Whisky Live Sydney 2015

Whisky Live 2015 was held in Sydney at the Menzies Hotel in the CBD, a highly convenient location and easily accessible by all modes of transport. Running over two consecutive days, the show consisted of three sessions, each spread over three and a half hours.

Whisky Live Sydney 2015
Whisky Live Sydney 2015

The show included a number of whisky expressions from Scotland, Japan, Australia, USA, Japan and New Zealand as well as other spirits such a coffee liqueur from Vermont.

Below are the highlights of the show:

Whisky and Food

Hot Food Station
Hot Food Station

Whisky Live is well known for the food component of the show and this time, they have surpassed previous years. Food was not only delicious and plentiful, it was replenished regularly throughout the sessions. The choice ranged from a selection of antipasti to mini Angus beef pies, mini lamb and rosemary pies, spinach and cheese tortellini with braised tomato sauce, braised beef stew, potato wedges complete with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce, roast beef and roast pork, cheese and fruit platters.

Water stations were within easy reach as well as spittoons and for the first time we’ve encountered at a whisky show, there was ample seating provided where you could simply rest or sip on a special dram in quiet contemplation.

Wapengo Sydney Rock Oysters
Wapengo Sydney Rock Oysters

Food and whisky pairing are also part of Whisky Live and it was great to see the team from Wapengo Sydney Rock Oysters again. Smoky whiskies and freshly-shucked oysters were a match made in heaven. For the first time at the show, you could order their delicious organically grown oysters and have them delivered. A discounted rate was on offer if a whisky was also purchased on the night.

Single Origin Chocolates Paired with Whisky
Single Origin Chocolates

Another food and whisky pairing was a custom range of six Single Origin Chocolates made exclusively for Whisky Live by a local chocolatier. Each chocolate is named after the area from which the cacao originates. One of the best pairings we sampled include the Bowmore 12 yo with Madagascar Montezuma 99% cacao, a marriage of smoke, saltiness and dark chocolate. Simply divine.

Old & Rare Bar

The Old & Rare Bar returned to Whisky Live and featured an impressive range of whiskies including Caol Ila 25 yo, Port Ellen 4th Release, Yoichi 25 yo ranging in prices from $21 to $99 for a 15ml tasting.

Whisky Live Special Selection 1
Whisky Live Special Selection 1

The first of a series of Whisky Live drams was unveiled to us. The Whisky Live Special Selection 1 is an 18 yo expression distilled at Glentauchers Distillery with only 224 bottles. Glentauchers Distillery was founded in 1897 and closed in 1985, reopening in 1992 to distill whisky used by Chivas Brothers.

The Speyside whisky was particularly selected to be representative of quality appealing to a broad palate. Bottled at 55.7% ABV, it’s pale straw in colour with honey sweetness on the nose, orchard fruit with baked pears and apples. On the palate, it is fruit flavour bomb with apricots, cinnamon and a long peppery finish.

1967 Samaroli Tomintoul
1967 Samaroli Tomintoul

Another whisky from the Old & Rare Bar was the exceptional 1967 Samaroli Tomintoul, a Speyside Single Malt bottled in April 2014 with only 176 bottles produced. Ripe fruit, pears and banana along with butterscotch and honey sweetness on the nose lead to richness and complexity on the palate with soft spice lingering on the finish.

Berry Bros & Rudd 50 yo Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Berry Bros & Rudd 50 yo Single Grain Scotch Whisky

The Berry Bros & Rudd 50 yo Single Grain Scotch Whisky (58.9% ABV) was light and elegant on the palate, with soft fruit aromas and hits of oak but a very short finish.

Whisk(e)y Highlights

Suntory Whisky & Kakubin Highballs
Suntory Whisky

Starting with a Kakubin Highball made for a great palate cleanser and a refreshing way to start the tasting session. Other Japanese whiskies on taste at the bar were the Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve and the excellent Hakushu 12 yo with their distinctive style of peat and smoke along with green tea notes. Hibiki’s latest NAS release which we featured earlier, Hibiki Harmony also proved to be a popular choice.

The Glenlivet Stand
The Glenlivet & Aberlour

The Pernod Ricard stand welcomed guests with a fruity and refreshing cocktail showcasing the new NAS Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, made with Lillet Rosé, Giffard Abricot du Roussillon and Island Fruit Tropical Bitters. The display was a “visual smorgasbord” that took visitors on a taste journey across the various Glenlivet and Aberlour expressions.

