The first of the three Sydney whisky shows for 2014 was held on World Whisky Day which marked the return of the World of Whisky’s Whisky Show for the third year in a row. Three four-hour sessions were held over two consecutive days but this time, the event was moved from central city to a remote location at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport in Mascot.
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The Australasian Whisky Awards were absent this year but the Glenmorangie Cocktail Competition was held, and Glenmorangie cocktails were served on arrival. Whisky masterclasses were held with Kavalan’s Master Blender, Ian Chang and Euan Mitchell from the Arran Distillery.
A new addition to the show was the Drinker’s Corner where exhibitors were given 10 minutes to talk about their whiskies, offering visitors a chance to learn and take a break from tasting. A whisky auction was held with rare old and new bottles going under the hammer.
The event packed a crowd six deep at times but the level of enthusiasm from the exhibitors did not wane. The room was fairly comfortable with high ceilings and plush carpet, water stations were prominent but food was not seen.
The show presented an opportunity to taste new drams and revisit favourites. Tasmanian whisky was represented by Lark and Overeem and due to their popularity, ran out of stock in the last session as did the Nikka stand. Glenrothes marked its debut into the show. There were some notable absences such as Maker’s Mark, Hudson Whiskey and Yamazaki from Suntory who were launching their new whisky range the following week. Ardbeg displayed their gold Auriverdes bottle to be officially launched on Ardbeg Day but so much has been written to date about the limited edition dram that there will be no surprises.
Below are some of the highlights of the whiskies on taste:
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select
This full-bodied version of JD no 7 pays homage to Frank Sinatra and can be dubbed as “Jack Daniel’s on steroids”. Bearing no age statement, the 45% ABV spirit is all about the barrel where a heavy groove is made into the barrel, leaving some residual wood which gives more vanilla and oak flavours. Originally a travel retail item, Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select will be available on premise only. Keep an eye out for it in bars and pubs. It gives good old JD a run for the money.
Woodford Reserve Classic Malt
Known for their innovation, Woodford Reserve has produced the equivalent of American single malt. Woodford Reserve Classic Malt (45.2% ABV) is made from 100% barley, three times distilled and aged in used Woodford Reserve barrels. The whiskey has a young and grain-forward flavour profile which is fairly divisive. Love it or not. Try it for yourself and be the judge.
Laphroaig Select Cask
With the range of Laphroaig expressions on taste (Laphroaig Select Cask, 10 yo, Quarter Cask, Triple Wood, 18 yo and 25 yo), a comparative tasting was in order.
Laphroaig Select Cask is the first expression released since Quarter Cask. The spirit is matured in Olorosso sherry butts, new American white oak, PX casks, Quarter Casks and first fill Bourbon casks to bring out the vanilla, peat and smoke. Fans of Laphroaig’s smoky, briny and iodine character will find this expression subdued. It’s lighter on salt and seaweed with a very short and therefore disappointing finish. Newcomers may enjoy it as an entry level Laphroaig.
Laphroaig 25 yo
The result of sherry casks (40%) and ex-American bourbon barrel (60%) maturation, Laphroaig 25 yo has a great balance of the Laphroaig character of peat and smoke with oak. Spicy raisins and a creamy and buttery texture on the palate give way to a long and warming finish making it a luxuriant dram.
Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage
Evan Williams Bourbon is the second largest selling bourbon in the US and the Single Barrel expression displays the the barrel number, date barreled and bottled on the back label. The Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage balances the vanilla from the oak with some spice, dried apricots and and long finish with just a hint of sweetness.
Kavalan ex Bourbon Oak and Kavalan Sherry Oak
A step down in ABV from Kavalan’s Solist ex-Bourbon expression, Kavalan ex-Bourbon Oak (46% ABV) is a new release which uses the same water source as the cask strength to give freshness to the malt with vanilla notes and tropical fruit.
Kavalan Sherry Oak is much punchier with big bold sherry notes, dried fruit and spice. Another winning expression from the Taiwanese whisky maker.
Strathisla 12 yo
From the spiritual home of Chivas, Strathisla 12 yo has shed its green medicinal style bottle for a clear round bottle. The whisky has not changed and retains its rich and fruity character with a balance of dry oak.
Meaning friendship on Gaelic, Glenmorangie Companta is aged for 10 years in exBourbon caskes then matured in Grand Cru casks from Clos de Tart and fortified wine from Côtes du Rhône. The ABV: 46% non-chill filtered spirit has a luscious red tinge, a spicy palate rounded wit sweetness and stewed fruit notes in a luxuriant finish.
Starward Ginger Beer Cask Finish
The third batch for Starward whisky is now made using the Solera system and while the spirit has not attained consistency from batch to batch, the current dram still retains a strong nose of ripe banana skins. The Starward Ginger Beer Cask Finish 47.4% however is a sensational drop, with pronounced ginger on the palate.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is not only renowned for its coveted whiskies but for putting the fun into tastings in their presentations and quirky descriptors. SMWS 29.153, or “Champagne and Oysters – in Hospital” is a feisty 23 yo Islay dram from Laphroaig (49.9%). Smoke-driven, a little low in peat, the briny character gives ways to a sweeter and lingering finish. Delicious.
Old Pulteney 12 yo
From the Island of Wick in the most north east corner of Scotland, Old Pulteney 12 yo 40% ABV is matured in ex-bourbon casks. The “maritime malt” has a floral and citrus notes, with a briny character and smooth salty finish.
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2006
Like terroir with wine, Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2006 comes from the north east of the island in Dunlossit Farm Ceannacroic. The 50% ABV spirit is distilled, matured and bottled on Islay. Briny, smoky with an underlying sweetness, and a taste of the land.
Kilchoman Machir Bay
Malted in house and bearing no age statement, Kilchoman Machir Bay is 46% ABV a blend of 4 and 5 yo whiskies, with the latter finished in sherry casks for 4 weeks. The spirit has strong peaty aromas with a vegetal character mid palate which mellows into vanilla and sweetness.
Dubbed as George T Stagg’s “younger, immature and arrogant brother”, Stagg Jr from Buffalo Trace Distillery is a cask strength bourbon with an ABV of 67.2% which initially assaults the senses with a whiff of alcohol then settles into a full-flavoured spirit. As with most high ABV spirits, a drop of water makes all the difference.
Glenfiddich Malt Master
Created in honour of Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich Malt Master is a small batch no age statement whisky matured in ex Bourbon casks followed by Sherry casks to give a vibrant palate of plum and nuts with hints of Christmas cake.
Talisker Port Ruighe
Following on from Talisker Storm, Talisker Port Ruighe is a salute to the Scotch traders. Hailing from Isle of Skye, the limited release bears no age statement and is finished in Port casks. The 45.8% ABV spirit is matured in American and European Oak refill casks including casks that have been deeply charred. The briny and smoky character of Talisker is present but the gently-peated spirit has a much sweeter finish with a hint of plums and Christmas cake.
The Whisky Show was held at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport in Mascot on 16 and 17 June, 2014.
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