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The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show London, 01-03 October 2016, London, UK

For the photo gallery, click here

Reminder: The impressions reported here were my notes taken during the event and most of the whiskies will be tasted again in the standard and controlled conditions.

The whisky show on Monday was on tight schedule, with 4 hours to go through the 600 whiskies mentioned on the dram list.


The venue enjoying a nice morning sun and cold breeze


As I arrived well 30 minutes before the door opening I was amongst the very first one to make my way to the show and rushed to the Diageo stand with the hope to try the new Brora 38 YO Special Release as well as some other listed Special Releases 2016 (Linkwood and Cambus). Unfortunately, all the bottles available for the Whisky Show were drunk during the weekend, as well as all the other special bottles (e.g., Lagavulin 25 YO).

Note: I am actively looking for samples for samples of the Diageo Special Releases 2016. Should you have some to give, swap or sell, please do not hesitate to contact me!

My first stop was at the stand of whisky.auction were I had the opportunity of tasting an old blend, the King George IV from the Distiller’s Agency Ltd (DCL), a name which can be familiar to the readers of my last book. It was rather musty, on humus, spicy, on an old type of mineral smoke and some old sherry influence. The next one was a rather fruity and floral Coleburn 1972 Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice, on yellow fruits, old wood, humus and a slight smokiness. The Avonside 100 proof from Jas Gordon was clean, very spicy, with a rather short finish and a slight smokiness.

Some of the whiskies tasted at whisky.auction

The next stand was Bruichladdich with a pretty impressive selection of new products. I started with the Bruichladdich 10 YO, a very round and well-balanced Bruichladdich, with some sea brine, dried fruits and a hint of smoke. Tasted well matured, with a heavier profile than the first 10 YO. The series PC has been now discontinued and replaced by  “Port Charlotte”, thus it could taste the first official bottling of “Port Charlotte”.  A very peaty, dry, tarry and slightly winey whisky, with some sweetness from the ex-wine cask. The new Octomore 10 YO was very peaty, dryer and more tarry than the Port Charlotte, with a stronger winey and maritime influence. If I recall correctly, it contained some whisky matured in ex-sweet wine, with the Port Charlotte was partially matured in ex-red wine casks (to be checked). The new Black Art is a 24 year old Bruichladdich, with an undisclosed content. The whisky was very smooth and mellow, slightly maritime and smoky, sweet, fruity and slightly winey, suggesting a fair proportion of sherry and some wine cask (or final maturation in wine casks). The quality of the Bruichladdich tasted was very good and it is nice to see new expressions from them.

The Bruichladdich stand with the new products in their "anonymous" packaging, as they are being bottled now

At Balblair, some old vintages (1983 and 1990) were available, but as they were bottled last year, I focus primarily on the two 1999 vintages. The Balblair 1999 46% was rather light in colour, very floral and with slightly sweet fruits on the finish, becoming much spicier on the palate, on dried fruits, orange, tangerine and some vanilla. This vintage is composed of ex-sherry casks, from which, a major part has been re-racked in bourbon casks (for 2 years?) and vatted together with the casks that were kept in the sherry casks, thus explaining the light and bright colour. The Balblair 1999 Single Cask sherry for The Whisky Exchange was a sherry monster, with strong notes of sherry, on coffee, cocoa, tangerine, and a thick chewy palate, with an initial slightly rubbery and bitter attack before it becomes softer, floral, with nice and intense fruity flavours of orange, some passion fruits, red berries, on cinnamon, vegetal condiment and some toffee. Heavier than the previous sherry cask for the Whisky Exchange (TWE).

The selection proposed by Balblair with the TWE exclusive on the left corner.

BenRiach presented their new BenRiach quarter cask peated, a spicy, oaky, tarry and peaty BenRiach. While the BenRiach quarter cask strength had a final maturation in ex-quarter casks, the peated one was fully matured in quarter casks. It is slightly rough, spicy and oaky, with a nice dry tarry ashy peat smoke, with some charcoal, in the same style as the old Curiositas. The new 12 YO BenRiach sherry matured (i.e., final sherry maturation) has not yet arrived and the 1975 did not survive the weekend either, nor the Glenglassaugh 1975.

