The Boutique Bar Show in London's Royal Horticultural Halls is one of the UK's biggest shows for the spirits industry. The two day show is now in its third year and boasts a fine collection of products, including new releases, aimed at both the on and off trades. Whisky For Everyone was in attendance for the first day of proceedings and sampled a number of whiskies that we had not tried before. The list below looks long we know, but it has to be pointed out that each one was served in a thimble sized sample glass (honest!). We are also writing another post highlighting some of the other quality spirits that we tried during the day and this will be available shortly.
Bunnahabhain 25 years old
This is the oldest release from the core range of the non smoky Islay distillery of Bunnahabhain. The colour is dark and golden and the nose is rich with a mix of caramel, nuts (think of almonds) and dried sherry fruits (imagine sultanas and raisins). On the palate, these are replicated and are joined by some spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), a slightly bitter woodiness and a distinct salty tang (think of sea water). The sweetness is counteracted by this bitterness and saltiness. The finish is soft and slightly dry, being of reasonable length with the dried fruit and spices prominent. Very nice and a rare treat to try something of this age at such a show.
Chivas Regal 18 years old
This 18 years of version of the famous blend contains over 20 different single malts from all over Scotland. The colour is a dark amber and the nose is rich and sweet with elements of dried fruit (imagine raisins and candied orange peel), butterscotch and just a whiff of chocolate (think of cocoa powder). The palate is rich and creamy with the fruitiness and butterscotch predominant and some woody spice (imagine cinnamon) and honey coming through. The finish is long and fruity with maybe just a hint of peat smokiness appearing at the end. A very pleasant dram.
This world famous blended whisky is named after the tea clipper ship 'Cutty Sark'. The brand is one of the biggest selling around the globe, selling a staggering 14 million bottles per year. Cutty Sark was served to us chilled over ice like a bottle of white wine. The colour was light and golden yellow with a lovely nose packed with vanilla and cereal grains. On the palate, it feels richer than the nose suggests and is refreshing, with lots of vanilla and grains again. These are joined by a pleasant woodiness, some sweetness (imagine honey) and some buttery toffee. The finish is light, crisp and uplifting. Enjoyable.
Cutty Sark 12 years old
The older sibling of the world famous regular bottling of Cutty Sark contains whisky from some of Speyside's most famous distilleries. It is packaged in a black box and is slightly darker in colour with a richer, sweeter nose. There is a pleasant mix of vanilla, woody spice (think of nutmeg), cereal grains and some sweet honey. The palate is rich, sweet and silky with the vanilla and grains prominent and the spiciness and a slight woodiness balancing this. The finish is long, sweet and smooth. A more exaggerated version of the regular Cutty Sark really, that is very good and enjoyable.
The 'Nadurra' appears in a number of forms. We have previously tried the lower strength Duty Free bottling, so the comparison with this cask strength (57.7% ABV) UK market version was interesting. The colour is golden and the nose has a mixture of vanilla, some toasted nuts (think of hazelnuts) and some wood spices (think of nutmeg and cinnamon). On the palate, this Nadurra is quite dry and full of vanilla oak, yet powerful and complex. The elements from the nose are present. Upon adding water, the palate becomes a touch sweeter and more floral (imagine honeysuckle). The finish is long, rich and dry yet very refreshing. Very very good stuff.
Glenrothes is a Speyside distillery and they use vintages for its single malts rather than a fixed age, as they believe in bottling the whisky when it has reached peak maturity rather than a certain age. This 1991 is golden brown in colour with a nose that combines vanilla, coconut, dried fruits (think of sultanas and candied orange peel) and butterscotch. The palate is sweet and packed with malty cereal grains that combine with those elements stated for the nose. The finish is long, rich, fruity and spicy (imagine nutmeg) with the butterscotch at the forefront. Classic stuff.
The younger housemate of the 1994 is a slightly different beast. The colour is similar (golden brown but slightly lighter) but that is where it ends. The nose is uplifting due to a prominent citrus element (think of lemon zest especially, although there is also some orange peel in there) and this combines with some lovely dried fruit (imagine raisins and sultanas) and sweet toffee. On the palate, this feels lighter with that definite zingy citrus present and a balanced combination of toffee, woody spice (think of cinnamon) and cereal grains. The finish is long and fruity with a nice tangy quality. A lovely dram.
Longmorn 16 years old
Longmorn is a Speyside distillery that is situated close to the town of Elgin. This 16 years old is golden yellow in colour with a classical bourbon cask matured nose. There is vanilla, coconut, woody oak and a touch of a herbal note (imagine dried grasses). The palate is light and enjoyable, again with a lot of vanilla, some toffee style sweetness, honey and some malty, almost yeasty, cereal grains (think of digestive biscuits). The finish is reasonably long with sweetness being balanced by some spices (think of nutmeg) and the returning grassiness.
Macallan Fine Oak 15 years old
The Macallan distillery is located in Speyside and is one of Scotland's largest and most famous distilleries. The Fine Oak series combines Macallan's traditional sherry cask maturation with some time in a bourbon cask. The colour is golden with a lovely nose that combines vanilla, dried fruits (think of sultanas), sweet honey and some toasted nuts (imagine almonds). This is warm and sumptuous on the palate with a lovely combination of the elements from the nose, malted cereals, caramel and spice (think of cinnamon with a hint of star anise). The finish is complex and fruity with the vanilla and spices coming through well. A superb, smooth and well balanced whisky.
Although Mekhong is marketed as a whiskey in its native Thailand, it is actually made from a secret traditional recipe combining sugar cane, rice and local Thai herbs and spices. It is produced at the Bangyikhan distillery and is being officially launched in the UK for the first time (this version is bottled at 35% ABV rather than the Thai version which is closer to 60%!). The colour is a reddish amber with a nose that is much more reminiscent of a rum. The sugar cane is particularly evident with lots of caramel, spices (think of ginger) and some citrus cutting through (especially lemons). These notes are replicated on the sweet palate that is sugary (think of honey and toffee) and smooth. The finish is long and rounded. It maybe too sweet for some people but would be ideal to use with a mixer or cocktail. Interesting to try.
The Whisky For Everyone 'Dram of the Day' - a tough choice but it goes to the Macallan Fine Oak 15 years old.