Thursday 9 October 2014

The Whisky Show Sydney 2014 Review (#101drams)

We love our whisky fairs here at What better way to meet the people behind the whisk(e)y, chat about whisk(e)y with like-minded individuals and try some rare, interesting, unique and (sometimes) downright weird drams, all with a cost of admission less than a single one of those drams might cost you at a bar?

Sydney has three main whisky shows/fairs each year, and they all serve very different purposes. There's our pick of the bunch, The Oak Barrel's Whisky Fair, where you're guaranteed to try some stunning, rare, often one-off drams and meet some real enhusiasts and industry legends (this year for example, they had their own cask of Glenfarclas selected by George Grant himself).

There's Whisky Live Sydney, which is more of a "beginners'" show and may be good if you're just getting into whisky, or you want to try a large part of Dan Murphy's range.

..and then there's this one, The Whisky Show, run by Double Bay's World of Whisky, held in May this year, and the only 2014 fare we attended (as our July move into Asia saw us miss the 2014 Whisky Fair).

Held for the first time at Mascot (a fair way out of Sydney city compared to previous years' events, though easily accessible on the train from the CBD), the event saw a number of familiar faces presenting the latest offerings from their respective distilleries and distributors.

The show was a decent size, though the hall did start to fill up and towards the end some booths were a little difficult to access. Steph and I left before the end though, as the shortage of food meant we headed off in search of sustenance (having spoken to the organisers subsequently, we understand they have plans to address this next year - hear hear we say!)

There were many interesting drams on-show, mostly available for retail purchase at the show's shop (handy that). Highlights for us,  or rather drams of interest (for various reasons) were:
  • Scallywag Speyside Blended Malt - we'd heard a lot about this blend, and given the enjoyable and well-priced Big Peat also from Douglais Laing & Co, we were happy to start with this as our first dram of the night. Sadly, for me at least, it was a let-down. Too much young spirit and not enough character. Great label and name though.
  • Stagg Jr - I'd been wanting to try this for a while, and it was enjoyable, but for only $30AUD less than the excellent George T Stagg, I know where I'd be putting my money.
  • Tobermory 15, a #101drams dram! I found this to have a citrusy, slightly musty nose, with a drying, tannic, earthy palate and a slightly peaty finish. A decent dram.
  • Sinatra Select - an incredibly smooth, and stunning looking (though pricey) Jack Daniels. A dram worthy of 'ol Blue Eyes for sure.
  • Bruichladdich "The Laddie" Classic - another #101drams dram. Grain-driven, but smooth and with a sweet nose. Sweet vanilla palate with hints of dark chocolate. A medium length finish with wafts of smoke, though certainly not what you'd call an overly peaty whisky.
  • Glen Grant Five Decades - an interesting concept and one which I'd been wanting to try for a while. Created to pay tribute to Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm, this contains Glen Grant from 5 different decades. Enjoyable, as long as you're not expecting to taste a 50 year old whisky.
  • Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley - you may not like peaty whiskies, but you have to appreciate what Bruichladdich have done with each of their Bruichladdich releases. Far from just being "overbearing peat monsters", they've released some truly unique, distinct and collectible whiskies. The 6.1 Scottish Barley was no different. Peaty, sure, but so much more than that.
  • Laphroag Select Cask - a lot has been said about this dram and I tend to agree with a lot of it. Not exactly my taste - too much young Laphroaig, and for the money, I'd rather drink the reliable, standard 10yo any day.
  • Still on Laphroaig though, we were fortunate enough to try the very rare Laphroaig 25yo, at cask strength. With a sweet nose (with muted peat influence), a citrusy, ashen palate and a great mix between the stereotypical medicinal notes and chocolate sweetness on the finish, this was a fantastic dram. I gave it a 94, which probably doesn't tell you much, but it does give you an idea of some of the other drams in it's league, in my opinion.
  • SMWS - nothing but brilliant drams throughout the whole lineup, as expected, including the 39yo 21.27 "An Enticement of Sweet Oak".
  • Balvenie 15 - but wait, that was already one of my favourite drams. Why include it here as a "dram of note"? Well, Mr James Buntin (who readers of this blog would be familiar with, and who has recently taken up the coveted role of UK Balvenie Ambassador) was representing the William Grant & Sons single malts, and brought along two bottlings, both the older, Bourbon-aged 15yo, retail bottles. Yet the two were incredibly different! One was peppery and spicy and the other had these incredible honied notes. Both stellar whiskies, but it just goes to show you how much influence a single cask can have over the lifetime of a whisky.

There were far too many interesting and enjoyable whiskies to mention - including Berry Bros & Rudd with a large lineup of Glenrothes, Pernod Ricard with the usual fantastic assortment of Chivas and Glenlivet whiskies (and Strathisla, Scapa and Arberlour thrown in for good measure), Starward,Diageo with a few of the newer Talisker releases, the usual Aussie contingent (Lark, Overeem etc..) and plenty more.

Suffice to say, it was an enjoyable event and one we'd recommend for next year (where, we're assured, there'll be more food!)


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