London Whisky Show – Disappointing Diageo’s Den

Once you have been to a whisky festival or two, you start to have a way of navigating their offerings…. making a good connection or two with the lads and lasses at the various booths, and then move on to give others a chance to experience, hopefully learning a thing or two along the way. At London’s The Whisky Show, we had a grand old time and thoroughly enjoyed our day! With one or two teeny tiny exceptions…

Along with our “dream dram” and meal tokens, we also had a Diageo chocolate and whisky pairing ticket too. The meal was really quite terrific for a mass event like The Whisky Show. However every time we would glance over at the Diageo area, it was so crazy crowded around the bar, that we would skip over and continue to other options.

As the afternoon waned, we decided better go before it was too late! At first, it was nearly impossible to get anyone’s attention and when we finally did, enquiring about the pairing, were informed they ran out. He clearly was overwhelmed and not interested in offering anything or having a chat…

However, we persisted and spotted the Clynelish Cask Strength 54.9% was handy. So insisted on a small pour. This wasn’t our 1st Clynelish and found it was fruity and floral as expected.

We thought to try something more but, frankly, gave up. We enjoy the conversations, learning something new, however, for us at least, this clearly wasn’t going to happen at the Diageo den.

So yes, they are the biggest boys in the industry and I’m quite sure they had an impressive array of whiskies available at The Whisky Show – estimated to be above 75 – however we clearly were not pushy enough or important enough to get much ‘love’ from their side. Oh well… you win some and you miss some!

Lucky for us, we had some absolutely STELLAR drams at Gordon & Macphail, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, the TWE festival area and so much more! That this wee uninspiring experience didn’t deter us from a marvelous mostly malty day!!

As for other Clynelish tasting experiences? Read on…

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London Whisky Show – Berry Bros + Rudd’s Speyside

There were just too many options at the London Whisky Show! It is simply impossible to get to everything. Towards the end of the day, we passed by the Berry Bros & Rudd, and thought… let’s try just one!

By that point in our wanderings, I thought of trying something classic and uncomplicated. So decided to sample the Classic Speyside blend.

Berry Bros & Rudd Speyside Blended Malt 44.2% 

  • Nose – Honey, citrus, fresh fruits
  • Palate – Juicy fruits
  • Finish – Lightly sweet

Though I had only a light sniff, swish & spit, it left a nice impression – something easy and fruity. And there are times when that hits the spot.

What more do they have to say?

Many of Scotland’s most famous malts hail from Speyside, known for their approachable, fruity style and floral complexity. Our Classic Speyside Malt captures the very essence of the region, balancing subtle, honeyed fruit aromas with easy-going yet complex aromas.

  • Appearance: Golden Syrup
  • Bouquet: Honeyed fruit, citrus and soft wood
  • Palate: Creamy citrus, honey, rounded
  • Finish: Soft fruits, mid-long

I glanced at the Sherry however as everything was beginning to close up, decided to skip! However next festival should spend a bit of time with these folks.

For whatever reason, we haven’t tried many of their own whisky selections… just a few:

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London Whisky Show – Fettercairn

After almost overwhelming experiences with both Gordon & Macphail and That Boutique-y Whisky Co, my tasting companion and I were on our way out for a break at the London Whisky Show. However, en route were distracted by the Fettercairn stand…. what did we try?

Fettercairn 16 year (2021) Batch 003, 46.4% 

  • Nose – Shy but present, sweet, and maybe a bit of ginger?
  • Palate – Clear sherry influence, woody
  • Finish – Sweet smoked paprika

Our tasting guide shared that the expression was matured in Oloroso & Palo Cortado Sherry Butts. To be honest, we didn’t spend much time with this one.

Fettercairn Warehouse No. 2 (2022) Batch 004, 48.8%

  • Nose – What you would expect from the casks – some honey, orchard fruits and something a bit different
  • Palate – Spicy and sweet, quite active – flavours bouncing around

The idea behind this series is to showcase the distillery ‘spirit & character’ through different batches that will differ each time. In this case, we sampled the 4th batch which had first-fill ex-bourbon casks (approx 74%) as its ‘base’, and some second-fill ex-bourbon casks (20%), with the balance from Hungarian oak wine casks that were re-charred.

