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As for the previous years, at the start of the Christmas shopping take place the Whiskyschiff in Zürich on 4 ships. The sky was very cloudy but the lake was calm, therefore, the ships should not be swinging too much.
Note: during this whiskyschiff, I tasted many fine drams and took samples home for all of them. The impression described below are my first preliminary impressions taken during the festival and will be tasted again in my regular settings.
This year, once you have paid your 20 CHF for the entrance and your glass, you also received a nice booklet in German, including the detailed program, a lexicon and a nice description of the whisky process that you download here
My first stop was at World of Whisky to taste the new Highland Park Single Cask official bottling for the Waldhaus am See (where World of Whisky is located). This 22 YO whisky bottled at 46% had nice and sweet sherry notes, round and mellow, with a faint smokiness and no rubbery notes. When looking at the list, I had the impression that their selection of Signatory bottling was smaller than previously. A 15 YO Edradour sherry cask special Whiskyschiff Zurich was available, but I did not taste it. Having tasting most of the Glenfiddich, Kilchoman and other brands displayed, I moved further to a new comer, Whisky-Handel from Ziefen presenting the Laphroaig range, as well as the Exclusive Malts and Whisky Doris. The selection was nice and the Imperial Sherry cask from Exclusive malts looked very tempting. However, I went from the Lochside 29 YO from Whisky Doris, a nice, rich and rather heavy Lochside. The next one was a 19 YO Ardmore Whisky Doris from apparently the same vintage as the very good Ardmore bottled this year by the Whisky Agency. A fine and subtle Ardmore with pleasant and strong farmy and stable flavours.
|The stand of Whisky-handel|
It was then time to move to one of my favourite stand, the one from Acla da Fans, where I was surprise to see a huge selection of the Whisky Agency bottling. Whisky Agency is a rather prolific German independent bottler, who bottled 3 whiskies specially for the Whiskyschiff: a rich, spicy and intense 1972 Caperdonich that has retained a surprisingly vitality, a 1989 Littlemill and a 37 YO Strathmill. Amongst the other whiskies I selected (all from the whisky agency) where a rich and expressive 27 YO Cardhu, with the 14 YO Glen Ord playing in the same profile. The 36 and 38 YO Glen Grant Sherry will be tasted later on, as well as the BenRiach 1975 OB for the Whisky Agency. After all these Whisky Agency bottling, it was time for some rarities, including an old official bottling of Glen Mhor, on yeast and mushrooms. A whisky that probably needs some time to really open up, followed by a rather full bodied BenWyvis 1968 from Signatory: a good whisky to give body to a blend. Well, I was going to forget the round and rather mellow 37 YO Glenury Royal. A very good whisky but slightly too rounded to my opinion (resulting in a partial loss of the distillery character. Not only the whiskies were fine at Acla, but it was a pleasure meeting and chatting with a few friends from the whiskyforum.ch (Lukas, Philipp and Bernard). It is more fun like this !
|A partial view of the Acla da fans stand|
A bit further, I stopped at Latelin to taste the GlenDronach 1985 OB specially bottled for Lateltin Switzerland. An excellent round sherried and flawless GlenDronach that I enjoyed very much. GlenDronach has treated us well with this single cask. Most of the batch 4 was available and unfortunately, by mistake, the batch 5 returned home the night before. I moved then to his neighbour Duncan McGillivray, distillery manager at Bruichladdich to taste the new Bruichladdich 10 YO. A fine malty Bruichladdich, thanks to a mixture of first fill and refill bourbon casks allows the character to express itself. This was followed by the Bruichladdich 2004 Islay Barley. I took the opportunity of discussing with Duncan about the influence of the barley in the production process, since the Barley 2004 showed a rather different organoleptic profile than the regular Bruichladdich, more starchy and with a light white wine spiciness. On Islay, they noticed a significant difference in the amount of starch between the East and West side of the isle resulting in changes in the mashing for each farm. On Islay, mainly optic, troon, calice and golden promise are grown. Bruichladdich is currently dealing with at least 9 farms, from Islay but as well as from different part of Scotland (e.g., Tullibardine). Mentioning to me that last bottle of Octomore 4 on the stand sold out before I arrived, I asked him about the price of the malted barley used for this Octomore. The price per tonne of this heavily peated barley is in the £300-400 range.
