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Visit to Whisky Live London 2011, Part 4

27 March 2011 1,508 views Written by: Shai Gilboa

After sharing my Whisky Live exhibition experience in parts one, two and three of this series of posts, it is time to shortly describe the masterclasses (as promised) and conclude the visit. However, before I continue I want to say to you, who had the patience and found the time to read these posts, how much I value the fact you did so. I know the previous parts (and probably this one as well), were quite long, but as I usually do, I wanted to take you, the reader, and place you at the venue as you were there beside me. Just a quick show of gratitude to you (and by the way, please feel free to send feedback, comments and any points you would like to see improved in the way my “story” posts are written).

Where was I? Oh yeah – The Glenlivet masterclass. As part of Adele Blake’s help with all the arrangements of tickets to Whisky Live, she also was very kind to pamper me with two tickets to the Glenlivet masterclass (and I thank her again for this). As said in part 3, Richard and I dashed to the masterclass from the Glenfiddich stand. We entered to an almost fully packed room with four round tables each ready for about seven participants. In front of each of us were placed 7 copita or tulip shaped glasses (it was a mix and match sort of setup), each holding a different Glenlivet expressions. The sheet the glasses where placed on, design inspired by the game Cluedo board, told us the identity of six of these glasses, whereas the seventh was a ‘mystery’ dram. In the middle of the sheet, was placed a tiny envelope with a big question mark on it, and inside that a small card, with that same question mark.

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The Glenlivet masterclass drams
Top, from left: 12YO, 15YO, Nadura CS
Middle: “?”
Bottom, from left: 18YO, 21YO, XXV

Our hosts for the masterclasses were Ian Logan (see part 2) and CaskStrength.net Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley. We were explained that the idea behind the masterclass theme of Cluedo, was to try and discover the age, ABV and identity of the mystery dram using the information we’ll learn from the other six. That is, we were to examine the other six drams, one by one. Analyse colour, nose and palate with relation to given data of age, ABV and wood (provided by Ian), and then try to analyse and identify the mystery dram using what we gathered and found out from the rest. So not something like “the cooper, in the still room using a stave”…

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The Glenlivet masterclass
Standing, from left: Neil, Ian and Joel

While we went through the drams, Ian provided not only ‘dry’ data, valued information about whisky, its making, and many other nuances which was very interesting to listen to. Between drams, Neil And Joel provided guidance for the analysis and also asked us, per dram, to have a chat at the table about it and give them the highlights. The highlights from all tables were then collected by Joel on his Smartphone, and once read out loud to everyone in the room, Joel twitted them via @weheartwhisky – worth to follow! This was a very unique masterclass, as it went several times from complete quiet in the room, apart from Ian’s voice fascinating us all, to extreme noise like in a train station while everyone were discussing whisky. A really fun and interesting venue.

This was also the chance for me to try all the Glenlivets I didn’t try before (except the 12YO which I have at home). The 15YO and the Nadura CS are  very nice drams however, I found the 18 charming (actually asked a friend to buy one just now), and really liked the 21 and the XXV. In general, The Glenlivet now has a warm place in my whisky heart.

Then came the mystery dram time. As I nosed it I started to smile and that smile grew bigger when I tasted it. I knew this whisky. I didn’t think I know it, I actually KNEW it! I looked at Richard to my right and looked at me and we both just knew what it was. If you recall, in part 2 I told you how we had a chance to try two rare Glenlivets with Ian. Well the mystery dram was one of them, and both Richard and I immediately recognized it as the amazing Founder’s Reserve. When Neil and Joel asked us to write down our age, ABV and identity  guesses (in that little ‘?’ envelope) I “cheated”, found the picture I took earlier of the bottle and copied the information and also wrote that this was the founder’s reserve. I didn’t know that they were going to call out what everyone wrote and then “crown” me as the one who’s guess was the closest – no other prize though. However, when I think of it again, the fact that I was able to recognize the exact expression after having so many whiskies after I tried it for the first time earlier, is actually impressive.

As everyone were scattering I went over to Ian, Neil and Joel and told them that I ‘cheated’. Ian replied that as Neil called out what I wrote, which started with age and was followed by ABV, he understood I got it right and I think he was impressed with that in a way :) . Anyway, enough self patting on the back and on to what I promised in part 3. That is, the interview I had with Joel and Neil after the masterclass ended (which again, was great fun!) -

CaskStrength.net Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley at Whisky Live

Personally I had a marvellous time at the masterclass and at Whisky Live as a whole. I think that as a whisky event this was a great venue to visit. Though I didn’t manage to do and taste as half as I wanted (as I mentioned in the previous part), I met a lot of new whisky lovers, learnt a lot and a had an overall heck of a time. I do recommend for any whisky enthusiast.

I asked Richard to share with me his thought of the show. This is what he wrote:

I’ve been asked for my impressions of Whisky Live London after attending a few weeks back. For the record, Great whiskies flowed freely and sampled in reasonable quantities accompanied by healthy amounts of water and a bit of food. I could go on to list the many dozens of whiskies that were available for tasting, or describing the delightful drams that I tasted. I could mention the nosing, the mouth feel and short or long finish for this or that single malt. Not to say there weren’t dozens of whiskies for tasting, or that I tried more than a few because both of these points have been witnessed and are well known. Indeed I believe those have been covered very well by my friends in various posts, blog and comments.