When you wander through the booths at a Whisky Festival, there comes a point where impressions start to blur, tasting notes get shorter and it is clearly time for a change in pace. This is why after the Fettercairn, we decided to step out of the main area, took a break, and rather re-enter, next went to a masterclass!

As for other Fettercairn tasting experiences? Read on…

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London Whisky Show – Lochranza’s Machrie Moor

My London Whisky Show tasting companion and I are both fans of Arran whiskies. The Lochranza distillery’s un-peated “Arran” style – both their core range and limited editions!

However whilst I’ve known of their peated “Machrie Moor” for years, haven’t adequately explored these expressions. Since 2019, Lochranza stopped using peat, choosing instead to dedicate their new Lagg distillery to a peat style. This means Machrie Moor will become a thing of the past. So we skipped over many familiar friends on offer, to try this duo of their standard Machrie Moor and cask strength.

Machrie Moor 46% 

  • Nose – Peat and sweet, fresh with that special kinda peat that combines smoked meats, crispy bacon, and a drizzle of maple syrup
  • Palate – Started spicy, then mellowed out with hints of the underlying fruity character
  • Finish – Cinamon and smoke

This may seem surprising, but my impression from a light sniff, swish, and spit was that Machrie Moor was surprisingly mild and modest.

What more do they have to say about this expression?

On the west coast of the Isle of Arran lies a windswept and mystical peat bog called Machrie Moor. Bronze Age stone circles and standing stones are strewn across its barren, undulating terrain. One of the stone circles is known as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat, where sits a stone with a carved hole. The legendary warrior giant Fingal is said to have tethered his favourite dog Bran to this stone. This peated expression of the Arran Single Malt perfectly captures the rugged beauty and lore of the landscape. Unleash the legend that is Machrie Moor.

And their official tasting notes?

  • Nose – Light smoke and citrus
  • Palate – Dried grass, peat smoke and hints of vanilla and tropical fruit.
  • Finish – Citrus, Smoke, Peat, Pineapple.

We then moved on to the cask strength expression…

Machrie Moor Cask Strength 56.2% 

  • Nose – At first fruity then shifted into meaty peat with smoked ham or pastrami
  • Palate – A fiery spice! Which initially masked the stewed fruits

Unlike the milder Machrie Moor 46%, this was a powerhouse and initially a bit imbalanced. However, I have a strong suspicion that a dash of water would make all the difference – something that we skipped in our quick zip-through!

What more do they have to say?

  • Nose – Citrus notes with a background of peat and a puff of smoke immediately apparent
  • Palate – A robust dram with the typical orchard fruits of Arran coming to the fore over a layer of toasted brioche and red berries
  • Finish – Citrus, Smoke, Chocolate, Vanilla, Coconut.

Both were interesting to try, however, have to admit, we remain partial to their un-peated expressions. Curious about these other Arran explorations? Just read on…

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London Whisky Show – Kyrö Malt, Wood Smoke + Monbazallic Rye

It is terrific to discover something new! And that is just what happened at the London Whisky Show with this distillery from Finland – Kyrö.

There is a quirky humourous approach… with the visual of a bunch of men running buck naked (from a sauna) across a field…. as they shared:

It all started with five friends in a sauna, pondering why nobody in Finland was making rye whisky. We had no idea how to make whisky the “right” way, so we did it our way – and Kyrö Malt is where the story of Kyrö Distillery Company began.

Two co-owners were there in London with their enthusiasm infectious! We couldn’t help enjoying both the whiskies and the experience.

Kyrö Malt Rye 47.2% 

  • Nose – Young, fresh, herbal with some menthol
  • Palate – Softly sweet, licorice, rye bread
  • Finish – Clean pine

I really quite liked this Rye… it had a clean fresh style that was quite appealing

What more do they have to say?

