There are quite a few whisky festivals around the world. There are few which break from the norm of a big hall or hotel with stalls or maybe a few proper stands. The Whisky Show in London and Dramboree are the two best UK events I can think off.
There is now a serious contender in play and it’s based in Poland. Up on the north coast on the Baltic Sea, Jastrzębia Góraseems an unlikely place for a whisky festival. However about six years ago in this little seaside town Andre Cubic had a brilliant idea; let’s build a whisky house with over 1000 whiskies behind the bar! Dom Whisky was born in Jastrzębia Góra. Six years on and it is now having its 2nd festival.
More on the festival in a certain publication. For now I’ll simply say with lots of outdoor space, bands, dancing, bucking broncos, restaurants, a beautiful beach 2 mins walk away with the usual array of masterclasses from top people like Charlie Maclean, John Quin, James Buntin, Hamish Torrie and Rob Allanson. and and goes on until 11pm then this is for you.
With flights to Gdańsk and then only an hours drive away it’s not difficult to get to.
This is a festival which should certainly be on your go to list.
Finally the day arrived. The first big whisky event of the year in London.
Located in the fabulous hall of the Honourable Artillery Company in the heart of the city of London.
Whisky Live 2011 London 4th – 5th March
Before the show, the Walking with the Wounded mission gathered with their huskies in front of the Honorable Artillery Company.
The Walking with the Wounded mission will embark on an unaided journey to the Geographical North Pole in April.
To mark this epic achievement, and to help raise money for the charity, Whisky Live London is unveiling a special blend created by Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson.
Inspired by the find of a crate of 100 year old Mackinley whisky left in the South Pole by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, Paterson will send the Whisky Live charity blend up to the North Pole to reward the Walking with the Wounded soldiers on their arrival.
Richard adds: “Although very different from Shackleton’s whisky, this blend of the finest whiskies exhibited at Whisky Live London is very much in the spirit of the great explorer’s journey. The Whisky Live London blend is a fitting tribute and celebration to mark this daring undertaking.
Among this group will be military servicemen who have been wounded in the line of duty and have subsequently lost limbs to amputation or have been equally incapacitated by their injuries.
The whisky is superlative, with great depth, it’s fresh on the nose but with hints of caramel, forest fruits and toffee. The caramel comes through on the taste and the toffee becomes darker and burnt with other flavours of coffee and dark chocolate all circling but never vying for position. Waves of citrus and vanilla also play. The finish is long and the different flavours present again especially the toffee and orange citrus.
A lovely dram.
Into the show.
Well laid out with lots of space between the stalls in a setting with lots of atmosphere.
I started with The Dalmore and their four new “River” whiskies. All priced at around £40 I was surprised by the quality. They all have their subtle differences but yet hold onto a central Dalmore flavour of caramel toffee and marmalade. With the Spey being lighter and fresher, the Dee having more Christmas cake and spice and the Tay coming forth with Crème brûlée, the Tweed was the only one I found lacked a little individual character, but is a good enough whisky for the money. A little of the profit goes to charaties based along the banks of each river.
I moved from there to The Glenlivet where I revisited the lovely XXV and had a good chat to Phil Huckle, the brand ambassador in the UK for Chivas Bros, from whom I learned there will be a new luxury whisky bar arriving in the capital soon, boasting over 1,000 whiskies behind the bar! One to look out for.
The Glenlivet had a VIP balcony overlooking the whole show and was hosted by the ever genial Ian Logan.
Ian was doing a master class at the show, but before he dashed off he ran through the range and we tried two top whiskies together:
The Founders Reserve
Distillery Release at 55.6% Cask Strength.
To celebrate the opening, The Glenlivet distillery created a special bottling, “The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve” Released in a limited quantity of 1824 bottles to reflect the year of the distillery’s foundation.
Using 19th century methods This cask strength single malt is non chill filtered, Giving the whisky richness and complexity.
This 21 year old whisky has been produced using hand delected casks giving aromatic notes of sherry and oak
numbered bottle of 1824 bottles.
Selected from among glenlivets most precious casks, this exceptional 21 year old whisky is incredibly smooth, enveloping the mouth with delicious rich orange flavours and soft caramel toffee sweetness, with its velvety smooth coating and incredibly long finish this can be considered as The Glenlivet at its best. Made specially for the Prince of Wales recent visit to the distillery, and the incredible 1964.
Very rich and smooth on the nose. On the palate there are hazel nuts, dried fruits with orange peel, hints of walnuts and even a little banana with underlying flavors of oak, tannins and a little pepper. On the finish there is a little apple mixed in with lots of spice and it goes on for ever.
From here onto Nikka. With their usual offerings on display and having their Taketsuru 21yo scoop the title of ‘World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky’ at the World Whiskies Awards for the third time in four years, they were in jubilant mood, although it was a shame they didn’t have any at the show. They did however have the Nikka Miyagikyo 1990 single cask. This whisky was distilled 16.1.1990 and matured at Nikka’s Miyagikyo Distillery in cask 36385. Bottling took place on 13.7.2009 at 61%abv.
A dark caramel, it is easy on the nose with a palpable sweetness.
On the palate it’s warm and smooth with a deep rounded taste with quite a bit of sweetness which adds to the dram. There is enough spice and hints of oak with a fair amount of smokiness and chocolate to keep it interesting.
The finish is long and spicy as the sweetness fades away.
At £117.45 at Master of Malt, very good value.
The last whisky I tasted was at the Springbank stall. It was a 6 year old Kilkerran.
Lots of fruit on the nose and very fresh, fruit salad. More citrus especially lemon zest.
Oak and sawdust on the palate, vanilla and peaches a touch of Coconut and orange rind.
The finish shows its youth, being relatively quick, and woody with a little seawater in the mix.
Before leaving I had a chat with Rob Allanson editor of Whisky magazine and he ran through the fabulous “Journey’s Blend” he created with Tom Morton and Ken Hamilton on their epic trip around Scotland on Motorbikes.
Having snapped up a couple of bottles I believe there are 4 left out of the 50 bottles (I imagine they may well have sold out by the time this is published).
Over all I thought Whisky Live was excellent this year, more on show with some of the exhibitors bringing not just their usual ranges. The VIP areas are a very good idea, and the venue being in the centre of London a great deal more accessible than the Hurlingham Club. The show is excellent value and although it gets busy, it is never over packed, and the Friday crowd I encountered were a good mix, and I met people from all over the world from Sports bar owners from Denver Colorado, to a journalist from Israel.
A good time had by all.