The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 4-6 October 2014, London, UK

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The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 4-6 October 2014, London, UK

With Whisky and More just over, It was time to fly to London to join Vinopolis and the Whisky Show for the tasting of the latest releases.

As always, the “tasting notes” described here are preliminary impressions made in the context of the Whisky Show, using the glass provided. These whiskies will be tasted again at home under my standard tasting conditions and might differ from the ones mentioned below.

The Glen Garioch stand

My first stop was a Glen Garioch to taste the Glen Garioch 1999 sherry matured, that I could not taste last year: a sweet, round, spicy version of Glen Garioch, with a rather pronounced sherry “vegetal” influence. This was followed by the round, mellow, slightly peaty and very sherried Glen Garioch 1973 OB for the Whisky Exchange with some chocolate. Not as peated as one would expect from that vintage, but well balanced.

Some of the special releases were available for tasting, while their are currently being bottled.

With some help, I managed to find the Diageo brands, where I wanted to secure a taste of some of the new Special Releases 2014. The Clynelish Select Reserve was round, smooth to very smooth with a light spiciness. On the palate, it was spicier and waxy, with a certain complexity. Diluted, it became spicier and waxier. It is a vatting of different casks aged between 16 and 38 years old. The whisky is good, but the price might be a different story. The Glendullan 38 YO was spicy, intense, complex, with a cerain smoothness and mellowness.  Diluted, it became even fresher. A very good whisky and surprisingly fresh for its age. The Mortlach 25 YO was smooth, fruity, on orange, tangerine, dark fruits, spicy, on Christmas cake and wood spices. The Mortlach Rare and Old was spicier, rougher, more on vanilla and more floral than the 25 YO.

A full range of Singleton was available for tasting and I started with the sweet and rich, well balanced Speycascade. The Tailfire was more vibrant and more fruity: sultanas, tangerine and orange. The Sunray version is only bourbon matured, spicy, floral oaky and on vanilla  The Cardhu Gold Reserve is a rather heavy version of Cardhu, with the Amber rock spicy notes becoming more intense, as well as notes of beeswax and some spicy notes. The Haig Club is a new single grain from Cameron bridge. The whisky is extremely smooth, round, with round spicy notes and some apricots and peach. A simple but enjoyable whisky.

The Bowmore stand

The Bowmore 18 YO OB is a very smooth and mellow version of Bowmore, slightly salty, rather maritime, round, spicy but moderately peaty. The Tempest 10 YO batch 5 was very smoky, peaty, maritime, intense, oaky, on vanilla, and some salt. Very enjoyable and of the same quality as the previous bottlings.

The Aberlour A’Bunadh batch 49 was rich, spicy, chewy, fruity, floral and on dark fruit. A very good and good value whisky. The Glenivet Nadurra was also very enjoyable, fruity and surprisingly round and sweet from a first fill bourbon matured whisky.

The Glenlivet stand

The Redbreast 21 YO was deliciously, smooth, fruity and complex, with fruits from the orchards, some tangerine and sweet juicy barley. The 12 YO Cask Strength was cleaner, simpler, less sweet and more on vanilla flavours. A younger and fresher version. I could also taste a Greenspot 10 YO Single Pot Still bottled at 40%. This bottling is an experiment and might be bottled eventually in the future. The results is suprising. Although it is only bottled at 40%, the whiskey is very fresh, smooth, intense, fruity and complex. A very high quality whisky.

At Auchentoshan, the American Oak is replacing the Classic: a smooth, slightly young whisky, rather light and fresh. The 12 YO was more complex and spicier, but not as much as the Three Wood, my favourite of the 3. The Auriverdes from Ardbeg was a gentle, rather smooth and sweet version of Ardbeg with the influence of toasted wood well present.

The core range of Auchtentoshan

At Glenmorangie, I decided to revisit the classic 10 YO, the base for the whole range. The new Cask Masters Selection Taghta was version marked by the sherry, with a mixture between a rubbery and vegetal sherry influence. Not so much to my liking. The Glenmorangie 1978 Pride was unfortunately already empty.

The stand of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie

At Glenfiddich, I could get a wee taste to the new Glenfiddich 26 YO excellence, that will have a test launch in UK and USA before eventually be distributed worldwide. It is bottled at 43% and made only from ex-bourbon cask. The result is a very pleasant, round, smooth, mellow, surprisingly intense and fruity version of Glenfiddich.