|Duncan McGillivray signing one bottle of Octomore at the Latelin stand.|
On the same bar, I returned to GlenDronach section to discuss with Donald Mclellan, brand manager for GlenDronach for a small chat. Over the last years, we have seen several GlenDronach single casks bottled for some customers, but this will stop for all GlenDronach bottled prior to the 1980s. The GlenDronach 1968 annouced for the batch 4 or 5, will be finally released at the same time as the BenRiach 1966. They should be bottled in special decanters (similar to the Grandeur) and selling in the 1000 euros range. The last brand represented by Lateltin was Springbank, supported by Jenny and Gavin. The new Longrow Burgundy was present and the Springbank 21 YO not yet available. However, thanks to some help, I managed to taste the new 21 YO. A very well made Springbank, rich, intense, spicy, with a pleasant sherry influence, slightly less smoky and smooth than the old 21 YO.
I went for a short round of the stand to discover some newcomers (e.g., Silver Seal, High Spirits, Daily Dram) as well as some new Swiss brands I have never heard of before, e.g., Langatun, SWBOE or Johnetxct as well as new independent brand The Maltman (created by one of the Hart Brother's and his son) distributed by Emely’s.
I was pleased to see amongst the newcomers, the Hart Brothers brand represented by one of the two brothers who owned the brand until 2007. My first dram was one deliciously grassy Littlemill 20 YO followed by the special bottling for the Whisky Schiff, the 18 YO Glen Scotia first fill sherry cask. The sherry influence was very pronounced, as well as the strong maritime flavours of Campbletown.
|At the stand of Langatun, one of the Hart brother presenting the Hart Brothers range.|
On the stand of Smuggler, I could not resist tasting the 10 YO Dark Sherry Port Charlotte from the Stillman’s. A very nice sherried and rather mineral expression of Port Charlotte, with rather strong seaweeds flavours and a rather milder peatiness compared to the previous official releases of Port Charlotte. So far, this is oldest Port Charlotte I have tasted and this example showed a most pleasant complexity. Port Charlotte has matured very well. On the same stand, I decided to go for the Penderyn Sherry wood. A Welsh whisky matured in a bourbon cask before completing the final maturation in a sherry cask according to the brand ambassador. A correct malty whisky, rather young that lacked some balanced. Beside the standard range, there was a single cask, but considering the price (7 CHF for 1 cl or 275 CHF) for a whisky below 5 years of age reduced to 50%, I moved to the last ship at Best Taste Trading to greet Stuart Buchanan from BenRiach distillery before going for a taste of the 28 YO Port Ellen from Wilson & Morgan, cask 2033 that recently won a gold medal at the 2011 malt maniacs awards. An elegant, sharp mineral and slightly austere Port Ellen. Very good indeed.
With only 1 sample bottle left, I decided to visit the house of single malts stand, with their Glenglassaugh products, including the Glenglassaugh spirit for the Whiskyschiff, where I tasted the new 30 YO Glenglassaugh decanter. The whisky was a 34 YO Glenglassaugh matured for 18 months in a Sauternes cask. The whisky was very good, with a nice fruitiness, on tropical fruits but the sweet syrupy notes of the Sauternes created some unbalance in this whisky. This was not really to my taste and I prefer to this one the old 30 YO or the Chosen Few Ronnie Routledge.
With 4 hours spent on the ships and my last vial filled, it was time to take the train home after a very enjoyable Whisky fair.
|Suart Nickerson at the stand of House of Single Malts|
Glenfahrn did not participated to this edition, probably due to the presence of some direct competitors. In terms of rarities, Acla da Fans had a few of them and Monnier had a separate stand only with rarities, including some Ardbeg Single Cask from the 1970s, Black Bowmore and a few Rare Malts such as Brora 24 YO or Port Ellen 22 YO. For some reasons, I missed to visit the Cadenhead’s stand where I wished to taste a few of their new products. The stand of Peter Hofmann and Angel’s Share was very busy, but it seemed like the number of new releases of James MacArthur, Arran or Glenrothes was limited. I could taste several of the new Blackadder at several occasions this year, therefore my stop at Micky’s whiskywelt was short.
During this Whiskyschiff, several Masterclasses were organized, with all tickets on presale sold out before the event. However, they wisely decided to keep a certain number of tickets for sale at the cashier on the day of the event.
This event was well organized, with spittoons available everywhere and a very large of selection of whiskies (over 1000) , including some bourbons, with prices ranging between 1 and 75 CHF per sample. It is also good to see that several retailers decided to organize special bottling for the whiskyschiff.
See you next year!
www.whisky-news.com ©05 Dec 2011