Over the 2 days, 1,200 avid whisky nuts crammed in to the grand hall, eager to try some classic drams from distilleries all over the world, as well as some brand new and sneak previews of whiskies to be released later this year.
As with last year, we were there, pens at the ready to bring you all the gossip and tasting notes!
First up- a real coup.
A few months ago, we got to try Highland Park's excellent Earl Magnus 15 yo bottling, which flew out the door quicker than free tickets to Glastonbury Festival. Yesterday, the irrepressible Mr Gerry Tosh (Brand Ambassador Of The Year at this year's WWA's!) was on hand to allow us a sample of the second release in the saga - Saint Magnus. This bottling follows on from where Earl left off (the story goes that Earl Magnus was killed by his evil and blood thirsty cousin, Haakon over a power struggle to control the Orkney Isles)
Saint Magnus will be a younger bottling (12 years old) at 52.6%, containing a high proportion of whisky matured in sherry wood and is due to hit the shops later this summer, with a slightly bigger outturn than the Earl Magnus bottling. Apparently pre-orders are shaping up extremely well already, so expect this one to repeat the success of the first release.
here's our tasting notes:
Nose: Really big sherry wood notes on the first nosing, with classic HP dried fruits and a wonderfully spicy hit. This is drier than Earl Magnus and further sniffs reveal a delicate aromatic peat note, which balances the sherry influence nicely.
Palate: Mouth coating from the first sip. That sherry encountered on the nose, swirls around the palate with real authority. Burnt orange notes, pepper, leading into a licorice sweetness all jostle for authority. A big hitting and direct dram.
Finish: The dryer notes from the sherry, give this a very lengthy and oaky finish, with more of that smoke on the death.
Overall: Another cracker. The Earl Magnus is a very differently styled dram to this, but Highland Park fans will be delighted with the way the saga is playing out.
We got to try the very first draft of Haakon as well. Still in the planning stage, this whisky will be an 18 yo, bottled around caskstrength like the previous 2. The release date has yet to be finalised, but expect to see it emerge in around 16- 18 months.
The first draft was around 46% and again had a high proportion of sherry wood, which Gerry mentioned will be supplemented with some American oak (filled with sherry, not bourbon) in later drafts. Here's our impression of this work-in-progress giant:
Palate: Tropical fruit and coconut notes. The sherry isn't as prominent as Saint Magnus, but is certainly there, brooding away in the shadows, rather like Haakon!!
Finish: The sweet honeyed notes give way into a dryer spice. Lingering but lacking the directness of its caskstrength cousins.
Overall: Oh so drinkable now- it has all the hallmarks of the wonderful 18 yo bottling, but needs to be more 'beastly' in strength!! There is no doubt that this promises to be an EPIC whisky. And one that we can't wait to see the outcome of.
Wow! what a line up so far.. but that's just the start of it!!
In addition to the Highland park exclusives, Suntory were also proud to bring 2 very new bottling's to the table as well, both to be released later this summer. As always- we were there to dive in with the first samples....
Nose: Red berries/ milk chocolate, slight spice (nutmeg) and strawberry sherbet. Becomes more perfumed over time. Wonderful, understated but very expressive.
Palate: So delicate on the palate- has the hallmarks of what you would expect from Yamazaki, but has superb sweet cereal, more red berries and a lovely creamy after note. Hubba Bubba chewing gum fruitiness too!
Finish: Very creamy as the palate dries, but an eloquent and enjoyable dram.
Overall: Another excellent bottling from this continuously innovating distillery. Snap this up in July, before it all goes.
Next up - something heavily peated from Hakushu. Due for a similar summer release date, this Hakushu will continue in the line of peated expressions, but will be a limited European outturn of 2-3000 bottles.
Hakushu - Heavily Peated - Ltd summer release
Nose: Deft and heady- carbolic soap, lemony washing up suds and a lot of fruit!! Toffee apple and sweet candy floss. A real bag of aroma.
Palate: A slightly salty intro, into Parma Violets with a wash of delicate peat at first, but then comes the main course of aromatic wood smoke. It's so different to Islay peat, a wall of floral flavours. Excellent
Finish: Lingering smoky notes, but still delicate and sweet on the death.
Overall: For Hakushu fans, this will absolutely delight. For peated whisky freaks, you simply must grab a bottle when the summer comes.
Glenfiddich Rich Oak - 14 Years Old – 40% Vol – 70cl
Nose: white PVA glue, orange and a hint of mint. There are some apricots and other fruits in there, but I can’t get beyond that whiff of PVA glue.
Palate: I found this a little too weak. The flavours that are there, lime juice and cinnamon notes, don’t have a lot of energy, but the balance is good.
Finish: There is a warming bitterness on the finish and considering the use of “untouched” oak, they have managed to avoid too much dryness.
Overall: I found this dram to be a little lacklustre on the palate, but well balanced in the finish. The PVA nose still haunts me, however... RRP £30.99