An Evening with the Blenders @ The Scotch Whisky Experience

For the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to go to An Evening with the Blenders at The Scotch Whisky Experience.  The event first took place in 2012, when the whisky leg of the International Spirits Challenge was held at the Edinburgh venue for the first time, with the Master Blenders giving up one of their evenings to meet and greet whisky fans. Since then, the event has become an annual fixture in the whisky calendar and one of my personal highlights.

The set-up is simple – the 11 Master Blenders from across the world dot themselves throughout the attraction, serving up some of their best whiskies and giving an insight into their alcoholic alchemy. And the event has a truly international flavour, with blenders coming from Scotland, Ireland, Japan and Sweden.

Due to prior commitments, I was unable to attend this year’s event. However, my colleague, friend and – admittedly – whisky novice Devan LaBrash did make it along and here’s her thoughts on the night.

Although this was my first time attending An Evening with the Blenders, I was already familiar with the event as I’d done most of the pre-publicity around it!  However, actually being there on the night was a great experience, as speaking directly to the master blenders gave me the ideal opportunity to expand my whisky knowledge.  I also loved seeing real whisky enthusiasts ‘fangirl’ over the blenders – “Whisky Celebs” as one fellow newbie referred to them.  I was technically on the clock so I didn’t sample every whisky available, but three in particular stood out:

Mackmyra Sommartid
This limited edition lives up to its name, which translates into English as “summertime.” Very light and fruity, I think this would be a good starter dram for a whisky novice as it doesn’t overwhelm the palate. At the same time, the caramel and vanilla notes will still appeal to whisky lovers who want something refreshing to sip on the patio this summer.

The Dalmore 15 Year Old
If I remember correctly, Whyte & MacKay’s Richard Paterson went through three bottles of this on the night and there’s little wonder why. I tasted orange, vanilla and ginger, with a very oaky finish, and this was easily one of the smoothest whiskies I’ve ever tried. It was full-bodied, but not at all overwhelming and is another that I think would go down well with someone new to whisky.

Yamazaki 18 Year Old
This whisky was so good, I’m not even sure how to describe it… helpful, I know!  By far my standout of the night, it was also my first foray into the world of Japanese whisky.  My tipple was bursting with fruity flavours, although there was an earthy undertone that balanced it out and prevented it from being too floral.  I could easily have had a second and third helping and would definitely consider making this the first bottle in my whisky collection.

And there you have it – three ringing endorsements from one of our Canadian cousins.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to sample these three whiskies in the near future.