Thursday, September 03, 2009

Glasgow’s whisky gets its own festival

Picture gallery, from top:
Jealousy abounds as Bobby B and Mark join with Douglas Laing's Jan Beckers to remonstrate with Toshie as he headed to the Archive Tasting. No mention of the fact he sneaked them half a dozen of the best ever drams to shut them up!
Heading TOWARDS the beer ten - the deadly duo.
Bobby. Andrew, Mark and Arran Distillers' Celine Tetu.
John D and pal sneak in a quicky at Bowmore.
Tam's wife Mrs Tam, batters out the bung to get at the Manager's Dram, a 19 year old bourbon. Shame she rammed it so far in it took a number of hardy men to get it out!

A bright and sunny day on Saturday for the inaugural Auchentoshan Whisky Festival, held at the corner of the field under the shadow of the Erskine Bridge. A good turnout of Glasgow’s Whisky Club members – even the treasurer popped along briefly before supervising the installation of his new 42” plasma telly. (I sometimes wonder where the club funds go 8-]])
The main thoroughfares were lined with stalls selling food, food, stuff and food. Great burgers, brilliant rolls’n’salmon, and a host of other goodies to keep the hunger at bay. There were things for the kids, bouncy castle, clown etc., stuff for non-whisky drinkers (chainsaw sculptures) and plenty of music. But the drams were the reason most of us were there – and they didn’t disappoint. Glen Garioch and Bowmore, as part of Morrison Bowmore Distillers’ portfolio, had tented stalls where drams were on offer. The 18 Bowmore was for a select few. Naturally GWC members were in the know. Surprise package was the new Glen Garioch, a NAS whisky at 48%. My initial impression wasn’t favourable, but on subsequent attempts, I got to like it!
There was also an exclusive first tasting of the new Auchentoshan Real Ale, brewed in house by Jeremy Stephens - Head Distiller for Auchentoshan.
Jeremy created two unique Real Ales for the festival ... Summer Gold, a light hoppy ale, is ideal for the warm weather and Triple Conditioned, a unique expression of Ale, is heavier with a fuller body.
While the likes of Andrew, Mark, Bobby B. John D and others had to content themselves with the, shall we say, more MUNDANE offerings from Auchie, your humble scrivener was smuggled into the back of a £100 a head archive tasting hosted by Auchentoshan distillery manager Iain McCallum. We kicked off with the Festival bottling, a five year old from a 100% bourbon cask. Fresh and fruity, it was an ideal introduction to the rest. At £70 or so a dram, the 32 year old Auchentoshan probably won’t be your daily dram, but you could dream! A bittersweet whisky, with a palate redolent of raisins. That was followed by the first-ever bottling of a 50-year-old Lowland – from cask 480 and sitting at 49.1%, this was an astonishing dram. Seriously special and not a hint of wood dominance, there were only 171 bottles prised from the cask. At £3500 a bottle, it’s a bargain.
Then a complete surprise – a 46-year-old Glen Garioch. Lip smacking vanilla and dry pineapple; this was a real eye opener. Smokey bacon and plums came to mind when sipping the 21-year-old Port finished Bowmore, then it was on to the stars of the show.
Laid down in 1964 in legendary vault no 1 on Islay, the Black Bowmore, matured in walnut sherry casks, came out at 40.1% (phew) and delivered an alcoholic Tropicana experience of mango, guavas, lychees. Simply stunning. But the White Bowmore laid down at the same time in bourbon casks, stole it for me. Apples, pink grapefruit, along with the traditional Bowmore signature. A brilliant session, and in the words of Glasgow’s Whisky Club’s traditional toast: Not the worst drams we’ve ever tasted!

No, NOT the one in Fife

A number of club members were invited to a select tasting of Glenrothes malts the night after Ralfy’s Rumba. In fact out of an audience of 18, 14 had the right to wear gwc T-shirts (if we ever get round to getting them).
Our charming host for the evening was Ronnie Cox, the urbane Ambassador of The Glenrothes, who regaled us with tales of tastings from near and afar.
We sampled some new make to a backdrop of a PowerPoint presentation, learned the still house is known as The Cathedral, and moved on to The Select Reserve, which lays out the distillery’s house style - juicy citrus, ripe fruits, creamy vanilla and hints of complex spice.
Next up was the ’94, soft, fruity, and again with that citrus bite, then the ’91 – a ‘conversation dram’ perfect for that post-prandial period. A rich and creamy 85 was next – a great pudding whisky. The last dram of the evening brought simultaneous cheers and boos - a 1966 vintage, which was (unusually) NOT claimed by the England World Cup winning team (I pale just at the typing of those words). The whisky was bottled in 2003 and the cask gave up 700-odd bottles. Retailing at around £1300, the single cask first fill sherry had a strong treacle nose and was woody yet lively with lots of ripe red fruits.

It was a pretty good tasting and one or two members admitted Glenrothes was a quiet favourite. We can all shout about it now.


Well, we were completely out of our comfort zone at Rabelaisian Ralfy’s rumbustious rum night… but it turned out to be a wonderful evening. The Chanty Rastler, resplendent in a brightly-coloured Hawaiian shirt, took us through a handful of rums from across the warmer parts of the globe.
Our first was a Havana Club Blanco from Cuba, a spicy rum reminiscent of Kola cubes and raisins. Next came an Angostura 1919 from Trinidad, followed by a Clement VSOP (Martinique) and a Mount Gay X'old from Barbados. The first two may have puzzled a few club members, but the latter pair were marvellous. And it got better. A Guyanan El Dorado 12yo was sublime, as was an Appleton Extra from Jamaica. A brace of rums courtesy of our pals at the BIG Partnership, who work for Edrington, was next on the tasting list, thanks to our esteemed treasurer, who‘d been asked by BIG to bring them along. The Brugal Ron Anejo and the Extra Viejo from the Dominican Republic were great drams (if you can have drams of rum). The evening ended with a mystery 1960’s cask rum (possible Jamaican Hampden donated by Gordon, and Ralfy’s famed Rumsky – a marriage of single malt and rum that Ralf’s been experimenting with. Mixed view on this one, but my taste buds were shot by then anyway. The top three of the evening were:
3rd - Mount Gay Extra Old 86/100
2nd - El Dorado 12yo 87/100
1st - Appleton Extra12 90/100

A second twist came when Peter of Inverarity One to One in Bath Street brought along a selection of fine cigars, explaining the difference between the products of the various countries that produce them. Those of us who thought Cuba was the only place to make cigars were soundly disabused of that notion!
A great night. An unusual night. And an accomplished host.