Queen’s Park FC aren’t the force they used to be (the only Scottish club to reach the English FA Cup Final, they dominated the early years of Scottish football and Hampden Park was built in 1903 because their previous home could only hold 50,000 – it was the biggest stadium in the world until 1950). Now they are propping up League One – and attracted an attendance of 764, as they lost to Arbroath. To be fair to them it was the biggest League One gate of the day.
Glasgow’s Whisky Festival, on the other hand, has grown so successful, that two sessions were held this year at the stadium that now only comes into its own for International matches and cup finals. The stadium once had 150,000 in attendance for a Scotland – England game in 1937, though now rebuilt as an all seater stadium with a capacity a little over 50,000, there’s plenty of room to host a whisky festival and a League One football match at the same time.
Some excellent whiskies on show, but too many to get through in just 4 hours - so I concentrated mainly on the independent bottlers and the new distilleries.
The SMWS had its usual array of awesome whiskies, the pick for me being 10.127 a peated Bunnahabhain, marked Exclusive to Sweden – presumably Hampden Park was classified as Swedish territory for the day.
I was aware that Morrison & Mackay were planning a distillery, but somehow they weren’t on my list – they have now been added – at the top of the list as the distillery is called Aberargie (that’s a hard g). The distillery is built, and has a Facebook page (with a picture of the still room), but no website as yet. They have started initial distillation
Aberargie is a small village about 5 miles south of Perth – east of the M90 and south of the River Earn, so a Lowland Distillery. They are also about 5 miles from the newly in production Lindores Abbey. (With Strathearn only about 5 miles to its west, Perth is becoming a busy area for new distilleries).
The Glasgow Distillery, which has been making a name for itself with Makar gin, had a sample of 16 month old malt spirit, which I would have thought considerably older had I not been told its age.
Of the other new distilleries – Kingsbarns were not exhibiting any spirit ahead of their 3 years at the beginning of 2018 – initial releases will be for Founder Members, but they expect to have whisky at the next Glasgow show. Rasaay have now commenced distilling; Adelphi just had their independent bottlings, no Ardnamurchan yet, though they are 3 years old now. Douglas Laing recently announced they were planning a distillery in Glasgow, but are not expecting to make a start until next year.
I also spoke to Darren, formerly of Annandale, who is now working for Lochlea Distillery in Ayrshire, which is still in its early days.
Click for a full round up of new Distilleries and Projects.
As for other tastings - I seem to have tasted a lot of Grain whisky - the 21yo North British and 11yo Strathclyde from Douglas Laing are worth mentioning first. The latter is finished in Sherry and follows on from other young Strathclyde's that they have bottled over the last few years, Fred felt they'd got it right this time, balancing the sherry finish with the vanilla notes from the original bourbon cask - previous bottles having been left in sherry too long. I can see his point, though I still have a couple of bottles of the 8yo from a couple of years ago, which is a great whisky, though not immediately recognisable as Grain. This year's 11yo certainly set the Graindar off. The 21yo was an even more obvious grain, but a good one.
My visit to the Creative Whisky Company stall started with a 25yo Cambus - a classic grain bottling, though better was to follow. Before the ultimate grain if the day however, there was a detour to Speyside for a Secret 14yo Speyside - a whisky that dare not speak its name - they'll kill me if I tell you (well they might not pour me any whisky next week, which would be about as bad), suffice to say, if you see it buy it. The next dram was also anonymous - an Exclusive Speyside 8yo, but this had a distillery code "GA" on it - could only really be Glenallachie. Finally, the dram of the day - 43yo Invergordon. Bottles from 1974 aren't around that often these days, and this was just supreme, even though the cask's strength had dropped to 42.7%.Not released yet, so not available at the show, and no price for it yet - look out for it.
Adelphi had a very strange 17yo Laphroaig - I only got the last dregs of the bottle, but enough to detect no TCP and a much more sweet and oily dram than you'd normally get from Laphroaig.
That Boutique-y Whisky had a 25yo Port Dundas followed by a mystery 13yo Irish Single Malt, which Dave Worthington thought was probably from Bushmills.
