Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Location! Location! Location! - The Whisky Show 2014

So another Whisky Show Sydney has been and gone for 2014 and let us hope things improve next year. Yeah ok that is a downer of a comment to begin with but I think it is fare once you get to the end of this review.

For us punters and with so many whisky events happening in Sydney we have come a long way from hanging a whole year in anticipation of attending one single whisky event. Yes 6 years ago Whisky Live Sydney was all we had to choose from but now things are very different. For me outside of product launches and small tastings I actually choose just to go to one main event a year for a miriade of reasons. Primary reasons are that these big events are generally all the same vendors, showing all the same thing, while giving the same spiel over and over again. Compounded by the fact after the 5th or 6th whisky you cannot taste anything anymore I end up asking the question "what is the point of going to all of them" and "Is this money well spent"?

Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select and Scallywag.
This year I had chosen to do The Whisky Show again as last years event proved be a good one as it was centrally located, well priced, and held a good selection of vendors. Again this year the pricing was great at a bargain $32 AU a ticket but the price was overshadowed by the locality. Held at the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport Mascot meant a 2hr journey by bus (or train) from outer Sydney each way and then a 15min walk to the event from drop off. You really have to think about this in context if you are actually keen to buy anything when at this event would you really be wanting to make the hike home at 10am in the evening with expensive alcohol in arms… not really. As I understand it the main reason World Of Whisky had chosen the location was so they could do sales on the day. They needed a location that was licensed to do so and the Stamford Plaza offered this. Locality was the same criticism he had of Whisky Live when it was held at the Royal Randwick Racecourse back in 2010. Last year I gave World Of Whisky praise (see review here) for the locality but this year it is massive 2 thumbs down.

On arrival at the Stamford I met up with fellow club members The Proxy, The Dog, and El Capitan and like the a scene from Wizard Of Oz we skipped merrily into the foyer to show tickets and get cracking. Unfortunately the foyer was a shambles with massive delays as everyone shuffled to be admitted by a fearful 2 staff taking tickets. One for tickets and one for putting on the arm bands.

Pushing through we were then clear and we were greeted with a rather refreshing Glenmorangie cocktail that the staff could not tell me too much about. Apparently from what I hear there was a cocktail comp of some description and this was one of entries, maybe a winning one, but honestly I cannot say and don't think it is worth chasing up much further unfortunately. It was a big success though and many people thought to souvenir a glass to take home as there was no where to set the glasses down when you were done and bags were provided so the obvious happened. Many were to leave disappointed as excessively aggressive bag checks were forced on everyone leaving the event to the point we were actually checked 3 times and an additional chase down in the street (highly illegal I suspect) to be checked again. Were they looking for glasses or was there something more to it? All I know is that added yet another dampener to the day.

The hall was great with wide open space and the vendors lined around the walls. Some water stations were made available which was also fantastic but only 2 high benches to rest on and no seating apart form some limited space outside. 4hrs of standing can really get to you but there was more than enough space to move out form the 5 body deep crowds to nose and sample your whiskies in relative comfort. This open space and high ceilings also benefited by dissipating the heat effectively so overall the comfort factor was good.

Bruichladdich Octomore 5.1 and Islay Barley 2006.
There was a good selection of vendors to choose from with some great interactivity going on. Personally the best tables I found was the lads from Bruichladdich and the SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society). The Bruichladdich lads really knew there stuff and could really give the ins and outs about the whiskies on show. Meanwhile over at the SMWS table a very large selection of whiskies were on offer to taste but mind you always being Cask Strength you have to keep them short.

It was a pity we only saw 2 Tasmanian whiskies on the floor, that being Overeem and Lark, and I did find it a little odd that Starward were right over in the far corner. Keeping the Aussie vendors together would have been smart to me but then where were the others anyway? Starward themselves need to lift their game as the chap at the table really could not express too much confidence in the product and the the table was bare with virtually no presentation at all. Locality being where they were I am sure many missed them altogether. I was really hoping to see some of the other releases and experiments Starward have been getting a name for but nothing else was on offer. Others have said they did see the Ginger Beer Cask Finish but when I had asked I was told that only the NAS expression was on offer.

Within seconds this was the view of the few and far between single platters that came out to feed the punters.
If what I said has not been enough the utmost disappointed by far was the far or there lack of. PATHETIC is an understatement at best. This was by far the worst supplied event I have ever been too. People were virtually snatching and pushing to get to a single platter of sandwiches, muffins, or meat balls. Word was some nasty egg and bread rolls got around too and I am glad to have avoided that. No this really was appalling and it has already made my decision not to go to next years Whisky Show. A long time ago I had learnt my lesson about eating prior to events like this and so I made a point of it to eat before entry at a local Mcdonalds 15min walk away. For every one else though I really do pity what happened considering we were at the 12pm session. The location has access to no food unless you want to walk a good 15min to 20min away from the venue. The fact is food was promised and not delivered is the main point not the quality. It would have been a different case if they had said food would not be provided. RSA was heavy handed for a change and that was at last a good but 4hrs of drinking and no food would have left even the most robust of drammers in a spin. Poor form World Of Whisky very poor form.

A Well Oiled Baseball Glove. By far the most intriguing of whiskies on the day.
Top whiskies for the day for me was the Bruichladdich Octomre 5.1 which I was surprised to even see considering its limited availability and price. Also being able to taste the Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2006 and Bruichladdich Organic side by side was a treat. Islay Barley has some really interesting earthy depth about it. The Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select was a cracker and had a great tangy note of cranberries about it. Lastly something that really hit the mark or curiosity was the SMWS 121.65 A Well-oiled Baseball Glove. I still don't know if I liked it or hated it but I certainly have not forgotten it as it seriously tasted like leather and polish. Very interesting indeed. Biggest let down of whiskies was the Scallywag from Douglas Laing & Co. I was so looking forward to this after such an amazing success they have had with Big Peat. Unfortunately my palate is tuned to this whisky and all I got was horrible musty sherry casks and sour wine. A bad bottle? Maybe as others said it was great. I will certainly be on the hunt to try it again to confirm or deny my initial findings.

The lads and myself did have a good time as had each other for company while darting off for drams and then meeting back in the centre form time to time. I would say If I was there by myself then I probably would have left within an hour of arriving as the management of the event leaked disappointment. Location! location! location! This cannot be said enough about these events. There is too much to choose from now for these event organisers to just 'assume' we will go anyway. And for the love of Queen get the food situation sorted.

As you would see I took very few pictures and decided to simply focus on discovering those whiskies I had never had before and I must say I did a good job of it leaving a happy man for doing so. Overall though if I was to give a dram then it would be a 3 out 7 for this event. Plenty of room for improvement.

The Baron

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