08 Feb 2010
Whisky Festival Gent 2010
Posted by: Ruben In: * News
I’ve just returned from the whisky festival in Gent. While it’s still a major festival in our (small) country, I can’t help but feeling a bit disappointed for two reasons.
First, because the festival in Gent was held at the same time as Whisky Live in Spa. If festivals want to compete over such a small country, they have to realize that eventually both will lose. Some interesting distributors chose to go to only one festival (e.g. Malts of Scotland was present in Spa, not in Gent). Other distributors didn’t even go to either of the two this year!
The Nectar, one of Belgium’s most interesting distributors and independent bottlers, was not present. Neither were the brands they represent, such as Arran, Karuizawa, Springbank, Duncan Taylor or GlenDronach. There were no Moët Hennesey brands either (Ardbeg & Glenmorangie). Where will this end?
Second, because the organisation decided not to give 5 complimentary coupons with each entry ticket but instead have one free bottle available at every stand. Of course, these were only entry level malts (Macallan 12yo, Glenrothes Select Reserve, etc.) which just made the festival more expensive for whisky lovers who already know the standard stuff. This also meant I couldn’t use the coupons of my girlfriend (who drinks water) – how about a “driver’s ticket”? Overall I had the feeling more cash was needed to buy less quality whisky this year.
As a side note, there seemed to be less new bottlings than other years. Anyway, let’s summarize the things we’ve tasted… (no real tasting notes, because the environment is just not right for it).
Old Ballantruan (50%, OB 2009)
The peated version of Tomintoul. Very malty, quite floral and gently peated. Not sure who this is aimed at… fans of Speyside whisky will probably not like the peat but there’s not enough peat to entertain peatheads. Around € 30.
Tullibardine 1993 Sauternes finish (46%, OB 2009)
Sweet nose with hints of apricots. On the palate very coating and candied with lots of honey. Most of the Sauternes shines through in the finish. Not bad, but we already knew Sauternes can work very well. Around € 45.
BenRiach 18 yo Moscatel finish (46%, OB 2009)
Another sweet wine finish, maybe even more succesful than the Tullibardine. Fruity, sweet. Very round and candied. A perfect match for the toast with haggis that was served at the festival. Around € 60.
Yamazaki Sherry cask (48%, OB 2009)
From first fill sherry butts only, said to be 12-15 years old. Very punchy with raisins, cocoa and slightly sourish red fruits (raspberry). Big whisky and the first glass I actually emptied. Around € 70.
Connemara Sherry finish (46%, OB 2009)
A limited Small Batch bottling. Sweet notes of dried fruits, balanced with smoke and a light farminess. Rich and promising. A detailed review of this one will follow. Around € 55.
Benromach Organic ‘Special Edition’ (46%, OB 2009)
Bio whisky. Quite simple with huge hints of breakfast cereals and muesli. Quite a lot of wood as well. Rather mono-dimensional. Not my kinda whisky. Around € 45.
Banff 32 yo 1976 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Conoisseurs Choice 2008)
A good Banff with different flavours: flinty notes, fruity notes, toffee, burnt wood… Quite rounded overall. Around € 100. Recommended.
Highland Park 16 yo Calvados ‘Drouin’ finish (46%, Alchemist 2008)
Finished for 2 years in a calvados cask. Honeyed with hints of baked apples. Not much smoke. Uncommon for a Highland Park.
Glen Grant 23 yo 1985 (55,8%, First cask – Whisky Import Netherlands 2009, cask #10182, 187 btl.)
Glen Grant the way we like it: very balanced, very fruity with the right amount of spices. Fruit marmalade galore. Around € 130. Highly recommended.
Bunnahabhain Toiteach (46%, OB 2007)
A young profile, quite some peat and smoke but very simple. Hints of pears? A bit uninspired. Around € 40.
Greenore 8 yo (40%, OB 2009)
Single grain Irish whiskey. Sweet with vanilla and banana. Uncomplicated, light and elegant. A summer’s day whiskey? Around € 30.
I also bought a sample of the legendary Bunnahabhain 1968 Auld Acquaintance and a Macallan 12 Years old HKDNP, a Hong Kong exclusive distilled in the 1970’s. These two will be reviewed in depth. Thanks to Marc Segers for making available his impressive collection of oldies.