Part of the selection ot Tomatin with its new packaging

There was a nice display of the empty Tomatin 1971 empty decanter on the next stand, but I was granted by a nice smile and a proposition that I could not refuse: Do you want to try this one? The Tomatin 36 years was very well received, with a sweet and sherry influence, grassy aromas, some honey and very pleasant tropical fruits. Reminds me strongly of the famous Tomatin from the mid 1970s that are highly appreciated by many whisky enthusiasts, me included.  Before continuing with the tasting of Tomatin, I tasted the Antiquary 21 YO, a blend that seemed to contain a high proportion of malt, on humus, wet tobacco leaves, some orange, tangerine, and various spices. A well-balanced blend, with a nice body. This was followed by his older brother, a heavier, spicier whisky, tasting very much like a malt whisky. Very good and surprisingly intense for such an old whisky, with a strong sherry influence.  I tried a few weeks ago the Cu Bochan 1988 in Bern and I was pleased to taste its younger brother, the 2005. A cask strength version of medium peated Tomatin, dry, smoky, with a rather gentle and slightly aromatic peat smoke. The Tomatin 1995 is a limited bottling of Tomatin with a final maturation in ex-oloroso cask. It has some oaky spiciness from the initial bourbon maturation and the sweet fruity from the final casks. Very good. I was very satisfied by the quality of these recent Tomatin. Since a couple of years, the products from that distillery are of very high quality, as displayed by the new bottles.

Some of the bottling from Compass Box, with nice colourful labels and original flavour profiles.

I could get the last drops of the 3 Years Old Deluxe from Compass Box which contains 0.4% of Clynelish, approximately 90% of 24 year old Clynelish and the last percentages completed by a 20 year old Talisker. The new Spice Tree Extravagarza is an older version of the Spice Tree with a higher proportion of sherry. The whisky is less spicy than the Spice Tree, but gained a lot in smoothness, with light sweet sherry notes. Very good.

From Glenfarclas, none of the old and limited editions whiskies were available. As special editions, the smooth, sweet, slightly spicy and fruity Glenfarclas £511.s19.0d family could be tasted. The sherry influence is light but juicy, making it an easy-drinking Glenfarclas. The Glenfarclas 2007 is a vatting of 2 sherry casks bottled for TWE as cask strength.

The stand of Kilchoman with Anthony Wills before his Q&A Master Class on the history of the Kilchoman distillery


Kilchoman had the new edition of the Kilchoman Cask Strength, a dry, intense, very peaty, maritime Kilchoman, on tar and old seaweeds. Very good and showing a good maturity. The Kilchoman Sauternes matured was fully matured in ex-Sauternes casks and gives a pleasant sweet-winey flavour profile. The production at Kilchoman is actually of 200,000 LPA, with a new malting floor under construction and plans for a big warehouse close to the distillery are in preparation.

The core Glengoyne range, with the new 25 year old on the left. Not to be missed.

It has been several years since I tasted the core range of Glengoyne and I seized the opportunity of a vertical tasting, starting with the sweet, smooth and fruity 10 YO, 100% sherry matured, which is to my opinion a good value malt. The 12 YO contains some bourbon and the oaky bite from the ex-bourbon is clearly noticeable, as well as the vanilla. The 15 YO was smoother than the 12 YO, with a more pronounced sherry influence than the 12 YO. The influence of dried fruits, leather, and some honey was even more intense in the 18 YO, with some exotic fruits. The 21 YO is a heavily sherried version, slightly bitter, on coffee, cocoa, with heavy tannins and leather. It is the most sherried and extreme version of Glengoyne. The 25 YO is the latest edition and a masterpiece. Although it is the older of the core range, it has been bottled at the highest strength, at 48%. The result is a mellow, intense, rich and complex Glengoyne, combining nice floral flavours, with mild spices, sweet fruits (orange, tangerine), tropical fruits, lots of sultanas, honey, cinnamon and high-grade leather. Excellent. The Cask Strength is the youngest of the range, with a strong sherry influence, on fudge and some rubber.

The Wm Grant & Sons Ancient reserve: Givran, Ailsa Bay and Ghosted Reserve

At Wm Grant & Sons Ancient Reserve, the Ghosted Reserve 26 YO was slightly disappointing, as the vatting of the Ladyburn and Inverleven whisky results in a very soft, floral and weak whisky. In the Ghosted Reserve 21 YO, grain whisky (Dumbarton) has been added to Ladyburn and Inverleven malt. The result is a much more pleasant and intense whisky, although the abv is only slightly higher (42.8% vs. 42%). A very good step forward. The Aisla Bay was a pleasant, malty, starchy and slightly peaty whisky from the newest distillery of Wm Grant and Sons.

