There are few occasions when I can leave my house and end up in whisky heaven within 15 mins. I’m lucky enough (although I’m sure my bank manager would disagree) to live within walking distance of the Whisky Exchange shop at Vinopolis, with Milroys Of Soho and Vintage House on Old Compton Street a mere stone’s throw away too.
But today I get to visit somewhere new. An adventure which starts with a short walk to the bus stop and 15 mins on the number 133 bus. Trundling past Elephant and Castle, over London Bridge and into The City, my destination is The Whisky Show which this year is being held at The Brewery near The Barbican.
An ominously early start of midday, especially after the exploits of last night (Diageo Special Releases followed by far too long at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society) which concluded with a late, late blog writing mission... but seven hours kip later, I was up and ready to tackle the marathon that is The Whisky Show.
Arriving for the Press and Trade period, it was a welcome sight to see litre bottles of still water being handed out before a dram had even been poured. This was clearly an event run by people with experience. And an understatement that indeed is, for the Master behind the scenes is Whisky Exchange owner Sukhinder Singh.
Karuizawa – 1981 / 2010 – The Whisky Show 2010 bottling – 60.5%
Nose: Apricots, Bovril, old books, polished wood and leather shoes. Everything you would expect from a well sherried medium-old Karuizawa. The quality of wood that this closed distillery must have been using seems phenomenal and it gives so much colour and character to the whisky.
Palate: The deep and rich dark chocolate notes fight for space on the tongue from sherry, spice and drying oak. Old cigar notes up the ante and this feels like a very old whisky, despite being only a 1981.
Finish: The apricots re-appear along with heavy cigar notes and some vanilla.
Overall: A great example of a karuizawa and a cracking way to start the show.
Now set up and ready to explore, a short wander through the stalls revealed some gems. But we’ve got two days here and I want to ease myself in. Finishing a my fact finding mission, I settle for a chat with Doctor Andrew Forrester of The Balvenie. After a short discussion a bottle caught my eye. A bottle that I’ve heard a lot about: Tun 1401.
A marriage of 4 Bourbon casks and 2 Sherry butts and containing whisky from the 1960’s, this bottle is limited to 336 and is only available to visitors on the distillery tour at Balvenie.
Nose: rich coffee, fruit cake, plums, a hint of mint and loads of strawberry jam.
Palate: Very light, with oak, vanillas and a touch of rounded, spicy sherry.
Finish: Sweet tea, digestive biscuits, smooth and long.
Overall: An absolute cracker of a whisky. Not too bad at £150, but you have to be in Dufftown and you have to take the tour to qualify. That, or buy a bottle for silly money from eBay...
Don’t take my word for it, hear it from the horses mouth.
Onward we roam, conscience of the time restrains. Conversations are cruelly cut short as valuable drinking time was being eaten away catching up with friends and gather and sharing tips on the bottles in the room.
After much cogitation, I took a visit to Adelphi, an independent bottler who I’ve heard a lot about but never really tasted. And my! What a discovery I made! Along with a host of bottles, one shone out: Bunnahabhain 41 Year Old. A mix of two sherry butts coming in at 41.2% ABV and, for today at least, has been counted as my “Whisky of the Show 2010”.
Finally, it was time to try two last drams before heading home for the day (to do some real work!) and what better way to end the session that with two independent bottles of Port Ellen.
Nose: Smoke hits you with a big engine of toffee and raisins. Some salt carries the fruity elements of this single cask right to the back of the nose.
Palate: Very, very rich with dried fruit, jams and chutney. Spices from the wood give extra body to this tasty palate.
Finish: Warm and spicey with cardamom and cinnamon.
Overall: Better than the 31 YO official bottling from yesterday, this is really, really tasty!
Nose: Wow, a totally different whisky to the PE above. Very little smoke, lemon sherbet and green grass.
Palate: Light vanilla spices with some oak dryness and a hint of green apple.
Finish: Clean and fresh, this doesn’t coat your mouth with earthy notes, in the way other Port Ellens do.
Overall: Okay, but not as good as the show bottling, nor the Diageo Special Release 31 Year Old. And it’s only a 50cl bottle too.
Day Two of the Great London Whisky Weekend is over, but rest assured! We shall be back tomorrow with more notes from Whisky Heaven 2010.
*wide screen monitor advised