The Whisky Live event was staged at the prestigious Hurlingham Club in London on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 February. Both of us at Whisky For Everyone were on official duty for both of the days (in other words, we had to work there for our respective companies!!). However, we still had the opportunity to taste some of the whiskies that were on offer at the show, including some new or as yet unreleased drams. So here goes with a few of our highlights from day one.
This is the oldest whisky in the current core range of Balblair, a north Highland distillery that is attracting much attention following the winning of a couple of major awards in 2008. The nose is full of dried fruit (imagine raisins and sultanas), intense citrus (think of candied orange peel) and some peaty smokiness burning away. The smokiness was unexpected but marries together with the other elements well to give a sumptuous, full bodied whisky. There is also a warm spiciness on the palate (like ginger) and the finish is long and enjoyable. A very good whisky indeed.
Glendronach 18 years old
This is a sweet and malty whisky from one of the lesser known Speyside distilleries. Glendronach are launching this 18 years old shortly, along with a new 15 years old, as they expand the core range. This has a lot of sherry cask influence with dried fruitiness (think of sultanas and peel especially), sweet malted barley and some woodiness on the nose. The palate was thinner than the richness of the nose suggested. The dried fruit and barley combined well to give a pleasant whisky, although the finish was quite short, woody and slightly bitter.
Glendronach 33 years old
After 33 years maturing in a sherry cask, this whisky is dark and complex. It forms the oldest part of Glendronach's range, with limited batches released each year. The nose is packed with dried fruit (imagine raisins), woody oak (think of vanilla and warm spices like nutmeg) and dark burnt sugar. The palate is rich and even more complex with some more warm spice (imagine ginger this time) and an unexpected mossy smokiness in the background. The finish is long with that burnt sugar and smokiness hanging around. A very rounded whisky for those with expensive taste!
Mackmyra 1st Edition
First edition was the first official release from Swedish distillery Mackmyra and follows a series of six experimental bottlings called the Preludium. The initial batch sold out in Sweden within hours, so having enjoyed a couple of the Preludium series we had to see what all the fuss was about. It has been matured in roasted Swedish oak casks and a distinct toasted nuttiness comes through on the nose (think of almonds or hazelnuts). On the palate, the nuttiness is present and joined by vanilla, some crisp green fruit (imagine pears and apples), honey and a zingy citrus note (think of lemon zest). The finish is short but interestingly a hint of smoke drifts in. This is a young whisky but has complexity beyond its years and continues to show Mackmyra's whisky making potential.
Old Pulteney 21 years old
The oldest whisky currently available from the reknowned Old Pulteney distillery in the north Highlands. This 21 years old has won awards around the world and the colour is a rich gold. The nose indicates some of the richness that will come on the palate. There is lots of vanilla and malted barley, some sweetness (think of honey) and a hint of something floral (imagine heather). The palate does not disappoint and is rich and creamy, with all of the elements above combining to give great complexity. Some warm spices are also present (think of ginger and nutmeg). The finish is quite dry compared to the nose and palate with just a hint of that Old Pulteney saltiness coming through. Truly great stuff.
Scapa 16 years old
This latest release from Scapa on the Orkney Islands is planned to replace the popular 14 years old in the core range. As they have positioned this at a higher price point, it was a must try to see if it was worth their gamble. The colour is golden and the nose is sweet with lots of vanilla, toffee (it is almost fudgy!), malted barley and dried fruit (think of sultanas and candied peel) present. This is rich, creamy and thick in your mouth with butter, toffee and vanilla particularly prominent. There is a lovely warm honey note and a hint of some cinnamon also. The finish is long, creamy and rich again but slightly on the dry side. Not greatly different from the 14 years old but still pretty nice stuff.
Springbank 18 years old
The eagerly anticipated limited new release from the cult distillery in Campbeltown. This is expected to sell out fast when it is released at the end of March. The nose is very promising with some gorgeous sherry dried fruit combining with some sweet malted barley and a hint of something slightly musty (like and old, dusty book). On the palate, this is slightly lighter than expected but the dried fruits and barley remain prominent. There is a pleasant bitter edge (think of burnt sugar or caramel) as well as a zesty citrus freshness that lifts the whole palate. The finish was slightly disappointing and short with just the smallest whiff of smoke present. Overall, a decent whisky.
Van Winkle 12 years old
One of the few bourbons at the show this year. Van Winkle is a fourth generation company whose range of whiskey is made at the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky, America and follows strict secretive recipes that have been handed down since the late 1800s. Their unique combination of corn, wheat and barley produces a softer spirit that is more condusive to longer aging than other bourbons, who use rye instead of the wheat. This smells like a fruity Christmas cake with some coconut and vanilla thrown in. It is warming on the palate with that vanilla and coconut prominent. It feels creamy in the mouth and the finish is long with some warm spicy notes coming through (think of nutmeg or cinnamon). Very smooth, very easy drinking and very good.
Van Winkle 23 years old 'Pappy's Family Reserve'
A very limited release that is named after the founder - Julian 'Pappy' Van Winkle Snr. Only around 1500 bottles are released each year (the next batch is coming out in late Spring) and bourbons of this age are difficult to find. This was an opportunity not to be turned down! This is one rich, creamy and complex bourbon. The nose is full of woody oakiness, vanilla, citrus (imagine dried orange peel), coconut and warm spices (think of nutmeg). On the palate, these elements combine exceptionally well and the finish goes on and on. It is not too woody or bitter as some old bourbons can be. Excellent whiskey - one of the Whisky Live 'Wow' moments.