The Redbreast familly with some Midleton

At Irish distillers, I could not resist tasting the 1999 Shery Single Cask of Redbreast for TWE, on rich, sweet, fruity sherry, with some leather and exotic fruits, with mild spices.  Very good.

Most of the bottles at Number One drinks

From Number one drinks, no Karuizawa was available, as all the stocks were sold to a Taiwanese entrepreneur. However, I could try their Ichiro Hanyu 15 Final Vintage, with was a smooth, complex, rich whisky, moderately spicy, slightly nutty and a nice sweetness. Very good and one the last bottling, as the amount of remaining cask is extremely low, much lower than the number of Karuizawa casks. The Ichiro’s Malt MWN Mizunara Wood Reserve was nutty, heavy, on humus, dried fruits and figs. I was struggling with the flavour balance in this vatted malt.

The new Elements of Islay, the Ar7 and the Lg6

The Ar6 from Elements of Islay was a very good and aged Ardbeg, with an initial maturation in ex-bourbon casks, before being re-racked in ex-Oloroso sherry casks for 6 years. The whisky was peaty, maritime and tarry, on sultanas, treacle, cocoa, orange and leather. Most pleasant. I wanted to try also the new LG6, but since I was not served after waiting a several minutes, I moved to the stand of Douglas Laing. Time was running tight...

The stand of Douglas Laing, with the single malts on the left and the blends on the right

The Old Particular Braeval 18 YO was particularly smooth and round, on fresh and light floral flavours, vanilla, some yellow fruits and pollen. The Aultmore XOP 25 YO was a heavily sherried Aultmore, smooth, very floral, complex, on treacle, cocoa, lots of soft spices, some red berries and nice rich fruity flavours.  Very good and more intense than the new official Aultmore 25 YO. I skipped the blended malts from Douglas Laing, as I tasted a few of them last week at the Whisky Live Paris.

The stand of Isle of Jura with the 30 YO and the Tastival.

At the Isle of Jura, I was pleased to discover their new Tastival 2016, bottled at 51%. Matured initially in ex-bourbon cask, it was then matured in 3 different types of sherry casks, giving a rich, sweet and juicy sherry influence on orange, dried fruits, tangerine and some leather. I enjoyed very much this sherry influence, as it was well balanced between the dry and sweet sherry influence. Sold for approximately £80, this is good value. The Isle of Jura 30 YO was more mellow, rounder, on dried fruits, treacle, cocoa, and dried fruits and orange.  Very good and heavy, but I liked the Tastival at least as much.

Some of the Glencadam presented during the show

Quite a few new products from Angus Dundee, starting with new Glencadam Origin 1825, the new non age statement (NAS) Glencadam, a light, fresh, slightly floral whisky, on pollen and orchard’s fruits. The Glencadam 25 was a more matured and complex whisky, on yellow fruits, some melon, and honey. Very good and rewarding. A new 17 YO triple cask Portwood finish was available and skipped this one to move towards the Tomintoul with their new Tlath, the counterpart of the Origin 1825 in the Tomintoul range. New as well is the Glencadam Decades bottled at 50%, which contains Tomintoul distilled in 1965, 75, 85, 95 and 2005. I will taste this one later.

The new Bowmore 9 YO Sherry matured for the UK and French market

Bowmore presented their new Bowmore 9 YO sherry matured, a limited release for France and UK, a slightly smoky, maritime and very round Bowmore, on red berries and soft spices. The selection of Glen Garioch was rather disappointing, with only the Founder’s Reserve and the 12 YO. The selection of Laphroaig was larger but consisted only of the core range (10 YO, quarter cask and triple wood).

The selection of Ledaig and Deanston

The new Ledaig 1996 sherry finish was available, as well as the second batch of the 18 YO. The 1996 is a pleasant, peaty, maritime and tarry Ledaig, rather mellow and oaky, with some vanilla and a light sherry influence.

An impressive display of Kavalan Taiwan single malts

The selection of Kavalan was very large and I was glad to taste the Fino: a round, well matured Kavalan, malty, with a rather sweet grapes influence. The fino is well present, without being to dry. I could not resist tasting again the Amontillado, which I found excellent. The Solist Manzanilla was slightly drier that the Amontillado, but remained, rich, fruity , well balanced and on dried fruits.

