I don’t get out much, I don’t really like being out in busy crowds anyway but I managed to bag an invite to the 2nd National Whisky Festival at the superb SWG3 venue in Glasgow’s West End.
SWG3 is a great venue with a couple of large rooms downstairs and other stuff up stair, it’s a wee bit off the beat and track I guess but it’s easy enough to get to and find and I managed to get to the front door without breaking my neck on the icy pavements.
Now, first things first, I was reasonably pressed for time, I had a dinner date to attend miles away so I arrived just after noon and it was already heaving with people and I had just under two hours to have a good walk around and meet up with some whisky chums so it was a bit of a cram.
There were dozens of stalls, mainly whisky, obviously, but the rest selling a mixture of food, art and coffee, I’ll be honest, I was here for the whisky and I don’t drink expensive coffee so sorry chaps, the paintings looked nice though.
There was also a cocktail bar run by #lovescotch which is a trendy Diageo run thing selling cool cocktails run by charming chaps and again if things were a bit more relaxed for me I would have spent some time here despite my on going criticisms of Diageo.
So, glass in hand and bottle of water at the ready I had a quick walk around the stalls before diving in.
I was very impressed by the companies here, whilst we did have some of the big names of whisky here, Dalmore, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie and the wonderful Benromach it was definitely a chance for new and smaller brands to get themselves some air time.
I’m not going to do a massive big list of all the companies and I’m not going to do specific reviews of any dram here, I don’t think a festival is the best place to try and get the most from a whisky, in fact in might be pretty much the worst place, it’s a chance to try new things, make a purchase maybe and for me hand out a few business cards and meet some new and fun folk.
I am though going to talk about my personal highlights, but that’s later.
So, what do you get for your forty quid ticket price?
A glass and a program, which is always a nice treat, you also get a five pound off voucher for the on site shop which is also valid for use in the Good Spirits Shop too, and it can be used until the end of 2018, which seems very fair.
There were no vouchers or tokens or whatever, just loads of excellent drinks and smiling faces behind the stalls all pouring freely.
There were master classes through out the day so really there was no excuse to become bored.
Right then, hightlights.
I can’t not mention the wonderful Shilton from Paul John the glamorous Jacque from the ever superb Weymss Malts, the sparkly Julie from the Glasgow Whisky Club who was working for Specialty Brands and the sheer joy of talking to the Eden Mill ambassador Lara, all experts in their field and well worth listening too.
But you know Eden Mill, you all know Wemyss Malts and if you do read my posts you can’t not know Paul John the fantastic Indian Single Malt, so what about the newbies?
Wee heads up to the Finniston Distillery Company, they are producing cocktails in a can, I’m going to buy their four pack taster thing and I’ll get back to you on them but what I did try was very refreshing and sold for about £2.50 a can which seems okay for a small batch 5% drink.
Webster rum, a new firm from Scotland bringing us a spiced rum which doesn’t have that clawing sweetness you often find with a spiced rum, I have a decent sample from the boys and I’ll be doing a proper review later, I think they have a bright future.
Peat Reekers, another newcomer and one I wasn’t familiar with, a pretty solid blended malt from Islay which I’ll do my best to get some and do a review, it’s always nice to promote a new company if it’s a company who are doing a decent and honest thing.
Seedlip are a company who make non alcoholic spirits, I was a bit meh about them when I first heard about them but their two drinks tasted nice, the weird thing is though, they are supposed to be for people not drinking and all I could think was how well they’d both go with gin in a nice cocktail, I can totally see this being the future of this firm, but I might be wrong, I usually am.
I also had some fun chatting with the charming fellow at Morrison and Mackay, I had a fine Orkney Single Malt which isn’t Scapa called Kirkwall Bay and a wee snifter of their not named Islay Single malt Big Strand, both excellent, both worth checking out.
So, guess I better tell you about my finds of the show then, ready?
My whisky of the day was the Flatnose Islay Blended Malt from the Islay Boys, it was excellent, I’m going to get some so I can do a proper review but it really stood out for me, their blend was decent too and their Single Malt, which I thought was Caol Ila but is in fact Lagavulin, was also a pure find, well done chaps and hopefully I’ll be able to bring you detailed reviews soon.
My final find of the day was outstanding, I’ve tried a few new make spirits in my time and I thought that the Bimber new make I tried recently was outstanding but when I tried the new make from the Clydesdale Distillery I was utterly blown away.
With quality new make it’s often a lot less rough than something over 60% would suggest and there is usually a nice malty back note, a perfect spirit ready to take on the barrels, but this is totally different.
I described it as pure hobnob in a glass which seemed to go down well with the visitor centre manager Bridgeen who was kind enough to spend ten minutes telling me about the process involved. I cannot wait to get over there and get a tour and I’ve been promised a couple of bottles of the New Make have been left behind the tills for me, it was just perfect, it’s heartbreaking to think it’s another three years before they start producing Scotch.
I’ve already been told they won’t be making gin but we’ll see if like Eden Mill and Kingsbarns they’ll give us some sort of aged spirit drink. I’ll be looking in detail at one of those aged spirits over the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled.
So that was that, it was all over far too quickly but thanks to all those who braved the weather to set up their stalls and provide all the visitors with some charming drinks to keep us in good spirits.
Oh and then I had dinner with Cat child.