As a whisky novice, the prospect of tasting and exploring the nuances of so many renowned labels had me all aflutter. But once you get there and are confronted by the sheer scope of it, the most important question is: where to start?
Luckily, Johnnie Walker and Brandhouse offered guided tastings – the perfect introduction for novices like me. They included a few useful tips and tricks about how best to enjoy premium whisky, such as how the taste of the whisky can be affected by warming the glass or adding a few drops of water before adding ice cubes. Amazing.
The next challenge lies in deciding which whiskies to try. A ticket includes 15 points with which to “buy” tastings. A tasting can cost between 2 and 4 points. The point system is managed with a card, which could cause some delay and confusion, but is still pretty clever. Whisky can be quite expensive (I saw one on display at R 3999) so obviously tastings need to be limited somehow. Besides, whisky hits a bit harder so it’s a good idea not to taste too many. Your liver will thank you. The solution? Make the most of the opportunity: Find the labels you don’t usually see at your local retailer and then aim for the top shelf ones (ie most expensive). So worth it.
There were a couple that whisked me off my feet:
Johnnie Walker’s Platinum Label, affectionately known as the Private Blend, is well rounded and silky smooth.
Glendalough’s 13 year old, with fudge and dark chocolate prominent on the nose and the palate.
Glenmorangie Original is a 10 year old with a creamy texture and fresh notes of citrus and peach on the palate. The 12 year old is the same as the 10 year old, but given an additional 2 years in port casks with a prominent dark chocolate palate.
The Macallan Amber with notes of vanilla, honey and citrus on the palate.
Jameson 18 year Limited Reserve with a prominent citrus note on the palate.
The Chivas 18 year with its distinctive smoky flavour.
The Balvenie 14 year Carribean Cask has a soft toffee finish, rounded with vanilla and a more sweet oak than other whiskeys. Most likely due to their use of rum casks.
A surprising find was the Innis & Gunn oak-aged beer. Seventy seven days spent in whisky barrels results in a smooth honey texture. The Oak flavour is particularly smooth and rich in flavour.
After tasting to their hearts’ content, or at least until they have run out of points, visitors could collect their scattered wits at the whisky barrel tables while listening to Heart FM’s live presence and snacking on delicious food. There was even a Banting-friendly coconut and lime chicken kebabs option.
Valpré was in charge of visitors’ rehydration and kept things environmentally friendly by collecting empty bottles and handing out seed papers. Plant the paper and be surprised by either a flower or a herb in a few weeks’ time. A great keepsake to remind you of an exquisite evening, a night of style and sophistication. Definitely an event to diarise for next year.
Also posted on Freda’s Blog: Chronicles of a Banter.
Whisky Live was hosted at The Lookout from 18 to 20 June 2015.