Yesterday I attended the York whisky festival 2012. Being just a 50 minute train ride from the North east, this is one of the most accessible whisky festivals for me, and I took the opportunity to investigate, adding a Berry Bros and Rudd master class into the bargain.
I don’t intend to do any tasting notes from the show, because I feel that the glasses are never properly free of the residue from other whiskies tasted and I like to take more time to write notes. However, I will give an overview of some of the best drams, more details on the master class and some stories from the day.
Having got to the festival 15 minutes early, queued, and made it inside, I was given my whisky glass and had a look round. The most interesting stands for me seemed to be the Berry Bros stand, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand, Arran, and the English Whiksy Co.. Bruichladdich couldn’t make it, which was a shame, but there were plenty of other excellent distilleries represented.
First port of call was the SMWS and my friend John, the SMWS ambassador, was pouring. I started with an excellent 27 year old Clynelish called “Scented candles in the sauna”, wonderful notes of pineapple cubes and guava. I was then given a 9yo Ardmore and told that this 70cl bottle comes free if you join today! i had intended to join in 2 weeks as a birthday present, but a whole bottle free was too good to resist. Without further ado, John signed me up and gave me a starter pack which included 4 10cl bottles.: A 12yo glenfarclas, 11 yo Glenmorangie, 9yo port charlotte and a 20 yo Rosebank!
Feeling pretty pleased with myself I headed over to Arran to taste their core range. Trying both the 10yo and the 14yo I was extremely impressed. A lovely note of cola cubes appeared in both and I hope to review both at some point in the future, but I was particularly impressed by the 10yo. Add to the cola note, cereal, hob nobs and sherry soaked fruits, this was one of the most appealing and value for money entry level malts I have tasted. It convinced me to buy a bottle which I will do soon and review on here when I can spend a little more time with the nose.
From Arran to the master class and awaiting us were 6 mystery drams from Berry Bros.
The six drams turned out to be a 22yo grain from Girvan, a 15yo Cragganmore, a 20yo Craigellechi, A Connemara, a 14yo Bowmore in refill sherry and a 23 yo Caol Ila.
Of the 6 I enjoyed the Girvan, and the Caol Ila, but my favourite was the Bowmore. When you get a good refill sherry matured Bowmore it is one of my favourite whiskies and this was an excellent example. The grain whisky was one of those real sweet shop drams that I like, with plenty of foam bananas and banana milkshake.
The Caol Ila was excellent, though most of the peat had gone, but the tasting was marred when one punter who was looking at the bottle took it upon himself to finish the whole thing (drowning it with water first)! He then put 12 tasting glasses in his bag and tried to make it out the door. He was stopped, the glasses recovered, and he was made to leave the festival.
What I enjoyed most about this master class was chatting to some fellow whisky fans afterwards and sharing stories and finishing drams. Sharing a dram and a conversation is one of the things that really attracts me to whisky.
After the master class I went around the rest of the stands tasting various drams I hadn’t had before. Highlights included the English Whisky Co. Chapter 12, a sherried English whisky that I really enjoyed, a BB&R Authriosk, and a long chat with the guy at the Cooley stand about the future under Jim Beam.
At the end of the festival I joined a few new friends and fellow malt heads for a couple of beers before heading home.
Verdict: All in all, for the price of £25 the festival was a bargain! The master class at £7.50 was great value and very informative (did you know that the BB&R shop in London has 3 Acres of underground cellar space?!). The SMWS is great and I’ve signed up. Arran seems to have fantastic malt (reviews to come). A successful Saturday was had.