OK, I am slightly recovered from last night, so here is my report:
I went there by myself, right on time for the start at 7pm. I started of with a Masterclass of Diageo, which was led by Gerrit Duit, an extremely enthusiastic man who was a brand ambassador for Diageo for many years. He arranged a flight of Taliskers for the tasting
The tasting itself was done by the distillery manager of Talisker, Bruce (forgot his lastname), and one of his female colleagues. Straight from the source!
The 10yo was the only one I tried before, and it was as good as could be expected. The 18yo is a fuller, richer version of it, showing a little bit more fruit and spice, while the 10yo is smokier. Then came the 175th anniversary edition. This was my winner of the 5 I've tasted. Slightly more balanced, but still that spicy, smoky, and salty that is Talisker.
Then came the DE (don't know what year, probably recent..) which I thought a little disappointing. The sherry cancels out the strong distinct flavors. Last was the 25yo which was second best I think. More powerful than the 18yo.
With that behind me it was time to hit the festival floor. I started of with a quick round to see what was going on. Then I stopped at BenRiach, mainly because that is one of the last whiskies I would look into, so I thought it was a good time to some. I had a small chat and finally decided not to try BenRiach, but a Mannochmore IB from 1984. Sweet sherry and toffee, smooth, and again something I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.
I had a little bit of the Festival Dram, a 9yo peated Bunnahabhain that reminded me of Kilchoman New Make, but with added smoothness and some fruitiness from the sherry cask it is finished in. It was actually quite nice, and since this was my first Bunna I got a bottle of it to try again at home.
Another novelty for me was a pure grain whisky. I had a chat over at Compass Box, and it seems they have quite a nice lineup of blends there. I settled for the Hedonism, which is a blend of a 25 and 12 years old grain whisky, again because I never tried this before. It was dry but sweet, had a different kind of sweetness to it, similar to single malts, but not the same.
I had a great time talking with some of the people from Cadenhead. They were kind enough to let me try a few of there bottlings, and all were great. Best was a 26yo Convalmore.
I was determined to try some of the Islays that I never tried before, Bunny, Laddie, Lappy, or Coal Ila (Colly?). Luckily I stopped at Laphroaig. They had the standard range, 10yo, CS, QC, and 15yo available, but I asked if they had the 30yo available to try, since I heard some amazing stuff about it here in the WhiskyMag forums. They didn't have it, but they could let me try some of the new 25yo that they said was better, and released to the Dutch market this week. He let me have a dram, and it completely blew me away. The nose it nicely peated, rich, but not complicated and very inviting. On the palate it is just a mix of peat smoke, sherry sweetness, and very, very smooth. Extremely well balanced, and very enjoyable. It reminded me of a Laga DE, but with added richness and the rough edges removed. I don't know if it was the previous drams kicking in, but I signed up for Friends of Laphroaig and got myself a reservation on a bottle.
One of 60 available in The Netherlands... I will have to have a look around, because the price seems a little bit high. In my enthusiasm yesterday I posted I got one at EUR 350
, but thinking about it at RMW or TWE it's 40% cheaper. So I'm lucky it's not a definite order yet... And it seems quite a difference, so the guy at Laphroaig might have been mistaking?
After recovering a bit I had a nice discussion about Bowmore Darkest with the people from Bowmore. They mentioned the new Darkest expression, which is a little bit older, and has been on sherry casks for three years instead of 18 months. The dark chocolate took over taste, while the saltiness is almost completely gone. It has become really 'sophisticated', but I liked the older Darkest because it is raw, with lots of different flavors, and hard to 'get' completely.
The organization was superb, the venue is absolutely great, and not too crowded. Bread and water was available on every corner and table, so that was really nice. Another nice thing is the keychain, which contained two elastic bands that hold a Glencairn glass. So you could carry your glass, and just unclip it when you wanted a dram. Very convenient.
I'm sorry for the long and detailed post, but it was a very enjoyable evening with lots of great people and great whiskies. I definitely broadened my horizons yesterday...