Whisky Schiff Zürich, Switzerland, 2-5 December 2010

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The snowstorm affecting Europe prevented some distillery managers to reach Switzerland, as well as my return flight from London on Friday evening.  Since I arrived in Switzerland only late on Saturday morning, my attendance to the whisky fair was shorter than desired. Once arrived in Zürich at the Whisky Schiff, I was pleased to see a very large selection of whiskies on the different ships. Furthermore, I was surprised to notice that the fair was less crowded than on previous years, allowing me to have more time for chatting with the different retailers and whisky companies employees. 

Some frozen ships in Zurich fully loaded with whiskies

Note: These are preliminary tasting notes. All whiskies mentioned will be re tasted in a more controlled environment.

My first stop was at Alexander Weine to see if The Bottlers had released any new products. This was not the case, but I took the opportunity of tasting the Springbank 1993 cask 180 they bottled last year. A very nice Springbank, relatively peaty from a refill sherry cask. This was followed by the Swisslinks 2, the second bottling of Bruichladdich by Alexander Weine. The first edition was from a bourbon cask and this new edition was fully matured in a Sauternes wine cask. This resulted in a rich, complex and spicy Bruichladdich showing a comparable profile to the Swisslinks 1, with an additional sweetness coming from the Sauternes. A very good Bruichladdich, with the Sauternes being better married with the whisky than most Sauternes finishes.
 The stand of Angel’s share was well attended as for the previous editions. James MacArthur has slightly modified its packaging and produces new interesting products that I hope to taste at the whisky Schiff in Lucerne later next year.

A dangerous combination: Springbank and Jenny Karlsson

At Lateltin, the Springbank section was extremely crowded. I am sure that the charisma of Jenny enhanced the attraction for the Springbank products. Therefore, I decided to move straight to the Bruichladdich section, with the non-less friendly (but maybe less sexy) Duncan McGillivray, the Bruichladdich distillery manager. During our long discussion, I learnt that the expected production of 2010 should be in the range of 750-800,000 LPA and that the amount of organic barley reached 600 tonnes, due to the poor weather condition affecting the crops. This would have been closer to 1000 tonnes under normal conditions. The Lomond still was used to distill Islay Gin a few months ago, but for legal reasons (labels), the Gin should be available in the shops before Christmas. Since additional storage capacities have been built this year (warehouses), the construction of Port Charlotte should start in 2-3 years.
To come back to their products, Bruichladdich is now starting to reorganize their product range and the Bruichladdich 10 Years will be back next year. Since I tasted several of the new Bruichladdich products at different occasions these last 2 months, I decided to taste the Tomatin 1967 in the Celtic Heartlands range. A very smooth and elegant Tomatin: very enjoyable. Due to time constraints, I could unfortunately not compare it with the official 40 YO Tomatin present in another stand.

Duncan McGillivray, Bruichladdich distillery manager

At Glenfahrn, many rarities were available, but most of them were already available earlier this year at the whisky Schiff in Lucerne (e.g., the old dumpy Cadenhead and old Connoisseur’s choice brown labels).  At Cadenhead, I selected a very nice smooth and charming Glen Garioch 1991 18 YO, before moving to the 2 Ardbeg 1994 16 YO bottled this October. Two pleasant Ardbegs, with the 55.6% version being particularly tarry and the 57% version being slightly more balanced and complex.

The Cadenhead whiskies tasted

Further, I stopped at Michis Whiskywelt to have a small chat with Jan Beckers from Douglas Laing, while sipping a peated Isle of Jura 1999 from their Boutique Barrel range.

Jan Beckers from Douglas Laing

world of Whisky, I was pleased to meet again with John Black, back to work and promoting his Tullibardine whiskies, including its rich and satisfying Tullibardine 1988 Single Cask 540. Although the sales of Tullibardine single malts are limited, the sales of new make are very good. In 2008, Tullibardine produced 2.7 mio LPA and in 2010, 1.7 mio.  A little further, I tasted the new Highland Park 12 YO Earl Magnus v2, with more caramel and less tar than the first version. On the side stand, I tasted the 2 new Kilchoman, The Winter 2010 release and the Special Whiskyschiff release (cask 336). The Single cask tasted very young, spirity and rough, while the Kilchoman Winter 2010 release was better matured, more balanced, and very peaty and smoky.
Amongst the Signatory products, I could not resist at the Port Ellen 1983 27 YO, a very nice and rather smooth Port Ellen, but not as complex as the Port Ellen 1978 10th Annual Release.

John Black, Tullibardine Distillery Manager

On the deck below, I made a long stop at Diageo to taste their new products:  the Glenkinchie 20 YO, the very floral Cragganmore 21 YO,  the Auchroisk 20 and finally the Glen Spey 21 YO. Unfortunately, the Brora 30 YO bottled 2010 will not be available in Switzerland and thus could not be tasted. The Special Release 2010 were good products, but without much surprise, with the exception of the Glen Spey 21 YO.  The influence of the American oak that contained sherry is very perceptible and contributes to an excellent complexity and depth. The best surprise of the 2010 Special Release. Finally, I stopped at Best Taste Trading for a wee dram of the Glenugie 30 YO from Dun Bheagan and the 12 YO Ardbeg from Chieftains.


The Diageo stand was well attended

A very pleasant whisky fair that I enjoy attending every year. The only negative point was the absence of spittoons. This would be a welcome attention in 2011.