Ok so this is a busy time of year for whisky peeps like me. With events happening every weekend I am falling behind in my updates. So many whiskies and so little time to taste and share!
Saturday of the whisky festival I had a very busy day of drinking lined up for me! It started with a Bunnahabhain Master’s Class at 11:15 am hosted by brand Ambassador Mike Brisebois. To say I was not up for nosing and sipping whisky at 11:15 am was a serious understatement. After the previous evenings shenanigans it was everything I could do to get that first dram up to my nose. The only saving grace was that it was one of the best whiskies I have ever had the honour of tasting! Mike stepped away from the norm and presented Bunnahabhain’s core line up in a very peculiar order. The first whisky we sampled was Bunnahabhain 25 year old. This Non-chill filtered, no colour added, Islay whisky had notes of Sherry, caramel, leather and flavours of berries, roasted nuts and malt. It was incredibly smooth and creamy and was, by far, the best “Hair of the Dog” drinks I have ever had! We then moved on to Bunnahabhain 12 year and 18 year, both were also fantastic drams and I found myself starting to feel normal again! Halfway through the class we then sampled their peated whiskies starting with Ceobanach and then Toiteach A Dha and finally Hogshead 733. The story behind this super rare and special whisky is amazing and deserves its own post….which I may just do someday soon. But until then, in short, this 11 year old peated whisky was finished in 2 Hogsheads constructed from a de-constructed fishing boat that was built and sailed 733 nautical miles from France to the Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay. Truly a great whisky story!
My next Master’s Class was Glenfiddich. Now I am normally not a big fan of this distillery but I thought, at the very least, I may learn a thing or two and maybe even find an expression I like…..it did not disappoint! We started with a rare expression Glenfiddich Canadian Cask of Dreams. This non-chill filtered, no colour added whisky was matured for 14 years in Ex-Bourbon casks and then finished for 3 months in Virgin oak casks from Canada. I was pleasantly surprised by this dram and quite enjoyed it. We then had Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix. Also non-chill filtered, this whisky was matured in ex-Bourbon and Sherry casks that were exposed to ice and snow when one of their warehouse roofs caved in under the weight of the snow from a particularly bad winter storm. This rare whisky was also a great dram and found myself thinking, “Why don’t they do more whisky non-chill filtered and at higher ABV?” Perhaps they are listening to the trends and we will see more of this. We then had the rare chance to sample a Glennfiddich 1989 and a Glenfiddich 1977! Both of these whiskies were classic Speyside whiskies but incredibly smooth. The final whisky of the class was their latest addition to the experimental series, Glenfiddich Fire and Cane. This whisky is peated and finished in Latin Rum casks. It has a beautiful balance of sweet and smoke and I think I found one to add to my “must have” collection!
My 3rdand final Master’s class of the day was “The Legends of Bourbon”, hosted by a Beam Suntory rep. Ray Daniel. I am not much of a Bourbon guy but I really enjoyed the presentation and learning a little about Kentucky Bourbon and its founding fathers. We sampled Basil Hayden, Jim Beam Black, Maker’s Mark, Maker’s 46 and Booker’s cask strength. If I were to purchase a few bottles of Bourbon I would have to say the Maker’s 46 and the Booker’s would probably be my choices.
Well, after 3 tastings, it was time to carb load and get as much water into me as possible in preparation for the Grand Tasting Event. This is no exaggeration people…. It was “Grand” indeed! The evening comprised of two large conference rooms full of brand ambassadors at tables with 6 or 7 different expressions to sample. With 3 hours to try as many whiskies as I could, I decided to be selective and pace myself, knowing full well that I couldn’t possibly sample all the whiskies that I wanted to. Some of the most noteworthy whiskies were Highland Park 18…always a favourite, Old Pulteney 1983…amazing whisky, Westland Garryanna finished in Garry Oak Casks in Washington State and an Independent bottling of Talisker. To top off this amazing day of malty madness, I had a chance to meet and shake hands with Mark Gillespie of Whiskycast. I told him I was a fan of his show and he was gracious enough to give me a Whiskycast Glencarin! Thank you Mark, it is a great addition to my collection! All weekend long I was amazed at the quality of the people that shared my passion for whisky and I look forward to seeing you all again next year!