Made with 100% malted Finnish rye, Kyrö Malt is a whisky that proudly breaks the mould. It is double pot distilled and aged in a combination of new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, resulting in intense pepperiness, balanced with sweet notes of caramel and vanilla.

It’s perfect sipped as it is, in a whisky sour – or any way you like.

  • Nose: Pepper, Vanilla, Caramel, Dried fruits
  • Palate: Sweet rye bread, Honey, Wild berries, Smooth finish with caramel and mocha

I read the description and notes much later, but from my memory and tasting scribbles, it rang true!

Kyrö Wood Smoke Rye 47.2% 

  • Nose – Sauna wood smoked, sweet grass
  • Palate – Like a log cabin, cedar plank used to cook fish
  • Finish – Out of nowhere, big and bold!

OK, maybe I was influenced by all the sauna talk… but it really did remind me of a sauna!

What more do they have to say?

With Kyrö Wood Smoke we honour the oldest kind of Finnish sauna – the smoke sauna.

Using an ancient northern tradition, the rye used in Kyrö Wood Smoke has been introduced to alder smoke in a 100-year old “riihi” barn.

Double pot distilled, Kyrö Wood Smoke is then aged in a combination of French oak, new American oak and ex-bourbon casks, resulting in intense pepperiness and sweet notes of caramel and vanilla, lifted by crisp alder smoke.

How incredibly unique!

Kyrö Rye Whisky + Monbazillac Cask “Kyrö’s Choice” 53%

  • Nose – Very different! Almost reminded me a bit of mescal, sweet wood, caraway, and rye
  • Palate – Very big, distinctive, acidic, apples, oats

What more do we know? The co-founder shared it was made, like the others with Finnish malted rye in new oak then a twist with an ex-Monbazillac cask.

Both the Malt & Wood Smoke whiskies retail for around EUR 50 for 500 ml bottles, whereas the special 2022 London Whisky Show Kyrö’s Choice is currently only available through The Whisky Exchange for GBP 65.

If you are curious about other Finland whiskies I’ve sampled, check out the following:

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London Whisky Show – Colourful Watt Whiskies

Back in June, I caught in Cape Town, South Africa a rather unpleasant version of COVID. It not only knocked me flat for weeks, it also robbed me of my olfactory senses – a complete disaster for a whisky aficionado!

I’ve often described the experience as akin to seeing only in shades of grey instead of a burst of brilliant rainbow colours. Gradually over the months, some sense of smell has returned but it remains muted compared to the previous clarity – where I could usually easily discern distinct elements, today it can be trickier and I often know there is something more a layer deeper that I just can’t quite penetrate or surface enough to describe. Frustrating indeed… but I’m at least grateful some sense has returned!

This brings me back to colours – in a recent impromptu tasting in Germany, I shared that when first exploring different types of whiskies, one idea is to consider what colour one would associate with that particular whisky profile? This is a great technique to start processing more creative impressions – Does it remind you of a hot and fiery red? A verdant cool green? Or more seaside in style, bringing hints of blue to the fore? What about sunshine yellow?

I’ve seen some “colour coding” before – most recently Gordon & Macphail’s discovery series uses green for ex-bourbon casks, purple for ex-sherry, and grey for peaty drams. However what if the colour wasn’t according to such strict logic?

Enter Watt Whisky – a new independent bottler started by a husband / wife duo Mark and Kate Watt in Campbeltown. As Kate shared, they both came from the industry and decided to set-up their own range with a view to bringing interesting affordable whiskies to the world. The colour approach comes from her husband’s synaesthesia, where he literally smells colours!

We were tipped off that the Paul John was worth checking out, so this was the 1st we sampled.

Intrigued by Kate’s story of how they began their independent bottler journey in challenging times (2019 then….COVID!) with this being their 1st big whisky event, we continued on to the Dunbarton 21 year followed by the Belair Athol 13 year.

We were highly tempted to continue, however, this was getting into the later stage of our whisky wanderings where you know you need to become highly selected else every impression will simply blur together, losing its magic of discovery!

