Whisky Live Sydney 2013 Review

Sydney hosted Whisky Live 2013 at Paddington Town Hall over two consecutive days with over 100 whiskies on taste.

Aside from a varied selection of whisky, whiskey and bourbon, Whisky Live’s signature food offerings included drams matched with food, a Nant Distillery cocktail bar and some rare small-batch bourbons.

Whisky Live 2013
Whisky Live Sydney 2013

Below are some of the highlights of Sydney Whisky Live 2013 including drams and expressions not tasted before:

Whisky Live 2013

Glenrothes is a Speyside whisky slow distilled in tall copper pot stills. Glenrothes Select Reserve is the “house style”, a result of a vatting of casks distilled in different years and aged in ex American sherry casks. On the nose, it has oak and vanilla with medium sweetness and citrus on the palate. Glenrothes 1998 is fruit led, with citrus and a very smooth palate with less spice on the finish while the Glenrothes 1995 delivers more complexity with butterscotch, spice and dried fruit but with a shorter finish on the palate.

Glenrothes 1991 starts with a spicy resinous wine notes, followed by fruit, vanilla with notes of coconut at the finish.  The favourite, Glenrothes 1988, which is increasingly harder to obtain is matured in a combination of Spanish and American oak which gives it a caramelised orange flavour with dominant fruit on the palate. Keep an eye out for the Glenrothes Alba Reserve soon to hit our shores.

Whisky Live 2013
Graham and Fay Coull with Glen Moray

The range of Glen Moray whiskies was available to taste, including the recently launched Glen Moray 25 yo Portwood Cask Finish reviewed earlier. Graham Coull, Master Distiller and Distillery Manager was on hand and Gourmantic was fortunate to taste three experimental expressions from the cask, bottled at 55% ABV with different finishes.

The first expression was finished for two years in madeira casks. Very smooth for its ABV, sweet at the start of the palate with a warming and lingering finish. This is an exceptional drop that will only be available as a small release if indeed it does become available. Another expression was finished in sherry casks for 18 months. Dry, oaky with a lot of spice on the nose and the palate and a long finish with coffee notes mark its character. A few drops of water open up the sherry and fruit notes but the spirit still retains its dry and oaky character. A young, peated expression from 2010 at 20 ppm showed a lot of potential. The smoke is more evident on the palate than the nose, and as it ages, the whisky is set develop more complexity.

whisky live 2013
Some of Whiskies at Whisky Live

Talisker Storm, which was first tasted at Dan Murphy’s on World Whisky Day, is an exceptional expression from Talisker. The dram exhibits the distillery’s character of mature quality, salinity and a spicy finish.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 51.2% ABV is limited release, peated and sweet, with a smokiness, ginger and citrus on the nose and a marked peat finish with vanilla notes.

In its distinctive black bottle, the most heavily peated whisky in the world at 169 ppm, Bruichladdich Octomore 5.1 was available to taste. Its predecessor was peated at 167 ppm and finished in Chateau d’Yquem casks. This glorious dram is finished in ex Bourbon barrels. The whisky captures a bubble of smoke with a mid-palate burst and retains some of the light floral elegance of Bruichladdich.

A curious and mysterious dram, Finlaggan comes from Islay yet little information was available at the stand. Finlaggan 10 yo 40% is a lightweight whisky, mildly peated with a very short finish whereas the Finlaggan cask strength 58% (the original) is sweeter and exhibits less smoke on the nose and palate. Finlaggan cask strength 58% (not the original) was a notch more complex but compared to other Islay drams, it disappoints.

McClelland’s had four expressions on taste, Highland, Speyside, Lowland and Islay. The latter was redolent of bonfires, sea salt and a little citrus while the Highland expression was sweet and fruity with a hit of honey and a long finish.

Fireball cinnamon whiskey from Canada (33% ABV) has a big whiff of cinnamon spice in a sweet spirit, good to sip with Christmas cake and pudding.

Australia was represented with Sullivans Cove, Overeem, Nant Distillery and Hellyers Road, the latter offering an elegant and sweet peated expression with 35 ppm.

Whisky Live 2013
Whisky and Food Pairings

Wapengo Rock Oysters are the first and only certified organic Sydney Rock Oyster farm in the world. Although it was only certified in May 2013, they had been practising organically for some time which yields a higher growth rate and improvements in water qualities. The oysters were at their prime, briny and delicious, matched with four whiskies: The Six Isles Blended Malt Scotch, Talisker Storm, Bowmore 12 yo and Smokehead, with the favourite matches being the Talisker Storm and Bowmore 12 yo.

Four cheeses from the ABC Cheese Factory were paired with whiskies, the favourite being Sullivans Cove Port Cask and Post Charlotte Project with vintage blue. Martine Nouet, who hosted a whisky matching dinner two days earlier was at the stand, explaining the best way to enjoy the pairing by taking a sip of whisky, followed by a bit of the cheese then more whisky.

For the sweet toothed, Brix chocolates were paired with Yamazaki 12 yo, Monkey Shoulder and Nant whisky.

Whisky Live 2013
Hot and Cold Food

The food offerings at Whisky Live were plentiful with a range of hot dishes such as bourguignon, seafood paella, butter chicken and rice, vegetarian ravioli and pepper steak with rice served in take away cardboard boxes. A smorgasbord of assorted canapés was served half way through the event with tasty morsels such as smoked salmon, mini pies, quiches, antipasto platters, samosas and tartlets. The food was prepared by Danny Zerafa of Major Events Catering.

Whisky Live ran over three and half hour sessions with ample time to taste as many whiskies responsibly as possible, as well as taking a brief pause to fill up on food before resuming the tasting. Water coolers and spittoons were within easy reach and the cavernous setting of the Paddington Town Hall made it a pleasure to sip and learn about new drams while revisiting favourites.

Whisky Live was held in Sydney on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd August, 2013. Tickets cost $95 and included a Whisky Live etched Glencairn glass and unlimited food.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

More photographs of the event are available on the Gourmantic Facebook page.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.