The BBC Good Food Show always has lots going on, bringing the very best of food, drink and foodie gadgets to the consumer’s eye. We went along to the show held at the Birmingham NEC just before Christmas, to check out some of the whiskies on the market, looking particularly for brands and blends that weren’t quite so familiar to us, and to learn something of the distillers who produce them.
Our first stop was at the Glen Moray stand, award winning producers of Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Speyside. The distillery set in Elgin, one of Scotland’s oldest towns has a wonderful history, the roots beginning in 1930 as the Elgin West brewery producing local ales. Their first spirit run was on 13th September 1897, and since then, only five men have had the honour of holding the title Master Distiller, whose expertise has been passed on these past 120 years, ensuring craftsmanship and quality.
They produce a beautiful range of whiskies, distilled in copper pot stills, using locally sourced malted barley and the pure waters of the River Lossie. Their whiskies are matured in carefully sourced oak casks. These include the intriguing Elgin Classic Collection; the Elgin Heritage Collection with 12, 15 and 18-year-old single malts; there’s the 25-year-old Elgin Reserve, a limited edition, with every bottle unique and individually numbered; and the Elgin Prestige which they regard as the pinnacle of their whisky making, skilfully crafted by their current Master Distiller, Graham Coull.
From our selection for tasting, Rob particularly liked the 18-year-old single malt from the Elgin Heritage Collection which he found to be beautifully smooth; while I liked the sweeter taste of the Glen Moray Classic Sherry Cask Finish. You can discover their full history and their range of Single Malt Whiskies by visiting: http://www.glenmoray.com
Our next port of call was at the Tomintoul – the gentle dram stand. Pronounced Tlath, the Gaelic word for gentle and mellow. Their distillery was built in 1964 near the village of Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands of Scotland in the picturesque Glenlivet Estate in the heart of the whisky producing Speyside region. It took a year of searching for the purest spring water before they finally found the Ballantruan spring. This goes into producing their smooth and mellow whiskies which have won numerous awards.
Highlighting just a few of their blends, there’s Tomintoul Tlath matured in first class American oak bourbon barrels; the unusual and unique Tomintoul with a peaty tang which has a deep smoky flavour; the smooth Tomintoul 10-year-old with its gentle oaky spice; the Tomintoul 25-year-old with its smooth honey-sweetness – right up to the Tomintoul 40-year-old Quadruple Cask which took Gold in the World Whiskies Awards 2017.
From our selection of tasting Rob particularly liked the Tomintoul 15-year-old Portwood Finish with its rich spicy sweetness, while my favourite was the 16-year-old Tomintoul which I found smooth and velvety to the palate. Discover more at their website: http://www.tomintoulwhisky.com
We next decided to learn a little about Evan Williams Bourbon at the Marussia Beverages stand, which handles specialist spirits from around the world. If you’ve ever wondered what makes Bourbon a Bourbon, rather than just a whisky, I’m reliably informed that by law, Bourbon must be made up of at least 51% corn and aged a minimum of two years in a new charred white oak barrel. (Evan Williams age theirs much longer). While Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle. Bourbon is not Bourbon unless the label says so.
Evan Williams Bourbon is distilled in Louisville, Kentucky. The man himself was actually born in Dale, Pembrokeshire, but emigrated to the USA towards the end of the 18th century. He began distilling in 1783 and the company is still producing Bourbon using the same time-honoured methods that he used all those years ago. Today they produce some of the world’s most critically acclaimed Bourbons. Evan is described as something of a Jack-of-all-trades, an entrepreneur, a politician but most of all a distiller. He had the knack of turning corn into smooth whiskey. He set up his distillery on the banks of the Ohio River, and today you’ll find a marker on that spot officially declaring Evan Williams as Kentucky’s first Commercial Distiller.