Well worth exploring more another time… enjoy our quick impressions from a small sniff, swish tasting at The Whisky Show London 2022!

Paul John 4 year (2016 / June 2021) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 1 of 279 bottles

  • Nose – So incredibly tropical – taking the normal PJ tropical fruits and ramping them up several degrees
  • Palate – Intense spice, a bit of a flavour bomb, tropical fruit bowl, chocolate
  • Finish – Ahh… there is that spice shifting into bitter
  • Water – Yes, please!

It was great trying Paul John‘s character as selected by Kate & Mark Watt. What do they have to say:

Fully matured in an underground warehouse in Goa. Tropical fruits, spices, cloves & plums.

We shifted from India back to Scotland with a discontinued Lowland distillery – Dumbarton is a Lowland grain distillery, which also housed Inverleven and Lomond malt distilleries. Previously used primarily in Ballentine’s blends, the distillery closed in 2002 and is now demolished.

Dumbarton 21 year (2000 / June 2022) 57.1% (Watt Whisky) 222 bottles

    • Nose – It started off quietly, gently unfurling, caramel, light smoke
    • Palate – Clearly a grain, what was a light peat influence on the nose became a full-fledged smoke bomb…. frankly more like sipping an ashtray
    • Finish – Closed on more smoke

Wow! I don’t know what exactly I expected. One normally thinks of Lowland grains as being either gentle or harsh alcohol. I think this may be the 1st that I’ve tried which was finished in an ex-Caol Ila Hogshead,

What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:

Finished for 9 months in an ex-Islay cask. Light, dry smoke, butterscotch, syrupy, ashy and medicinal.

We then moved on to the Highlands with the Blair Athol 13 year (2008 / Sep 2022) 56.7% (Watt Whisky) 301 bottles.

    • Nose – Nice! Extra berry, jammy
    • Palate – Well rounded
    • Finish – Dry and peppery

What a brilliant contrast to Dumbarton! Kate shared it was matured in a Hogshead and then finished in an ex-Red wine cask.

What do the Watt Whisky folks have to say:

Rested in a red wine barrique for 16 months. Strawberries, jelly sweets and cured meats.

This pair – Dumbarton and Blair Athol – had the same coloured labels and yet could not be more different in character! Fascinating.

What fun being introduced to another interesting independent bottler. Wishing Kate & Mark the very best with their venture!

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London Whisky Show – Clynelish and Imperial

Each year, The Whisky Exchange releases special bottles just for The Whisky Show. From the 2019 releases, we tried the Speyside 45 year on a remarkable evening with Sukhinder. We were so impressed, we pooled together resources to purchase it as a special 60th birthday gift!

So we knew we absolutely had to stop by the special TWE The Whisky Show festival exclusive section and catch up with some familiar whisky experts from The Whisky Exchange store!

Fortunately for us, my tasting companion (featured here!) and I caught up with Duncan, who acted as our guide. By this point, we knew less would be more… already some 20+ drams into our explorations after both Gordon & Macphail and That Boutique-y Whisky Company, plus a bunch of others… so we picked just two!

Clynelish 11 year (2011/2022) 58.7% (The Whisky Show 2022)

  • Nose – Initially shy, then very waxy, light citrus, pastry, like a lemon curd tart
  • Palate – A burst of flavours, very tropical – particularly pineapple
  • Finish – Continued to have a punch, then mellowed into lingering herbal elements

What a contrast between the delicate aromas and the colourful palate. Initially came across as quite young, yet as it opened in the glass, it truly came into its own.

Imperial 26 year (1996/2022) 51.5% (The Whisky Show 2022)

  • Nose – Mmmm heavy cream, biscuits, fruity, hint of minerals?
  • Palate – Beautiful! Comforting dessert of sweet custard with fruits, yet with substance too
  • Finish – A slightly citrusy close, honey, and then closes lightly bitter

A soft classical styled Speyside… one to try while you still can. Rumour has it that Sukhinder has bought much of the remaining stock.

