Joe Clark in charge of Brighton
To Brighton for Whisky Lounge's annual trip to the seaside - despite a few hitches on the way, late train, missed connection, forgot I had to pick up tickets for the next stage of the journey, another train missed. Fortunately trains to Brighton are frequent, and I'd planned to get there with half hour to spare, so just about on time.
Brighton is one of the smaller festivals, but that makes for a good chance to talk to stall holders. Eddie and Amanda have gone on holiday, leaving Joe in charge - looks like he's up to it.
A few exhibitors that weren't present at Whisky Live. Diageo featuring Talisker Storm - and as their black token dram 35yo Talisker, all the peppery goodness associated with Talisker, but age has given it a smoothness, unfortunately age has also given it a hefty price tag - £525. It's one of the drams in Colin Dunn's Talisker masterclass at the Whisky Show in October - unfortunately it's already sold out!
Kilchoman had both the 2012 and 2013 bottlings of Machir Bay which evidence the progress of the young distillery, the peat is subtler than Southern Islay malts and allows the full flavours of the whisky to come through. The 100% Islay is less peaty again, and though still exhibiting its youth - in a couple of years time this could be sensational.
Next door at No.1 Drinks, the 3yo Chichibu masks its youth through maturity in small casks. On the evidence of this dram and a peated version tasted at Whisky Live, this new Japanese distillery looks to have a promising future. Karuizawa, the other product on this stand represents the past, as the distillery has been mothballed for many years and has recently been/will soon be demolished - a great pity as all the Karuizawa I've tasted has been very good. But it seems to have been a victim of not being well regarded in Japan when the distillery was open, and establishing a belated reputation worldwide too late - and the land is now apparently prime real estate.
Back to Talisker and a comparative tasting of the 10yo and the new Storm. The Storm certainly appears to have an extra edge of pepper, and perhaps a little saltiness as well, a little more complexity. The 10yo tastes slightly lighter/cleaner in comparison to its new sibling, which is not to say they're not both great drams - and might even be interesting to do an impromptu blend. By the time I decide to try this, I've only a little of each left, the initial impression is good but all too fleeting to be really sure - and I never got around to trying it on a larger scale - another time!
No Age Statement (NAS) whisky gives producers more freedom, and the potential to use younger whiskies in the mix. Not sure that's what's happening here, Storm certainly makes a much better first impression than Macallan's NAS Gold, is it worth an extra £7.50 over the 10yo - not yet sure.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company were at Whisky Live, but they had some different whiskies on offer for Brighton, thought the Clynelish still made an appearance - initial taste not quite so orangey as I remembered, more orange marmalade, but there's other fruit in there. Highland Park left a good impression too, but no specific notes on it. The star was the Secret distillery bottling - clearly from Sherry casks form the nose, and an intense orange marmalade (again) on first taste. I'm not a great sherry fan, but this was Sherry done well, and done this well can only mean Glenfarclas - other than the 35yo Talisker, which I may have mentioned before, and of which I seem to have an inordinate number of pictures, this was the star of the show!
SMWS - taking tokens for a splendid 27yo Glen Elgin 85.24 that Sam said was around three months ago - not sure how I missed that one before, in fact my smartphone tells me I did taste it on 4th January, clearly it made more of an impression in Brighton and another contender for dram of the day - certainly price wise compared with that Talisker!
Only a few of the new Outturn on display, the most impressive of which is the Ben Nevis 78.40, sherry refill 16yo. The heavily sherry-influenced 35.86 Glen Moray 11yo first fill, will appeal to lovers of the sherry monster.
Balvenie wanted a token for the 12yo Single Barrel, but I'd run out by then and settled instead for my favourite standard priced blend Grant's Ale Cask, and persuaded a couple of others of its value.
Didn't have too much time at the Pernod Ricard stall, having tasted all the Glenlivet's many times, but did take the opportunity to have another go at the newly repackaged Strathisla 12yo, lots of vanilla and coconut to start with, but could be so much better with more strength - but as ever selling Chivas Regal is the name of the game.
Hadn't been to one Colin Dunn's Six of the Best Masterclass since Manchester, so I thought I should go along to see what he was up to this time. Dalwhinnie Distillers' Edition; Caol Ila 12yo; Mortlach 16yo; Talisker 57 North and Talisker Distillers' Edition together with a mystery dram which turned out to be Johnnie Walker Double Black. Colin on good form and even got to talking about serving Talisker in Fingal's cave - I don't have pictures of that event, but those of the venue may give a glimpse into the setting.
But the masterclass inevitably meant missing some other drams, guess there'll have to be some catching up in Edinburgh and London. Just time to mention Berry Bros Littlemill and Tormore, and the Whisky Lounge's own Longmorn 19yo. Almost forgot the Elements of Islay/Diplomatico stand. The Whisky Exchange's independent bottlings of youngish Islay whisky - including rare casks that have been able to escape from Lagavulin - Lg2 displaying the characteristic flavours from the distillery at only 10yo. The other half of the stand devoted to Venezuelan rum - the Anejo being the bargain end of the range, mainly from column stills, but whilst lacking the complexity of the older Reserva and Reserva Exclusiva, Anejo makes for a good introduction to rum.
Balcones were also at the Lounge - concentrated on their Blue Corn whisky this time - comparative tasting of True Blue and Baby Blue - still not sure which I prefer, will have to have another go...
No visit to Brighton is complete without stopping off at Al Rouche on Preston Street - helps to soak up the whisky before the journey home, great food at great prices!
All pictures on flickr at:
Gerry's in Leeds is a very different animal to the shop in Soho - an altogether more friendly one - you can even browse the shelves yourself, and they've heard of Single Grain Whisky (OK I may have happened upon a single poorly trained individual on my last trip to Soho).
Not that this is about whisky as the title suggests. A Rum and Chocolate tasting had been arranged a couple of months ago originally, but had to be postponed until yesterday. 5 rums to taste and some excellent chocolate from local producer aochabae - website under construction, but they have a facebook page.
The evening commenced with Appleton Estate 8yo from Jamaica paired with a milk chocolate, not from aochabae, but the next three rums were paired with Tanya's high cocoa products - 65% form Grenada and Mexico and 85% Columbian. Not wishing to take notes to spoil the drinking, I can't remember the exact pairings, but they went very well with the next three rums - El Dorado 12yo (Guyana); Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 (Guatemala) and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (Venezuela). The final rum was a very strange spirit - described by Santa Teresa as Orange Rhum Liqueur combining Rum aged for two years with an exquisite and delicate Valencia orange peel maceration - but bottled at 40%. An interesting one off drink, but not one I could drink all evening, though I can think of a couple of people who might! This was paired with Willie's Cacao Peruvian Gold.
The tasting was quite small, but a few familiar faces from the previous week's cider tasting, including Minal who had provided the refreshments then - belly of pork with herbs and garlic (which had been worth the price of the ticket on its own). Gerry's are now doing regular tastings, with Bordeaux and beer featured in the near future. Another great value tasting. 4 excellent rums, though I prefer the El Dorado 15yo, and some great chocolate - I don't claim to be an expert on either rum or chocolate, but worth trying them - you're sure to find something you like. After the formal tasting, a few more drams were to be had - I was even persuaded to sample the Amaretto! I happened to have the SMWS R5.2 with me, so it seemed appropriate to offer the 81% ABV monster to everyone.
More photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynjenkins/sets/72157633167942891
Photos on this page were taken by me. Click on photo to enlarge. Full size versions of all my photos from Whisky Live London 2013 are available on Flickr.