The two new Glenlivet Nadurra NAS expressions were the pick of the range. The Glenlivet Nadurra First Fill Matured (59.8% ABV) is matured in 100% first fill ex American oak barrel which imparts beautiful aromas of fudge, creamy vanilla and richness. The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso Matured is also a NAS, matured in first fill Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at cask strength of 60.7%. Smooth for its ABV, it has a creamy palate of ripe fruit, orange and hints of dark chocolate on the finish – two standout expressions from the Glenlivet Nadurra.

Talisker Sye, Singleton Spey Cascade, Dimple Golden Selection
Talisker Skye, Singleton Spey Cascade & Dimple

Another cocktail was on taste at the Diageo/Grain Bar stand with the barrel-aged Boulevardier, made with Talisker Skye. The stand showcased three new NAS whiskies which we reviewed earlier in the year and are yet to be officially launched. With its subtle smoke and fruit character, Talisker Skye was paired with blue cheese, the fruity Singleton Spey Cascade paired with cheddar and the dessert style Dimple Golden Selection was paired with chocolate.

Dry Fly Distilling Whiskey
Dry Fly Distilling

Newcomer to the show Dry Fly Distilling is an American company based in Washington making “Scottish style” whisky using wheat. The Straight Wheat Whiskey and its higher ABV Straight Cask Strength Wheat Whiskey at 60% ABV were underwhelming while the Straight Triticale Whiskey (44% ABV), made from Triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye had a good balance of fruit sweetness and spice with a hint of smoke. The Port Finished Wheat Whiskey (42%ABV) delivered a sweeter style with caramel sweetness and dried fruits.

At the Starward / New World Whisky Distillery, visitors were in for a treat with David Vitale, CEO Starward and Paul Slater behind the stand. It was great to see Starward Wine Cask Edition 1 that we recently review get a welcome reception.

Starward / New World Whisky Distillery

True to their innovative style, their Project X (42.1% ABV) was a clear, 3 yo whisky matured in PX casks. The colour had been extracted in an exercise to stimulate thought and perceptions from a visual element. The mind tells you to expect moonshine but it is far removed from a new spirit. While the flavour of the whisky was present, it was a little subdued as stripping out colour has removed some of the flavour.

Tasmanian whisky was represented by Sullivans Cove with Sullivans Cove Double Cask and Sullivans Cove American Oak Cask with the notable absence of Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask.

Laphroaig Stand

In tune with the distillery’s upcoming 200th birthday celebration, Laphroaig showcased a number of popular expressions (Select Cask, Laphroaig 10) with the new limited release Laphroaig 15 yo taking centre stage. This 200th anniversary edition is made using hand-selected casks and is a sweeter, softer and more delicate style of Laphroaig which is soon to replace the 18 yo expression. We’re told to get in quick with a purchase because as soon as its sold out, it won’t be seen for another three years.

The Glenrothes 1968
The Glenrothes 1968

The Glenrothes packed a crowd five deep at times and teased with a display of the Glenrothes 1968 valued at $11,000 which unfortunately was not on taste. The single vintage Glenrothes 1988 was well worth waiting for, a superb expression with bold sherry notes, Christmas fruitcake and spice with a long warm finish.

The Oamaruvian
The Oamaruvian

The New Zealand Whisky Collection was the surprise of the show. While the 23 yo South Island Single Malt underwhelmed for a dram of that age, their blends were the standout mainly the Doublewood Dunedin Masterblend Whisky with its heavy red wine presence and the Oamaruvian single cask at 58.4% ABV, striking a great balance of sweetness, fruit and spice with a good measure of oak. Keep an eye out for that one.

Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel bourbon
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel

Soon to be released, Russell’s Reserve showcased their Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, a non-chill filtered bourbon, with aromas of Christmas cake with almonds, cloves and sweet spice. With a raw taste profile and 55% ABV, it is more complex than the 10 yo, drier on the palate, more oaky with hints of orange peel.

Over at the Brown Forman stand, the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and the excellent Woodford Reserve Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finish were the standouts. Other notable mentions were Glenfiddich 21 yo, Hudson Whiskey, the Dalmore 18 yo and the Isle of Jura 16 Year Old.

Whisky Live Sydney succeeded in bringing together under the one roof a collection of drams to please both newcomers as well as whisky enthusiasts. The vibe was friendly and welcoming thanks to the knowledgeable and engaging exhibitors. The convenient and accessible location along with the abundant food offerings and seating made it a most pleasant dramming experience.

Until next year.

Whisky Live was held in Sydney at the Menzies Hotel in the CBD on 26 and 27 June, 2015.

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


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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.