Easter marks the end of a manic start to the year, but it’s great looking over what The W Club has achieved and to know that we aren’t even out of first gear yet. And this last week has been as manic as ever.
So what did I like?
Always great to get to Speyside, but picking two days when Aberdeenshire broke the record on consecutive days for Scotland’s hottest March day on record, was a bonus. This week the very same place was eight centimetres deep in snow and facing freezing temperatures more than 20 degrees less than the week before.
I was met at the airport by Chivas Brothers international public relations director Jim Long who drove me to Glenlivet distillery to taste some of the cask samples the distilelry has been releasing.
The Whisky Shop will be stocking two single cask, cask expressions from Glenlivet soon: Helios, a 20 year old 50.7% hogshead refill whisky, and Josie, a 17 year old whisky at 57.3%.
I tasted the single cask selected by a small number of the Glenlivet Guardians and it was a delight – somewhere between the 15 year old French Oak reserve and the 16 year old Nadurra, with all the vanilla, sweet yellow fruits , coconut, spearmint and peach you associate with the latter, and some of the spice you get from the former. Rich clean and fruity, it was Spring in a glass and the perfect whisky for the day we were having.
I also tasted the 40 year old Glenlivet Atlantic – a venerable old church on Easter Sunday, with beeswax polish, flowers, old oak and incense spice in the air. On the palate was a large gloopy dollop of pineapple jam, then late on, astringency, oak, and spice.
Thanks Jim – short and sweet. But very, very sweet.
The Speyside festival plans
The festival organisers mean business these days and for the second year running the level of organisation has taken a major step up.
There were always great events at this Ferstival but you had to unearth them for yourself, and they seemed to happen somewhat randomly.
Not any more. Linked by Twitter and Facebook, the Festival’s getting a lot right, offering visitors an idea of how long it will take from event to event and whether their personal tmetables are practical, offering information and ticket points, publicising late ticket availability with direct messaging, and linking up transport requirements with the supply of buses and taxis.
There are loads of events on offer, many of them still with tickets. The Ferstival runs from May 3 to May 7 and you can find out more about the whole Festival at its website – also watch for my video interview from the banks of the sunny Spey.
Tastings at The Artichoke, Broome, and at the Rumsey Wells, Norwich
Two big crowds, lots of great whisky, and plenty of laughs – what’s not to like?
To mark World Whisky Day both tastings were world whisky first half, Scotch whisky second – with Nikka Straight From The Cask and Jim Beam Black Label being the pick of the world whiskies and Compass Box’s Spice Tree and Peat Monster the pick of the Scottish malts.
New Douglas Laing samples
I received a batch of Douglas Laing samples and they have dominated my tasting evenings for the last few days.
There are very few that aren’t very good – though The Glenlivet is an oddball. Favourites included the following:
Provenance Tamdhu 12 Year Old 46%
Lots of zip and zesty fruit sherbet andf a healthy dash of marzipan.
Provenance Caol Ila Young and Feisty 46%
Arguably the best of the bunch, this is fantastic. Mix melon, lemon and lime with a sootiness and you get something not unlike Connemara. This is surprisingly balanced if it is very young, and pressing all the right buttons for me.
Royal Brackla 12 Year Old 52%
An awesome mix of toffee treacle, liquorice, burnt nut and sharp chili spice. Surprise, surprise…
Old Malt Cask Bunnahabhain 14 year old 50%
Feisty, green gooseberry nose and full green fruit and menthol on the palate with chocolate lime candy and sweet pear. Very, very nice.
Old Malt Cask The Macallan 18 year old 50%
Great but not typical of The Macallan, light and grapey with some grapefruit, liquorice and fizzy sherbet notes. It’s quite a big and chunky malt with some aniseed and hickory. Almost smoky and very nice.
52 Degrees North
52 Degrees North is a cafe-bar in Poland Street in Soho – Poland is at 52 Degrees North apparanetly – and it serves restaurant -quality food at reasonable prices. Fresh salads, stunning fishcakes, perfectly cooked sardines, the best chips I think i’ve ever hasd (really!) and a selection of drinks which include Innis & Gunn and Harviestoun on draught. The atmosphere is very informal and casual i had a stunning cocktail called a Miss Martini, and there’s a downstairs room which would be great for private functions. I loved it and will be back.
I finsished my Whisky Opus book, due for publication in October, and a day later received copies of the monster book that is 1001 Whiskies To Try Before You Die, 960 pages and 350,000 words of whisky brilliance – and I can say that because I oversaw 25 writers so most of the entries aren’t mine. It’s out in early May and I’m very proud of it.