It was the tasting they said would never happen and with community cases of Covid-19 popping up just days before the tasting, a last minute cancellation had looked decidedly possible. But, somehow, it squeaked through and with a genuine lineup of 6 tried and tested whiskies, plus a cheeky mystery to make things interesting, the game was on.
The lineup was looking unsurprisingly dark and sherry driven but, with two Amruts and two GlenDronachs (one served as a mystery whisky), you’d be hard pushed to call it typical. Had the pandemic-hit industry shaped the lineup in some way? Yes and no would be a fair answer. These were whiskies that had won tastings in their own right - including two Picks of Dramfest tastings which had seen the Amruts going head to head with some more than decent Scotches, so their place was of course deserved. That said, the number of tastings was down on a usual year and so the winners were arguably selected from a smaller pool. Of course, two GlenDronachs can be explained in some part by Daniel’s 25th Anniversary of tastings at Regional Wines. If a man isn’t allowed a lineup including two GlenDronachs after 25 years - then when is he!
But, if you were shocked by the lineup, then you’d certainly be shocked by the scores on the night. This was not a night for the purists! Amrut Portonova Batch 22 claiming the top spot (and comfortably so), nailing an old-age GlenDronach into second place and a non-age statement Islay from Smokehead pipping a 25yo GlenDronach into fourth place. Ha - the joys of whisky!
But none of this would come as a surprise if you had been studying the recent form. Portonova had a jolly good tilt at first place at last year’s Best of the Best but the pedigree of an old GlenDronach had been its final undoing. Batch 22 however, has obviously been in training, and with a few extra pounds of muscle, it gambolled over the finish line in first place (possibly helped by the favourable tailwind that is being placed 7th in a lineup of cast strength whiskies).
But, of course, bang for buck, there was really only one winner on the night. The Smokehead High Voltage coming in at 3rd place was by far the cheapest whisky in the room and stood its ground admirably next to some big and very expensive whiskies. Just goes to show that great whiskies exist at all price points.
Thanks to all those who attended. Here’s the order in which the whiskies were tasted and the scores for those who are interested…
- Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2% - 8.11 (7th) (click to purchase)
- BenRiach 2005 13yo Cask #6924 Batch 16 Pedro Ximénez Cask 56.2% - 8.54 (5th)
- GlenDronach 25yo 1993 #416 Oloroso Butt 51.2% - 8.7 (4th)
- GlenDronach 23yo 1995 #3040 PX Puncheon 52.5% - 9.09 (2nd)
- Amrut Chairman’s Reserve Greedy Angels 8yo 50% - 8.4 (6th)
- Smokehead High Voltage 58% - 8.74 (3rd)
- Amrut Portonova Batch 22 62.1% - 9.32 (1st)
(email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to purchase either of the GlenDronachs above)
And here’s some photos of what was a truly memorable night...