Drinkmonger Christmas Fair @ Edinburgh City Chambers

On Sunday afternoon, as Edinburgh’s Christmas markets started to sparkle below, I found myself perched on top of the city attending the very first Drinkmonger Christmas Fair. Held in the historic surroundings of the Capital’s City Chambers, the event is effectively a wine and spirits version of Royal Mile Whiskies annual Whisky Fringe.  A sister business of RMW, Drinkmonger – established in 2011 – aims to bring the same level of knowledge and passion to the general drinks market as RMW has for Scotland’s national drink. And going by Sunday’s proceedings, they more than know their stuff!

The event was mainly wine focused, with the wines on show made from over 50 different varieties of grape (there were some whiskies as well – more on those later). I am by no means a wine expert, but the Drinkmonger team – and the suppliers who they had roped in to help staff the day – were more than willing to take the time to explain the difference between each variety, as well as finding a wine to match my tastes and palate.

We spent a good amount of time at the fortified and dessert wines stall, tasting a whole range of weird and wonderful tipples. Although I wouldn’t say I’m completely sold on sherry yet, I would recommend some Hungarian Tokaji if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary to finish off your Christmas dinner. I also had the chance to taste the new Edinburgh Cannonball Gin which, at 57.2%, is good to its word and will likely blow you away!  But, as always, I eventually honed in on the whiskies.

Old Pulteney is one of my favourite distilleries and I’ve usually got one of its whiskies kicking around my flat.  However, I was yet to try its relatively new Navigator release, so I was delighted to spot it on the spirits table.  The whisky was released in 2013 to coincide with the distillery’s sponsorship of a yacht in the Clipper Round the World Race, with the malt reflecting the distillery’s rich maritime heritage.  Like most Old Pulteney whiskies, it has a rich honeycomb colour, with a sweet and crisp nose.  The whisky washes over the palate like gentle waves, with a full-bodied and rich flavour, containing bursts of honey and cocoa.  The finish is warm, spicy and long-lasting, with a kick of sea salt at the end.

One of the other whiskies on offer was the Glendronach 12 Year Old.  After being mothballed in 1996, the distillery sprung back to life in 2001, and has been producing liquid gold ever since.  The 12 year old is definitely a whisky to savour after dinner, having been matured in sherry wood and traditional oak barrels.  Using this mixture of casks has left a sweet and smooth malt, which is well balanced between malty and fruity flavours.  The palate is full of Christmassy flavours, including orange, toffee and dark fruits, with a long, buttery finish.  Both whiskies are extremely well priced – £34.95 for the Glendronach and £39.95 for the Old Pulteney – and are great whiskies to have in the cupboard if you are expecting visitors over the festive period.

All in all, a great afternoon spent learning about drinks I don’t know much about, all for the grand total of £15.  Believe me, I definitely made back the ticket price, so keep your eyes peeled for next year’s fair.  And if you want quality over quantity when it comes to your drinks this Christmas, get yourself down to one of Drinkmonger’s shops and these Wise Men (and women) will be more than happy to help guide you towards that perfect bottle/case for the festive period.