York Whisky Fest 2012

Another week, another whisky event, this time – in my home town.

This was another event run by the increasingly busy Whisky Lounge, run by Eddie Ludlow. I attended on account of my hard work at the Manchester event, and on behalf of the best whisky shop in the North of England – in my opinion, The Wright WIne & Whisky Company…

As a customer on this occasion, it was all about tasting for me on this event, and after a pint at the York Tap, we headed off…

Read on to find out what a Whisky event is about – and the 16 whiskies I sampled…
The format for these events, for those who haven’t been, is at follows;

  • take a large room
  • invite loads of distilleries
  • invite loads of customers
  • give customers a glass as the enter
  • leave customers to seek out what they want

Simple really – and everyone’s a winner. As a customer, you try a load of Whisky – many which you may never have considered before, and as a distillery, you get to show said customer why they should part with their hard earned money.
In between all this, The Whisky Lounge do special tasting sessions, and in the corner, someone is selling bottles to you. Genius.

Starting off with familiar territory of Glenfiddich (spirit and faces), we had a Madeira Cask – quite a rich 19 yo which I had tasted in Manchester, but perhaps my Oktoberfest Bier from the York Tap was playing too much of a part in this tasting, as it didn’t grab me as it had done in Manchester.

After a quick ‘hello’ with the incredibly knowledgable Katie from The Wright Wine & Whisky Co., we headed over to The English Whisky Co to have a catch up with Andrew Nelstrop, MD. Here, to Andrew’s advice, we started off with Chapter 6 – a non-peated and easy going dram which is surprisingly just 3 years old. (Made me wonder what a cask of Bunnahabhain, which I part own, currently tastes like…?).
Smooth and easy as this was, we were after something to arrest the senses a bit more. Staying with Andrew, we sampled their peated whisky (Chapter 11?). Not cask strength but didn’t need to be. This clearly showed us that our palette’s wanted something more powerful rather than delicate and subtle.

Staying with the peat, i was tempted by Laphroaig and their Triple Wood single malt. THis is distilled in bourbon barrels, transferred to quarter casks, then finished in Oloroso sherry butts. It is unmistakably Laphroaig: spicy, medicinal, smokey. In fact, this reminded me of my first taste of Caol Ila, and not for the first time on this day, started me reminiscing of days in Islay…

I was still looking for ‘something’ I hadn’t had before, and after a detour with Hakushu 12 yo (rich, christmas cake – somewhere between makers mark and a lightly peated scotch whisky), i opted to try Auchentoshan – not a brand i am familiar with.
Upon advice, I tried the Three Wood – matured in bourbon then Oloroso Sherry or PX casks. Now THIS was the fruit and spice we were waiting for. Oranges, treacle and raisins with a lovely rich finish with an woody finish. Lovely. So far, dram of the day. (Julian – reserve me one!)

Next up, Glengarioch Founder’s Reserve. Again, not a distillery I am familiar with, and to be honest, it didn’t change my world. Worth a try – of course – this is what whisky events are all about, but after the Auchentoshan, perhaps i needed a glass of water and a sit down to watch the swollen waters of the Ouse pass by as i reflected on the Three Wood…

Again, a chat with Katie, and a quick slurp of The Whisky Lounge’s blend served up by the ever friendly Joe.

Moving on, under Katie’s strong recommendation, we went for the Balblair 75. Wow. Boom. This was the stuff we were here for. Ok, so it had the heftiest price tag of the day – but this was everything we were looking for. Full of nose, flavour and finish. This really stopped us in our tracks. Ok, so we were 8 samples in and tried a younger Balblair too (my handwriting was going astray at this point), but we agreed – Balblair was ‘the one’..

Where to go from there? 2 highs with Auchentoshan and Balblair. Following these high expectations was Glenkinchie 12 yo. A light, smooth and floral lowland spirit bottled at 43%. Perhaps I should have started with this, not after some peat-monsters.

Singleton 12 followed – again, a smooth and mellow dram, but perhaps too late in the day to do a lot for me. Some rich fruits and nutty tastes – but all together not powerful enough for me.

Somewhere, in the haze, i recall The Balvenie (Caribbean Cask for me, Singlewood for my brother). Doublewood is a favourite of both of us – but…. the same heights weren’t met. To be honest – we were both left feeling a bit let down.

Additionally, we had Lagavulin 16 yo. Strong, smooth, peatey, smokey. Reliable and absolutely fantastic. I was in a good place trying this, and it really evoked memories of a great, great sample session with Iain McArthur. Just brilliant. Simple.

Very, very finally, we finished on a particularly high note. A surprise package too: Buffalo Trace Distillery.
I love Bourbon, that’s where The Whisk(e)y Obsession started with me, but was never to familiar with Buffalo Trace. We had, in the following order; WL Weller 12 yo (this has 3 ticks on my notebook, so much have been great), Hancock Single Barrel and finally, Rock Hill Farm. All of them lovely, rich as bourbon should be, but the standout, WL Weller 12 yo: a wheated bourbon and is smooth with a chocolately taste to it. Just wonderful.

So, all in all, 16 whiskies and some new favourites in Auchentoshan, WL Weller and Balblair, but special mention to Lagavulin for reminding me how fantastic it is.

Can’t wait ’till the next one…

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