Despite being located just on the edge of Speyside, Aberdeen has never really been a ‘whisky city’, like Edinburgh or Glasgow. Last weekend though, two of the city’s bars came together to put this right with the city’s very first whisky festival – Whisky Mash.
The event was hosted by two of Aberdeen’s leading venues – restaurant and music venue, Musa, and craft beer bar, Casc. The venues were only a short distance apart, with the warm and welcoming atmosphere in both places brightening our spirits on a very wet day. At a lot of these whisky events, you usually bump into the same brands and the same faces. However, the Whisky Mash set itself apart by having a great range of independent bottlers in attendance, many of which I’ve never had much contact with in the past. My fellow tasters and I sipped on some fine drams throughout the day, and the first one came from a company I’ve never encountered before – Duncan Taylor.
First trading in Glasgow as a whisky broker, the company is now based in the whisky heartland of Speyside and lays down its own casks, prior to bottling. Over the years, the company has been experimenting by using different size caks for maturing whisky, which has resulted in The Octave range. The idea behind this stemmed from the believe that there is more interaction between the wood and spirit over a shorter period of time in a smaller cask than in a large cask. Therefore, after a number of years in oak butts, Duncan Taylor further matures its whisky in an ex-sherrywood octave cask, which is an eighth of the size of a butt. Despite the short time period involved, the smaller casks helps to add depth, smoothness and balance which would normally require an extended maturation period.
The team from Duncan Taylor brought a few decent drams with them on the day, but the stand out was The Octave six year old bottling from Glentauchers Distillery. Currently owned by Chivas Regal, almost all of Glentauchers goes into the company’s various blends. However, a top quality spirit combined with the unique accelerated Octave maturation process has created a simply stunning dram, full of big, rich and fruity Speyside flavours. This was all the more stunning when you realised the spirit was only six years old.
The other highlight of the day came from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in the form on 26.106 – otherwise known as Clynelish 29 (!!!) year old. I’ve owned a few bottles of the standard, magically waxy Clynelish before, but this was a cut above the rest. The whisky was extremely rich, but not to the point of being sickly, with sweet notes balanced out by creamy textures. The ABV was pretty heavy at 58% but the addition of some water improved the flavour vastly – smoothing out the harshness that comes with a high level of alcohol, therefore allowing those traditional Clynelish flavour the room to expand.
Aberdeen may not have had much of a reputation as a whisky city in the past, but hopefully the Whisky Mash will return next year, cementing the Granite City’s reputation as a whisky destination.