The Nip Inverness

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend The Nip – the reincarnation of the Inverness Whisky Festival.  The festival first took place in 2011 but has been rebranded and expanded this year to recognise the burgeoning Scottish gin scene.  Running across five days, the Festival took in a whole host of events, including city tours and tutored masterclasses.

The Festival came to a conclusion at the end of the week with an old school whisky (and gin) festival on the outskirts of the city at Bogbain Farm.  The venue has positioned itself as one of the Highland’s best events spaces and provided the perfect setting for the festival finale.

The organisers had managed to bring together a great selection of whisky distillers, along with gin brands including Rock Rose, Crossbill and Makar from The Glasgow Distillery Company.  Also, as many of the distilleries in attendance were from the local area, there was the chance to chat with the distillery managers and operators who actually make the products.

I went to the event with good friend and upcoming big deal Steven Kersley, and we’ve both chosen our top three nips from the event:

Craig’s Choices
Glenmorangie Dornach
Released as a travel trade only bottling at the end of last year, Glenmorangie’s new Dornach was probably my favourite dram of the day.  The slightly underwhelming nose leads to a big vanilla flavours, backed up with dried fruits and a soft hint of citrus.  And best of all, part of the proceeds are fed back to the Marine Conservation Society.

Balblair 1983
The day’s wee treat – a 30 year old Balblair.  Replacing the 1975 vintage, the whisky has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels since 1983, giving a taste which is brimming with sweetness and spice, along with a warming hint of oak.

Rock Rose Gin
I’ve raved about it before and I’ll rave about it again – Rock Rose is potentially one of the best gins coming out of Scotland at the moment.  It’s both beautifully smooth straight, as well as making a cracking G&T.  If you have any sense, rush out and buy a bottle right now!

And an honourable mention goes to Arbikie potato vodka.  I’m not quite used to sipping vodka and that’s why it didn’t make it into my top three, but I think over time, this could become a firm favourite.

Steven’s Choices
Glenmorangie Signet
This was the stand out whisky for me when I first tasted it at the inaugural Inverness Whisky Festival in 2013 and I’m pleased to say nothing has changed.  This whisky delivers a fantastic bouquet of dark chocolate, cinnamon and coffee.  On the palate, the coffee is taken up a notch and there’s a slow build of vanilla which peaks in the finish.

Glenmorangie Duthac
On the day, I feel the Glenmorangie Duthac just edged Craig’s choice of the Dornach.  The Duthac arrives on the nose with stone fruit spiciness which gives way to toffees and cinnamon.  The palate is complex; up front there’s that treacle quality which clings to the roof of your mouth.  This is prevalent throughout but doesn’t detract from the warming toffees, chocolates and cinnamon.

Balblair 1990
Often overshadowed by its Tain neighbour, this distillery has really kicked into life over the last few years.  The 1990 vintage has been mellowed for 21 years in bourbon refill casks and then two years in Oloroso sherry casks.  The nose delivers rich toffees, dry wood with a deep layer of rich fruit spice, which when you add water dissipates slightly revealing a sweeter, honey cereal note.  On the palate it makes a big arrival and there are all the hallmarks of good quality sherry casks.  Strong dark chocolate notes laced with ginger, cinnamon and a light citrus build that peaks in the finish.

The event was just what a whisky fan like me is after – the chance to talk all things whisky whilst sampling some of the country’s best malts.  And bringing gin to the table can only help to support this burgeoning industry, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for news of next year’s festival