Although Joe had helpfully tweeted a picture of the No Photos Please wall outside Village Underground, I initially had some difficulty in locating it, but that wall does stand out and eventually I spotted it. The two old tube carriages perched on top of what was once the viaduct into Broad Street may also have been a clue. A set of cycle hoops is located conveniently close by, and I'm only about 20th in the queue - but there turns out to be a problem - there's a delay in getting the venue set up and we don't get in until 12.15. Apparently the previous night's festivities hadn't ended until 4am, and was still being cleaned up when the first stall holders arrived.
Once inside I clearly need to seek out more Grain whisky to start with - Compass Box Hedonism seems to be the way to go - also a good place to drop off bag and coat - thanks to Chris and Lili. Hedonism as good as ever and I mention that I managed to get a bottle of the Last Vatted Grain a few weeks ago, when Milroy's found a case hidden away in their cellar. apparently they've none left back at Compass Box HQ, so I joked about selling it back to them for some hideous sum - but we agreed the better solution was to make some more.
Thence to SMWS who have three grains on show today, including G3.4 Pride of Bengal, which I'd not tasted the previous night and on to Berry Brothers for a North British 2000 and and Invergordon 1988 - unfortunately both bottled at 46% - could have been better at cask strength. After a quick visit to a few other stands - telling them I will return when I've finished my grain binge - That Boutique-y Whisky Company turns out to be the only other exhibitor with Grain - their 41yo Invergordon.
Eddie announces he's doing a masterclass with Colin Dunn - entitled Aladdin's Cave - sounds good. The masterclass room turns out to be out the back door and just along the street - the whiskies start with Colin's current breakfast dram (he always starts with a breakfast dram, though as I've not breakfasted with Colin, I can't say whether he really does pour it on his cornflakes) - Inchgower 14yo Flora and Fauna; then Eddie produces a sample of 1st Batch Glenmorangie Signet, from when he was working for them, followed by a BBR North of Scotland 1973 - a 38yo bottled in 2012, my dram of the day. Back to Colin for Caol Ila Distillery Edition - the Moscatel finish sweetening the Caol Ila and taking away a lot of the normal smokiness - it's still there underneath particularly with water. Then his favourite Talisker - 57 North and finally back to Eddie for the Feis Ile 2011 bottling of Laphroaig Cairdeas - not in a green bottle and not your normal overpowering medicinal Laphroaig - but a great dram. 6 first class drams for only £5!
Quick celebration of World Whisky Day with a mass Slàinte Mhath and its back to the masterclass room for an Old Pulteney vertical tasting from new make to 30yo - again good value for £5.
At the Glenmorangie stand they have samples of what may be future Morangie bottlings - with lengthier finishes - a couple of years - than the current range - in Burgandy, Bordeaux and Manzanilla. My marginal preference is for the Manzanilla, but where Glenmorangie are concerned, with the now long gone 15yo no longer in the running, Signet can't be bettered - I'm told I'm not the only one to make this observation.
It's getting quite busy now the half session tickets have flooded in, so time for a little food, and the rather special sausage rolls from The Hill Food Co look like they should help absorb some of the first session's whisky to get me ready for part 2.
But there's still the matter of how to pass the next hour before the 5pm start. A quick call to Greville Street ascertains that they've found the elusive G7.5, so a quick dash over there and back to pick it up - and while I'm there a G1.10 as well. A few familiar faces and Phil won't let me depart without an old 26yo Linlithgow he's dug out - seems sacrilegious in Grain Week!
The it's back to Shoreditch.
So its time to catch up with the stands I didn't manage to get to this morning, and also re-visit a couple as well.
Firstly to Paul John the new Indian distillery, following Amrut on to the global stage. I have encountered them before at the whisky Exchange show last year, but they've expanded their range since then - they now have a peated and unpeated version at 46% and a cask strength single cask of the unpeated whisky. First impressions of this whisky aren't too great. I remember the first time I tasted Amrut - blind in the Pot Still, and assumed that I was drinking a good Speysde whisky.
Details of the second session seem less distinct for some reason, but a few of the highlights I can remember.
Back to Diageo for their black token drams - Johnnie Walker Blue Label, upmarket blend - not quite the flagship, they only bring out the George V for The Whisky Show; a 25yo Caol Ila; and Manager's Choice from Talisker, which was a little disappointing - prefered the 57 North (not to mention the 35yo Colin had in Brighton). Pick of the bunch was the Blue Label.
Headed to the Whisky Exchange stand to try out the mystery whisky, but have to admit to having no idea what it was.
Tweeddale Blend - had a good chat with Alasdair Day, his new 3rd batch is a considerable improvement, and I would have probably bought a bottle, but it was cash only, and I'd run out by then.
Compass Box were next on the list - a couple of under the counter drams - The Entertainer, exclusive to Selfridges is as good as I remembered from Edinburgh; the Great King Street New York blend however, was not to my taste - peatier than the excellent standard GKS. But whatever they are blending, Compass Box always do it well, so time to return to the Assyla, which I've not had for a while - it's as good as ever - and another Hedonism can't be resisted.
Time for more food - this time courtesy of the Original Fry Up Material - I think I ordered the American, but they'd run out of steak, so I got a partial refund and I'm not quite sure what - but it tasted bloody good at the time!
Another visit to Berry Brothers, I feel the need for a King's Ginger and then the Littlemill - not as good as the last SMWS bottle, but the best Littlemill around at present.
I'd tasted Chichibu peated at Whisky Live (BBR had some under the counter), but now Ed Bates was exhibiting it alongside the Karuizawa on the Number One Drinks Co stand. It's OK, but I think I'll stick to he unpeated version in future.
And that's about all I can remember! I know I returned to the SMWS, but don't seem to have kept a record of which drams I had - I guess two sessions in a day takes its toll. Onwards to Leeds!
Photos from the Festival are on Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynjenkins/sets/72157633515846435/