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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

DISTIL Diary - Day one

Before we get calls from C&E - no, we haven't started an illicit pot still in the shed at the bottom of Caskstength towers (although it was considered...!) The next couple of day posts concern the DISTIL conference over at the ExCeL Centre in the London Docklands. Caskstrengh were invited down to sample a few wares and put a few faces to names of the many jolly and hard working folk in the drinks trade.

The event, isn't centered on any particular spirit- and on arriving at the vast conference halls, you'd have to look twice to notice the whisky exhibitors among the more noticeable brands were Welsh marvels Penderyn who had a small stand, as did the new owners of Glen Moray - La Martiniquaise and independent blenders and bottlers, Angus Dundee Distillers (who make the fine Mackillop's Choice bottlings)

First presentation of the day was with the totally unstoppable freight-train-of-whisky knowledge that is Mr Richard Paterson. If you have seen Richard in action before, you'll know that there should be a health warning attached to his presentation. As well as the ludicrous amount of knowledge he throws out to his audience, handfuls of barley, jugs of water, ice buckets and confetti all feature in Richard's arsenal- and by the end of his mesmerising blending class not one person left questioning his passion for the spirit.

Caskstrength were lucky enough to try one of Richard's landmark blending achievements- the Whyte & Mackay 40 year old- which did not disappoint:

Whyte & Mackay - 40 year old blend - 45% vol - 70cl

Nose: Really intense orange zest, dark chocolate and bonfire toffee, followed by lots of spicy cedar cigar box woodiness. Make no mistake, this is serious stuff.

Palate: More oranges (of the blood variety) tobacco notes, black java coffee, and a mouthful of very oaky sherry lambaste your senses, but quickly reassure you that you're in safe hands- and in for a very long and enjoyable ride.

Finish: I timed my journey around the arena after finishing this dram- 18 minutes and 33 seconds - and I was still tasting a wonderfully tangy, oaky finish, laced with licorice for minutes after that. Sensational.

Overall: Not a lot more can be said about this dram, other than that it defies the ageing process and is as effusive and vibrant as Mr Paterson's presentation!!

Next up, and a more botanical theme in the shape of a gin nosing masterclass led by Beefeater's Master distiller- Desmond Payne. Although this blog predominantly features fine whisky (and the occasional ale, when we feel like it) be sure to look out for our first forays into light spirits with a special 'gin week' coming soon!

Onto the flavour of the Caribbean- and the Demerara rums of El Dorado. Highlights included the 15 year old and the wonderfully rich and reduced 21 year old, which had all the woody, spicy elements of a wonderfully aged single malt.

El Dorado rum -21 year old - 40 % vol - 70cl

Nose: Rich, silky and unctuous – with big mahogany aromas, wax and dried vine fruits. Almost hints of Cognac. This is undoubtedly one of the highlights that highly aged rum brings to the senses.

Palate: An immediate sweetness hits the palate with a definitive ‘liqueur’ like mouth feel. Gentle flavours of marzipan and golden toffee give way to an unexpected freshness. This has all the hallmarks of a well-reduced sauce.

Finish: More lingering sweetness, leading into drier, oaky notes.

Overall: A tremendously luxurious sipping rum, for those warm, summer evenings spent in the company of a fine Macanudo, or Hoyo De Monterray cigar, whilst the sun gently sets.

Soon enough, it was 4pm and time for a refreshing pink gin, in the company of the lovely folks from The Spirits Business magazine, Patience & Daisy.

More to follow tomorrow...!