave, but thank you to the staff of Whisky Magazine France and La Maison du Whisky for organizing one of the best (if not the best) whisky event in the world!

See you next year!

Patrick B. ©12Oct 2009