Murray McDavid's grain was the 19yo Loch Lomond - they've previously had an 18yo, but this had a different twist - finished in a red wine cask - and it it has certainly worked.
North Star had a 24yo Cambus, though it was late on by the time I got there, so I don't remember much.
Morrison & Mackay had no grain, but the 5yo Glenburgie was a great dram that seemed much older.
Finally some malts that derve a mention - two Birthday bottlings from The Pot Still
Glen Moray brought along their latest bottle your own from the Distillery Visitor Centre - a Marsala finish this time - as ever a superb selection, I shall have to plan a trip to Elgin...
The Pot Still was celebrating being named Scottish Whisky Bar of the Year, and had two sherry monsters - an 11yo Glenrothes and a 22yo from Speyside Distillery, which will shortly be available form their website.
All in all another great show and they've promised bigger and better for 2018!
And I have a winter hat courtesy of Glenfarclas.
The Festival also worked with Drumchapel Foodbank to encourage donations in return for a raffle ticket for tickets to the 2018 show.
A word on accessibility - I have currently some problems with getting down stairs, there are lifts at the venue, but they are not well signposted.
My pictures from the show are available on Flickr and Facebook.
Bizarre goings on in London and Islay to celebrate Ardbog Day (Ardbeg Day at Fèis Ìle renamed in honour of their Fèis Ìle release), but I'm in Leeds, so a Whisky Lounge event is the order of the day - I guess there'll be some Ardbeg, maybe Ardbog there (as Eddie's been in Islay this week), though probably less flying sheep than in London!
While I'm getting ready, I've discovered that a new Whisky Fellowship has set up in nearby Garforth, and is following me on twitter - sounds like something to check out, so I've signed up for their first meeting on Monday. Another follower of theirs is Strathearn Distillery - a new start up micro-distiller in Methven that I've not heard of before, seems they are building a distillery and hope to start production soon.
Arrive at O2 Academy 20 minutes before start - first in queue - only way to be sure of getting a few photos before the venue fills up. Joe is setting up the flags and I have time for breakfast - sandwich from Sainsbury's - and get organised for the show. By the time the doors open the queue has built up considerably.
Traditional start with Compass Box Hedonism, then off to see Andrew Nelstrop owner of the English Whisky Company, who hasn't been at a show so far this year. Chapter 6 the standard unpeated bottling is good, but the Rum finished Chapter 7 is exceptional for a 3yo, even allowing for faster maturation in Norfolk than Scotland. They also have a bottle of the Queen's 60th Jubilee limited edition - sold out on the distillery website. Good presentation - apart from the Royal tackiness, and a good dram. Andrew bemoans the fact that too many of these royal special editions get bought by collectors of royal memorabilia rather than true Whisky drinkers, but it does help him sell his whisky. Didn't try the peated Chapter 11, intending to return later once I was on peated whisky, but didn't make it back.
Tasting in Whisky Shop, Dufftown with Peter Mackay from Carn Mor, who has apparently been dubbed the New Mark Watt after a party last night; and Mike Lord exhibiting his own WSD (Whisky Shop Dufftown) bottlings, including the 1971 Glenlivet Family Cask special bottling, and the 41yo Glenrothes, finished in an octave - for me the stand out of these whiskies.
Whisky Fair starts at 12noon today, so it's a short walk down the road - no bike today everything's close enough for walking.
I have my hip flask with me today - I've not cracked open last night's winnings, but felt I could at least share some of the 59.43 Caramel Swirl Ice Cream the SMWS 30th Anniversary 29yo Teaninich - it seems to meet with approval. A detailed tour of all the stalls is called for today, with a quick diversion to St James' Hall for the Independent Bottlers' Challenge tasting.
My successful Dutch team-mates have arrived in the hall by the time I'm back after the tasting - and they too enjoy the 59.43. Bill and Mary from Newcastle are at the Fair - it's good to see Mary about again, as she's not been too well, but she's in good form today and ends up helping out on the Adelphi stall when Antonia's taking a break or doing a tasting.