Whisky Live Toronto 2011

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Whisky Live 2011 Crowd ShotWith all due respect to baseball fans for this analogy, Whisky Live is fast becoming the only "Fall Classic" on the Toronto whisky aficionado's mind. With a host of exhibitors, whiskies from around the world, and a sea of devotees to the dram, this year's edition and its new confines in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre's North building certainly topped years past. Armed with a notebook, a press pass, and a Glencairn glass, Jeff and I had at it for your reading pleasure. 

So click on for news of whiskies yet to be released, the stars of the show, and a snapshot of the sights and smells of the cornerstone of the fall whisky calendar.
The first thing that struck me upon arrival was the more concentrated layout, which ultimately served to increase the interaction amongst attendees to levels I had yet to experience. Which is definitely a plus as enjoying whisky truly should be a shared experience. 

Typically one begins with a warm up dram to widen the palate and, after making a couple of these stops, I uncovered one of the stars of the evening early on at Tullibardine's booth. The 1988 Vintage being the first to capture the palate completely with its rich coating mouthfeel coupled with the sublime combination of flavours resembling lightly spiced, toasted, and buttered honey oat bread. I followed this with a sampling of the Tullibardine Banyuls finish, which sadly will not be available until spring, and its unique rose hue. With its combination of peaches, cream, and cocoa, it offers a unique departure from the standard offerings from this distillery, and will be worth the wait for its arrival.

After a couple samples and a few chats here and there it was time to explore the buffet, and aside from being nearly incapacitated by the most powerful horseradish I've had in the better part of the year, I must say the buffet was an improvement over years past. Staying with the food element, I decided to head over to Via Allegro's lounge to see what one of Toronto's true whisky destinations had put together for the evening. I found a stunning pairing of a trifecta of offerings from Glenmorangie with a 5 year aged Oka and one of the most incredible blue cheeses I have ever had the luxury of enjoying. Add to that the sheer fun of Joseph Cassidy's blind tasting booth, with many playfully arguing over what they felt each offering was, and the lounge was most certainly a highlight of the event. 

From here it was time to head over to the Glenfiddich booth for what was easily the most talked about whisky of the evening
Thumbnail image for Glenfiddich at WLand unquestionably another star of the night: the perfectly balanced Snow Phoenix. Revisiting and enjoying this after a warm up with the 15 year old expression and in the company of the incomparable Ian Millar, it was easy to see why this whisky carried the day in terms of chatter between fanatics. It is here that I must point out that the final shipment ever has just arrived in the LCBO, and I would caution anyone looking for a Christmas gift against delaying your purchase, as I will be very surprised if the current stocks see it last until then.

Following this it was time to go after Jeff's find of the night: The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Rum Cask. Ever had brown sugar coated banana nut bread in whisky form? No?
Thumbnail image for Balvenie at WL
 Well I did! A truly remarkable dessert whisky, and yet another that is in limited stocks in Ontario. Simply a joy to drink from start to finish. 

After having dessert in mid-show, it was back to the steady bounce and chit chat of the event as a whole, meeting faces old and new, and generally soaking up the atmosphere until I encountered another whisky worth reporting, and yet another that we will need to wait until the spring to purchase in Ontario: The Arran's Sleeping Warrior. Remarkably rich for any whisky under 12 years old and clocking in at a rollicking 54.9%, this stunner spent its first 6-plus years in American oak casks before being shifted to a near unpronounceable German/Austrian varietal cask for the next 3. This served to deliver an ethereal combination of leather, spice, and toffee that surprised me given its age and ABV. Certainly a whisky that I will be seeking out in the spring. 

After another sequence of engaging discussions, and with the show drawing to a close, it was here that reader Igor saved the day by preventing me from missing what was undoubtedly another show stopper: Hart Brothers Littlemill 19 year old. With a nose worthy of contemplating human sacrifice, explosive chocolate, and a finish that ends some time the next day, I am thankful that I will be able to pick up this bottle of golden goodness this weekend before it disappears. I suggest that those who can afford the $150 price tag do the same. Simply a rock star in a bottle. 

All in all, I must declare this to be the best Whisky Live of the past 3 years in Toronto and one that hopefully marks a new direction for a festival that has experienced its share of difficulties in this city. As always it's the people that make the event and following that, the after party. It was a pleasure to round out the night over pints with Davin De Kergommeaux of Whisky Magazine, readers including Rick (who saved my night with his phone charger... thank you sir!), magicians, and other whisky personalities. It makes me wonder why we don't get together with our readers more often. 

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Hi Everyone,

Here's a quick LCBO price round up on the currently available whiskies that stood out for me at the show:

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix - $89.95
Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Rum Cask - $99.95
Hart Brothers Lilttlemill 19yo - $149.95
Tullibardine 1988 - $104.95 (NB: If you're searching the LCBO website for availability, you'll need to phrase it "
TULLIBARDINE SINGLE HIGHLAND MALT SCOTCH WHISKY")

Suffice it to say that all are limited in their availability, so now would be a good time to hunt them down.

Slainte!

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  • Matt commented on Whisky Live Toronto 2011:

    Hi Everyone,

    Here's a quick LCBO price round up on the currently available whiskies that stood out for me at the show:

    Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix - $89.95
    Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Rum Cask - $99.95
    Hart Brothers Lilttlemill 19yo - $149.95
    Tullibardine 1988 - $104.95 (NB: If you're searching the LCBO website for availability, you'll need to phrase it "
    TULLIBARDINE SINGLE HIGHLAND MALT SCOTCH WHISKY")

    Suffice it to say that all are limited in their availability, so now would be a good time to hunt them down.

    Slainte!

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