The venue is an impressive setting and can accommodate a large number of guests which is a must with such an event; if I was being critical the day felt a little too crammed. With no real seating area as such, you were left find a quiet corner to sit down and take a break from the scrum around the stalls and dodging overzealous whisky enthusiasts and attendees who seemed blissfully unaware that they were ramming their oversized backpacks in your face. Amid this ruckus I did attempt to have a small discussion about some of the whiskies on offer; particularly those from Nikka and Buffalo Trace being from outside of Scotland. This was an opportunity to sample of their ranges and hear a little more about the process and background of each distillery in question. The hosts were very eager to explain but had little opportunity to do so with another attendee butting in asking for a sample. If you are wanting to engage and discuss then this isn’t a suitable arena whereas the Whisky Luxe event did offer this chance albeit it at a much higher ticket price. Instead, the Whisky Fringe was treated more like a lads day out with the chance to have a session for £24. So, a little less in my opinion makes for a more enjoyable experience.
Longrow red wine (Shiraz) cask finish – this is still being observed by the distillery but the cask influence is apparent on its appearance and it has a very dry finish for a whisky. Very different and somewhat enjoyable, I’d like to spend more time with this one and it should be released later this year. You can see it in the photograph below, the 3rd bottle on the right:
Yoichi 10 year – The coal fired stills are still going strong and the Nikka stall confirmed their strength across each of their distilleries; Yoichi, Taketsuru and Miyagikyo each standing out. Then the Pure ranges and From the barrel showing their blending prowess with a strong finish coming with the Coffey Grain bottling.
Balblair 1997 2nd Edition – Another rising star and this was certainly a good malt, probably not as great as I had expected given the praise some were dishing out. However I have been fortunate to have tasted a few Balblairs before this one over the past few years.
Kilchoman 100% Islay 3rd Edition – at the end of a terrible piece of road on Islay, this wee distillery does its own thing and it is working clearly from this fruity offering. The RMW exclusive cask strength edition was also another strong malt that showed complexity beyond its juvenile age.
At 4pm the ‘half-time orange’ comes into play and this is where you can hand over your voucher for a sample of a very special bottle available on most stalls. Sadly the Nikka stand did not have a special bottling today and the list of oranges was on display as you arrived (see the photograph below), so you had at least a couple of hours to decide. It is a gimmick, as a vendor did say to me that they do not get the chance to talk about what makes this bottle so special; instead if the crowds are building they have to grab the tickets and pour those 10ml samples asap. So from this aspect I can see why some don’t put much effort into a special bottle or even take up the offer.