What I do want to stress and what will remain in my memories are the people I came into contact at Whisky Live; People from all walks of life, blue collar workers & white collar professionals, men & women, zealous amateurs and professionals sharing a common passion for whisky. Contrary to the popular view that single malt whisky is an elitist drink or snobbish, these hundreds of whisky lovers taught me that whisky is about enjoying a quality drink with friends. Drinking Single Malt Whisky is about enjoying the moment, savouring the dram in your hand, nosing the complex aromas in the glass, tasting the rich flavours as you take your first sip and finally letting the finish envelope your senses as the whisky goes down your throat. It’s about fully enjoying the here and now. It’s just so much better if you can do that with friends.

That’s what I came away with from Whisky Live. That and a couple bottle of whisky from Compass Box.


When it came to the masterclass Raviv and Ben attended, some faults with Whisky Live organization were discovered. It started with a technical error – Raviv and Ben’s tickets were not waiting for them, but they managed to solved that somehow, but it continued to a rather bigger error. Raviv explained that in the masterclass, given by Dave Broom, participants were supposed to taste the top winning whiskies of the World Whisky Awards 2011 and also choose their favourite one as the public choice, or something like that. However, for some reason or another, the bottles for the masterclass never arrived! Instead another line-up of whiskies was quickly organized. The During the masterclass, the whiskies were tasted with and without water, then a short discussion was held about each. At the end the most favourite whisky was voted.

The whiskies that were tasted at the end were 1982 Berry’s Own Selection Inchgower, Scapa Old Malt Cask 17YO, Springbank 12YO CS, Lagavulin 25YO, Compass Box Flaming Heart special edition – also the winner of the vote ,  Cameronbridge 1978 (Duncan Taylor) and Glenfiddich 14 Rich Oak which was the favourite for Raviv and Ben. Raviv noted to me that all in all he was satisfied with the whiskies tasted, though he found the Lagavulin 25YO a bit disappointing.

I asked Raviv for his summarizing thought of the show, especially as he also visited Whisky Live 3 years ago. I’ll start by saying that Raviv’s bottom line was that he enjoyed the show, the companion and of course the whisky. When he compares this show to the one held 3 years ago, it seems that this time there were less ‘big’ distilleries and much more ‘small’ distilleries and independent bottlers. Like Raviv, I also felt the absence of Highland Park, Glenmorangie, Grant’s, Laphroaig, Macallan and many other we thought will attend (though on a personal note, their absence meant I was able discover other fine makers). Also, this year there were no special bottling (for taste or for sale), and most of the whiskies presented were the standard line-up of the producers.

When it comes to dining and water, we both agree that food was very good and water was in abundant. Another thing we are in consent of is the VIP tickets. All four of us (Raviv, Ben, Richard and I) purchased VIP tickets knowing that we’ll have more vouchers, special VIP only drams, VIP tasting at the lounge and more. However, there was no published schedule for when VIP tastings will be held in the VIP lounge (I personally never got there), almost no presenter asked for vouchers – regular ticket owner and VIPs were given drams I like (which I am in favour for, but it makes paying for extra vouchers in advance kind of redundant), and when it comes to VIP only drams, most presenters just didn’t bother to bring such bottles and those who did hid them under the table, which meant you had to ask about the VIP dram and see how it was given to you “quietly” under the table – not very pleasant. The biggest issue with the show, agreed by anyone who attended, is that 5 hours are just not enough, especially if you have 1 hour masterclass as part of them. As Raviv suggested, a two-day ticket offering could really be great.

Regardless of the above mentioned, Raviv, Ben, Richard and myself enjoyed Whisky Live very much. I think it is a great and important venue, which has  a lot to offer to a whisky connoisseur, and I thank Whisky Magazine for holding it. I know I will try to attend it again in the future, and I truly recommend anyone who loves whisky to do so as well.

Again, thank you for reading and letting me share my visit with you. I do hope you enjoyed, and would love to receive feedback!

See you in future posts.

Sláinte,

Shai

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  • http://twitter.com/sgilboa Shai Gilboa

    As I finished this post in a rush yesterday, forgot to add more thanks yous.
    So, thank you Gal for hosting, Richard, Raviv and Ben for companion, thank you Ian, The Nose, Joel, Neil, Jan, Chris, Adele, Olav, Charley, Phil, Dave, Colin, Tom, Jim, Raymond, Andy, John and all the rest of the whisky lovers who made the show fun!

    Huge thank you to my pregnant wife Meital, who went with me to London while I was drinking spent a quiet eve at the Tate Museum (and also was patient with the visit to SMWS and then TWE – post bout that will come shortly).

    So there you go – I had a blast!

  • Raviv

    It was fun reading all the posts and just a small correction, our favorite dram at the masterclass was Cameron brig 1978 and not rich oak 14yo, thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/sgilboa Shai Gilboa

      Oh sorry about that.
      Was trying my best to separate the English/Hebrew text in the FB message.

      Glad you enjoyed the posts :)

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