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.
SMWS at London Whisky Fest
SMWS Grain week - but I've tickets for both sessions of Eddie Ludlow's visit to London. So had to celebrate the SMWS grain explosion on Friday night - 10 new grains making a total of 16 available on the bar in Greville Street. Starting off with 2 new Strathclydes 10.2 and 10.4, but neither impressed me as much as 10.1. pick of the bunch G9.1, the Loch Lomond 11yo that I'd previously encountered in Leith last June - and managed to get a bottle. Only one case made its way to London, and only one bottle was available for sale - which Phil Storry had managed to get hold of already - amongst his 15 purchases that day! In all I managed to get through 9 of the 16, but they couldn't find a bottle of G7.5 before I had to get the train home.
To Greville Street to see if the SMWS March Outturn had better things to offer than the Leeds Preview suggested. and the answer is a resounding YES.
Starting with an excellent Dailuaine (41.56) , 51.9%, older at 22 years than other recent SMWS Dailuaine bottlings, but once again from a Bourbon refill cask - a summer dram Phil suggests, light certainly but well worth supping at any time of year, as to the "Rabbit in soured cream sauce" as the bottling is titled - well the SMWS tasting panel do like imaginative and. The SMWS newsletter suggested that the 37.54 "A contradictory dram" was from the first distillery in Dufftown to get a license - which would be Mortlach, but that's distillery 76, so clearly the writer had been over-dramming that night! Or maybe that was the contradiction. It turns out to be a 27yo Cragganmore, and a good one too, more body to it than the Dailuaine, not sure of the coconut on the nose, but certainly on the initial palate. And so to Strathisla (58.14 - "Ye olde sweetie shoppe"), 57.8%, the best Malt of the day for me - again a bourbon refill, and mocks the distillery's own effort (though I've not tasted that since the bottle's been changed). Despite the high ABV, it did not require water, and for once I could see where the title came from. My final malt of the tasting was the Glen Scotia (93.55) 13yo, fairly mild peating for the SMWS bottlings from that distillery, though at 61.4%, I found it needed water, though my taste buds are not as imaginative as those of the SMWS tasting panel, as "Lamb kebab with apples and peppers" didn't come to mind.
This was interrupted by a round of 24.122, a 16yo ex-bourbon Macallan from a previous Outturn provided by Phil to back up his comments on the 24.124 - the ex-Sherry Macallan that I'd tasted at the Preview - being rather thin for a Macallan. I see his point, but the 24.122 is for me a much better dram anyway.
So for the final dram of the G3.4 - "Pride of Bengal", a very pale refill bourbon hogshead, 27yo Caledonian single grain at 57.5% - proving yet again that single grain can more than hold its own with the best malts. Lots of flavours in there and I can see some of the Indian theme suggested in the tasting notes.keeping the dram in the mouth for a few seconds it mixes with saliva to produce a thicker consistency, this is a very interesting dram which requires further investigation, I have to have a bottle of this one. Star of the show.
Finally, research into an old bottling of Glengoyne from Port Pipes - I have the remains (about a third of a bottle) of 123.7, a 10yo that was distilled April 2001, with an Outturn of 779 bottles, so I thought there might be a good chance of there being some left. Although I'd clearly been impressed enough on first tasting to get a bottle, I remember being disappointed on opening it, and had left it for a while. Clearly one of those bottles that benefits from being opened for some time, as when I cam back to it - big improvement. No 123.7 at Greville Street, but they had an unopened bottle of 123.6 - a 7yo from Port Pipes with a similarly large outturn. Not too impressed on first taste, but will have to come back to it to see if it develops like 123.7.