Thursday, 18 October 2012

TWE WHISKY SHOW, LONDON 2012

Having emerged from the artificial lighting of underground, these Speyside 'country-boys' stood gazing up in amazement at the mighty Shard ~ piercing the clear sky like a spear-shaped glacier, its glass exterior gleaming in the October early morning sunshine.

Three of us had flown down on the Red-eye from Edinburgh to attend the fantastic TWE Whisky Show. Held annually, this prestigious event, Britain’s biggest whisky show is organised by The Whisky Exchange (TWE) at their extensive warehouse property, close to London Bridge, by the Borough Market in Southwark. (www.thewhiskyexchange.com) In addition to TWE massive on-line wines and spirits business, there are wall to wall bottles in the wonderful TWE shop. The brick-built building ~ including the interior ~ where the whisky show takes place, is somewhat (apart from the bricked up windows!) reminiscent of the fashionable, American warehouse-conversion, airy studio-apartments one sometimes sees some in movies (Demi Moore and ‘Ghost’ (?) come to mind).

Exhibitor stalls extend through spacious interior spaces on three floors. Most exhibitors represent Scotch Malt-whisky distillers/distributors, with a large number of the whiskies being from Speyside. However, this lavish event has a truly international flavour, showcasing whiskies/whiskeys from all parts of the UK ~ England, Ireland and Wales but also countries such as Japan, America and Finland. Certainly, visitors to this show, from all over the world, could freely sample some of the best whiskies available on our planet at this time.

Several older expressions were available for the delectation of the many discerning palates present. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society stand was an Aladdin’s cave of wonderful whiskies, veiled in the Society’s characteristic green bottle and each whisky given its own ‘secret’ number, with only Society members holding the ‘key’ as to its identity!

Over the three days at the show, I managed to sample from the SMWS offerings (~ all superb!) a Longmorn 20yo; Japanese, Yoichi 26yo and a lovely Glen Moray 39yo. The energetic buzz from around the halls over the three days carried particular mention of some of the ‘Dream Drams’ ~ Glenglassaugh Massandra Connection malts ~ especially the 39 year old and from now sadly dismantled distilleries ~ Islay’s Port Ellen 32yo and born in Stonehaven (as was I ~ but a few years after me!) a Glenury Royal 40yo.

Some Dream Drams were created by master-blenders just for this show. These included ~ from Glenfiddich, Brian Kinsman’s Experimental Cask 20yo. And, from Glenfiddich’s sister distillery, The Balvenie, now 50 years their malt-master, the legendary David Stewart had created (in the style of The Balvenie ‘Tun 1401’) a Dream Dram containing a marriage of malts from 2 x 1975 hogsheads; 1 x each 1974 & 1972 oak casks; a sherry butt from 1970 and another sherry butt from 1963. Truly inspirational, this expression was considered by many to be ‘The Dram’ of the 2012 Whisky Show.

Apart from the superb whiskies available, throughout the day, delicious food was available from the in-house bistro and free teas and coffees ~ including many exotic blends ~ were on-tap every day from the lovely folks at the ‘Weanie Beans’ stall. Himalayan Jade Green Oolong Tea became one of my favourite drinks at the whisky show!  (www.weaniebeans.com)

In terms of wining and dining, a particular highlight of the Show weekend was, for me, to be introduced to the wonders of the Athenaeum Hotel. From the genuine warm welcome at the front door our Athenaeum Experience was truly exquisite. This Mayfair hotel gently presents an ambiance of warm and relaxed luxury, made perfect by the very lovely staff and delicious food. I’ll be back! (www.anthenaeumhotel.com)

Throughout the whisky show there were many master-classes and open presentations by various eminent people within the whisky industry, including a series of talks from a Speakers' Corner, boldly named 'Meet the Maker’!

Next to the ‘meeting your favourite maker’ corner, the very attractive, welcoming Balvenie stand (www.thebalvenie.com) came complete with its own cooper, who throughout the three days of the show demonstrated the dismantling and reconstruction of, in this case, American oak bourbon casks integral to the maturation process of the precious spirit. This master of his craft, Robert, a skilled cooper with Wm Grant & Sons enraptured audiences with his expertise.
To view Robert in action go to http://youtu.be/Q_IKk8U9Jlw  

One of the most wonderful things I have found within the whisky trade is the universal welcoming, friendly nature of the people working in the industry. Present at the whisky show were a great many very influential men and women who have a passion for and possess an encyclopaedic knowledge of whiskies.

It was a pleasure during the 2012 Whisky Show, to meet many of these people, some for the first time ~ several I have paddled with on the Spey. Others, until the TWE Show, I had liaised only with via the now very powerful channels of Social Media. I take this opportunity to thank all the many people who continue to support my blossoming canoe/whisky journeys.
Thanks also to you, the reader, for taking the time to read this blog. I hope you and I may, in the near future, share the majestic Spey, with a few drams along the way.

If you have a passion for or would just like to learn more about whisky i) the Glasgow Whisky Show takes place Nov 17th.

ii) Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival ~ May 2013, offering an array of events http://www.scotlandwhisky.com/whisky-festivals/

iii) Join me on a unique Canoe Journey, blending open-canoeing on the Spey with whisky experiences. Incl. delicious food & accommodation in comfortable guest-houses/hotels en route. www.spiritofthespey.co.uk

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