From our tastings, Rob really liked the Evan Williams Cinnamon Reserve Liquor while I – having a sweet tooth, loved the Evan Williams Honey Reserve. You’ll learn more about Bourbon at: www.evanwilliams.com
Glen Scotia produce two types of Single Malt Whisky: peated and non-peated. The distillery can be found at Campbeltown, an isolated town situated towards the Southern end of the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland. The town once proclaimed itself as ‘the Victorian whisky capital of the world’. In 1851 it had around 30 distilleries, today there are only three, one of the finest being Glen Scotia. History extends ever further back however. Whisky making on the Campbeltown Peninsula goes back to 1636. Then, due to the availability of local barley ‘bere’, peat for drying the malted barley and fresh water, illicit whisky production became rife during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Glen Scotia is proud of its Campbeltown characteristics. The distilling of their Single Malt Scotch Whisky is known as ‘small batch processing’ the result being a fine selection of award winning single malt whiskies. There’s the Glen Scotia Double Cask, the Glen Scotia Victoriana, the Glen Scotia 15, 16, 18 and 25-year-old single malts, and the Glen Scotia 1832 Campbeltown. In truth, they were all exceptional on the nose and the palate, some rich and spicy others offering a subtle smokiness. Discover more at: http://www.glenscotia.com/
A brand new distillery on the scene is The Quiet Man Craft Distillery Company, which Niche Drinks has invested £12 million into. The new distillery in Ebrington, Londonderry includes a Visitors’ Centre due to open in 2018. They produce The Quiet Man 8-year-old Single Malt and the Quiet Man Traditional Irish Whiskey Blend. The whiskies are named after the father of Niche Drinks’ Ciaran Mulgrew.
He says: “My father was a bartender who worked for over 50 years in bars around Northern Ireland and now that I am making my own whiskey I am naming it after my father. In 50 years as a bartender he saw a lot of things and heard a lot of stories, but like all good bartenders, he was true to his code and told no tales. My father, John Mulgrew. ‘The Quiet Man’ or as they say in the Irish, ‘An Fear Ciuin.’ Discover more at: http://www.thequietmanirishwhiskey.com/
|Co-founder of The Whisky Lounge Amanda Ludlow (left)|
If you're keen to learn more aboutwhisky, then The Whisky Lounge was the place to go. This husband and wife team of Amanda and Eddie Ludlow, originally from Belfast and now based in York are on a mission to turn everyone on to whisky through organising all kinds of entertaining, educational and exciting events.
Having worked in the industry for many years, Eddie Ludlow founded The Whisky Lounge 10 years ago. Today, Eddie, co-founder Amanda and their team run regular whisky tastings, whisky festivals, whisky blending workshops and whisky trips. Amanda said that her husband’s dedication to whisky was acknowledged last year when he was inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich. This is an exclusive international society, founded in the 1980s by leading Scotch whisky distillers, to recognise individuals who have shown outstanding commitment to the Scotch Whisky Industry.
Eddie is quoted as saying: “The Whisky Lounge’s mission has always been to introduce whisky to new audiences by breaking down the barriers and myths that may stop people falling in love with the Water of Life.”
Take a look at the many whisky events coming up in 2018: https://thewhiskylounge.com
We were determined not to leave the Welsh out of our roundup, and we loved the taste of Celtic Spirit Company’s whisky and brandy liqueurs which were so festively displayed! Celtic Spirit Co is the oldest spirit company in Wales. They produce high quality spirits and liqueurs from age old Welsh family recipes date back to the 1870s derived from fruits of the Wye and Usk Valleys. My favourite was Black Mountain with its rich aromatic apple and blackcurrant brandy; while Rob liked the Danzy Jones, mellow with herbs and rosehip syrup.
Discover more: http://celticspirit.co.uk/
Also producing delicious Welsh Liqueurs was the family run business of Condessa Welsh Liqueurs. Founded by Richard Jones in 1969. In 1989 they moved to their 5,400 sq ft factory and winery in rural Anglesey where they make delicious award winning fruit liqueurs and low fat cream liqueurs. Sally Nelson, daughter of founders Richard and Carol Jones was now at the helm alongside husband Matthew. Over the years they have won many awards for their liqueurs including the Proven Fine Foods Great Taste Awards and the True Taste Awards for Wales.
Discover more at: http://condessa.co.uk
Cheers everyone and Happy 2018!