London is replete with festivals of one sort of the other. For foodies and drinkies, we have the currently ongoing restaurant festival, there are more beer festivals than you can shake a stick at, and the occasional fine wine festival to wash it all down with.

There have also been in the past some whisky festivals, and last night was the official launch of a more refined event that will be taking place later this month.

With the more alcohol fueled events, there can sometimes be a bit of a problem with some of the customers being there more for the alcoholic content than to appreciate the flavours of the brewing art – and sometimes some festivals get a bit eager to sell maybe a few too many tickets.

The forthcoming Whisky Show plans to circumvent these problems by not just limiting the numbers to so that visitors have time to talk to the distillers, but they are focusing on whiskies with price tags that sometimes range from Ouch to Yikes, rather than the common fare more often found in your average supermarket.

Hosted at London’s oldest restaurant, Rules – who incidentally have a rather well stocked bar of their own, and will be clearing out some bin ends soon if you want a sample – the evening was hosted by Balvenie and Diageo.

Being talked through tasting four of Balvenie expressions was rather enlivened by the host regularly describing the drinks as being akin to various female celebrities. An attempt to combine the drinks with chocolate truffles was an interesting idea. Although I personally think chocolate goes better with wine, combining chocolate and spirits has long been the mainstay for boxes of liquor chocolates. Last night they aimed for a rather higher quality of product than the box you give to granny for Christmas though.

Of the four, my favourite was the 12 year old doublewood which had a quite soft flavour which switched quite suddenly to a more fiery aftertaste – described as being very Nigella Lawson.

I wonder what she thinks of the association?

A drink we didn’t get to sample last night is an unnamed blend containing whiskies of up to 45 years old. Sold at an “affordable” price of £150 a bottle, it is normally only available to people who like the stuff enough to travel up to their distillery to buy a bottle. However, visitors to the Show will be able to sample it there – and maybe also find out what name they will eventually stick on the label.

Diageo’s gregarious Colin Dunn took over at this point and trotted through four more drinks.

His personal favourite, from Caol lla, was the one I disliked most of the entire evening – but as an ex-wine retailer myself, I have long appreciated that we should never be swayed by official opinion. What matters is what I like, not what someone else likes.

A slightly bizarre Inchgower smelt ridiculously rich and almost like a fortified wine – although it delivered a kick in the aftertaste that quite belied its seductive aroma.

Finishing the evening off was a Lagavullin Managers Choice and the Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V Edition – both of which were delightful, and typically I fell for the most expensive of the lot – as both sell for over £300 a bottle.

The Whisky Show 2010 is being held near the Barbican at the end of the month. Entry is a rather daunting £95 per ticket, but that does get you a decent 2-course lunch, unlimited samples of the main whiskies on show, plus a sample of one of the super-rare whiskies that that are aged up to 64 years old or up to £3,500 in value.

Hunting around Google, I also found someone who is offering some free tickets to the show by answering a simple question, and as not that many people have entered, you might have a decent chance to get in without paying!

If you do get in, there will also be a chance to win a sample of the world’s oldest whisky – The Mortlach 70 year old – worth around £120 per sample.


PS: I would have taken a couple of photos last night, but forgot to put the battery back into my camera after charging it up during the afternoon. Opps!

Disclaimer: My invite to attend the launch tasting was courtesy of the Whisky Show organisers.


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