The weekend of the 9th till the 11th September saw the inaugural Spirit of Speyside:Distilled festival take place in Elgin. The annual Spirit of Speyside Festival is already well established but this was the first time they had brought many of their exhibitors together under one roof.
After a wander around the stalls and chatting to several exhibitors it was time for the first masterclass of the day.
Nick Savage, Master Distiller for The Macallan, led us through a deconstruction of the Rare Cask expression with various constituent samples that are just some of the whiskies that are blended together to create the Rare Cask.
From the 1st fill American oak sherry seasoned butt that brings vanilla, summer fruits and zest, to the European oak sherry seasoned hogshead that is responsible for bringing the tannic, spice driven notes, we were expertly guided through their subtleties as Nick talked about ’embracing variability’ and achieving the ‘gold standard cask’
Next up was a ‘copper dog walk’ with Glen Morays Master Distiller Graham Coull.
Graham had pulled samples from six of the more unusual casks lurking around the Glen Moray warehouse.
A 2006 10 y.o Bandol (a red wine produced in the south of France) cask was my favourite, however there was stiff competition from a 28 y.o expression that had spent time in both 1st and 2nd fill bourbon casks before being finished for 6 years in a Port pipe and a rather intriguing 6 y.o peated expression of Glen Moray that had spent its last 2 years in a first fill PX cask.
I’ve become a bit of a fan of this cross genre peated/sherry type of whisky, my favourite being the Lagavulin Distillers Edition.
The highlight of this particular session was not just the whiskies but there was some fantastic whisky chat and discussion going on between the audience and Graham. Most enjoyable.
The last masterclass of the day was hosted by Mark Thomson, UK ambassador for Glenfiddich.
Mark is clearly passionate about his brand, and it’s always a pleasure to watch him present a whisky to an audience. Over the course of the next 45 minutes he lead us through several of the lesser known Glenfiddich releases.
A highlight for me was ticking the Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix off my ‘to try’ list and a look at the new XX (Twenty) expression, which I really rather enjoyed. It certainly has the Glenfiddich DNA running through it but it’s a little more punchy and perhaps a little darker in nature.
Thanks are due to everybody at the festival, see you next year!