Now… you may wonder a bit about my pictures… so curiously dark and just a hint of the labels. That’s because we didn’t follow the instructions to “properly view” the special bottles by adjusting to different temperatures – with a nod to climate change and curiosity! You can read more here.

This pair was followed by an unexpected treat – my personal DREAM DRAM of the entire whisky festival – the remarkable and very rare Rosebank 21 year-old ‘True Love”.

PS, if you look closely, you can see the legendary malt master, David Stewart, dropping by the booth, which is just part of what to expect at such gatherings of whisky aficionados!

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Lost love or true love? Rosebank 21 year 55.1%

At any whisky fair, there is usually one absolutely unforgettable whisky that stands out! At the 2022 London Whisky Show, this Rosebank was my personal “dream dram.”

From the moment it splashed into my glass, it was magic! And I kept only the Rosebank in my tasting glass from that point onwards, redirecting any additional tasting to my companion’s glass.

So what was it about this lost Lowland?

Rosebank 21 year “True Love” 55.1% (Elixir)

  • Colour – Gold
  • Nose – Absolutely beautiful, floral, mandarin oranges, honey
  • Palate – Nuanced and complex, a lovely balance of light milky chocolate with a hint of spice, simply marvelous
  • Finish – Carried through

Exquisite! The nose was absolutely captivating! For the next hour or so as we wandered through other explorations… I kept coming back to the entrancing aromas of the Rosebank, leaving just a couple sips til the very end.

As the sun set… I drained the last drop by the Thames and considered it a proper close to a brilliant Whisky event.

What do the folks at The Whisky Exchange / Elixir have to say about this bottle?

This first release from the Rosebank Roses series is composed solely of bourbon-cask-matured whisky. It displays all the sublime fruity character for which Rosebank is famed.

The Rosebank Roses series has been created by Elixir Distillers, which previously operated under the name Speciality Drinks Ltd.

Tasting Notes:

  • Nose; Crisp and sweet apples mix with honeysuckle, barley sugar, cough candy and vanilla toffee.
  • Palate: Oaky spice and liquorice root lead to white grapes, vanilla cream and chilli-spiced white chocolate.
  • Finish; Peppery spice fades to leave orchard fruit more white chocolate and grassy notes.

Would I agree with the tasting notes? Certainly… Even more remarkable, two days later, the empty glass was exceptional – a joyful perfume….. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’m very grateful for!

Is it still possible to purchase it? Yes! If you happen to have a mere GBP 15,000 lying around. Yowza! I knew it would be pricey but was completely unaware of just how rarified it has become!

My thoughts turned to an earlier Rosebank 21-year, sampled from an open bottle in Winnipeg at The Cabinet meeting in 2016. At that time, I was astounded to learn the bottle was auctioning for US$650. Fast forward 6 years and you might be lucky to find a similar bottle for US$2,000! Oh my!

This just proves my point – dream drams are just that – beautiful near-mythical creatures you rarely encounter and so appreciate those magical malty moments for what they are – dreams.

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London Whisky Show – TBWC’s Fabulous Invergordon 44 year Grain 47.6%

I think we could be called ‘frequent flyers’ of That Boutique-y Whisky Co’s stand at the London Whisky Show. which meant we made it into being offered a ‘nip’ from Dave’s hip flask… Over the two whisky festivals, he had kept aside some extra special grains from:

  • Port Dundas 8 year old
  • North British 26 year old
  • Invergordon 44 year old
  • Cameronbridge 39 year old

We were fortunate to try an Invergordon grain – wow!!! Until this point, I had only tried Invergordon once before – a 28 year from Douglas Laing’s Old Particular series which was a bit of a mixed experience.

However, TBWC did not disappoint!

Invergordon 44 year (Aug 2018) Batch 18 47.6%, 305 bottles RRP £142.95

  • Nose – A curiosity box! Toasted coconut, roasted hazelnuts, then cream… reminding one of a frothy milky caramel coffee concoction!
  • Palate – Liquid gold! Complex, balanced, the complete package! Again… I was reminded of an indulgently sweet dessert or maybe even a Mars bar!
  • Finish – Soft yet firmly remains, long and lasting

We were completely smitten! It was such a beautiful, elegant whisky and such a remarkable to have an opportunity to try a slice of history.

