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The Mad Dash – A whirlwind trip from Israel to Spain to attend Whisky Live Madrid

8 June 2011 2,387 views Written by: Richard Barr

I had such a wonderful time at Whisky Live London back in March, I decided to see if there were any other shows in my “neighborhood”. I discovered the closest event was in Madrid. I couldn’t get anyone else to make a crazy journey lasting a mere 32 hours, including 10 hours flight time, so I would have to do it alone. I have a ton of air miles saved up and as luck would have it, a business class seat was available on Iberia for the dates I needed, May 26th to Madrid & May 27th returning to Tel Aviv. I snatched it up before the fates could make it disappear. Next was to check if there was anyone I even vaguely know attending Whisky Live Madrid. As it turned out, Miguel Angel Blanch Lardin of awardrobeofwhisky.com fame was planning to attend. We would meet up prior to Whisky Live and swap a few samples between us.

I must admit that I started my Whisky Live experience a little early by sampling the on the flight over. Iberia has Glen Fiddich but having multiple opportunities to drink that, I selected Ballintines 12 y.o. And yes I do know it’s a blend but it’s a mighty fine blend.

Miguel and me

After making my way to the hotel I was staying at, I met up with Miguel (He chose the same hotel due to location & price) and went to lunch where we discussed whisky. From there we made our way to the Whisky Live show. As it was one of the few master classes in English, we immediately went to 4 p.m. Dominic Roskrow master class titled “The effects of the wood on whisky” As it coincided with the opening of the show, it had a very poor turnout, which turned out to be excellent for Miguel & me. Dominic Roskrow is a bottomless fountain of knowledge when it comes to whisky and we were able to ask anything & everything we had ever wanted to know about whisky, not just about the effects of the wood as the course was titled.

me and Dominic Roskrow

The master class was centered around five single whiskies; Auchestoshan 12 yo, Macallan Fine Oak 12 yo, Compass Box’s The Spice Tree, Suntory Yamazaki 12 yo and Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select. We tasted all 5 with great intent and enjoyment.

bottles_Dominic Roskrow

After a few last words with Dominic, we made our way past the Vodka area. Without disparaging the vodkas present, I found a stop in this area unwarranted, what with all those whiskies waiting for me. And so into the main hall we went, where the whiskies sat.

With the number of stands and quantities whiskies apparent, I felt like “Imelda Marcus in a shoe store” (if you don’t get that analogy, Google it). With that giddy feeling, our first stop was at Destilerias Liber, makers of Embrujo de Granada. The fellows there exhibited true Spanish hospitality and spoke to me at length while offering a serious dram. This was my first interaction with Spanish Single Malt and indeed my biggest surprise of the evening. They are a young distiller, crafting whisky a mere 7 years. I sampled their solid single malt. With its level of complexity, I was quite astounded to hear that the whisky is a young 5 ½ years old. They were quite generous in making a gift of a small bottle to bring home. I can assure you that there will be a review of Embrujo de Granada in the future.

Destell_Liber

We next visited the other Spanish Distillery at the show, DYC Destilerias y Crianza del Whisky. Again, the Spanish hospitality exhibited itself here as we chatted with the rep on hand. Rather than slip into inebriation immediately, instead of trying their full range, we limited ourselves to just the pure malt and the single malt. Here again, the Spanish whisky was surprisingly decent. I was given a 50 ml miniature bottle of their 8 yo blend to try later.

From there it was onto the Japanese whiskies, where I tried the Yamazaki 18 yo. It was nice to sample without having to break the seal on the unopened bottle back home. They had a yummy looking Hibiki 17 year old but sadly the young lady behind the table wouldn’t let me try it. Still you can’t go wrong with the Japanese whiskies.

DCY_spanish whisky

A visit next door to the Bowmore stand, provided me with the opportunity to try two Glen Garioch single malts; the 12 years old and the Founders Reserve. While there I met a very interesting chap also sampling those two whiskies. We chatted for a while and compared opinions of the two. He liked the lighter citrus tones of the Founders Reserve, while I preferred the 12 yo, which more reminded me of the 2 SMWS single cask bottles I love (19.46 & 19.48).

Skipping a few tables due to the sheer quantity of whisky available, we went over to the Maker’s Mark Bourbon booth for something a little different. Not for the excellent whisky but rather to enjoy the interesting display, pretty ladies & freebies, but mostly the freebies. I received a miniature bottle of Maker’s Mark, sealed with its signature dripping wax, which by the way my son immediately borrowed to exhibit with his statuette collectables as he liked the rectangle shaped bottle. After stashing my mini, we moved over to a more fascinating spot at the stand. A hot caldron of melted Maker’s Mark sealing wax, where both Miguel and I enthusiastically partially submerged large Maker’s Mark logo crested lowball glasses. Mine currently sits on my shelf behind my desk.