The luxurious stand of Glenfiddich

At Arran, they had the first edition of the Machrie Moor Cask strength, peated to approximately 20 ppm. The expression is rather dry, ashy and peaty. To be tasted again. The Arran 17 YO private cask was a delicious smooth, fruity, malty, complex and well balanced whisky. A must have for anyone who likes Arran or wishing to taste a rather delicate, smooth, sweet and fruity unpeated sherry whisky. The 12 YO Cask Strength was also a very pleasant and enjoyable whisky, but suffered from the direct comparison with the 17 YO for TWE.

The Arran for The Whisky Exchange

The Balvenie 15 YO Single Cask did not made his way to the show, but the new Tun 1509 made it. It is a very good, smooth Balvenie, nicely spicy, with a light to medium and sherry influence, slightly oaky and on Christmas cake. A well-made whisky, but slightly less balanced and harsher than the previous Tun 1401 that I have tasted. Since this Tun is made a markedly higher number of casks than the 1401, it should be easier to find.

From the Single Malts of Scotland range, the Bowmore 15 YO was a rather classical smoky and intense Bowmore, with nice citric flavours. The Clynelish 18 YO The Whisky Exchange was rather heavy on the sherry side, waxy, on orange and some spices. Some water helps to bring the sweet and fruity notes. The Laphroaig 18 YO The Whisky Exchange was oaky, peaty, maritime, tarry and on seaweeds. Pleasant. Reminds me of slightly mellower, complex version of the Laphroaig 18 YO OB. The Caol Ila 1996 Masterpieces was an intense, peaty and smoky Caol Ila, clean and maritime. A very enjoyable classic-type of Caol Ila.  The Elements of Islay Ar5 is a vatting of sherry and bourbon casks, giving a rather sweet and smooth profile to the Ardbeg. Not a peat monster, but a rather subtle version.

The special Whisky Show bottlings and Speciality Brands products (Elements of Islay)

The Balblair 2000 Single Cask for The Whisky Exchange is a true sherry monster, very heavy on the sherry, thick, chewy, spicy and on honey. Not for the faint hearted ones.

The AnCnoc 2000 is a vatting of ex-bourbon and sherry cask, giving a nice sweetness and fruitiness to the whisky, without overwhelming it. The medium peated versions of anCnoc; the cutter, flaughter and rutter were also present and will be reported later.

Some of the medium peated anCnoc

From Adelphi, the Glen Garioch 21 YO was a nice thick sherried version of Glen Garioch, rather smoky and on chocolate. It seems like a few sherry-matured Glen Garioch finally made their ways to the independent bottlers. Good news. The Ardmore 14 YO was surprisingly heavily peated, aromatic, clean and intense. Fresh.

The repackaged Black Bottle

At the next stand, I went for the rather recent Ledaig 10 YO. Some very good independent bottling of Ledaig made their way to the market, but I was pleasantly surprised by this official bottling: intense, peaty, clean, peaty and slightly aromatic. Very good! For the very old single malt present at their stand, you will need to wait … Black Bottle used to be a very common peaty blended whisky, especially on Islay, since it was a good value and made with malts from all Islay distilleries. This has changed and the owner went back to the original recipe. Furthermore, the new blend has now a final maturation in virgin oak, after the vatting. Looking forward for a head-to-head comparison if I can find my old bottle of Black Bottle.

The Craigellachie 13 YO, OB was a very nice Speyside whisky, sweet, with some tropical fruits and well balanced, while the 17 YO has a different profile, more spicy and oaky.  The new Craigellachie 23 YO has a flavour profile close to the 13 YO, but more complex, more fruity and with the flavours well balanced. I enjoyed the 13 and 23 YO very much, with a preference for the 23 YO, if you can afford, since the price gap between the 23 YO and the two younger versions is very important.

The new Craigellachie 23 YO

The Nikka Coffey Grain was very smooth, sweet and juicy, with some apricots and peach melting down the tongue, while the Nikka Coffey Malt was maltier, but retained a flavour profile close to the Grain version. I found this similarity interesting, since I had the privilege of tasting a couple of years ago some malt whisky distilled at Loch Lomond distillery. The “Coffey malt” at Loch Lomond had a flavour profile much closer to their single malts distilled in a pot still, but with added smoothness. This might be probably due the design of the still and the number of plated and/or collection points.

