If you’re a whisky fiend like us and missed the Whisky Show in London in September this year, we suggest you make plans to attend the next one. Shane Batchler tells us what we missed.
I was fortunate enough to attend the 10th anniversary of the London Whisky Exchange Show this September held at Old Billingsgate. Marking the 10th anniversary, it did not disappoint, with over 600 plus whiskies to try and a handful of whisky icons doing master classes and tastings around the venue. I find it best to get the weekend pass which is around £190 to spread out the amount of tastings over 2 days and pace your self, otherwise things get a little blurry as I have experienced in previous years. This ticket involves one daily dream dram token which allows you to try one of many options of the higher end liquid gold at most stands, also more dream dram tokens can be purchased throughout the day.
Old Billingsgate is where all the action is held, the building itself is impressive enough, let alone once you get inside to see the whisky! This Victorian Grade II listed building was once a world famous fish market, built in 1875. The Grand Hall, which now holds various events was the market floor, and the basement was covered in 50 years of ice used to store the fishermen’s catch!
I tried some heavy hitting age statement single malt whiskies and some special cask release whiskies over the weekend, here are some of my highlights.
The BenRiach 35 year old single malt was my first dream dram token, and definitely one of my highlights. The taste of soft tropical fruits with a hint of chocolate cover the palate, then comes a wave of toasted oak spice and creamy vanilla. This super smooth age expression is everything you can imagine, with an elegant long finish that just keeps on giving. Roughly around £600 a bottle, so it’s always great to try something like this, given the opportunity.
My second dream dram token was the Bunnahabhain 40 year old single malt. Never have I tried an Islay this old and it was beyond amazing! Hints of tropical fruits, banana, berries, creamy toffee, vanilla, rich nuttiness and delicate sweet oak. Such a long creamy, sweet, fruity linger that covers the palate with flavours! Coming in at 41.9% , this is an awesome dram.
I then spotted a new release of one of my all time favourites – the amazing Balvenie 25 year old DoubleWood single malt whisky. This limited edition was released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first release of its flagship DoubleWood 12 year old. It has been fully matured for 25 years in American oak casks and finished for three months in Spanish oak ex-oloroso Sherry casks. It is definitely everything you imagine – an absolute treat!
I then ran into Mark Thomson, the Glenfiddich brand ambassador and all round legend! After a few drams of their IPA cask and project XX single malts, he gave me a sneaky dram of his “under the table stuff” and damn was it good. A not-for-sale bottling of Glenfiddich Sherry Cask, coming in at 57.6% strength, a few drops of water changed it into a whole new single malt! Powerful finish with a very long linger of sweet fruits, dark rich cherries with a slightly bitter oak finish, absolutely unreal!
Next on the list was the amazing Glenglassaugh 40 year old single malt whisky. So many delicate flavours going on: ripe banana, tropical fruits, raisins, dark chocolate and cherries, thanks to the Oloroso Sherry cask. The finish is lengthy, thick and syrupy with subtle bursts of ginger and toffee, cocoa and cinnamon spice. What a gem! Well worthy of a try I’d say.
Next up was the Glen Grant stand. I just had to stop here, considering how well their range has been doing, especially their 18 year old taking the award for second finest whisky in the world in the Jim Murray 2019 whisky bible. This is the third appearance in the top three for the Glen Grant, second in the Whisky Bible 2017, third in 2018 and now second in the 2019 edition. Such great value for money and one of the easiest drinking 18s around! I also got to enjoy enjoy a dram with this whisky legend, Glen Grant’s master distiller Dennis Malcolm. One of the nicest gents I’ve ever met!
After a good old chat about the Glen Grant range, he then reached under the table and pulled out something special – The Glen Grant 170th anniversary edition which was bottled in 2010. Subtle flavours of raisins, Demerara sugar and a tiny hint of peat smoke cover the tongue, it has a powerful linger of Christmas cake and vanilla. Coming in at 46% if you can find a bottle anywhere don’t hesitate on buying it!
Next was the Glenrothes stand, they just recently relaunched a whole new range and packaging, and the whole range was available for tasting, even the amazing 25 year old single malt whisky, which certainly didn’t disappoint! Aged in first fill sherry seasoned casks, it has notes of tropical fruits, salted caramel, creamy vanilla and a spicy linger that just keeps going! So happy with their entire range lately!
After purchasing a few more dream dram tokens I headed to the Jura single malt whisky stand, where I indulged in the Jura 1988 Rare Vintage! It has been first matured in small batch Bourbon barrels which gives the taste of gentle honey, vanilla, lemon cake and baked apple flavours. It was then matured for several years in the finest hand selected 20 Years Old Tawny Port Pipes sourced from the Symington Family Estates. This gives it more complexity and depth, rich fruits, Cherry, spiced oak, blueberries, such a long lengthy linger with a slight tannin to the finish, absolutely unreal!
Next up, The Tullibardine 25 year old single malt whisky. I am so glad I got to try this as this is a distillery I am not too familiar with. It has hints of spice, manuka honey, cooked fruit and toasted oak. The linger is long and pleasant with bitter orange marmalade, kiwi fruit and fresh apple. Such a flavoursome dram! This is what is great about the whisky show, trying new things you would never normally find your self trying.
And last but definitely not the least! Another of my personal favourites I was very happy to see – The Glendronach 15 Revival. The Revival has been revived! It was sadly discontinued in 2015 by the distillery due to lack of maturing stocks. However, stocks have been replenished and it’s back! This dram is matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks and tastes of rich blackberry and apple crumble, toasted brown sugar and a touch of fresh ginger. The linger is extremely lengthy and complex and filled with giving flavours like caramelised dried fruit and a hint of tobacco. So happy to have this back in my life.
The story isn’t complete without mentioning the Whisky Shop. One of the best places to buy your whisky over the weekend. If you tried it, saw it, or know of it, they’re selling it over the weekend at the Whisky Exchange Show shop. I purchased a bottle of the delicious Macallan 12 year old triple cask. You can also sit outside on their back terrace and enjoy a whisky or attend one of their cigar master classes while over looking the historic tower bridge! Perfect ending to a perfect day!
Make your way to the next Whisky Show. Get all the info here.
Shane Batchler is a whisky fan like no other. Read all about his passion for whisky and his irresistible urge to own all the whisky in the world. Believe us, he’s beating the rest of us hollow. More about this here.
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