Heading off to a whisky show? Read this first!

With expo shows like Whisky Live now up and running in many countries, whisky lovers all over the world now have the opportunity to attend amazing tasting events where there is much to sample and experience in a short session.

(Note this article has been amended for European/US readers. If you’re reading in Australia, click here for the original, more localised version).

I recently reflected on how many different articles I’d written over the years (mostly for Scotch Malt Whisky Society publications) that shared a theme or objective that could loosely be summarised as “How to get the most out of your dram”.  But something that hadn’t been addressed in any detail is how best to plan your attack when attending an expo tasting event.  Playing it right, or otherwise, can mean the difference between having an outstanding sensory and culinary experience, or having a dull, confusing session.

As someone who regularly attends these events as both a regular punter and as an exhibitor behind a table, I’m only too aware that attendees need to plan their session or employ wise strategy if they are to get the best out of what is on offer.  Play it wrong, and you truly rob yourself of a rewarding, positive opportunity.

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Heading off to a whisky show? Read this first! (Aussie version)

For too many years, Australians were starved of the opportunity to attend whisky expo events.  We’d all hear and read about the amazing Whisky Live events overseas, or even the epic Dramfest in New Zealand, but it’s only relatively recently in Australia that these events are becoming regular attractions in the most of the capital cities.

(For those who like a bit of history, the first true expo event in Australia was in Canberra in 2003 as part of the Australian Malt Whisky Convention.  That was a biennial event that was then repeated in Sydney in 2005 and Melbourne in 2007.   Whisky Live arrived on the scene in Sydney in 2009, where it was joined a year or two later by The Whisky Fair, followed by The Whisky Show in 2012.  Other local organisations have joined the party, such as the QMWS hosting their expo in Brisbane since 2011.  More recently, The Whisky Show spread its wings to Melbourne, and of course, Whisky Live has now been a nationwide roadshow in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane for the last few years.  And, whilst their scale is much, much smaller and limited to their own label, let’s not forget the “Steps to Heaven” or “Extravaganza” tastings put on by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society around the country since 2009).

The point is, most Aussie whisky enthusiasts can now attend an expo-style event.  I recently reflected on how many different articles I’d written over the years (mostly for SMWS publications) that shared a theme or objective that could loosely be summarised as “How to get the most out of your dram”.  But something that hadn’t been addressed in any detail is how best to plan your attack when attending an expo tasting event.  Playing it right, or otherwise, can mean the difference between having an outstanding sensory and culinary experience, or having a dull, confusing session.

As someone who regularly attends these events as both a regular punter and as an exhibitor behind a table, I’m only too aware that attendees need to plan their session or employ wise strategy if they are to get the best out of what is on offer.  Play it wrong, and you truly rob yourself of a rewarding, positive opportunity.

Continue reading “Heading off to a whisky show? Read this first! (Aussie version)”

The Balvenie Craft Bar & the launch of The Balvenie Tun 1509 in Australia

The Balvenie continues to go from strength to strength as owners, William Grant & Sons, continue to showcase their wares.     As someone who’s both watched and even participated in the growth of their brands in Australia over the last 15 years or so (in a former life, I presented a couple of Glenfiddich & Balvenie tasting events for the local distributor at the time), it’s been fascinating to see the brands take on even more depth and gain traction in the local market, now that WG&S have their own Australian operation.

One of the points of differentiation for The Balvenie has been – quite rightly – the focus on its quality and craftsmanship.  In terms of its actual size and annual output, The Balvenie is one of Scotland’s larger distilleries, but that – in no way whatsoever – implies a degree of mass production methodology.  Rather, The Balvenie maintains some wonderful traditions in its production and focuses on quality over quantity.  One classic example of this is the maintenance of the distillery’s malting floor and the fact that they continue to malt a portion of their own barley on site.   (I say “portion”, because it’s around 10% of their total requirements these days, but it’s still a nod to traditional production and – let’s face it – with the exception of the on again / off again malting at Benriach, The Balvenie remains the last distillery on the mainland, north of the Highland line, to do their own maltings).  It’s also worth noting that the taking of the middle cut during the spirit run continues to be done by hand by the simple water test, rather than by strength, or by time, or by when a flow meter or computer tells them to!

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An Evening with Glengoyne

The first time I tasted Glengoyne single malt was on the 14th of May, 2003.   How do I remember that?  Well, for starters, that’s just me…I tend to remember these things.  Secondly, it’s because it was one of the best drams I’ve ever had.  11 and a half years later, and – quite literally – thousands of whiskies later, that bottling of Glengoyne still features high up on the shelves of my memory bank.   Mind you, it was no ordinary Glengoyne – it was a 1971 vintage OB release; a single cask, bottled as a 27yo,  Cask #4855.   T’was one of the all-time greats, and from a period in the late 1990’s when Glengoyne put out a series of single cask bottlings that blew most of the competition away.  But the point is, first impressions go a long way, and I’ve remained good friends with Glengoyne ever since.

I recently attended a Glengoyne vertical tasting, courtesy of the new Dan Murphy’s store in Double Bay, Sydney, which – it must be said – features an impressive whisky section.  (I say section, although department might be a more apt description).  The event was held at The Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, and was hosted by Daniel Millhouse of Dan Murphy’s and the ever affable and enthusiastic Philip Mack.  Philip is not an official Glengoyne brand ambassador, but certainly should be, based on the night’s presentation.

It had been some time since I’d tackled the Glengoyne portfolio in a single sitting (the last time was at the distillery back in 2011).  It’s often said that a whisky always tastes best at its source, but even with the bias and romance of tasting the whiskies at the actual distillery that day, on tonight’s evidence, it is apparent that Glengoyne has lifted the quality bar higher in the last few years.

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