Here in London, autumn is well and truly upon us. The leaves are turning, the air is crisp, the sun is out. As mentioned in my last post, it’s my favourite season and walking around my local gardens today, trying to wake myself up by breathing in lots of that fresh air, I realised how beautiful everything looked.
I needed that bit of breathing time in between what is the most hectic time of the year for the whisky world. ‘The Season’, as it were, when brands launch new products, companies get prepped for the Christmas onslaught and whisky festivals are in full swing.
I find myself, this week, in between my two favourite whisky festivals of the year: Whisky Live Paris and the Whisky Show in London.
This past weekend, I was over in Paris for Whisky Live. A huge showcase of whisky and spirits, it was filled to the brim with great industry folks, and a surprisingly young, well informed whisky crowd. Saying that, it’s not entirely surprising given the French are some of the biggest consumers of single malt globally.
What stood out most was the festival’s dedication to new distilleries, those that are only just producing their first bits of single malt, which won’t be ready to showcase in full for another couple of years. At the ‘Work in Progress’ section, I caught up with Daniel Szor (who I interviewed last year) of the Cotswolds Distillery. Opened in July 2014, the distillery has been working flat out, seven days a week, laying down new make spirit for 11 months. I tasted the new make and was impressed with its fruity, oily palate and lack of intensity, even at over 60% abv. Also on hand was Mike Hayward of the Glasgow Distillery Company, who was also showing off the company’s new make and plans. I’m looking forward to seeing what his team, and Daniel and the team at the Cotswolds, both come out with in coming years.
Other highlights of Whisky Live included the 45 year old Port Askaig – a beast of a fruit monster on the nose, with rich, bold peat and grass characteristics on the palate – and the 1988 Littlemill from Berry Bros and Rudd that revived me at the end of the three-day festival with its delicate peach and cream notes on the nose, and oily honey and citrus notes on the palate.
I was also thrilled to bump into the lovely Martine Nouet, who I have long looked up to in this industry (read the Whisky Women profile with her here). She was wandering around with her new whisky book, which while in French, looks spectacular. I’m hugely excited to hopefully see this great work in English one day. A new whisky tome has been added to the market, and I recommend you look out for it!
Also on my radar since my last update is a book from another fantastic whisky woman, Susan Reigler. I met Susan last year when I was out in Kentucky, as she is the current president of the Bourbon Women Association. A fascinating
character, Susan studied at Oxford, and is a trained biologist, outside of being an excellent writer. She welcomed me with open arms to Kentucky and helped increase my interest for bourbon. Her latest book comes in the form of The Bourbon Tasting Notebook, written alongside Michael Veach. Inside, you can find notes, images, background and pricing on over 250 bourbons. At the bottom of each page is a small section for the reader to put her own notes. It’s compact but brimming with information and I can’t wait to start ticking more bourbons off of my list with inspiration from the book.
Outside of book releases, it is – as mentioned – a big time of year for new whisky releases. Big congrats goes out to a third whisky woman I highly admire, Allison Patel, who has just launched her Brenne TEN, a 10-year old version of her cognac cask aged French whisky. Sadly, it’s only available in the US, but I’ve been thrilled to watch her progress as a serious whisky entrepreneur. Also on the radar is the new Glenlivet Nadurra release. The third expression in the range, it is a peated whisky cask aged version of The Glenlivet bottled at 61.5%. I’ve not tried it yet but I do look forward to doing so.
Two big new releases that I’ve been fortunate enough to try early on (disclaimer: my partner works for the company) are from Compass Box Whisky. I’ve written about Compass Box numerous times in the past (before I started dating someone from there, mind!) and have always been fascinated with the company’s approach to making blends cool, exciting and controversial. The two new releases include a 15th anniversary edition of Flaming Heart (a rich, peaty, dark fruit laden dram) and ‘This Is Not a Luxury‘ whisky, which aims to get people thinking about the importance of what goes into the bottle, rather than a specific age statement or over-priced fancy packaging. This latter whisky includes some rather stunning malt and grain, including 19 year old Glen Ord, 40 year old Girvan and 30 year old Caol Ila. I can wholeheartedly say – any potential personal bias aside – that this is a dram worth taking time over. It’s incredibly complex, filled with notes of dusty books, red fruit, wisps of peat, honey, melons and baking spice. It’s also going to create controversy – and I look forward to seeing the debate continue!
While Compass Box is celebrating its 15th anniversary, over at Laphroaig the celebrations continue for a rather older birthday: 200 years. The company is releasing numerous whiskies this year in honour of it, including the relaunched 15 year old and the about-to-hit-shelves 32 year old (which I am due to try soon). As part of it, the company has done a very funny new Opinions Welcome video, featuring Islay locals, which you can watch, below.
Also on the whisky newsline was the anniversary of Richard Paterson, the master distiller for Whyte & Mackay. Richard is a famous figure in the whisky world, and he is currently celebrating 45 years in the industry. I’ve interviewed Richard before (see here) and am never less than impressed with his anecdotes of his time in the industry. He is one of the three ‘Whisky Legends’ who will this weekend be talking about his life in whisky at the Whisky Show here in London.
Taking place on Saturday and Sunday (with a trade day on the Monday) the Whisky Show is the whisky event of the year in London. Housed in a new venue – Old Billingsgate Market – the event will feature over 500 whiskies for whisky lovers, alongside classes, food pairings and cocktails. I’m due to be working on The Balvenie stand so do come say hi if you’re coming along!
After the Whisky Show, London will be inundated with cocktail fever for London Cocktail Week. I’m looking forward to seeing what bars have in store this year, and to checking out the Cocktail Village at Old Spitalfields. You can get wristbands for events and discounted cocktails here.
And, of course, London Cocktail Week reminds me that it’s not always just about the whisky (okay, most of the time it is, but I can’t help but give my fair dues to other spirits). At Whisky Live Paris, I discovered some incredible non-whisky spirits, my favourite being the intense Rhum Rhum. Also, one thing I’ll be checking out here in London: the Hennessy light installation window at Harrod’s called Crafted Light. It’s rather complex to try and explain succinctly, so I’m going to go and experience it in person and recommend you do too!
And with that, I bid you adieu for another couple of weeks. Make sure to check out my Facebook page and The Miss Whisky Twitter feed for up to date info from the Whisky Show this weekend and all other whisky happenings. Until then, I raise a dram to autumn, to anniversaries and to all of you!