Some of the Nikka whiskies

Staying with Coffey stills, I tasted the Givran Patent Still N°4, a very clean and smooth Givran single malt, pleasant to drink, but rather simple. The Proof strength version was even simpler and cleaner and one-dimensional. On the other hand, the 25 YO was rather complex, very smooth, elegant, with light and delicate fruity notes. If you are looking for a very smooth, fresh, light whisky with a certain elegance, you should give a try to this one.

The new single grain range of Givran

Ardmore has gained a “The”, and their new product is The Ardmore Legacy. It is basically the same product as the traditional one, but reduced down to 40% in order to remain below the £30 price range. In the value range, the Traditional was one of my favourite range and I find the Legacy a but weak and thin. I will taste it again in different conditions, since the previous tasting of several high strength whiskies might have tired my palate. The Laphroaig Select is the equivalent of The Ardmore Legacy for the Laphroaig range. The Laphroaig 25 YO 2014 is a vatting of ex-bourbon and sherry cask. It will be reviewed later on.

The Ardmore and Laphroaig range in the background

The Highland Park Dark Origins is made from refill sherry casks bottled at cask strength, delivering a nice flavour intensity, complexity and nice sweet sherry notes combined with some smoky and salty influences. Good to very good.

The Bruichladdich Black Art 1990 is a secret combination of American and French oak. The result is surprisingly good, with rich dark fruity notes, sultanas, some red grapes, a slight maritime influence and a touch of peat smoke. I am usually not a fan of wine finished and/or matured whiskies, but the end result was surprisingly good. Unfortunately, the Octomore 6.3 did not make it to the show, but it should available very soon.

The Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1 and other products from the distillery

Unusual for Glenfarclas, there was a 31 YO Port Cask. The results was a surprisingly whisky with a combination of dry and sweet Port influence on a rather floral background. An unexpected combination from the distillery, but it worked rather well. The 1966 Glenfarclas Fino was already empty by the time I came, but some 1980 Family cask was still present.

The Glenfarclas 31 YO Port Cask

At Kilchoman, the Port Cask Matured was matured in a ruby red Port Cask for approximately 3 years. The whisky is very young, but the sweet influence of the Port succeeded in rounding the edges and delivering a rather pleasant product. The Original Cask Strength is a new product made with 5 YO Kilchoman. The product is still rather young, but more complex than the Port Cask, more intense, tarry and slightly smoother as well.

The new Kilchoman Cask Strength

With the time running, I went quickly through the new BenRiach, Glenglassaugh and GlenDronach product. They will be reviewed later on.

Tomatin had several new products. I started with the last drops of the Tomatin 1981 single cask, an excellent, rich, intense, sweet and fruity whisky, without off-note. A delicious treat. The 1988 is a Port Matured version, slightly dry, but fresh.  Tomatin presented also variation of sherry cask finish 12 YO single malts, the limited Cuatro edition. These are whiskies matured for 9 years in ex-bourbon casks with a final maturation of 3 years in Fino, Manzanilla, Olorosso or Pedro Ximenez casks. I am looking forward for the head-to-head comparison. Last year, the first version of the Cu Bocan was released and a sherry version is now available.

Plenty of new Tomatin products

At Isle of Jura, the Tastival is a 14 YO single malt matured in boubon cask, with a final maturation in a combination of 6 ex- French wine casks. The result is a round, sweet Isle of Jura, rather thick and well balanced whisky on grapes. The elixir is the new 12 YO of Jura that will hit the shelves in UK very soon. The core range of Isle of Jura will be now be available in bottles of 20, 35 and 70 cl.

Some of the Longrow

Finally, I stopped very quickly at Springbank for the new Kilkerran Work in Progress Bourbon and Sherry, as well as the Longrow Red and the forthcoming Springbank Society bottling, a 11 YO Hazelburn.

An impression of the Show

After 4.15 minutes spent at the Whisky Show, it was time to run for the train and to flight back home. The timing was tight and I wish to have more time to sample more whisky, but to have also more time to talk to the retailers and other whisky enthusiasts. The choice of new bottling at the Whisky Show is impressive and it is always well organized. I really enjoy attending this event, the highlight of the year for me, regarding the new products. Even though last year, I was present on Sunday and Monday, expending the opening hours by 1-2 hours in the morning might be beneficial for the attendees, or maybe, on the Monday, to have a 1-2h networking session between the Press and Trade for an open and two-way sharing experience. If you want to attend to a couple of Masterclasses, then you definitely to spend at least 2 days at the show.

Looking forward next year! And a special thanks to all the retailers and distributors for their kindness.

Patrick Brossard/www.whisky-news.com ©07 October 2013