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Monday, 5 September 2011

Whisky & Music...The Best of Bedfellows

Last weekend Caskstrength were in Scotland for a double-header of music fun and whisky frolics. Firstly, we teamed up again with Canadian legends Arcade Fire for a whisky tasting at their triumphant Edinburgh Castle show, enjoying a some spectacular vintage drams and a rather tasty whisky punch to boot.

A clear night for a spectacular gig.

From there to Glasgow and this year's Whisky Live event, held at the Thistle hotel in the city centre. Despite clashing with the important matter of Scotland vs Czech Republic, the turn out was very impressive indeed and Caskstrength had the honour of manning the World Whisky Awards stand, with samples from this year's winning drams including Glenmorangie Signet, Berry Bros & Rudd's Blue Hanger vatted malt and Bowmore's wonderful Tempest.

One of the drams on offer was the World Whisky Award's winner, for Best Campbeltown Single Malt, was the following:

Springbank - 12 Year Old - Cask Strength - 58.5% vol

Nose: there is ever such a small hint of coal dust on the nose, backed with strong, fresh coffee, some notes of fresh forest after a long summer and some meaty tones. Strong and robust, this is an aroma that takes no prisoners.

Palate: A massive whisky on the palate, this gives huge coco and treacle toffee notes with a hint of bonfire and twigs. Candied orange dipped in dark chocolate comes out as well as bbq pork. Yummy! With water, the whole thing rounds down to a more manageable but less attractive palate with the dark chocco becoming more milky.

Finish: The candied orange and dark chocolate notes carry through in to a sturdy finish which gives off more crème caramel and a delicate wisp of smoke.

Overall: A real corker of a dram from the chaps at Springbank. The tasting note "treacle" was invented for this whisky. Well worth seeking out and, at around £40 for a cask strength whisky, seems pretty good value to me.

All this travelling got us thinking, now that the music festival season is over, there seems to be a number of especially interesting whisky festivals on the horizon to enjoy, now the summer appears to be drawing to a close.

This coming weekend (9th-11th September) for the 3rd year running, the annual whisky circus that is Maltstock rolls into the wonderful countryside surroundings of Weezenhof in the Netherlands. What better way to enjoy a dram than in front of a roaring campfire in the woods! Caskstrength will be in attendence, helping out our friends Master Of Malt present a number of cracking closed distillery bottlings in one of the masterclasses. The Balvenie's irrepressible Sam Simmons will also be in attendance presenting some of the distillery's newest releases, as well as the mighty Billy 'Booze Blog' Abbott with Speciality Drinks' Elements Of Islay range.

There'll be a full report next week, but this is certainly going to be one of the highlights in the whisky festival calendar.

Hot on Maltstock's heels is the Islay Jazz Festival, (16th-18th September) this year hosting some of the world's most engaging contemporary Jazz & blues performers, including the extraordinary voice of Viktoria Tolstoy and blues guitar maestro Otis Grand. The Jazz festival is supported by Lagavulin and for the first time, attendees of the event have an opportunity to grab an exclusive festival bottling.

From the smoky to the smoke and whisky group Connosr are holding a 2-day event called Pure at the Relentless Garage in Highbury, on 24th -25th September, featuring performances from a number of up-and-coming indie acts as well as whisky from Ardbeg, Whyte & Mackay and Talisker.

If you're feeling tired of whisky (then surely you must be tired of life itself?...) London Cocktail Week arrives in the nick of time, from the 7th - 16th October with some of London's greatest and most progressive bars whipping up a storm for eager palates in search of the next level of flavour. Bars such as Purl, The Whistling Shop, Callooh Callay and 69 Colebrooke Row will all be offering liquid gems of Bacchanalian proportions and the festival of mixology promises once again to raise the bar in cocktail prowess.

Finally, the daddy of the premium whisky show is back- and it's looking better than ever. The Whisky Exchange Show is appearing for the 3rd time, this year held at Vinopolis on the South Bank of the Thames on the 7th & 8th October. As well as offering a number of 'dream drams' (which in the past have included the likes of ancient Highland Park vintages, a 68 year old Macallan and numerous other treats ) the master classes look incredible - A chance to taste the full range of Highland Park Orcadian vintages, an incredible line up of original Manager's Dram bottlings, presented by Colin Dunn and some exotic fruity treats from Mr Dave Broom esq.

Hope to see you soon!