It’s been a busy time of year in the whisky world. Back in March, I wrote about a couple of big upcoming festivals that I’d be heading off to and suddenly, it’s mid-April and I’m just getting a chance to think back on them.
This year’s Whisky Live London and Midlands Whisky Festival happened over consecutive weekends, making it a full-on time of #whiskyfabric catch-ups. And, as per my review of last year’s Whisky Live London this year took a similar turn: the events became more about the catching up with folks, the atmosphere and memories than about in-depth whisky reviewing. For me, at least. I saw many a person with notepads taking down in-depth notes about what they were tasting, but I focused this year on that other thing I love about the whisky industry (talked a lot about in this post on Why I Blog): the people.
And the reason I’m sharing this is because it reinforces my belief that all of you need to get along to a whisky festival if you can make it. Or, if you love whisky, maybe organise one, like Amy Seton started doing with the now very successful Birmingham whisky festival.
For me I only started to realise how inclusive and welcoming the whisky world was when I started attending festivals in 2011. And some of the people I met at those early shows have gone on to become friends all these years later, not just people I happen across at festivals, a thing I think is common across the board.
This year, I even made friends with a pig at Whisky Live London. I’ve no idea if we’ll see each other again, however, but I’ll try to not take it too personally.
But back to festivals. Here in the UK (which covers only a tiny portion of the festivals happening globally) there are loads of opportunities to gather with whisky lovers, chill out and enjoy a few drams. Over the next couple of months, I recommend checking out The Whisky Lounge London Weekender (16-18 May), Whisky Stramash in Edinburgh (24-25 May), the Spirit of Speyside festival (1-5 May, where I’ll be hosting events for International Women Of Whisky Day on the 3 May along with Whisky Lassie, The Whisky Belle and Angela D’Orazio of Mackmyra) or Feis Ile on Islay (23-31 May – look out for my Islay round-up during those couple of weeks taking you behind the scenes of Islay’s distilleries).
Now, of course these festivals are also about the spirit that unites us all and I did try some lovely drams. I’ll be writing about them on the site in coming posts, such as the range from Teeling, one to watch out for on the Irish scene, along with some great drams from independent bottlers (two of which are reviewed below) and the new Old Pulteney Peated, a delicious limited edition bottling of Old Pulteney matured in former Ardbeg casks and definitely one to look out for.
But I hope you are able to find a festival near you. They’re not only great places to meet fellow whisky lovers, but places to meet the people that make the drams and will only inspire you further.
I’m also keen to hear about your favourite whisky festival memories and your never-miss events, so put your recommendations in the Comments section below.
For now, here are a couple of cracking drams that I did stand still long enough to make notes on.
Carn Mor Single Cask Teaninich (bottled by Scottish Liqueur Centre): 54%:
Ex-sherry cask, one of 200 bottles
(c): Amber agate
(n): A surprisingly fresh dram for the age and cask type – with lots of lemon peel, honeysuckle it was very floral. Toasted caramel, grainy and slightly acidic but really bright.
(p): Really fresh again – lemon balm, candle wax, marzipan, tea leaves, white sugar and a bit of cream later on. You’d never know this was 40 years old.
The Octaves: Mortlach 1995 (bottled by Duncan Taylor):
European oak, first fill ex-sherry cask
(n): I got a real hit of eggnog (the Canadian variety that comes in cardboard cartons!) on this one, then marzipan, butter, lemon peel and raisins. Yummy pudding whisky by the smell of it!
(p): A good bit of spice (nutmeg and cinnamon), before vanilla, eggnog (again), cherries and cream. Rich, big, bold – a more traditional Mortlach than the new releases, the cask style really comes through.