Sunday 4 August 2013

Whisky Live Sydney 2013 review (#101drams)

As mentioned earlier this week, this Friday-Saturday was Sydney's turn to host Whisky Live 2013, held at Paddington Town Hall in Sydney's East.

Whisky Live was supported by Dan Murphys (who ran part of the show's retail shop and who recently released a surprisingly good Whisky Guide - see here for our good friends at D.T.W.C's thoughts on it), where certain whiskies could be purchased on site at quite competitive prices (which, given Dan's regular pricing, made for some very nicely priced whiskies).

The show had over 100 whiskies on tasting - from regular favourites like Balvenie and Jack Daniels to not often seen whiskies like Blantons and Glengoyne, right through to Penderyn, Finlaggan and some interesting rare small-batch bourbons.

There were a few notable omissions (Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Lark, NZ Whisky Co to name a few), but overall the range was varied and enough to fill a few hours. Specific favourites included:

As well as the above, I was able to tick off a massive 5 #101drams whiskies, namely:
  • Finlaggan Old Reserve - Medicinal but not to the extent of a Laphroaig 10yo, with an ashy palate that carries right through to the finish. I still think it could be Caol Ila (91/100). I also tried the cask strength but preferred the regular.
  • Penderyn Madeira cask - I wasn't a huge fan. I got some peat smoke and plenty of seawater, but also hints of youthfulness and styrene. Not terrible but not one I'd rush out and buy (82/100).
  • Amrut Single Malt - Reminded me  of a light Speysider, or even a Lowland/Campbelltown whisky at first. Fruity and light, and reasonably youngish, but with a spiciness on the palate and a big spicy finish (90/100).
  • Laphroaig Càirdeas (2012) - Minimal peat on nose the nose, but a big ashy hit on the palate, with less medicinal notes than expected from a 'phroaig. Fruity notes on the palate and finish too (92/100).
  • Grants Ale Cask - Interesting this one. Very smooth for the price ($38AUD), and very light. Would make a good beginner's whisky. Not much in the way of complexity, but you can't expect much for $38. Some light floral notes and a short to medium finish (88/100).

One of the hallmarks of Whisky Live is the food provided - always hearty and filling. Whilst last year's selection was reasonably good, I thought this year stepped it up an notch, with takeaway boxes of butter chicken, beef bourguignon, ravioli, as well as pies, quiches and other assorted canapés. Nant Distilling Company also ran a cocktail bar for those who wanted a break from straight whisk(e)y. The oyster stand was another unique and enjoyable addition - with oysters being served in a splash of your choice of whisky (the Bowmore Legend was a great match)

There were plenty of familiar faces around, including brand ambassadors and sales managers for Brown FormanThink Spirits and William Grant & Sons (and special mention should go to Glen Moray's master distiller Graham Coull, who's recent exclusive Sydney tasting we'll post up shortly). A lot of the stalls however were staffed by Dan Murphy's staff, and while most knew a reasonable amount about whisky, it was clear that a few had only just learned about the products they were offering, and couldn't really discuss any details beyond what was on the label, which was slightly disappointing.

Overall the show was enjoyable, offered a good selection of whiskies and very competitive bottle prices. The only question in my opinion is the price - with Sydney's other whisky shows being $28-$60 per ticket (albeit without the comprehensive food offerings at Whisky Live), is Whisky Live worth $95 per ticket? I guess it really depends on how much you like whisky, and if the range includes ones you're really keen to try.

 - Martin.

Time for Whisky attended as guests of Whisky Live.

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