Whisky Live Paris, 21-23 Oct 2023
Since I was rather busy professionally and received my accreditation for the event 30 days before the event, I did not pay attention that no ticket was provided for the Monday.
So I boarded my first train at 6.21 and arrived in Paris almost on time, shortly before 10.00.
I took the metro and walked to the Grand Halle de la Villette where the event was located.
Arriving at the gate for the Press with my tickets for Saturday and Sunday, I was told at the gate by the security, that I could not attend to the event. I then asked if I could talk to the person in charge of the accreditation, that indeed starting this year, the process was changed and I needed to ask specifically for the Monday entrance. She was kind enough to let me in!
After this adrenaline rush, I moved directly to the VIP area and my first stop was with Jean-Marc B. from La Maison du Whisky (LMDW). So I started with the tasting of the complete Artist range from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, with a round and slightly sweet 10 YO Dalmore matured in ex-sweet Iberic wine, slightly grassy and creamy, with a rich body, followed by a rather spicy and oaky Glen Grant 15 YO, a nice elegant, slightly smoky and aromatic Ardmore 25 YO, and completed by a complex, balanced and very enjoyable medium peated Caol Ila 30, matured, slightly salty and rather smoky. Of note, the new 2024 collection from LMDW is called new vibrations.
Moving to another stand, I tasted a good Ledaig 1999 from Gordon & MacPhail, citric, smoky, rather clean and oaky. The Arran 27 YO Single Cask for LMDW was a very mellow, round, rathe creamy and fruity single malt of that distillery while the GlenDronach 28 YO cask 474 was an excellent sherry cask, on berries, cocoa, dried fruits, some treacle and a light spiciness. Well balanced and rather complex. From Kilchoman, I tasted an unusual 12 YO made with unpeated malt. Based on the information I received, it was a combination of whisky made with unpeated malt mixed with the heads and tails of the previous run. The results was a nice bold, rich, rather heavy and dry peated whisky. The peaty flavours were rather dry and intense for being an unpeated malt. I tasted then two Benromach, a 2002 First Fill bourbon and a 2001 organic virgin oak, with the oak giving some more punch compared to the 2002. The Benriach 1994 Virgin oak was a nice and spicy, with a mild smokiness but very little smoke, less than the Benromach.
The Redbreast 22 YO Cask Strength Single Cask for LMDW was thick, chewy, syrupy, on sultanas and sticky toffee. For the ones who likes them heavily sherried. LMDW is now importing the US whiskey “Wilett”, with a nice rich 6 YO Bourbon single cask, with some apricots, cinnamon and cashew nuts. The 6 YO Rye whiskey was drier, more spicy and intense.
Douglas Laing had a fine selection of premium and super premium whiskies, including an excellent waxy, rich, fruity and complex Clynelish 1997, which had a final maturation for 2 years in an ex-sherry cask. I enjoyed it very much. The Port Dundas 45 YO was very round and fruity expression of a single grain whisky, mellow and slightly grainy. The Speyside Finest 55 YO was a rich, complex, intense, slightly smoky and spicy expression of whisky distilled at Glenfarclas, lightly aromatic, on dried fruits, cocoa, leather and cinnamon. Very good and without any unpleasant woody flavours.
At Decadent Drinks, I started with the rich, rather spicy and floral expression of Glen Garioch in their Equinox collection, followed a rich, complex, maritime, smoky and intense Bowmore 18 YO with lovely ripe and sweet flavors. Very good. The last one there was a 15 YO Balblair, juicy, with some heather and light spicy flavours.
The Ledaig of the Sprit Shop collection was very peaty, intense, maritime, rather clean and tarry. Very good.
I walked then through the different stands, with only the core range available at Ardbeg or Laphroaig, Bruichladdich was always busy, so I gave up on that one. Elixir distillers, The Elements of Islay were also very popular. Balblair and Old Pulteney had the core range, Dalmore very busy, Macallan had a very weird stand, all closed with no apparent doors, a waiting queue was in front of the House of Suntory,
Glenmorangie had a new special release called “A tale from Tokyo”, a fresh, young and juicy expression of that distillery, with some spicy and aromatic flavours coming from some mizunara wood maturation.
At Glenglassaugh I met Stuart Buchanan, their brand ambassador, who introduced me to their new range, starting with the Sanded, a nice light, fresh, slightly salty Glenglassaugh, with some coconuts, before moving a rich, complex, bold Glenglassaugh 12 YO, which tasted older than the age on the label, probably due to a fair amount of different sherry casks in the mix and a some tangy spices from ex-red wine casks. Very good. The Portsoy was also rather rich, spicy, and moderately peaty.
Glenfiddich has released a new Experimental product, the Experiment 5, which was matured in casks who previously held orchards spirits, with rather strong green and fresh apples on the nose, and more on pears on the palate. Refreshing and very fairly priced. The Grand Cru had a final maturation in ex-Champagne casks, giving a slightly dry, but refreshing and slightly lighter mouthfeel. Finally, the Grand Couronne was the heaviest of the one, rather sweet, on sweet grapes and ripe orchards fruits. The Grande Couronne had a final maturation of 2 years in ex-Cognac casks.
