Saturday 29th September saw the opening of the 2018 Whisky Show, put on by The Whisky Exchange at Old Billingsgate Market in London. A number of our congregation have been in previous years but for me it was a new experience. An Aladdin’s cave of whisky is what I was promised and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Myself and Jez met up before the show in Borough Market for some much needed sustenance before heading to the venue. We arrived about an hour before opening and there was already a queue starting to build. This really is an incredibly popular event and I was surprised at how quickly the queue extended down the street. Conor met us outside and it wasn’t long before we all headed in and started to explore what was on offer. Jason Whisky Wise was helping out on the Paul John stand so we paid him a visit and took some advice on where to head first. We had a steady start and tried to keep our palates fresh for the main event.
The main event I speak of was the Port Ellen tasting, hosted by Colin Dunn and Georgie Crawford. This really was something special and a once in a lifetime experience. The tasting was of the vertical variety and consisted of 8 Port Ellen’s (9th-16th) from the Diageo special releases. It started at 12:15 and lasted just under 2 hours. We were guided through the samples by Colin and Georgie who provided a rare insight into the history and future of the distillery. Considering many of the bottles are way out of reach, with prices easily exceeding £2000, it was a wonderful opportunity to try some singular and really quite special whiskies. My personal favourite was the 11th release because of the gorgeous tropical notes that come through the subtle peat smoke. Everyone had their own favourite however and it just reinforced what a subjective hobby whisky is. It was also really interesting to move onto the 15th and 16th releases, where you could actually taste the changes made by the distillery as they increased the phenol content in a bid to stay relevant and stay open, literally history in a glass.
After the tasting we went back down to the main hall, and like kids in a sweetshop we began to sample as much as possible. Pappy 15 and 23 made an early appearance. I tried the new Glenfarclas 22yo 105, Indian whisky, american Rye whisky, many independent bottling’s and so much more. I spent my own dream dram token trying a Berry Brothers and Rudd blend from the 1950’s alongside another blend from the 1940’s. The only part of the day that was slightly disappointing was the food. The buffet was initially closed when we first tried to eat and we had to wait until about 4 to finally get some fairly bland lunch. This, however was a minor blip in an otherwise great day.
Some of the other club members visited on the Sunday and Monday and from what I’ve heard they had an equally exciting experience. I cannot wait for next year, bring it on!