Those that know me, know I enjoy a whisky or two, ok maybe more than two, and over the years I have been to a number of whisky tasting events. There's plenty that go on during the year, with three main ones that take place in London. There's the big one, The Whisky Show, in October, The Whisky Weekender in a couple of weeks, and most recently there was Whisky Live (this year I will be attending, and possibly writing about, all three)
I first attended a Whisky Live event many moons ago, back in 2008 if I remember right, and since then I've attended every London event except for 3 years ago when I was ill. Needless to say I am familiar with the set-up and how the event has changed over the years. The first one I went to was in Westminster, the Royal Horticultural Halls to be precise, then the next couple of years the event moved to a bigger space at the Hurlingham Club in west London, before switching to the Honourable Artillery Company near Old Street where it remains to this day.
So on to this years event, not sure whether there were less tickets on sale or just that less people showed, but it didn't seem as busy as it has done in previous years. The venue is a small one compared to other events, so it's easily crowded, but it didn't seem as much this year. That didn't detract from the drams on offer though obviously! Coming to these shows more often you tend to bump into exhibitors you've met a number of times before, so you gravitate towards them and get to try some truly special whisky. That was the case on this day, as I sought out Dave Worthington aka WhiskyDiscovery (who took the picture below), and the Maverick Drinks stand.
The Reference Series, taking a whisky and exploring exactly what effect cask/age etc has on it, is a whisky geeks dream. Reference III is a blinding blended malt (yes a blend!), and I sampled all the versions that Dave had on the stand. The most I've spent on a bottle previously is £200, there's a chance I may break that for one of these (over £200 a pop). The truly special one though was The Lost Distilleries Blend, featuring whisky from closed distilleries such as Port Ellen, Caperdonich, Mosstowie, Glenisla, Glenlochy and Imperial Scotch malt whiskies as well as grain from Port Dundas. This was £350 a bottle, which was shocking, as a whisky from each lost distillery in the blend could cost much more than that!
Also on that stand was an award winner, The Golden Age Blend whisky, which had an age statement attached of 40 years. Those that know whisky know that a blend displaying an age statement has to display the age of the youngest whisky in there, so the ones in this blend were a lot older than me! Only 210 bottles were made, which is understandable given the age of the whiskies, but again this is only £350, which is incredibly cheap given what's in there. Trying drams like this are why I go to these shows, I catch up with old whisky pals (not saying you're old Dave) and get to try whisky that I would never normally have.
Some of the other whiskies I was able to enjoy on the day included a sherry cask Amrut (Indian whisky), a number of independent bottlings from Murray McDavid (which before this show I had never heard of), a cracking Elements of Islay bottling (on the recommendation of Billy/Cowfish), and some excellent Irish whisky from Dunville's. The regular greats were there too, Nikka, Teeling (love their grain whisky, and loved the free hat), Glen Moray and Compass Box. At the end of the day I bought 3 bottles, the Elements of Islay bottling, the sherried Amrut, and one of the early Reference Series bottlings.
If you enjoy whisky, even as a passing interest, I'd recommend taking in one of these shows/events to get you started. You get to meet some great people with an incredible knowledge of whisky, they are friendly and will happily take you through any questions you have about it. No matter how many times you go, you will always learn something new and try a different whisky, trust me on that one!