I had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Midlands Whisky Festival this weekend (28th September 2013), which is held in Stourbridge, in association with Nickolls and Perks. It was my first year attending the event and I have to say, I was very impressed. It was held in the town hall, just across the way from their shop, which was a nice building with lots of character, giving you plenty to look around at during the event. Not that you need to of cause with the fantastic selection of whisky/whiskey that was on display there.
I purchased the VIP ticket which give me entry to the festival a little early, 10:45. It also came with a tasting glass, 2 dream dram tokens and a seat at the Dalmore Constellations masterclass, these will be discussed later.
I started by quickly circulating the event, looking at what was on offer on each of the stands so that I could plan roughly what I wanted to try. There were whiskies, cognac, gin and rum on offer, the gin and rum being the last I got to on my quick tour so I thought I would start with a refreshing gin.
The one that was on offer was Warner Edwards, Harrington Dry Gin bottled at 44%. I have recently found a couple of gins that I can take neat, I am generally not a fan I have discovered; this is one however falls into the exception, it was very easy to drink neat, with plenty of flavour, I slight spice to it as well, which all means it will also hold up to mixing if you prefer a bit of tonic. It is certainly one that I will be grabbing a bottle of sometime soon.
I then moved onto the rum stall which had 3 El Dorado rums on offer, starting with the Gold 12 year old Guyana Demerara Rum bottled at 40%. This was a pleasant rum with a lot of flavour; I was told it was also the one with the most body, although I thought it actually still lacked some. It was however a little sweet for my taste so would not put it on my list of future purchases. I then tried the Reserve 15 year old Guyana Demerara Rum bottled at 43%; this was a different beast entirely in my eyes. The sweetness had gone and had been replaced by even more complex aromas and flavours with a dryer finish, making it much more pleasant and easier to drink. I was told that the 15yo is generally the one preferred by whisky drinks, I can see why. At £48 however, I am not sure I can quite justify a bottle, as nice as it was; maybe when my whisky collection is a little more complete I can find a place for one.
Now onto the whiskies. This is by no means exhaustive, I have only made notes on a few of the ones I tried and simply scored some of the others, I got a little distracted chatting to people to make notes on all of them 🙂
To start was Kilchoman Machir Bay, bottled at 46%. For those who do not know, Kilchoman it a relatively new farm distillery, first opening in 2005 on Islay, and was the first new distillery to be built for 124 years on the island and I had been looking forward to trying one for a while. I am very mood driven with my drinks, and unfortunately I was not really in the right mood for a peaty whisky, which this is. It has a crisp nose though and is light, easy drinking with a slight sweetness on the palate, all leading to a slightly dry medium length finish. I opted to slightly adjust my score, making the assumption that I was in the mood for a peaty whisky, this gave it a 6/10, which is pretty good for what is still a young whisky.
I also tried a couple from Glenglassaugh to allow me to compare after my Revival review. They had both the Evolution and 30 year old on offer that I had not tried. The Evolution was a 57.2% bottling which they no longer produce, this has been lowered to 50% for future bottlings. It is a bourbon only finish so is quite light and fresh but with plenty of body from the 57.2%, opened up nicely with a little water. I give it a score of 7/10, which is one above the Revival. The 30 year old was their Dream Dram, which was basically reserved for the best each stall had on offer and meant that they had to be purchased separately. The 30 year old is bottled at 44.8% and was really rich with plenty of sherry notes on the nose, both of which carried through to the palate with a smoothness that continued to the end, which was of medium length. A good solid 9/10 for this one.
I tried a couple of others including a couple of Japanese whiskies which I was looking forward to, a Hibiki 12yo (5/10) and a Yamazaki 12yo (6/10) before moving upstairs to start the Dalmore Constellations tasting session.
Come 12:00, as the doors opened for the standard ticket holders, we were moved upstairs to start our tasting session. I have done a separate post on the Constellations tasting.
Once I returned from the Constellations tasting I met up with a friend who was at the Hardy Cognac stand, so I joined in. After a short conversation with the gentleman at the stand he offered me a taste of the 50 year old, to compare with the 50yo I had at home. This was a very enjoyable cognac, smooth and worryingly easy to drink, and at £150 was also not too badly priced for its age. We then got to sample there Dream Dram, the 60 year old. Again a lovely drink, smooth, complex and easy to drink but for me was not that much better than the 50yo, given the price difference.
I then continued to work my way around the hall, including:
- Glendronach 18 year old
- Glendronach 21 year old
- Laphroaig 1990 Directors Cut 21 Year Old
- Ardbeg Corryvreckan
- An Irish Whiskey, I think it was Teeling
- Jura Prophecy
- Auchentoshan Three Woods
- and many more
I also met Tom who runs Shroud Whisky Club (find them on Twitter, @StroudWhisky) who was a very pleasant guy and whom I had a good, whisky central, conversation with.
Overall it was a fantastic day, there were lots of great spirits on offer and I got to meet some great people. I look forward to the next one.