At Thorabhaig, I tasted their Special Release, a small batch bottled at Cask strength, from ex-bourbon, PX and virgin oak. The whisky was maritime, salty and very smoky. I also learnt during a discussion with one employee from the distillery that they are also using different cuts, in order to achieve different ratios of guaiacol, creosotes and phenols, thus giving a different “peaty” flavour profile. The current phenolic ppm of their malt is an impressive 78 ppm.
The Highland Park 11 YO Edition France was very intense, smoky, on beacon, with some toffee and light chocolate flavours. Very punchy and so good.
The company Ecospirit was proposing an innovative approach to deliver various spirits en vrac.
The 10 YO Yoichi is back, as a rather crisp, matured and moderately peaty whisky. It is nice to see Nikka bringing this classic with an age statement.
Bushmills is increasing their range in the premium end, with a delicious 25 YO Port Pipes, with nice grassy and malty flavours, lots of sweet and juicy fruity flavours, in particular orchards fruits and rather sweet Port flavours. Very good. The 30 YO was matured for almost half of its time in either ex-sherry or ex-bourbon casks before being matured for an extra 16 years in sherry casks. It showed a very nice complexity and depth, lots of dried fruits, including tropical flavours and sultanas, with a hint of smoke. Really good.
The Welsh of Penderyn had a small batch for France Autumn 2022, rather juicy, fresh, light and malty, with some winey flavours.
McConnells is one of the oldest brand of Irish whiskey and was purchased back a few years by a private company, together with 10000 casks from an Irish distillery. They have now launched a fresh 5 YO blended whiskey, with a high malt content (40’%), wich was refreshing, rather light, fruity and on orchards fruits. The sherry cask finish was less to my liking, due to borderline light rubbery flavours. McConnells have built a new distillery that should start production before the end of the year.
Bimber had a special edition for LMDW, but no so much to me liking due to the type of cask used for their maturation (too winey).
At Rozelieures, I tasted a peated version matured in ex-Jurançon casks, with the wines giving a nice roundness to the rather smoky distillate.
Eden Mills is going to release soon their core expression, an ex-bourbon and a sherry version, in addition to their limited editions. The ex-bourbon was a remarkably matured spirit, with rather strong juniper flavours. The Sherry was rounder, sweeter and more fruity, with slightly milder juniper flavours. The 2022 Limited release was matured in different types of sherry casks, and it was heavier than the sherry matured. Eden Mills has limited stock from their old distillery (circa 400 casks) as they are now building a new one in place of the old one. In a blind tasting, it should be rather easy to identify it.
Moving back to the VIP area, I arrived just on time to taste the Karuizawa 1999, bottled in 2018. It is part of the new Artist 13 collection and this Karuizawa has been rebottled from the stock they bought back from the spirits shop. The Karuizawa was very intense, complex, spicy, on dried fruits, treacle, dates, sultanas, leather, and orange. Delicious. The Ardbeg 30 YO was very complex, elegant, smoky, peaty, and slightly medicinal. Very good. The Littlemill 30 YO was a mellow, grassy, slightly smoky and vegetal expression of that old distillery, with some melon, while the Glen Garioch 1992 was mellow, complex, bold, with some ginger and nice round and complex aromatic flavours.
From Chichibu, I started with the Paris Edition, a nice, clean and moderately peated version of the distillery, on vanilla and maybe a touch of coconuts. The cask 6959 was also moderately peated, with nice light fruity flavours, and a touch of toffee. The heavily peated cask was indeed heavily peated, tarry, smoky, on vanilla and medicinal flavours.
At Berry Bros & Rudd, I tasted some of their pioneers expression. The Pionneers is a collection of 10 expressions from new distilleries. The Ardnamuchan was a rich and peated expression of the distillery, rather thick and chewy, on berries, sultanas and leather. The Caol Ila 2010 was a nice peated and rather sweet sherry expression of this Islay malt, with moderate maritime flavours. The Agitator was an intense round expression from this distillery in the heart of Stockholm. It was rather smoky, with burnt juniper-like flavours.
Finally, I stopped at le Domain des Hautes Glaces, tasting their origin, a nice clean and smooth single malt, with crisp malty flavours. Then I tasted two different rye expressions from the same year but different parcels, the R18P23 Circle and R18P23 square. Both of these expression are very clean, with little wood influence on the crisp rye flavours, but they were also rather different, with the later one being markedly drier.
With that, it was time to take the train back home.
The number of new expressions was very high and managed maybe only to visit 50% of the stands, during the trade day, which is typically less busy than the public days. So, If you want to make the best of the show, best to take a ticket for 2 days.
That was a very enjoyable day and I am looking forward to return next year. Also, it is remarkable to see an event where producers or distributors still open some very expensive expressions.
Patrick, 23 Oct 2023