The Teeling range is composed of spirit, single malts, blends and single grains

Next stand was Teeling with the Revival 15 YO Single Malt Rum matured and the Revival N°2 Calvados. The Calvados Revival volume II will be reviewed later, while the Rum matured was very smooth, with light sweet sugary (cane sugar) flavours, without dominating too much the whisky. The Rum seems to work very well with Irish single malts. Some new Teeling whiskies will be released shortly, including a 21 YO and another one over 30 years old. The stocks are decreasing but large enough until the produce of the new Teeling distillery will be available.

A range of Old Malt Cask, First Editions and a Sovereign at Hunter Laing

At Hunter Laing, I could not resist tasting their new 1991 25 YO Glen Garioch Old Malt Cask, a mellow, waxy, slightly spicy and aromatic version. The Breaval  1997 The First Edition was floral, intense, well balanced and rather complex, with some toffee and fudge. The Laphroaig 2001 The First Edition was one of the best Laphroaig I recently tasted. It was very peaty and intense, rather complex and maritime.  Excellent.

Billy and the Whisky Show Exclusive at the end of the Whisky Show

One of my final stop was at the Whisky Show Exclusive/The Whisky Exchange stand, where I was kindly served a Tamnavulin Director’s Special, an excellent floral, mellow and very fruity Tamnavulin, with strong aromas of banana.  With Angus (one of the organiser of the Whisky Show Old & Rare Glasgow), we compared the flavour profile of this whisky in the “Whisky Show” Copita glass vs the 1920s glass that he designed. This new glass, in the shape of an old oil lamp, allowed a better separation of the flavours, with cleaner and sharper aromas. This glass is hand-blown by Glencairn.  The North of Scotland 50 YO grain whisky is an exclusive bottling from the Whisky Exchange, which has recently acquired the brand as well. This grain whisky was very mellow, rich, complex and intense, with almost no woody flavours.  Well done!  The Springbank 21 YO The Whisky Show was a rather spicy, maritime, salty Springbank, with some toffee and a light sherry influence.

A very large selection of Signatory, from the Cask Strength and Unchillfiltered range

Finally, I made a very short stop at Signatory vintage, from which the Clynelish 1995 20 YO and the Caol Ila 1983 32 YO will be reviewed at a later stage.
On my way to the exit, I could not resist an even shorter stop at Gordon & MacPhail, where I could a wee taste to the Glenburgie 1995 Cask Strength and a 50 YO Glen Grant 49.4%. Both of them will be reviewed at a later date as well.

My final (too brief) stop at Gordon & MacPhail

This whisky show was very organised, as for the previous editions, with plenty of spittoons and a very large selection of whiskies. A great event, with a lot of good whiskies. However, especially for the trade and press day, the opening time is rather tight and many (most?) of the Dream Dram were not available.  Discussing with the exhibitors, all the Dream Drams, especially the ones at 1-2 token disappeared very quickly, within a couple of hours during the week-end. As the visitors have to pay extra for tasting these whiskies, they should consider having more than just 1 bottle per day (or in some cases for the whole show) to remove some frustrations.  I wish to thank also all the exhibitors that I have met during this Whisky Show, as most of them were very friendly, willing to answer my questions and pouring a proper amount of whiskies (mostly around 0.5 to 1 cl).

The theme of this year was masterpieces and I missed quite a few "masterpieces" whiskies, and did not attend the various master classes. As my main objective is to taste as many new whiskies as possible, it is unfortunately not possible to taste many whiskes and to gain additional education by attending the master classes. Ideally, it would be nice to taste your "most wanted" whiskies in the morning, with a fresh palate, and then to join a few master classes over the full week end.

There was more limited releasea during the Whisky Live Paris, however the amount poured at the VIP section or in some stands, were in the range of 0.2 to 0.3 cl, volumes, barely large enough to taste the whisky (just to wet your lips). Surprisingly, several new releases present at Paris were not available at the Whisky Show (e.g., Laphroaig Lore, BenRiach Quarter cask (unpeated) or Redbreast Lustau sherry finish), or the reverse (e.g, BenRiach Peated Quarter Cask, Jura Tastival), thus both whisky shows as complementary.

In conclusion, a very good and well organised TWE Whisky Show, but it would be appricated if the opening time was longer of 1 hour (e.g., starting at 10.00 instead of 11.00 on the Monday), this would be much appreciated.

See you next year!


Patrick Brossard, 08 October 2016. Last edit: 16 October 2016