Whisky Live Sydney 2014

Whisky Live returned in 2014, this time in two Sydney locations over consecutive weekends at Parramatta Town Hall followed by Moore Park on June 20 and 21.

Over 100 whiskies were on taste and this year, there were some notable additions to the event with travel retail expressions, a series of masterclasses as well as a Rare & Old Whisky Bar with classic and indeed, very rare expressions.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

The Byron Kennedy Hall at the Entertainment Quarter was a convenient and comfortable setting for the event, with whisk(e)y stands well laid out in the circular venue and space to move between the aisles. Food was served throughout the 3.5 hour event but unlike the previous year where there was a food station and guests could stop for a short break to eat at their leisure, platters were served which often meant cutting short a tasting and conversation with an exhibitor to grab a bite to eat. Water stations and spittoons were well positioned within easy reach. Guests received a Whisky Live engraved Glencairn glass to keep.

Below are the highlights of Sydney Whisky Live 2014 including drams and expressions not tasted before:

Travel Retail Whisky

For the first time, travel retail exclusive whiskies were on taste with guests given a 10% discount voucher to use on a purchase from the selected Duty Free exclusive whiskies featured at Whisky Live 2014.

There was a good choice of drams to try including the much-awaited Talisker Dark Storm but the tasting disappointed. The exhibitor took it upon himself to add a few drops of water to the whisky without asking and diluted the flavour profile and the experience.

Over at another stand, it was a delightful experience with a knowledgeable exhibitor explaining the differences between the travel retail version of the whiskies.

Jameson Single Reserve, a predominantly pot still whisky, distilled three times and aged in sherry casks had a more citrusy and cleaner flavour profile than the regular Jameson whiskey with very pleasant fruitcake notes and a spicy finish. Chivas Bros Blend 12 yo 40% ABV comes from Longmore and not Strathisla with a flavour profile of caramel notes, Christmas fruitcake, a clean finish with a lingering sweetness. Created by master distiller Alan Winchester, The Glenlivet Master Distillers Reserve is aged in first fill bourbon casks then sherry casks, with some casks as old as 20 years. The dram is ultra smooth, has a bourbon sweetness with the classic fruit cake notes, dark chocolate and a complex finish.

Rare & Old Bar

Also debuting this year was the Rare and Old Bar with 15 drams available to purchase by the half nip (15 ml) ranging from $18 to $99.

Willett Family Estate 25 yo Single Barrel Rye is the oldest rye whiskey in the world. Aged in hand-selected white oak barrels for 25 years, at 50% ABV, the bottle was no. 43 of only 112. Rich, dark caramel in colour, it is sweet and spicy on the nose and layered with dark chocolate. On the palate, it is silky smooth and buttery coating the back of the tongue with sweetness and spice with a long and lingering oak finish. Simply superb.

Port Ellen 4th Release, one of the most sought after whiskies from the closed Islay distillery is one of 5100 bottles distilled in 1978 and bottled in 2004 at 56.2% ABV. The peat is delicate on the nose with a balance of sweet and citrus.The palate is rich with peat, malt and spice with a hint of nuttiness. The finish is long with a balance of peat and spice. A sensational dram.

Bowmore Masterclass with Gordon Dundas

A series of 20 minute masterclasses were held at regular intervals which gave sufficient time to learn without taking too much time away from tasting whisky. Gordon Dundas, Global Brand Ambassador for Bowmore was in Sydney and presented a masterclass highlighting two very different Bowmore expressions.

A gripping speaker with evident passion for the brand, he started with Bowmore Small Batch, an expression yet to be available in Australia. The No Age Statement whisky is bottled at 40% ABV and aged in first fill  and second fill bourbon casks. Golden in colour, it has a lot of vanilla on the nose with a hint of dry smoke. Fruity and sweet on the front palate, it is incredibly smooth with a noticeable creaminess and a hint of salt and a long finish.

Bowmore Devil’s Cask was the other expression on taste, aged in first fill sherry casks and bottled at cask strength of 56.9%. The nose is rich, tarry with hints of tobacco ans soft leather but with no alcohol burn for its ABV. Very chewy on the palate, it is rich with dark chocolate and spice. A punchy dram that is warming, rich and utterly delicious.

Whisk(e)y Tastings

The full range of Glengoyne whiskies was on taste, including the recent release of Glengoyne 25 yo which was tasted at the Glengoyne media event in the Hunter Valley – a most elegant and balanced dram.

At the Glenlivet stand, The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter was available to taste, a dram that was voted around the world from a range of three expressions. Notes of Christmas cake, clove and cinnamon with orange dance on the palate with the warmth of spice, the sweetness of raisins, dark chocolate. The Glenlivet Reserve 21 Archive was matured in older warehousing with slower maturation due to the barrels being closer together. Super smooth and velvety on the palate, it has similarities to the 18 yo but mellower on the finish.

Japanese whisky was well represented with the full range of Nikka including the all-time favourites, Nikka Yoichi and Nikka from the Barrel. The newly-released Suntory Whiskies range was on taste with Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki. Australia’s entry was weaker in comparison with only Starward Whisky and Hellyers Road. The latter had unfortunately ran out of stock before the opportunity to taste came along. Indian whiskies featured three Amrut single malts including Fusion and a cask strength expression at 61.9%.

The Dalmore and Jura stand teased with the Jura Durach’s Own 16 yo which was a display only but the Dalmore Cigar Malt was on taste. The Compass Box Whisky Co had some interesting blended malts on taste such as Hedonism, a blended grain whisky aged in first fill bourbon casks which have the dram the sweetness of bourbon on the nose. The Peat Monster, another blended scotch from the range lived up to its name, strong on peat with burnt rubber on the palate but lacked finesse and refinement on the finish.

Newcomer The Gentleman’s Cabinet showcased their cigars and attracted a sizeable crowd. They provide education, linking cigars and whisky with masterclasses, cigar and whisky event. It was great to see Jack Daniels Sinatra on taste, affectionately termed as “Jack Daniel’s on steroids”, the rare to find Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey from New York, the Glen Moray single malts and the Glenrothes range we featured in last year’s Whisky Live, a stand that attracted a regular crowd.

It was great to see the return of the team from Wapengo Rock Oysters and the pairing with Bowmore Small Batch was a match made in heaven. At the Bowmore stand, a handful of lucky people had the opportunity to taste the Bowmore 23 yo 58% ABV fully matured in port casks. Spending 23 years in port casks gives the dram a delicious fruitiness up front with a smoky salty flavour profile to die for. Sensational.

The three and half hour session passed rather quickly and it was time to finish with Octomore 6.1 from Bruichladdich, the world’s heaviest peated whisky at 167 ppm, a refined balance of peat and smoke that lingers long on the palate.

Gourmantic attended Whisky Live in Sydney at Moore Park on Saturday 21 June 2014.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.