So it’s all true. The Whisky Fair in Germany is probably the best whisky festival out there. Full stop.
It’s even bigger than I expected, and the number of both newly launched bottles and legendary old stuff is impressive. The best thing is that I hardly saw standard supermarket whisky, this is a place where bottlers and retailers are working hard to impress their customer.
Here are a few of my highlights. I’ve brought home samples of most of these, so expect a full review in the near future:
All of these new Whisky Agency / The Nectar / Daily Dram releases are very high quality by the way (Glen Keith 1970, Glenury Royal 1973…).
And then there was a whole bunch of old things. A great Longmorn 1969/1999 (DL OMC) at Mara’s stand, a Saint Magdalene 1965 (G&M CC) from Bert Vuik, a 1920’s blend from Berry Bros (thanks Magnus), a series of Moon Import bottles chez Diago Sandrin, etc.
Also worth noting was the Liquid Sun stand, a sister company of The Whisky Agency. Originally meant for Japan and Sweden, I’ve heard some rumours that their bottlings would come to Belgium in the near future.
As a final note, I was surprised to see so many Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary and Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix bottles being sold at different stands. They’re far from being sold out.
I’m off to the Whisky Fair this weekend. This is one of the highlights of the European whisky festival season, and it’s the first time I’m going.
The Whisky Fair is unique for its combination of new releases and old rarities. Germany is an important whisky market so every distiller or bottler is present. Moreover there’s an array of related events around town, like the barbecue in Villa Konthor.
I can only stay for the day, so I’ll post some highlights on Sunday.
Nose: this one starts much more old-style, with a dustiness and plenty of oily / waxy notes. Some grassy notes and hay. Less tropical than the Daily Dram Germany version, but it picks up fruity notes after breathing. Honeydew melon, peach, papaya. Vanilla. Barley sugars. Sweet almonds. Mouth: punchy, with fruity notes struggling to balance the big amount of oak spices (pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint). Pineapples with soft mocha / milk chocolate. Liquorice towards the finish. Finish: long and spicy with citrus candy.
On the nose, the expected juicy fruitiness of this Longmorn is muted by oily and grassy notes. On the palate, the oak spices are slightly overwhelming. Therefore not my favourite of the bunch. Around € 170.
Our next Longmorn 1975 in this little series. It was bottled by The Nectar of the Daily Drams (the Belgian series). It’s a follow-up for the Longmorn 1975 at 44% bottled in 2010 (lower strength but slightly darker) and it will be the last cask we’ll see in the near future.
Longmorn 35 yo 1975
(50,8%, Nectar of the Daily Drams 2011)
Nose: holds the middle between the Daily Dram Germany and the Whisky-Fässle releases. Banana and papaya mixed with soft grassy notes, citrus and oak polish. More beehive notes and wax I would say. A slight nose prickle which seems to come more from the spices than from the alcohol. The same mint, nutmeg and soft pepper. Water makes it more citrusy in the style of the 1976 Longmorns. Mouth: very fruity (do I need to repeat the oranges, apricots and tangerines?) with a spicy kick. Honey and marmalade. On par with the Whisky-Fässle bottling, with added hints of aniseed and liquorice. Water seems to make it a little sweeter. A second wave of fruits in the aftertaste. Finish: long, spicy with lingering fruits.
This Longmorn is certainly up there and it has the advantage of being able to play around with water and bring out different elements. I still prefer the 44% bottling and it’s a little more expensive than the others: around € 200.
Here’s another Longmorn 1975, also sourced in Germany. The big difference seems to be the higher alcohol strength (49% vs. 40%).
Longmorn 35 yo 1975 (48,8%, Whisky-Fässle 2010, bourbon hogshead #2943)
Nose: more flowery than the Daily Dram version. Buttercups. Green banana. Green apple. Kiwi and citrus. Very fruity, but a more sour kind of fruitiness. A bit more grassy notes as well, due to the higher strength maybe? Soft spices in the background (pepper, eucalyptus). Mouth: very spicy and fruity, in the same league as the Daily Dram (orange, papaya, banana, passion fruit) but without the oak juice. The added strength really helps this one. Some nutmeg. Finish: quite long on liquorice.
On the nose, I think this one lacked a little juicy sweetness, although some airing took away most of the differences. On the palate, it’s clear this is the better choice for being less oaky / tired. Still available from Whisky-Fässle, around € 170.
It seems every bottler wants to have a mid-1970’s Longmorn these days (check this, this and this). No suprise as some of them were really wonderful. Here’s one bottled by The Nectar of the Daily Drams, exclusively for Germany.
We’ll have it side-by-side with three other Longmorn 1975 releases published in the next couple of days.
Longmorn 35 yo 1975 (40,5%, Nectar of the Daily Drams for Germany, bourbon hogshead)
Nose: sweet and fruity Longmorn, with honey, tangerine and apricots. Lots of papaya and ripe bananas. Spanish membrillo. Almond cookies. Very sweet and rounded, with hints of white chocolate and a little mint and pepper to add to the complexity. Mouth: a fair amount of oak which adds a sourness to the otherwise great fruitiness. Oranges, apricots, passion fruits… Then showing some more oak juice, fruit tea and grapefruit. Finish: not too long, citrusy and minty with traces of fruit compote.
A great nose with a slightly oaky palate. I started with a big 92 score but the palate brought it down to 87. Still an interesting malt, no doubt. Available from eSpirits, around € 180.
This Banff 1975 won a silver medal in the 2010 Malt Maniacs Awards. The label says “bourbon cask” but I really wouldn’t be too sure about that…
Banff 34 yo 1975 (44,1%, A.D. Rattray 2010, bourbon cask #3354, 250 btl.)
Nose: old sherried Speyside. Rancio aromas, cigars, walnuts, rum & raisins. Hints of smoke (gunpowder?), but overall impressively gentle, waxy and distinguished, with old roses and leathery touches. Precious wood as well. A gentleman. Mouth: perfect strength with more sherry influence and a lovely dustiness. Dried fruits. Plenty of walnuts, this time also softly bitter notes (orange peel and clove). Liquorice. Some nutty notes. The wood (or rather wood polish) comes through, but it’s never dry or tannic. Hints of tea and spices. Finish: not too long, with walnuts, cigars and a spicy edge.
As we’ve seen before, Banff with heavy sherry maturation can work out really nice. Around € 145 but getting hard to find.
North British distillery (near Edinburgh) is one of the largest Scotch grain producers. They were founded in 1885 and their spirit is used in blends like The Famous Grouse, J&B, Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, you name it… Occasionally casks are bottled as single grain whisky.
This 48 years old 1965 release is a joint bottling of The Whisky Agency with Komplex Whisky in Sweden.
North British 48 yo 1962 (47,9%, The Whisky Agency ‘Perfect Dram’ 2010, bourbon hogshead,
Nose: grains and ripe banana with a lot of coconut and vanilla but some earthy notes as well. A little glue. Close to other single grains, but quite smooth and balanced. This one adds a little wax, leather and some icing sugar. Cinnamon. A faint hint of Nivea cream as well, maybe. Mouth: starts fairly gentle but picks up strength. Corn and vanilla with a certain grassy spiciness. Coconut milk and nougat. Banana milkshake. A little kirsch. Finish: medium length, sweet, with a nice caramelized banana aroma.
This is exemplary grain whisky. Downside: it doesn’t show the same complexity as old malt whisky. Upside: not at all tired, plenty of punch and much cheaper than malt whisky. Around € 140.