Whisky festival Gent – first impressions

This year’s whisky festival in Gent was a success. There was definitely a lot more people than last year, which was not always a good thing. It was hard to reach the stands and there was not always the opportunity to get into details with the people behind the desk.

The whiskies were interesting. Let’s list some of the things I’ve tasted. No actual tasting notes, the situation is just not ideal. Sorry for having some incomplete references.

Amrut Single Cask (46%, Blackadder 2008, ref. BA 2/2008, 279 btl.)

This one must be a sister cask of the one that won a gold medal in the “non-plus-ultra daily drams” category of the 2008 Malt Maniacs Awards (ref. 1/2008). Very good, huge fruitiness (peach, oranges, pineapple) with vanilla. Rather weak attack but quickly regains its strength, with a long finish. Quite complex, very balanced and nicely ‘different’ in style.

BenRiach 20y BenRiach 20y (43%, OB 2008)

Fresh and fruity. Vanilla. Some ‘dirty’ notes as well, hints of smoke and cow stable. Good Speyside whisky. I would like to taste this again some day, it looked like I didn’t get the full complexity. At € 65, excellent value for money.

BenRiach 13y Maderensis Fumosus
(46%, OB 2008, Madeira finish)

Heavily peated, but the sweet wine finish works well here and adds some fruity notes. Citrus flavours, coal, some salty liquorice. Smokey finish with hints of sweet candy. Nice, could be an interesting replacement for my bottle of BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus which is almost empty.

Girvan 18y 1989 Raw Cask (56,7%, Blackadder 2008)

Girvan is said to be the most modern, industrialized distillery of Scotland. They are part of the William Grant group (Glenfiddich / Balvenie) and produce the grain whisky that is necessary for their blends. Lovely single grain whisky. Nice to have it at cask strength, it helps to show off the complexity which is sometimes lacking in this type of whisky. In one way or another, it reminded me of a Maker’s Mark, with added complexity.

Bruichladdich X4 Bruichladdich X4 (50%, OB 2008, 6000 btl.)

Nice bottle! Perilous whisky, distilled four times to reach 90% alcohol, and then reduced to 50% without ageing in a wood cask. Technically, this is not whisky of course. Tastes a bit like a flavoured wodka, gin or Mezcal.

The nose is not very attractive, there’s too much alcohol smell and not enough flavour. Tastes grainy with fruity notes and some cocoa. Also reminded me of a chocolate bonbon with a strong banana liqueur centre. Not bad, easier to drink than I thought it would be. But certainly not whisky.

As expected, the Octomore was long gone on Sunday…

I’ve also tasted a few bottlings of Arran (standard 12y, sherry cask, Pomerol Wine finish, 4y peated…). They were pretty much flawless and the pricing is fair, but still I always feel there is some character missing in The Arran. In my opinion, they are very good daily drams, but if a friend would drop by and I would want to impress him, I’d surely pour him something else… That’s the result of tasting lots of good whiskies at a festival, things have to be special to stand out. Sorry Jacklyn, you’ve tried your best!

ps/ Thumbs up for BenRiach and The Nectar, which charged just a single festival dram (= 1 euro) to taste any of their bottlings, regardless of the age or value. Some brands charged up to € 20 for a 2 cl dram (e.g. Port Ellen 8th release) which is higher than then the actual value of such an amount. I would say the main purpose of a festival is to gain interest, not to make instant money!