Last Friday, Oct. 22nd ScotchBlog was fortunate to attend Whisky Live at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The team hit the floor eagerly as soon as press was admitted and began making ourselves familiar with the many brand representatives and ambassadors present. By the close of the show, after hosting many a dram, we came away with full notebooks and a distinct stagger.
This years show had a number of noticeable changes in format from last years. Removal of the divider between the food dining area and the whisky booths gave better flow to the showroom and encouraged easier mingling. They also did away with the pipe band and the Highland Dancers in favour of a live band and a "Best Bartender" competition ; two bartenders squared off in a series of five and ten minute rounds of expert cocktail composition. Salt, bitters, orange zest, and of course good single malt scotch, abounded in the elaborate concoctions they produced.
There were also a few disappointments, for instance the absence of Yamazaki, which was much looked-forward to after our recent foray into Japanese whisky. Luckily, Nikka was in attendance with the Yoichi 10, and a 12yr Pure Malt for tasting. Also, we expected to see more from Whyte & Mackay. Given the exciting news of their recent find in Antarctica one would think there would be some remarkable marketing opportunities to be had here. We are sad to report that there's nothing but the Glasgow Special available at the LCBO for the foreseeable future.
Between samplings from Macallan, Glenmorangie, Highland Park and others, we stopped had a chat with Joseph Cassidy of Via Allegro at his much trafficked lounge area. Still one of the formost authorities in Toronto's whisky scene, Joseph was offering drams of Singleton's Glendullan 12 and Talisker 10 year old paired with slices from a huge wheel of smoked Gouda. In case you haven't tried this Singleton bottling, it is tremendous value and garnered a lot of buzz at the show . Thanks to J.C. for turning us on to this gem!
The next stop was the The Feathers Pub booth which showcased their 3 house malts sourced from Signatory independent Bottlers. The relatively young single malts were expressive of the 3 major areas of Scotch whisky production: a 7yr old Highland, 6 yr old Lowland, and a 5yr old Islay malt. Each variety was true to the traditional styles of the areas they represented, and would serve as a great introduction to the drink. Owner Reid Pickering is determined to carry on the legacy of The Feathers as a destination for Single Malt enthusiasts. His pub regularly offers tastings based on "Whisky Tours" of Scotland, various flights and hosts whisky events. ScotchBlog will soon be making a visit to see the collection of over 400 Single Malts!
Given the sparse attendance, due in equal measure to the high price tag for attendees and the paucity of event advertising, one wonders about the longevity of the Toronto show in comparison to the other locations on the Whisky Live tour. There were no exclusive bottles offered, as at other shows, and sadly few of the booths were staffed with representatives who worked in the actual distilleries. Many of the presenters lacked significant product knowledge, and a few seemed truly disinterested in the proceedings. The limited expertise of the presenters, however, was mitigated by the many enthusiastic and knowledgeable attendees we met. We look forward to seeing many of you at future events!
Other Notent Potables:
Jura Prophecy is described as a rustic, peaty maritime malt with fresh cinnamon notes and it will be in the LCBO within the next month. Head over to Jura's website to enter to win free scotch every week!
Arran, makers of the Robert Burns Single Malt, are releasing a Pomerol Cask Finish in December. Last year the St. Emilion finish was a hit, and we predict this one to be equally enjoyable. Reddish copper with a pleasant aroma of vanilla and jam, the Pomerol expression tasted of raisins, red berries with a rich mouthfeel and a long chewy finish. Also, look for their Amarone finish next summer.
In the long term, Arran looking to establish flagship products in the 10, 14 and 18 (not yet available) and move away from the cask finishes as its focus.
A highlight of the show was Arran Sherry Cask, 14 yr old, matured in a single sherry cask, yielding about 550 bottles and never to be seen again. This was the star of the show in terms of a truly complete Scotch whisky.
Dun Bhaegan's Rosebank 18 was one of the most unique drams of the night, but pales in comparison to the Douglas Laing 19 yo. bottling.
Maker's Mark will be releasing a new line of their bourbon, Makers 46. Distiller Bill Samuels Jr. worked to develop a new aging process which involves introducing 10 new charred French oak staves into the casks. Unfortunately, they didn't bring any to try so we'll have to take their word that it's higher proof and has hints of cinnamon. No confirmed date for release in the LCBO but we were told "soon."
Penderyn Single Malt Whisky is out in the LCBO with a limited release of 250 cases. At 46% alcohol, the nose is strong and gradually opens to reveal vanilla, apple and smoke. The palate was somewhat oily and tasted bready with phenolic notes turning to a fresh grape finish. An interesting whisky geared toward collectors.