Another enjoyable Whiskycast episode. I only wish it were longer. Will another episode from Toronto Live come online in the near future? How about that interview with Wendy and some others from the Tronoto area that we know about here?
On a separte note, I am very interested in the Caol Ila 25 you tasted. I had the 25yo OB from 1978/2004 and thought it was an absolutely stunning whisky. After 10 other Caol Ilas, I have yet to find one that was as good as the 25. Which 25yo did you have? If not the 1978 bottling how would you compare the one you had to it? Since the 1978 is getting harder to find I am interested in how the newer 25 OB bottles compare.
As for the event...given that it was the first one, I'd give it a passing grade. There was little or no local promotion, so the crowd was very light, but the master classes were good (even with Michael Jackson having to cancel for illness). As for the on-site store...yes, the selection was limited, and it would have been nice to see more of what was being sampled available for sale...but then again, at least there was an on-site store. The WL New York show doesn't have one because of licensing restrictions...
As a whisky enthusiast I was really excited about attending the event. I arrived right at the opening bell and anxiously headed for the first booth to cash in my drink tickets. I choose Highland Park for my first victim.
I was greeted by a pretty young lady with a big welcoming smile behind the counter. I asked her “How are things in Kirkwall these days?”
She replied, “Kirkwall, where is that?”
I looked at her, with bit of a surprise, and said, “Kirkwall, on Orkney, you know the town where Highland Park distillery is located.”
She answered, “Sorry sir, I have never been there.”
Then I asked her is she had ever been to Scotland, or even drank whisky at which she continued to reply, “no”, “no,”
Then I asked about she went about getting a job working at the booth and she replied that the “agency” hired her, and based on her appearance, I surmised the type of agency it was.
Oh well, so I drank up and headed to the next booth wanting to talk to someone that worked at the distillery or at least knew something about scotch whisky. I was disappointed. Not one person that I spoke to had ever been to the distillery they were representing, and only a few had any knowledge of whisky, other than some cursory marketing notes. And the all sounded like me – Canadians, from Toronto.
There was one exception to this observation and that was Ian Millar from Glenfiddich He more than made up for my desire to learn about whisky, so I attended both his Masterclasses, and they were great.
Now I realize that distilleries cannot afford to send staff across the ocean for events like these, but it would be nice to have at least staff that knew something about whisky attend the booths. Maybe I am just getting too old, but the choice between talking about whisky to someone from the distillery seems more appealing than talking to some wee slip of a thing in a kilt-mini skirt with knee-high black leather boots.
Pipe and dram wrote:Now I realize that distilleries cannot afford to send staff across the ocean for events like these, but it would be nice to have at least staff that knew something about whisky attend the booths.
Wrong on the first part, they send people all over the world all the time and yes to the second. If you want to meet people from Scotland come to Victoria in January for the Victoria Whisky Festival!
Earlier in the day, Mark (of WhiskyCast fame) and I had made arrangements to meet for lunch which also combined the first interview of the weekend with the entrepreneurs of the one and only Canadian Independent bottlers, Premium Bottlers. It was such a pleasure to finally meet Mark and an extra treat "being a fly on the wall" in what would be one of many interviews taken over the weekend.
Typical for this time of year, the leaves are turning, the sun was out and yes for a very brief moment as we entered the WL venue, it also began to rain the size of gum drops, but one thing for sure, Toronto Whisky Live had arrived in my neck of the woods…
The three Master Classes that I attended were:
Discover the Glenrothes with the engaging and distinguished Mr. Ronnie Cox, Director of The Glenrothes. This was the first and single handedly my favourite session of the day. The following whiskies that were sampled were (in order): Cutty Sark, The Glenrothes Select Reserve, The Glenrothes 1991, The Glenrothes 1985 and The Glenrothes 1979. The ’85 and the ’79 really stood out for me as the two most interesting and enjoyable of the lot. We were also passed around a sampling of 68% New Make to smell. This was a new experience for me. I was expecting the predominant smell to be of alcohol, but was surprised by how sweet and fruity the aroma was with a mild hint of anise lingering at the end. I found it quite pleasant.
Mr. Cox mentioned a special project that Martine Nouet and he have been collaborating on which combines the theme of whisky and music. I thought his project reflected a fresh and contemporary attitude that whisky can be experienced within a myriad of occasions based on mood and environment and appreciated that he was trying to convey this message.
The second master class was re named, The Whisky World from Whisky Magazine after Mr. Michael Jackson due to poor health reasons had to cancel his appearance. On behalf of Michael Jackson, Damian Riley-Smith extended his sincere regrets and assured the attendees that Mr. Jackson was home recovering. The session was lead by guest presenters, Mr. Jim Cryle, Chivas Brothers and Mr. Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve. It was a comparative tasting of Canadian – Canadian Club, American - Woodford Reserve and Scottish Single Malt – Glenlivet 12 yo and Scottish Blend – Chivas 12 yo. I must admit, I thought the line up was pretty pedestrian and found it regretful that a Canadian spokesperson wasn’t asked to step in to present the Canadian whisky.
Next in line was The Art of Oak with Ian Millar, Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador (William Grant & Son). We sampled an assortment of whiskies and the whisky inspired ale beer, Innis and Gunn. The whiskies were Grant’s Ale Cask, Glenfiddich Solera Reserve (apparently the fastest growing single malt in the world), and 30 yo Balvenie CS. I was really looking forward to sampling the 30 yo Balvenie and wasn’t disappointed: Nose – sweetish, floral; Taste: bitter orange (that is what I can remember!). Ian Millar also talked about the first release Anniversary bottling from the Kininvie Distillery celebrating the 105th birthday of Wm Grant’s only surviving granddaughter. The bottling was released as gifts to employees only this summer. When I asked him to describe the taste, in light of the fact that it is special and so few would have the chance to sample it, he said, “It is great.” When he asked if he had answered my question, I shook my head, "No." He then added..."it is fruity." Wow, that is just GREAT!…sorry gang, I am still a little peeved about being brushed off.
