When I think back over my time writing about whisky, I inevitably hook onto The Whisky Exchange Show as a key timeline moment.
You see, while I’d been drinking whisky for about four years when I went along to the show for the first time back in 2011, it was my initial opportunity to meet a lot of people in the whisky industry.
That first visit coincided with the time right before I started this website and more fully became immersed in the world of whisky. I remember timidly handing out business cards and collecting as many as I could so that when I launched Miss Whisky I could email all of those people I met about the fact the site had gone live.
The reason this all stands out so clearly in my mind – despite the number of whiskies I likely tried that day – is because of one simple fact: everyone was so nice. All the people I met that day on various stands were not only encouraging of my dream but quick to point out that if I ever had any questions, they’d be happy to help. Those people always lived up to that promise and continue to be people I consider go-to points to this day.
So, three shows later, I was as excited as ever when the doors opened on day one. I spent the weekend of the show working for The Balvenie, talking to what felt like hundreds of whisky enthusiasts about the Speyside brand, and – in turn – conversed with loads of bloggers and social media folks who I hadn’t met before. On Monday – the trade and press day – I ran around like a crazy woman, trying to catch up with as many people as possible and try as many great whiskies on show as could be had.
This year’s event was bigger than ever, really showcasing that the team at The Whisky Exchange are attempting to broaden and expand the show in a way that allows the brands to show off their scope, without making the experience less personable. I was only slightly sad to see so few women at the event on the Saturday – usually, the event attracts a good number but it seemed far less balanced this year and I was left wondering where all my whisky sisters were at.
That aside, the range and choice of whiskies was sheerly overwhelming – smaller producers from all over the world, along with all the big boys of Scotland and Ireland were on display, indicating that the brands believe this to be a show they need to be seen at.
While this may sound logical, in fact for many whisky companies I speak to the choice to go to shows is becoming a less automatic one. Why? Because, I think, there can be a concern that they’re talking to people who are already whisky converts, which does little to hit the sweet spot they’re more frequently after: getting new consumers in.
This year, I didn’t try as many whiskies as normal, choosing instead to focus on a few key ranges: the new Craigellachie releases, for instance, and some excellent offerings from the Signatory range also come to mind.
While I’ll review the new Craigellachies in a separate post (you can learn more about their launch, and the rest of the Last Great Malts range, in this post) I will give my thoughts on a couple of choice bottlings I tried that day, below. One additional one I can recommend (though I did not take notes, for some reason) is the Mackmyra Midvinter – one of my favourite releases of this year, filled (if memory serves) with rich blackcurrant, slightly floral and honey notes.
As always, the folks at TWE showed that whisky is a fantastically varied spirit with innumerable choices for those new to whisky and those who have loved it for years. It’s a not-to-miss show if you can make it to London and I look forward to seeing how it develops next year.
In the interim, here are my thoughts on two cracking whiskies I tried at the show:
Linkwood 1985: Signatory bottling for TWE: 53.4%: £140:
(n): Loads of fresh, sweet fruits, eucalyptus and butterscotch on the nose.
(p): A wonderful creamy texture that’s followed with a good amount of peppercorn spice, vanilla and fleshy fruits.
(f): Grassy, dry finish.
Bruichladdich 1990: Signatory bottling: 51.4% :£98:
(c): Golden brown sugar
(n): Toasted oak, honey, lemon peel, brown sugar and red fruits on the nose – a very layered, complex whisky.
(p): Honey and wax candles – big, bold fruits with just enough spice to give it backbone. Absolutely gorgeous.