What do the folks over at TBWC have to say?

We love tasty single grain whisky, which is why we were more than happy to bottle even more from the Invergordon Distillery in the Highlands! For a short while, there was a malt whisky distillery in the same complex as Invergordon, but these days Invergordon produces top quality single grain which ages in the cask very well indeed. Invergordon used to be home to some beautiful Coffey stills, so we thought we’d include a technical diagram of a Coffey still on the label of our Invergordon. A very technical, scientific and completely accurate diagram. Sort of. Look, “Coffee” sounds a lot like “Coffey”, ok?

Tasting notes

  • Nose: At first there’s warming cinnamon, hazelnut and burnt caramel, followed by hints of milky coffee.
  • Palate: A thick mouthfeel with nutty praline and wintery spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
  • Finish: The creamier flavours disappear to reveal a crisp and fresh finish with citrus and peppery flavours lingering.

Would we agree? Definitely!

And with that, our remarkable “select” journey through TBWC offerings at The Whisky Show in London, 2022 was done! With a HUGE thank you to @BoutiqueyDave both for this beauty and also for helping us explore under his guidance:

TBWC European whiskies:

TBWC Scottish drams, including two beautiful blends:

And even tried Christian Drouin’s 21 year Calvados!

Which meant we managed to work our way through 10 of the 21 bottles on offering (plus this bonus!), skipping those I had tried the previous weekend in Paris… wow!!!

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London Whisky Show – TBWC Part 3 with a Secret Speyside + Calvados!

That Boutique-y Whisky Co floored us with their range at the London Whisky Show. After quite the ‘continental tour’, we simply had to go back to merry old Scotland for a ‘proper’ dram! In this case, part of their “Secret Speyside” series (ahem Glenrothes!)

Speyside #3 (Glenrothes) 6 year (2022) Batch 2, 49.3% (TBWC)

  • Nose – Burst of fruits, vanilla, and strawberries with meringue and cream, beneath the sweet dessert was some wood
  • Palate – Such a classic quality, full, well-rounded, lovely balance
  • Finish – Rich honey

Though it was robust, it could still make a great ‘day dram’ too. The only problem was this clearly isn’t one to just sniff, swish and zip through!

However, one rises to the challenge of such a tasting bounty to keep to a path of light samples, sometimes even veery off the path of whiskies alone! This brings us to our next offering – cheekily crossing out the “whisky” from their That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s label, our attention was drawn to Christian Drouin’s Calvados.

Now… for those less familiar with Calvados, it is a brandy made in Normandy from apples or pears and Christian Drouin is a venerated name for its multi-generation commitment to quality. More recently they have branched out to cidar and gin (Le Gin – beautiful!), however, their core focus remains the family traditions with Calvados.

Christian Drouin Calvados 21 year (Dec 2020/2022) (TBWC)

  • Nose – What a delight! Over-ripe stewed apples, butterscotch toffee, dates, yum!
  • Palate – Pucker up! This is a serious Calvados – delicious! Think of fresh green young apples which then develop into a delightful apple crisp, sprinkled with roasted nuts and cinnamon on top

Such a treat to try something different like this! Would have loved to try on its own when it isn’t sandwiched between whiskies!

Here’s what the folks at TBWC have to say:

This is a particularly intriguing Calvados from Christian Drouin. The story for this one begins at the very end of the year 2000, when the spirit was distilled.

  • N: Rich, fruity and floral.  Delicate orchard blossom followed by stewed apples, caramelised poached pears. raisins and Medjool dates. A complex, and dvine nose
  • P: Complex and beautifully balanced.  Notes of cinnamon baked apples and a delicate wood spice. Waxy wood polish, roast nuts, and raisins. Drying, waxy  finish. Just beautiful!

So then… what next? Shsssssshhhhh…. Dave had a nip of something extra special in his hip flask!

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