I only went down to Christchurch for the Saturday. As a result, I had only a limited time to sample, chat and enjoy what is for me the premier event in my whisky life.
My first goal was to head straight to the Floki stand. Floki is an Icelandic whisky distillery that I was not going to miss.
I was not disappointed. This is the Eimverk Distillery family founded in 2009.
The two picks for me were the sheep dung smoked reserve Young Malt 47%, a 500 barrel limited reserve whisky.
The Floki website notes that the barley has been “smoked using generations old tradition of smoking using sheep dung”. It is aged in virgin white oak casks.
The taste is wet grass / wet pine needles with a hint of cherries. Score: 8 out of 10.
Another interesting bottling from Floki is the Birch finish, again with a unique taste. Score: 8 out of 10.
If you get a chance to try these two malts don’t try to compare them to a scotch whisky – they are unique and have a completely Icelandic taste profile.
A Wee Dram With …..
I managed to get to two Wee Dram tastings.
The first was Glenlivet with Alan Winchester, MQ. Alan manages 14 Pernod Ricard distilleries and has 40 years in the industry, so he knows a bit. It was an amazing tasting and if you shun the big boys you might well be missing out.
We got to try two bottlings at the tasting.
The first was a 14 year old single cask (#100160), bottled at 53.1%. The taste was fruity, floral, pineapple, toffee, and banana with an oily mouth feel and a lip smacking 9.8 out of 10.
The second dram was the standard 25 year old at 43%. It’s spent 23 years of its life in Bourbon barrels and the last two years in first fill Oloroso Sherry barrels. The taste was Christmas cake, cinnamon, and raisins, very smooth (as you would expect of a 25-year-old). 9 out of 10.
The second tasting session was Arran with Rob Gray. He brought with him two outstanding bottlings.
The first was “distillery only” (a whisky crime, in my view) 50ppm Machrie Moor called Fingal’s Cut Sherry Cask.
For all those who claim they don’t like peated whisky, you need to try this. The taste was peat, sherry in loads and licorice, full bodied and lip smacking. I had three tastings of this (Rob was very generous)! 10 out of 10
The next was a not-yet-bottled release #3 of the 21 year old Explorer series. This was cask strength at 54.4%, with elements of port, Christmas pudding, sherry and brandy butter. Another stunner, 9 out of 10.
The opportunities at Dramfest to have conversations with people in the industry are unique. It is not just for the chance to taste rare and great whiskies, but to get the background on the distilleries and little anecdotes that may never be printed or shared except with whisky fans like you and me.
I had only limited time to go around the tables, so I headed back to the Arran stand (sorry, can’t get enough of the stuff).
I tried the quarter cask Bothy – another amazing dram from the distillery. Mouth feel and rich taste. I liked it so much and could actually get this one. Easily 9 out of 10.
I bought a bottle.
There was so much to sample and great fellow whisky drinkers to socialise with. I had trouble to pick the outstanding drams.
But here we are. Apart from the tastings I had, I would have to pick the following three drams.
Floki Sheep dung smoked (bought a bottle)
Glenallachie 15 year old
The Arran quarter cask Bothy.
The reasons I picked these are simple: I hadn’t tried them before, and they were all very good.
Yes, there were the old favourites there at Dramfest, and they are good, too. But that’s not why I go to Dramfest. I go to try new, weird, or simply overlooked whiskies that deserve my attention.
I am never disappointed.