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Visit to Whisky Live London 2011, Part 3

22 March 2011 1,624 views Written by: Shai Gilboa

I finished part 2 by mentioning that Richard and I continued on to the Glendronach and BenRiach stand. There we met Jim who has been working with both distilleries for the past seven years, and is responsible for all of the logistical side which includes amongst other duties the bottling lines, shipping and exporting. We asked Jim to his favourite whisky and were answered – the BenRiach 16YO. As Jim said, it is an affordable “…nice drink to have at any time, whether it’s a ‘through the week’ drink or a special occasion drink”. Jim did mention that he does also favour some of the special and deluxe whiskies offered by both Glendronach and BenRiach.

I used the opportunity to finally try the Glendronach 15YO which was recently given away by WhiskyIsrael in a competition and I never had the chance to sample. I found a fine sherry fruity whisky which was fun on the palate and nose. We also tried the Solstice 15YO, a peaty, port finished BenRiach which was like having a creamed milk-Cabernet Sauvignon filled with dried fruits, raisins, apricots and was followed by some smoke on the finish. A true joyous whisky that I have to try again. Our visit to the Glendronach/BenRiach stand was completed with me tasting the Glendronach 1989, single cask 20YO whisky – another very well balanced, rich, fruity superb and lovely expression.

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Jim presenting the Glendronach 1989

While I was having the 1989, I started chatting with John McCrie (I hope I got the name right), who was standing next to me. John was tasting the BenRiach 21YO and was kind lo let me have a sniff – bad move on my side as thick fennel filled my nostrils, and I truly dislike fennel or any related by-products. John however liked it quite a bit, but did agree with me that the 1989 was better. I learnt that John works for wines and spirits shop names SH Jones and decided to have a quick interview with him -

John McCrie at Whisky Live

Moving on, Richard and I stopped at the SMWS stand as we wanted to give good feedback about the excellent service we received during our visit to the SMWS rooms the night before. Richard was recognized immediately by the SMWS representative (whose name I forgot – my apology), and we were offered to taste a whisky named ’76.79 Sherry Fusion’ (Mortlach), which all I can say about is that I really hope to be able to purchase it somehow before it runs out of stock (any willing SMWS member out there? ;) ).

IMG_2798 Richard (left), speaking to SMWS representatives

After having a nice conversation with SMWS representatives, we made a quick stop at the stand of Whisky Magazine, also responsible for producing Whisky Live. While Richard was querying about subscription information and also found out that the magazine’s representative spent some time in Israel living in Tel Aviv, I managed to taste their very own aged 10YO blend.  Unfortunately, the pale coloured liquid, that was poured in a very small measurement, was not to my liking. The grassy, light and fast fading nose was continued with a flat mouth-feel on the palate that seemed to contain mainly green herbs (parsley and so), and went onto a short zesty finish. To be fair, I might need to try this one again, but at that time, it was just wrong.

Looking at the time, we understood that we are not going to make all the stands ,plus have something to eat, and make it to the masterclass in time. We decided to be a bit more picky and directed ourselves to the Glencairn stand fulfilling a promise each of us made made to Andy Davidson of Glencairn, to come and say hi at the show. Andy and his father Raymond stood behind a table filled with all kind of varieties of whisky related glassware; I had no idea they had so many products.

About two weeks before the show, I posted to my Facebook account pictures of a 5cl Grant’s bottle (Grant’s sent me so I taste the sherry cask expression, in exchange for the photos :) ), accompanied with what I though to be a mini Glencairn glass (which I got during Feis Ile 2010), and I tagged that glass as Glaincairn. Andy posted a comment that it’s not a real Glencairn. I replied him, he replied me,  and from one reply to another, we “closed a deal” that when I’ll come say hi, he’ll give me a real one so I’ll get rid of the “cheap imitation”. Now first thing you see on Andy (and on his father to ne honest), is a big smile. That smile is contagious, you just cannot help yourself but smile as well. Being a great sport, Andy gave me a Tobermory glass (of of his favourite distilleries).

We started speaking about the imitations of the Glencairn scotch whisky glass that are out there, and apparently Glencairn do not make mini glasses at all. According to my understanding, another UK company started to use the Glencairn unique developed shape without permission shortly after the glass got to the market around 2001. At first Glencairn didn’t think much of this, but with time they heard people refer to this imitations as being Glencairn (or mini-Glencairn), which meant that the quality of the imitations (which is not the same as the original glass), was referred to them. Currently Glencairn has taken the issue to court, and I wish them success and remind you all, if the glass doesn’t say Glencairn on the bottom, it isn’t one! Raymond and Andy agreed to have a short interview as well -

Raymond and Andy of Glencairn at Whisky Live

As Richard an I were going towards the Whyte&Mackay stand we met with Raviv and Ben of the WhiskyIsrael Society who started their evening with a masterclass (being the reason we didn’t meet earlier). We spoke a bit about our impressions of the show to that point and then moved to taste some of the whiskies Whyte&mackay were offering (and they had a lot to offer!).

