Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Whisky Live 2014

Whisky Live is a whisky tasting festival which occurs around the world every year in locations such as Tokyo, New York, Melbourne and London. I attended my first Whisky Live event in 2008, already the 8th to be held in London. I was just getting into whisky at the time, starting to try different brands of scotch which to me were the only ones out there. My girlfriend at the time spotted an advert for the show in Timeout, and as such suggested that we should go. The show was held in the Royal Horticultural Halls near Westminster, and was my first real look into what was (& still is) a huge world of whisky.

I remember trying Glen Grant and Bowmore whiskies for the first time at the show, but it also allowed me to broaden my horizons as such, and sample what has become one of my favourites, Yamazaki, a single malt whisky from Japan. I also was able to try Four Roses bourbon, which I have returned to with fair regularity over the years!

With my first Whisky Live experience a positive one, I continued to attend the shows as and when they came to London. The following year though the location was changed, as was the company I took with me. Whisky Live was held at the rather posh Hurlingham Club near Putney, and I dragged along two mates from work with me, both of whom became repeat attendees as the years went on! The stand out memory from that show was a Ben Nevis 10yr single cask whisky that we tried, it had a beautiful red colour after spending its last 14 months in a port cask, and there was only 697 bottles made. Me & one of my mates both bought a bottle (£40 each), and mine lasted 5 years before I had the guts to actually open it!

Since 2011 the London event has been held at the Honourable Artillery Company near Old Street, a venue which has felt rather small compared to the previous ones attended. 5 successive years I had attended Whisky Live London, but last year I fell ill on the morning of the show and never managed to get there. So when the dates were announced for this year, it was clear that I had to get back in to the routine of attending this great little event.

I use the term little as once again the event was held at the HAC, and it felt as though there were fewer exhibitors than my previous visits. However the reason I go to these is to try new drams, ones I may not get the chance to anywhere else and ones I simply wouldn’t be able to afford! Thankfully Whisky Live 2014 didn’t let me down.

This was the first occasion I was able to taste a range of whisky from Taiwan, produced by the Kavalan distillery. Their “classic” expression was the better of the 3 I tried, at least in my opinion, offering a smooth, oily taste with a light floral aroma. I also tried their port cask “Concertmaster” and the sherry cask finished expression of Solist, but neither really set me on fire. Of course, you have to remember that there is no such thing as a bad whisky, just a whisky you don’t like!

One dram I did enjoy was the single grain whiskey (note the spelling) from Teeling, the standard expression was excellent, so much so that it had sold out before I could buy a bottle at the show! Their “Small Batch” was also top quality, so I bought myself a bottle of that instead! Another single grain whisky was on show, the Girvan Patent Still 25yr, which at £250 a bottle isn’t one I will be buying any time soon, although it did taste wonderful when sampling! Japanese whisky is always something I look to try, and this time I found a 10yr Miyagikyo which was worth a second look.

I also went back to drams I’d had before, ones I’ve enjoyed and will keep going back to for years to come! Those included the excellent range of corn whisky from Balcones, Four Roses bourbon and the Glenrothes. It felt good to be back at a whisky tasting after missing the big ones last year, and already I’m looking forward to the different events lined up for the rest of the year. The whisky world is a large one, and it’s great being able to explore all the corners of it!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Cup Final Countdown

Last season Concord Rangers acheived some incredible successes, winning promotion via the playoffs and taking home the Ryman League Cup. Coming into this season though we all knew it’d be tough to even come close to replicating that level of success given the tougher competitions we are now a part of.

But come close we have, as after beating Colchester United a few weeks ago Concord Rangers are now in the Essex Senior Cup Final, due to take place on Tuesday 29th April. The Beachboys will face Skrill Premier side Braintree Town at The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium, home of Dagenham & Redbridge FC. The ground played host to the last Essex Senior Cup Final Concord were a part of, but we’ll be hoping for better fortunes after losing in 2008/09 to Chelmsford City.

Our journey to the final has been an interesting one, with a 5-0 victory over Waltham Abbey in the 3rd round getting things started. The 4th round saw old enemies Chelmsford City visit the Aspect Arena, but they met the same fate as the previous 2 years as Concord sent them packing (on penalties for the second year in a row). This set up a mouth-watering quarter final fixture against neighbours Canvey Island. The surface was sodden & weather pretty poor, but it failed to stop the result from being more than emphatic as the Beachboys won 4-0 over their island rivals.

The semi final draw saw Concord Rangers have to travel to Colchester United, however as the United playing surface was in need of respite the fixture was relocated to Thames Road. It also suffered a late postponement, but when the game finally got under way on 6th March, Concord secured their place in the final with a special strike from Gary Ogilvie.

I for one am really looking forward to the match, as we’ll be heading there as underdogs, just like our last two final appearances (Ryman Cup & Playoff). The Beachboys have proven over the years that they never know when they are beat, and I have a firm feeling that this belief will be rife amongst the players on the day. Reaching the final is a massive achievement in itself, but if we were to come away from there with our third bit of silverware in 2 years? Well that would be something very special indeed.

To be honest, whatever happens on that Tuesday evening in April it will be a fantastic night for everyone involved with Concord Rangers. It’s at a venue close to home (just up the A13 or less than 30 minutes on a train) and hopefully we’ll have a big Beachboy following to cheer the lads on to what could be a memorable victory!

You Are My Concord!

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