Makers_Mark_wax

Around the corner we went, onto Glenglassaugh, who were offering two bottles. I don’t think we can call them both whiskies as one was a new make. While I generally find New Make to be overly cloying, The Glenglassaugh New Make demonstrated a wonderful potential once introduced to the right wood. It had deep floral and fruity qualities that when aged, would make a delicious dram.

Glen_Gaslough

Miguel dragged me over to the Hammerhead stand. I didn’t want to try it as I had thought with a name like Hammerhead, I would be overcome with peat & smoke. I tried it anyway and was pleasantly surprised. This 100% Czech whisky (Czech barley, Czech water, Czech yeast and Czech oaks) was made before the fall of communism. Then the Berlin Wall & Iron Curtain fell and Czechoslovakia split into 2 separate nations, leaving this whisky forgotten in some dusty warehouse where it laid for 20 years until being discovered & shipped to the capitalist west by the capitalist Czechs. There are a measly 80,000 bottles and no more so buy it when you get a chance.

Hammerhead

Next to the Hammerhead stand was a very interesting private tasting table, where if one was lucky enough, could sit down and get a premium private tasting session of varied whiskies for 5 people. Sitting on the table was a bottle of the newly recreated Shackleton whisky, St George Royal Wedding, Terenpeli finish whisky, Hudson Rye, and Three Ships South Africa whisky. Unfortunately, one had to sit & learn to taste but with only 5 seats available, we couldn’t catch an empty spot. After attempting this a few times, we decided to chance an exception to the sitting rule. We put on our best sad puppy look and asked for a wee dram of the Shackleton. It worked and we both felt honored to be tasting a bit of our great great grandfather’s whisky.

With only a few minutes till the Macallan master class, we decided to squeeze in a couple more drams. And for the second time in the day, Miguel convinced me to try a whisky I wasn’t keen to. Let me say this. I do NOT like Cardhu single malt whisky. At least not the 12 yo stuff they pump out to the market, and that was my only experience with Cardhu till this point. Miguel specifically asked the rep to pour me a dram of Cardhu Special Cask Reserve. Yet another surprise that evening. The stuff’s not bad, not bad at all. Actually the Cardhu Special Cask Reserve is pretty good.

Now it was time to get to the Macallan master class. I have to make a very special thank you to Miguel for getting me an invitation to this sold out master class, as well as to Isabel, a Spanish rep for The Macallan and Luis Serrano, the Spanish brand ambassador for The Macallan.

Me and 25yo macallan

They were gracious and honored me. Luis even introduced me to the entire room at the start of the session and thanked me for traveling the long distance. After a bit of explanation, we tasted four Macallan Fine Oak whiskies; 12 year old, 18 year old, 25 year old and believe it or not, a 30 year old. Macallan tasting

For the first three whiskies, we simply passed around a bottle, pouring as much as we wanted and though none of us was heavy handed with the pour, a 2nd bottle needed opening. When it came to the 30 yo, Luis poured it and avoided a 2nd very expensive bottle. All in all, The Macallan does a very superior whisky and these 4 were no exception.

Luis_Macallan masterclass

After the master class, we had just enough time to run to a few more stands before the show closed. First of our last hurrah was the WkyRegal stand where I tasted Compass Box’s Asyla blended whisky. Simply Delicious!

Then we popped over to the Whiskybarn where we tasted a Glenrothes 1999, which was paired with chocolate for the tasting.

As the show was winding down, we paid one last visit to the fellows at Destilerias Liber, makers of Embrujo de Granada, for a last tipple and farewell chat.

crowd scene

After all that whisky and very little food since lunch, Miguel & I strolled towards our hotel in search of a late night supper. In the Spanish tradition, he suggested tapas. We found a great tapas bar where we wolfed down some tasty tapas, washed down with draught beer.

Was 5 hours at whisky Live Madrid worth 10 hours on an airplane, 5 hours in airports and 2 hours on the Madrid Metro? Absolutely! I had so much fun meeting a friend. Enjoyed the warm hospitality and tasting whiskies I may never have tried otherwise. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Thank you Richard for an amazing post and experience!

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  • Whiskymonique

    Hi Richard! As a new transplant to Madrid, I really enjoyed reading about your fantastic experience, new whisky finds and new compatriots… I missed WhiskyLive as I was attending my first Feis Isle festival on Islay. I would love to get in touch with any of your Madrilleno amigos, as I am having a tough time finding other whisky lovers in the general public here in Madrid. Also, if you make the trek again, shoot me an email and we’ll meet up! whiskymonique@hotmail.com Salud! Monique

  • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

    Looks like you had an amazing time Richard!
    thanks for the post, and next time, i will come with you ! ;) LOL

  • Shai Gilboa

    Sorry it took me few days to get to this Rich.
    Lovely post! Glad to see you had a great time, and am sorry I told you I couldn’t come (but I couldn’t).