Sunday 22 May 2016

The Whisky Show Sydney 2016 review (Tasted #294 - 297)

Annually, coinciding with World Whisky Day on 21 May, renowned Sydney whisky shop World of Whisky host one of the three whisky shows for Sydney - dubbed simply "The Whisky Show". We attended the Friday session which was rather good as the session hadn't been fully sold out and as such the crowd was quite manageable (although we did miss out on the four masterclasses which were to be held on the Saturday; the Kavalan, Laphroaig, Paul John and Bourbon masterclasses).

Hosted at the same location as the previous two years; the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport (see our 2014 write-up here), though not the most convenient of locations, was large enough to accommodate a diverse range of distilleries and/or their distributors. Upon arrival, all guests were provided with a nosing glass and a bag containing a bottle of water and few nibblies. There were also a couple of water fountains placed along the centre of the exhibition room to allow rinsing of glasses and re-hydration.

As with previous years, 2016's show was well represented with a large range of brands (big and small) and various related exhibitors. Standouts included:

Ardbeg, Balvenie, BenRiach, Big Peat, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Connemara, Dalmore, Glendalough, Glendronach, Glenfiddich, Glenglassaugh, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes, Jura, Kavalan, Kininvie, Laphroaig, Makers Mark, Old Pulteney, Paul John, Springbank, Starward, Tomatin, Uber Bar Tools, Writer's Tears

On the night, we observed that there was quite a mix between the line-ups across the different brands, some showcased an extensive range of their expressions whilst others showcased a select few:
  • Starward focused on their two classic expressions; the Solera and the wine cask edition - though when asked nicely, Brand Ambassador Paul Slater was happy to bring out the ever-secretive Project X from behind the counter
  • Springbank brought their limited release 17yo sherry wood expression into the mix, along with a Longrow and the Hazelburn 12yo
  • Kininvie made its first appearance following its launch late last year with the Kininvie 17 and 23. The lovely Laura Hay was on the stand with Kininvie friends
  • Similar to Kininvie, Paul John also made its first appearance, presenting five unique expressions from its portfolio (and a single cask which was presented to us from behind the counter)
  • Bruichladdich put on a strong showing with two Octomore expressions; the 7.1 and 7.3. Phillip Mack of Dram Full represented Bruichladdich
  • BenRiach was manned by our friend WhiskNick, and the line up included the 12yo sherry, 15yo sauternes, 16yo, 17yo Septendecim and the newly released (and one of our favourites from the night), Cask Strength Batch 1
  • Tomatin showcased their range including few highlights; 14yo Port Casks and the ghostly Cù Bòcan
  • The Glenrothes brought the Peated Cask Reserve which was released late last year, together with the 1992 Vintage and 2001 Vintage releases
  • Disappointingly, GlenDronach only showcased the 12yo and there were no signs of the older core lineup, cask strength, or any of their single cask releases
  • The hype around the Kavalan Solist Amontillado must have sent the expression straight to the shelves with no samples available, though it was available for purchase at the show
  • Kavalan though did have the most expressions available, with a whopping eight expressions, including the Solist range and the King Car expression; and
  • Douglas Laing held the Indie bottler fort, showcasing a number of bottles from the "Old Particular" series including a Ben Nevis 14yo and a Glengoyne 17yo.

Here are some tasting notes for a few favourites of the night...

Springbank 17 Year Old Sherry Wood Whisky (52.3% ABV, 17yo, Campbeltown, Scotland, $290AUD)
A limited release from Springbank, fully matured in sherry oak casks and bottled at cask strength, this full bodied expression was quite enjoyable.

Colour: Rusted gold

Nose: The nose is filled with sweet cranberries, rich sticky date, moss and molasses.

Palate: The palate is clean and delightful with notes of berries, raisins and the sticky date from the earlier whiff. The palate is then slowly transformed with red chilli pepper and toffee notes.

Finish: Long with lingering peppermint spices.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 1 (52.3% ABV, 17yo, Campbeltown, Scotland, A$220 / £44.03)
The inaugural release of the Cask Strength series from BenRiach. This malty, creamy and delicate expression was one of our favourites of the night. Can't wait to see future Cask Strength releases from BenRiach.

Colour: Champagne

Nose: The nose is sweet, fruity and creamy, loads of  sweet burnt caramel and butterscotch, sticky date pudding.

Palate: Merry Christmas, though not in July. Oaky and spicy, where is that Christmas pudding? There are hints of cinnamon tart and cinnamon dusted creme brulee. The creamy mouthfeel is then followed by a lingering black pepper spice. 

Finish: Long, sweet and not too drying.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Paul John Select Cask Classic (55.2% ABV, NAS, Goa, India, A$128 / £49.96)
A limited cask strength release from Paul John; the second Indian distiller to hit the Australian market after Amrut. This unpeated cask strength release had been aged for around 7 years in ex-bourbon barrels.

Colour: Gold with amber tinge

Nose: The nose has bourbon all over it. Almost smells like a good breakfast; fruity malty, oaty with notes of honey and sweet vanilla.

Palate: The malt continues on the palate; creamy, mellow and loads of honey with a layer of black pepper spices from the oak. The higher ABV balances the sweet, malty notes.

Finish: The finish is long and there remains a chewy oaky mouthfeel. A nice solid dram.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

Paul John Single Barrel (58% ABV, NAS, Goa, India, not commercially available)
We were offered a sample of this Paul John Single Barrel following discussion of the general expression they had on offer. It is a preview of what is to come from Paul John, in the form of Single Barrel releases. This particular expression was aged in an ex-Jack Daniel's barrel for (presumably nine) years and bottled at cask strength. Overall, this was an excellent dram and we look forward to the official release of the expression.

Colour: Light amber

Nose: The nose is filled with loads sweet malt, honey and there's a strong hint of oak, almost resembling the smell of new wood lacquer.

Palate: The palate is deep, rich and presents a nice layer of vanilla tart. The tannic, citrus notes follow the sweetness and then there's some oak spice to finish. Similar to the Select Cask Classic, the higher alcohol ABV provides a layer complexity to this expression.

Finish: Long and lingering with plenty of oak and spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

The Glenrothes Peated Cask Reserve (40% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $99.80NZD)
This newly released expression from The Glenrothes combines vatting from three vintage casks and finished in an Islay cask. This was a clean, elegant expression that packs a small hint of peat to balance. Interestingly the only online shop we could find selling it was based in NZ!

Colour: Pale straw

Nose: Malty, breakfast cereals; or rather breakfast whisky. There's no peat on the nose though the nose is fun with plenty of jolly lollies.

Palate: The palate is clean and very light, sweet molasses are evident and there is a gentle peat note that fades over time. A light layer of spice lingers.

Finish: Medium though there is a lingering malty sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

As the clock hit eight o'clock, David Ligoff of World of Whisky rounded up the troops and called last drams. As we sign off, here are some more photos from the show:

The Sydney Whisky Show is on for this entire weekend. Whether you'll be at the show celebrating World Whisky Day or at home savouring your favourite dram, Happy #WorldWhiskyDay!


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