Thursday, May 22, 2008

Distil 2008

Distil 2008 is a trade only show that is held annually at the Excel exhibition centre in London. It is run in conjunction with the London International Wine Fair (LIWF), with the idea to showcase new and unusual products to retailers, restaurants etc. Myself and Matt (one of my colleagues from Royal Mile Whiskies) went to the show and sampled some of the products on offer. We tried a number of whiskies, which I have listed below with some basic tasting notes and thoughts. As and when I taste them again, then I will expand these notes and give more detail and distillery information. We began on a supplier stand who had a large range of award winning American whiskies (commonly called bourbons) and worked from there!

Elijah Craig 12 years old
This bourbon is rich and complex with some sweet caramel, vanilla and coconut flavours present. Age has done this a lot of favours and it is so smooth. It would be very easy to drink loads of this. It is thick, creamy and full bodied with a nice finish that has just a hint of aniseed.

Old Fitzgerald 1849
This one is an 8 years old bourbon that is really good as well. The nose has sweet grain on it, mixed with a nutty element (walnuts, I think), vanilla oakiness and almost a hint of something smoky. This is rich on the palate with lots of woodiness (this always reminds me of coconut), vanilla and caramel. That hint of smoke is there on the finish also. very interesting.

Evan Williams 1996 single barrel
Another bourbon that has been aged for 12 years in fresh oak and the vanilla and coconut flavours are very prominent here. This is very well balanced and feels smooth and luxurious on the palate. It is a limited release due to being from a single barrel.

Parker's Heritage Collection
A great example of a bourbon. Bottled at cask strength, this was full in flavour and body. The marriage of the sweetness from grains used and the influence of the wood was perfect. Lots of vanilla and coconut but also an interesting hint of nuts (something like walnuts and almonds). On adding water, it becomes almost too perfect and creamy. I need to hunt down a bottle of this one because it is fantastic.

Yoichi 10 years old
Having not tasted many Japanese whiskies, I was interested to try this one. Japan is only second to Scotland in the amount of whisky produced and generally the standard is high. The nose has a hint of peat smoke and earth to it with some interesting sweetness. On the palate, it is quite fruity (dried fruit though) and citrusy (think of orange marmalade). It feels creamy and smooth with quite a dry finish where the peat smoke takes over. Really nice.

Jura 16 years old
A nice and crisp whisky from the distillery on the isle of Jura. Their younger releases can have too much raw spirit for some people's tastes but this is much smoother and richer, due to the extra age. There is a hint of smokiness mixed with quite a fruity (sultanas, I think) and malty sweetness. This is quite nice but then I tried ...

Jura 18 years old
This had moved the 16 years old on to another level. Part maturation in sherry casks make this certainly more complex. It is richer and creamier in the mouth and with a nice level of sweetness, vanilla and something nutty (maybe almonds?). This is mixed with just a whiff of smokiness. It also had an interesting salty tang to it which complimented the rich caramel and sherry notes. On the finish there is also a hint of aniseed. Very good indeed!

Tyrconnell 10 years old Madiera finish
We moved on to the Cooley distillery stand where we tried this and the following two whiskies. This has been finished in Madiera casks and this gives the whiskey some great dried fruit notes (think of raisins, apricots, pears). It is rich, creamy and sweet with some lovely caramel and vanilla as well. A really, really good whiskey and a great example of how a cask finish can influence the final product.

Greenore 15 years old
This is a newly released and very limited batch single grain whiskey. These contain no barley and are rare. It is smooth and sweet with lots of vanilla, honey and almonds. Very full bodied and it just melts in your mouth. I had never properly tried grain whiskey before and this is an excellent example of one.

Kilbeggan 15 years old
Another very limited release of only 1000 bottles. This is the best Irish whiskey that I have tasted to date. It is rich, creamy and smooth with lots of vanilla, honey and sweet maltiness mixed with an interesting dryness and some spiciness (like nutmeg, I think and maybe just a hint of ginger). Very well balanced and truly great.

After this, myself and Matt went on to try some rums and then made our way to the wine fair, at which point the afternoon started getting hazier and hazier ....

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