Observations: I found that in every master class, the majority of the questions asked by attendees were how much water or ice should be added to their whisky and incredible confusion around the terminology of vatted vs blends. No one quite knew whether they were coming or going as they tried to sort out the categories. I also felt that all of the Master class presenters had the patients of saints as they diplomatically answered the same questions over and over again.
On the issue of water, I was taken by surprise by how often we were told to add water to our whisky by the session leaders. I felt like “lab” mentality had blurred the lines of a just settling in at home with your favourite dram. I think everyone should drink their whisky the way they want, but I wouldn’t have thought that we would be advised to add water to Glenlivet 12 yo or Solera Reserve. I can see the merit of distinguishing between CS vs a 40% abv bottling and explaining the potential benefits of how water can “open” up a CS, but to just suggest adding water carte blanche seemed like a clinical response from someone whose job is to taste all day. Ian Millar did say that he would NOT add water to the Balvenie 17 as it kills it immediately. For me the best quote of the day came from Chris Morris when asked about adding water: “Water is for washing in and whisky is for drinking.”
The end of the evening was reserved to wander from booth to booth. Stand out drams were the 1988 Tulibardine, Compass Box new Ontario release “Magic Cask” and Connemara CS. Fittingly, the evening closed with the honour of sitting in on an interview between Mark and industry leader, Jim Cryle. That was another highlight of the evening for me. So, stay tuned WhiskyCast fans, you are in for a real treat.
If my summary hasn't yet put you all to sleep, I quite enjoyed myself at Toronto Whisky Live, and yes there were a few pitfalls, but I was glad to have tasted a few special drams, to meet some special people and to show my support to the culture of whisky in Ontario.
Wendy wrote:We were also passed around a sampling of 68% New Make to smell. This was a new experience for me. I was expecting the predominant smell to be of alcohol, but was surprised by how sweet and fruity the aroma was with a mild hint of anise lingering at the end. I found it quite pleasant.
Perhaps this will have given you some insight into where "finish" comes from. If, as they say, 75-80% of the flavor of whisky is from the wood, I would expect generally for it to be the same with finish. New make can indeed be very interesting, and often very fruity. The most drinkable I've had was from the "sma' still" at Glenlivet, a fact that is very enlightening, given the history of the drink; certainly it was drunk quite young most of the time in the olden days.
Wendy wrote:Ian Millar also talked about the first release Anniversary bottling from the Kininvie Distillery celebrating the 105th birthday of Wm Grant’s only surviving granddaughter. The bottling was released as gifts to employees only this summer. When I asked him to describe the taste, in light of the fact that it is special and so few would have the chance to sample it, he said, “It is great.” When he asked if he had answered my question, I shook my head, "No." He then added..."it is fruity." Wow, that is just GREAT!…sorry gang, I am still a little peeved about being brushed off.
"Smooth, really smooth." Suspect you simply caught him out...he ought to have been honest and said he was caught up in the social occasion and didn't really take proper note.
Wendy wrote:On the issue of water, I was taken by surprise by how often we were told to add water to our whisky by the session leaders. I felt like “lab” mentality had blurred the lines of a just settling in at home with your favourite dram.
This is a very astute observation. At every tasting I've been to, water has been pushed. Maybe it's because I have a lousy nose, but I get nothing from it. Or maybe the problem is the other way around, and I need educating. I have gotten in the habit, at tastings, of draining one glass right away and then putting a drib of water and a drab of malt in it to see how it noses and tastes. Then I return to the undiluted dram. "Lab mentality" describes it exactly, but I'm no master blender. I know some people here approach their dram just so, but I can't be so clinical about it.
You also mentioned you were doing some articles - where will they appear so I can read them
Pipe and Dram
PS. I wish I had of checked this forum prior to whisky live Toronto so many of us could have met each other
Wendy wrote:Thank you Mr. TH and Lawrence for your comments. Indeed, you are correct Mr. TH as I too was thinking of my finishing question when I was smelling the New Make. I also didn't mean to come across so snarky re Kininvie question, but I thought it was a great opportunity to dovetail the past with the present and to elaborate about this unique bottling and felt frustrated when this wasn't forthcoming. It was a blib on an otherwise well received session.
I think the whole thing with Kininvie is that Glenfiddich set up the distillery purely to have something to blend with Glenfiddich so IB's of Glenfiddich would not be available. I expect it is an unremarkable malt. Obviously it didn't make much impression on those who tasted it.
I just finished listening to the Jim Cryle interview, and I will gladly be standing next in line to purchase Jim's book if it ever it hits the shelves. I think WhiskyCast is recording history and really want to salute the effort you are making to interview some of the Great's in the industry. It was an incredible honour to sit in on that interview and must admit I loved it even more the second time around which is saying a lot. A big thank you and Bravo!
[Uh oh...too much effusive compliment...must insert gratuitous insult....]
Keep at it, and before too long, you'll actually be able to pronounce some of those weird Scottish place names!
I've a wee card that came along with a letter sent from whiskymag to my home t'other day which referenced another Whisky Live event in TO in October 2007.
Where can I find more detail on this blessed event?
Al from Winnipeg
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