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Left to right: Richard, Raviv and Ben at Whisky Live

I started with Jura Superstition, which I wanted to try for very long time, and to my surprise was nothing I expected and was not very much to my liking, but I will be trying it again when less affected by so many whiskies. I then went on to try the Jura 16YO (very nice), and also to the Dalmore Rivers collection, Tweed Dram. To tell the truth, by this time I didn’t do any more videos at the stands, and I was really not in a condition to actually taste the whiskies; all I recall is what I liked and what I didn’t. I recall the Tweed Dram felt funny on the palate, but luckily for me, Richard Paterson – Whyte&Mackay’s Master Blender, AKA, ‘The Nose’) was standing next to me and I decided to ask him to sniff the glass and tell me his opinion, without me telling him what it was. ‘The Nose’ took a whiff and asked to know what it was. On my reply he asked Jill at the stand to pour me the Tay Dram instead. I wonder what that means…

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Left to right: myself, Richard Paterson and his ‘right-hand’ – Margaret

I must try all the expressions in the Dalmore Rivers Collection in more relaxed atmosphere as they didn’t leave a strong mark, and thus I don’t recall how they are. Richard (WIS one) and I asked Jill to try the Whyte&Mackay 30YO, which I’ve been wanting to try forever, but sadly the answer was no. So, while we were trying to convince and persuade her, I had the Fettercairn Fior (superb!). Eventually, and thanks to ‘The Nose’ intervening, we were poured a nice dram of the Whyte&Mackay 30YO. This was an extremely well made aged blend, and finally I understood what the fuss is all about. Next to the Whyte&Mackay stand, stood the Connosr WhiskyPod, where one could go in and be video recorded speaking about whisky of choice (or anything to that matter). Holding the Whyte&Mackay 30YO, Richard and I went into the pod and shared our 2 cents about the whisky and the show in general (do note my ‘over-tipsy’ state) – Richard and Shai on Whisky Live and Whyte&Mackay 30 (I was not able to embed in the post due to Connosr’s storage method).

While we were at the pod Raviv and Ben went to the VIP dining room to get something in the stomach, and Richard and I joined them soon after we finished the video. At the VIP dining, placed on the floor above, each was offered 2 dishes (beef/salmon/mushroomed rice) and a small desert. As we were ordering our choices from the nice waitress, Adele Blake came to us to tell us that there is a special VIP tasting of Glenfiddich in the VIP lounge. Richard and I were to have the Glenlivet masterclass 20 minutes after, so we stayed to eat, and sober up a bit, but we did encourage Raviv and Ben to go, and so they did (later they told us this was a tasting of the Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix and another unique expression which was ’exposed to the public’ for the first time). While Richard and I were eating, Andy of Glencairn joined us, and we continued our previous chat, which was real fun (I already mention that Andy is a great guy).

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VIP Dining

After we ate we had minutes to spare before the masterclass began, so we used them to go to the Glenfiddich stand and try and reveal on our own what was the special tasting given to VIPs at that time. We failed with that but did manage to try a 14YO Glenfiddich, which was interesting, in a way. You see personally I have a bit of an issue with the Glenfiddich – I don’t find a lot of differences between the Glenfiddich expressions (expect the Snow Phoenix which I do have at home). I mostly find harsh dry wood in the Glenfiddichs I tasted (12, 15, 18 and the 14) and I don’t like that very much – but again this is me in person, though I did speak about this with a nice Scottish gentleman who stood next to me, and actually shared my opinion.

Almost being late, Richard and I dashed to the masterclass. The masterclass, which was under the influence of the game Cluedo and was given by Ian Logan (see part 2) and by CaskStrength.net Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley. All about this masterclass (including an interview with Joel and Neil), and about the masterclass Raviv and Ben attended, in the next part of my ‘Visit to Whisky Live London 2011’ posts series.

After we left the masterclass it was already closing time of the show. However we rushed in to try and taste some of Compass Box whisky, and I also wanted to interview Chris Maybin. Unfortunately, security didn’t allow anymore tasting, but I did manage to purchased the Compass Box tasting box. I also spoke shortly to Chris and told him I’ll be emailing him the questions I wanted to ask. When I got home I sent Chris my questions, asking him to answer under the thought that he was standing at Whisky Live. Chris, being a great sport, sent me his answers quite quickly and the complete interview is brought bellow (read this thinking it was done at Whisky Live).

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Chris Maybin at Whisky Live

Name: Chris Maybin; Working for: Compass Box; As: Commercial Director (ok, all that from card).

