Day two at London's Whisky Live was a sell out with over 1000 tickets sold. Again, both of us at Whisky For Everyone were working at the event. So here are some of our tasting highlights that we managed to sneak off and try ...
An Cnoc 30 years old
This whisky produced one of my 'Wow' moments at this years event. Distilled in 1975 and bottled in 2005, it is the oldest whisky released in the An Cnoc range produced at the Knockdhu distillery. It has been partly matured in sherry casks and then transferred into bourbon casks. The complexity of this whisky is evident even from smelling it. The rich golden colour is complimented with a sumptuous nose that is full of vanilla, butterscotch (or toffee, I couldn't decide) and rich dried fruit (think of raisins, sultanas and candied orange peel). The whisky explodes on your palate and is incredibly rich and smooth. The buttery vanilla and sweet malted barley combine well with that dried fruit and a hint of spice (imagine nutmeg). The finish is long, smooth and elegant. A truly great dram!
Caperdonich 38 years old from Duncan Taylor
One of the oldest whiskies on offer at the show. This 38 years old bottling from mothballed Speyside distillery Caperdonich has been released by the independent bottling company, Duncan Taylor. The colour is dark and the nose has a distinct burnt caramel element to it. It has sweetness but with that slightly bitter edge. Underneath this is vanilla, some dried fruits (think of apricots) and a hint of menthol. On the palate this feels dry, oaky and slightly bitter. There is lots of that vanilla and burnt sugary element again. It is surprisingly light for a whisky of this age and the finish is quite short with a pleasant earthy note present.
The opportunity to try expensive whiskies from some of Scotland's most famous distilleries does not come around very often, so we had to take it! Glenmorangie Signet is the epitamy of modern whisky styling with its plush case and extravagant bottle but more importantly, is the whisky actually any good? The process used to produce Signet is slightly different as some of the malted barley used is called 'chocolate malt'. This malt has been dried for longer than usual and then roasted to produce a dark grain that is then put throught the production process in the regular way. Here Glenmorangie have put some of this 'chocolate malt' whisky together with some older regular whiskies to produce Signet. The nose tempts you to try the whisky (as it should!) and is packed with interest - vanilla, spices (think of nutmeg) and some of those roasted qualities that reminded me of espresso coffee. The palate is rich, creamy and again full of character. There is lots of vanilla again but there is a pleasant slight bitterness that must be coming from the roasted malt (think of dark chocolate and coffee beans). The finish is very well balanced with all the elements combining and a interesting hint of heather that we detected coming through. We have our answer ... the whisky is good! Very very good.
Another offering from Glenmorangie, this time in the form of a sneak preview of their new whisky that will be exclusive to the travel retail/Duty Free market. Released for the first time at the end of March, it is the first whisky in the 'Private Collection' series that is going to be exclusive to that retail sector. The story is that the whisky has been matured for 10 years in their regular American oak casks and then transferred into specially selected Pedro Ximinez sherry casks from Spain and matured for a further year. When you put your nose to this, it smells extremely promising. Vanilla is there in abundance as is some sweet malted barley, but they are joined by a more sugary sweet fruitiness (think of dried fruits especially raisins, candied citrus peel) that must be coming from that Pedro Ximinez cask (PX is one of the darkest, thickest and sweetest sherries). On the palate this is full bodied and creamy, yet explodes on your tongue. An intense but pleasant sugary burst hits the front of your tongue and dies slowly to reveal those elements from the nose. Strange as it sounds, there is a tropical element to this (something like mango or papaya, I'm not sure) and this carries on to the finish, which is just as intensely sweet and fruity as the nose and palate. Another 'Wow' moment and we seriously hope it is out by the time we travel at the end of this month so we can grab ourselves a bottle. Quality stuff.
Hibiki 12 years old
The Hibiki 17 years old is an multi award winning whisky from the Suntory company of Japan. This 12 years old, which has yet to be released in the UK, therefore has a lot to live up to! Whereas the 17 years old is dark with sherry cask influence, this is much lighter and fresher. This is fragrant on the nose and the fruitiness is fresh rather than dried fruit (think of stone fruits like cherries and plums). There is also a hint of a peppery spiciness (imagine white pepper). The palate is refreshing and light with lots of those fresh juicy fruit notes present (especially the plums). It has a crisp, short finish that makes your mouth water and want to drink some more! A very promising whisky that we later discovered was partly matured in a Japanese plum liqueur cask, which explains that fruitiness that is present.
Laphroaig 21 years old 'Old Malt Cask'
'Old Malt Cask' are a range of whiskies from the independent bottlers Douglas Laing & Co. They select casks from numerous distilleries around Scotland and within this range release just a single cask at 50% ABV, therefore limiting the amount of bottles available. This whisky from the iconic Islay distillery Laphroaig is light in colour for something of this age. It is quite woody on the nose (think of oak) with vanilla and an ashy smokiness (imagine a bonfire). There is a more rounded creaminess on the palate with the vanilla, pleasant sweet malted barley and that woody ashy smoke all mingling well. Maybe, there is just a hint of some spice coming through as well (something warm like ginger?). The smoke burns away for ages making the finish long but it gets slightly bitter right at the end.
Mackmyra Special 01
The first in a planned series of whiskies from Swedish distillery Mackmyra. They are one of the world's most innovative distilleries and the idea behind this new series is that they have created "a drink for special occasions and sharing wth special people". The Special 01 has been matured in sherry casks hand selected from Jerez in Spain. No age is stated but it is clearly young. The colour is a very pale lemon and on the nose with the aroma of peardrops present (a classic smell to identify a young whisky). It is light, herbal (think of grasses) and citrusy (imagine lemon zest). On the palate, this is very zingy (almost aggressive) but once you get over this the dried fruitiness that you expect from sherry cask maturation does come through. Overall, it is light and quite refreshing. What else will be in this series?
Yamazaki 18 years old
The oldest whisky in the core range of Japan's oldest distillery, Yamazaki. It is a whisky that has started to pick up awards around the world over the last two years and even though we have tried it before, we just had to try it again! The nose is rich and full of dried fruits (imagine raisins and sultanas), burnt dark sugar and an almost overpowering citrus note (I know it sounds strange but think of orange marmalade). This richness does not quite convert to the palate, which is lighter but still very complex. Some spiciness is present (think of cinnamon), along with just the slightest hint of peat smoke. The finish is long and enjoyable with the orange citrus notes particularly prominent. An excellent whisky that was worth the re-visit.