Whisky Live 2014 was held this past Wednesday at Chelsea Piers in New York, NY. It was the same venue as last year and basically the same set-up so I was pretty familiar with the space. Some of the booths were even in the exact same locations which gave me a mean case of déjà vu. The whisky industry is pretty small and I was happy to see many familiar faces. It was just as fun catching up with people as it was tasting whisky.
This year there seemed to be more bourbon and rye booths at the expense of some whisky booths. Noticeably absent was Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Arran and that Boutique-y Whisky Company. On a positive note, Talisker and Lagavulin were out in full force. Talisker had one of my favorite drams of the session with their 30 year old expression. They also had their 25 and 18 year olds as well. I wish Lagavulin had some older expressions, but they only had their 12 cask strength, 16 and distiller’s edition. It was particularly hard to find rare single malts at this show, but I did seek them out.
I found some absolute gems at the Bonham’s (an auction house) booth. They had some old – I’m talking 1930s old – whiskies up for tasting. I particularly enjoyed a Linkwood 15 which was distilled in 1974 and bottled in 1989. They also had a very old Beam and Johnnie Walker which were distilled in the 1930s-1940s. It was certainly a treat to try the ancient whiskies at their booth. I also enjoyed a Longmorn 16 from Pernod Ricard’s booth. I didn’t know there was an original bottling from Longmorn available in the States. The saying really is true, you learn something new everyday. It was a punchy whisky with some nice lemon zest and spice. Classic Imports was representing their brands and had some nice Gordon & MacPhail selections for tasting. I particularly enjoyed the Caol Ila 2003 10 Yr and the Glen Scotia 21 year old. They were both unique and delicious.
In addition to scotch single malt whiskies, I also tried a few world whiskies like the blended malt from the Himalayas called K5. This blend from the Spirits of Bhutan is composed of 65% Scottish single malt from an undisclosed distillery and 35% grain whisky from the Himalayas. It was better than expected and actually quite good. I had heard about this blend in press releases, but finally got a chance to taste it. Another blend that caught my attention was Usquaebach. This brand had been absent from the US market for a period due to an illness of their brand owner. They’re back in full force and are offering three expressions. One of them is served in an appealing stone flagon, but my favorite was their 15 year old peated dram which contained whisky from an undisclosed Southern Highlands distillery – my guess is Edradour. Connemara had their full range on display and I was happy to taste their Irish single malts. They make some very interesting whisky and I particularly enjoyed their cask strength expression. Their booth was manned by two Irish natives which was a nice touch for some legitimacy and character.
Overall I had a great time at the event tasting plenty of whiskies and also pigging out at the buffet. Congratulations to Dave Sweet and company for putting on another successful event. Looking forward to the 2015 edition!