Friday, November 30, 2018

Best of The Whisky Exchange Show

The November line-up.
Committee members Martin, Anna and Adam came back from a visit to The Whisky Exchange's whisky show in London clutching two bottles each. And so it was that the club membership gathered upstairs at the Briton's Protection on the last Thursday in November to knock through them all in the usual style.

G&M Macduff 18yo
None of the six whiskies on show were standard distillery bottlings with a range of independents represented. And we kicked off with one of the oldest and best-known names in the field, Gordon & Macphail.

This was an 18yo from the Macduff distillery. On the Moray Firth coast, the distillery's official bottlings appear under the name Glen Deveron, named for the local river, so expressions under the Macduff name are the preserve of indies only.

On this occasion we were drinking a 58% whisky that was big and strong straight away. We got pear drops and vanilla, and one of the tasting notes which struck a particular chord was grapefruit. Some drinkers thought this started off well but perhaps didn't quite live up it, with the alcohol coming through a bit much. It was £100 but is now sold out.

27yo Bunnahabhain
We're not necessarily big fans of spending large sums of money on packaging, but even we had to admit the box for our next bottle was very nice indeed. What was inside was a 27yo Bunnahabhain, part of the rather premium Single Malts of Scotland range from Speciality Drinks, which is in turn another part of The Whisky Exchange business.

This went down a storm. Very smooth, with a definite hint of butter - like melting butter on a crumpet as someone put it. There was definitely some citrus around too. A bottle will set you back £230 though! So although a lovely drop, perhaps not quite worth the price tag. It's a very drinkable 48.4%.

Another distillery which relatively rarely appears under its own name is Glen Elgin, and that's where he went for the third dram of the evening.

22yo Glen Elgin
Glen Elgin is most commonly used in the White Horse blend, still one of the biggest sellers worldwide. But we had a 22yo single malt bottling from Signatory to try.

We were told the distillery is noted for producing particularly fruity drinks, in part because of a long fermentation process. And this was certainly fruity, with a waxiness about it too.

Certainly a good drink but trying to follow those opening two drams, which had both been particularly punchy, was always going to be hard. So it maybe wasn't surprising this divided the room a little more. It's 49.5% and comes in at £107.

After a half-time break and a chance to refill our pint glasses downstairs at the Briton's, it was back for the next three whiskies, and we went west to Ben Nevis.

21yo Ben Nevis
This was a 21yo sherry cask whisky, clocking in at 47.5%, bottled by The Whisky Exchange under a range it's calling The Future of Whisky - this particular dram apparently representing 'Past Future' because it was what people used to think the future of whisky would be like.

By the time we'd got our heads around the logic of that, this particular dram was already in our past. We felt that while the bottle looked as snazzy as the concept, the contents possibly didn't quite live up to that promise.

But then again, after a couple of memorable, flavourful whiskies to start the evening, anything coming along later was maybe inevitably on a bit of a hiding to nothing. At £130, we weren't reaching for our phones to order any bottles, although they seem to have sold out anyway.

14yo Hunter Laing Glenrothes
The sherry theme continued with whisky number five, but this was more of a full-on sherry monster. From the Glenrothes distillery, it was a 14yo bottling by Hunter Laing and its First Editions range.

This proved very popular with the membership, although with many having a known taste for big sherried whiskies this wasn't much of a surprise!

A couple of the tasting notes from the drinkers in the room were maple syrup and chocolate which probably says it all. It's 49.8% and at £73 or thereabouts doesn't represent the worst value in the world, especially if your Christmas list is looking a little bare.

12yo Ledaig
The last dram was a 12yo Ledaig from the Tobermory distillery in Mull, again bottled as part of The Whisky Exchange's The Future of Whisky range, this time representing 'Present Future'.

Another sherry cask one here, but much more of a peat king. By this stage of the evening my notes had become predictably short, and all I managed to get down was "we loved it". It's 58.4% and was £80 but has already all gone, sadly.

The voting for dram of the night came down to a straight fight between the Bunnahabhain and the Ledaig, with the Bunna taking it by 12 votes to 11, with three other whiskies getting two votes each.

Thank you to everyone old and new who attended another extremely busy tasting, as well as to the Britons for hosting us and in particular to Anna, Martin and Adam for coming back from the show which such an interesting and excellent range of drinks for us to try. Up next: it's the Christmas party!

Here they all are.

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