Whiskey Live 2015

Posted by Rachel rachel Monday 2nd November 2015 0 Comment(s) Sláinte,

The Printworks on the grounds of historic Dublin Castle proved a great gathering place for lovers of Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, American whiskey, Japanese whisky, gin, vodka, beer, masterclasses, food, chocolate, books, raffles... Can you be a raffle lover?
Whisky Live Dublin made the short move this year after a number of successful runs in the Mansion House on Dawson Street. Dublin Castle was the site of the old ‘black pool’ on the River Poddle that gave Dublin its name, a river that was the water source for many of the Dublin distilleries during its distilling heyday. It was a successful move, by all accounts. Resoundingly.
The main attraction is the whiskey, of course. Each stand proudly beckons with the fruits of its labour, most of which is at least 40% alcohol, so you can't try everything. Never mind. 
This year's introduction to the event was a mini cauldron of smoke cascading over the Ardbeg/Glenmorangie stand near the entrance. That's not a metaphor - they were filling glasses with peaty smoke before topping them up with Ardbeg, or was it the other way around? It was a pretty good start. 

Tradition and innovation
When visitors settle, there's usually a few exhibitors that create a bit of an extra buzz. This year, that buzz led many people to the Bushmills stand. It's been pretty quiet at Bushmills lately, in terms of new whiskeys, so the cask samples Master Distiller Colum Egan was pouring were a real treat. 
Their distilled crystal malt, usually only used by brewers, is part of the Bushmills 1608 Anniversary recipe. But here it was on its own, distilled in 2008 and at cask strength. The crystal malt seems to produce an exceptionally clean, elegant whiskey, but with no shortage of depth and the classic Bushmills silky, grassy, fruity signature. There was some Caribbean rum cask whiskey too, along with bourbon and sherry matured Bushmills. Hopefully the great reaction they got at the stand means we'll see something new on our shelves soon. 
Midleton's single pot still stand is always a crowd pleaser. It's the biggest stand at the event - a stage, really, showcasing their growing range of delicious, traditional pot still whiskey. Everything was there, the Powers range, including the new Three Swallows, Midleton Dair Ghaelach, Redbreasts, Green Spots, Yellow Spot and, if you showed just the right level of enthusiasm, something special from Master Blender Billy Leighton's holster. I'm not sure exactly the contents of the bottle, but it was single cask and it was delicious, spicy, warming and stayed with you long after you left the stage behind. Everything was delicious, really.

The Teelings were there too, two generations. John Teeling, former owner of the Cooley Distillery in Co Louth, was as engaging as ever at the Great Northern Distillery stand, and elsewhere. The column stills and the pot stills are in motion already and the new make spirit is very promising, as you'd expect. Sure they know what they're doing. 
His sons, Stephen and Jack, are the people behind the Teeling Whiskey Company, now producing in the Liberties in Dublin - once an industrial heartland of Irish whiskey production. Their history in the industry means they have a very good range of mature whiskey already while they wait for their own spirit to mature. That will be both single pot still and single malt. They were showcasing their beautifully presented Teeling 15 Revival. Some of it at least seems to have spent its whole life in a rum cask. It's very good too. Their stock from 1991 and 1988, procured from another distillery, is winning fans all over the world. The 1991 sampled at the Teeling masterclass was one of the main talking points of the show. They're amongst the fruitiest and beguiling whiskeys available, akin to an old Bowmore or a 1976 BenRiach, with the perfect balance of smoke and malt. Be on your toes for similar vintages from the Celtic Whiskey Shop's single cask range in the months and years to come...
New beginnings
A few of the most encouraging things from the show was the age profile of the attendees and the number of new Irish distilleries getting ready to serve them. It's certainly not just an old man's drink these days. Tullamore Dew, Teeling Whiskey Company, the Great Northern Distillery, Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Glendalough, Echlinville and the Boann will all have customers for years to come. 
Shane Braniff, the man behind the Feckin whiskey brand, is now the man behind the Echlinville Distillery too. He has also revived the old Dunville's brand. He's been busy. It's a new(ish) distillery on the Ards Penninsula in Northern Ireland, and they have malt spirit resting in oak for over two years now. It's very encouraging, already showing a real rounded maturity. They make single pot still too. While Glendalough are already well established with their branded whiskey and gins. 

Food alchemy and whiskey history
The food was great again. L Mulligan Grocers cook up all sorts of strange things to go with whisk(e)y. And they all do go with whiskey, or without. I think they might be some kind of geniuses. They had marshmallows soaked in something or other and topped with something else, served with Laphroaig 10. Anyway, it was fantastic. KOH Restaurant and Bar did some excellent food pairings too, both savoury and sweet. COCOA ATELIER's pairings were all sweet and very, very popular. 
The history of Irish whiskey got a good showing too. Fionnan O'Connor has boundless knowledge of Irish single pot still whiskey, and he's presented it in his new book, A Glass Apart: Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey. Fionnan's well worth talking to and his book is well worth reading, preferably with a glass of something pot still in your hand. 

Scotland and beyond
Arran, Gordon & MacPhail/Benromach, Glengoyne, Tamdhu, GlenDronach and BenRiach were amongst the ambassadors for Scotch whisky. Arran don't seem to have put a foot wrong in their 20 or so years in production. You could pick anything on the table and you're guaranteed an experience. Gordon & MacPhail have been bottling whisky for over 100 years, during which time they've amassed an incredible range of casks. Their Mortlach and Macallan were particularly worthy, and their Benromachs had a lot of fans at the show. Glengoyne, who produce in the Highlands and mature their whisky in the Lowlands, had a great selection. The produce deep, rich, sherry-matured malt. The 21-year-old is a classic.
The popularity of Japanese whisky around the world is sucking almost every drop of mature product from the market, so the Nikka stand was understandably very popular. 
From America, Jack Daniels and Jeffersons were not to be missed, but unfortunately I did. Lots of great whisk(e)y slipped by, but there's always next year. 

Down Syndrome Dublin

Every ticket sold included a contribution of at least €10 to Down Syndrome Dublin (http://www.dsdublin.ie/), a charity dedicated to providing information and support to people with Down Syndrome and their families. The contribution of all those who bought the raffle tickets for the heaving table of prizes was hugely appreciated too. 
It's an event that is getting better and better every year, and one with a real Irish flavour. Roll on 2016.