What do you do as Commercial Director?
Everything from making the coffee to formulating marketing strategies for our key markets! There are only 4 and a half of us at Compass Box so it is all about teamwork and flexibility. In short though, I manage sales for all markets outside the US and Canada, and oversee the marketing, PR and e-commerce side of the business on a day to day basis worldwide. I work closely with John Glaser on formulating strategy for the business and developing new products. The only thing I really can’t lay claim too is the whiskymaking side, which is run by John and Gregg Glass, although of course I am used as a (willing) guinea pig for any trials.

How long have you been in the whisky industry?
I am quite a baby in terms of whisky industry experience! My experience is in fine wine where I looked after the marketing for the wine arm of Berry Bros. & Rudd. In 2007 I decided to up sticks with my wife Fiona and move from London to Paris. I had the enormous pleasure of working with Doug McIvor at Berry Bros & Rudd, developing the Berrys’ Own Selection single cask whisky range with him, and he recommended I get in touch with his French distributor, Thierry Bénitah at La Maison du Whisky.

Now, at this stage I just didn’t really get, or really like, whisky, but needs must and so I slightly exaggerated my love for the water of life in order to get the job. Over the following 4 or 5 weeks I tasted as much as I could – and at La Maison du Whisky there is no shortage of great things to taste – and then, she-bang, one day it just hit me that this stuff was actually pretty amazing. And it has been a passionate love affair ever since.

I worked as Marketing Manager at La Maison du Whisky for almost two years – and as anyone who has worked for the genius that is Thierry Bénitah will tell you, 2 years there is like 10 years anywhere else! It was of course also here that I met John Glaser and got to know the Compass Box whiskies and philosophy. And so when I decided to return to the UK at the end of 2009, John was the first person I called.

What do you think of the “boom” that is on-going in the whisky industry? is it here to last?
Definitely. I see a lot of comparisons in the evolution of the wine industry over the last 20 years and whisky trends in the last few years and, I think, also the future. I believe consumers will increasingly seek and value originality, innovation, authenticity and honesty, and will of course be more demanding about quality. They will drink less (maybe) but certainly better. Education will increase, and so will a thirst for knowledge. All of this is good news for the whisky industry as long as it responds to this shift, and doesn’t become complacent or arrogant.

How are you enjoying WL? Busy night? what sort of reactions do you get as you are not a “regular” whisky making company?
As you can see, the Compass Box stand has been absolutely packed all day. The only food Gregg and I have had time to grab, is a couple of oatcakes from Jacqueline at the Duncan Taylor stand! The response has been fantastic too. We love doing these kind of shows as we get to see a lot of old friends, but also convert lots of whisky lovers – who maybe haven’t had the chance to taste Compass Box whiskies before – to what we do. Because we are so different to everyone else, there is no better way of illustrating our artisanal, creative approach to whiskymaking, than just getting people to taste and enjoy the whiskies and spend a bit of time chatting to them. The people who have the confidence to judge what is in the glass forget whether they are drinking a single malt, a vatted malt, a grain whisky, or a blend, they just enjoy it.

What is your favourite whisky(ies)? and what would be you your daily dram?
People always ask me which is my favourite Compass Box whisky, and the fact is that there is a different one for each occasion and each mood. So Asyla when I am just looking for a relaxing, silky dram, Hedonism for that soothing end of day experience, Peat Monster or Spice Tree when it’s miserable outside, and Oak Cross for pretty much any time! Outside of Compass Box, I’ve been enjoying a lot of RedBreast 12 recently, some Elijah Craig 18 YO, and a host of Japanese whiskies like Hakushu, Nikka from the Barrel and Hibiki 12yo. Plus I am lucky enough to have some lovely single cask bottlings from the Berry Bros & Rudd range. When it comes to whisky, I enjoy pretty much every style, and as Sir Winston Churchill once said, ‘I am easily satisfied with the best!’

And for the finish – 2-3 tips for whisky consumers, new and old, that you would recommend (except enjoying)?
Well, obviously if you haven’t tasted the range of Compass Box whiskies, then that is an absolute must! Have the courage to judge what is in the glass not what is on the label, have confidence in your own taste not other people’s, and be open to everything.
Taste as many whiskies as you can, as often as you can.
Discover Japanese whiskies if you haven’t done so already – I can’t remember tasting a bad one – in many ways, I think that the Compass Box philosophy is very close to that of the Japanese whisky industry.

And, of course, above all share & enjoy.


At that point, security escorted all of us outside , visitors and exhibitors.

I didn’t manage to get half of what I wanted in the show, not only tasting wise, but also people get-together wise. I was supposed to have a dram with some twitter friends (to list q few @whiskysquad, @cowfish and @TheWhiskyWire), but there was simply not enough time! All in all the visit to the show was a great experience, but I will give my summary in the next part.

Again, thanks for reading and allowing me to share this with you. See you in the next, final, part.

Sláinte,

Shai

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