Munich Whisky Festival- A Report From Gary Nelson

From 4th thru 6th of February the first “Munich Whisky Festival” took place at the Praterinsel, a historic location on a small island in the river Isar in Munich downtown. Well, Munich has the audience for such an event and for that we were looking forward. I took my bar-chef with me and we arrived at lunchtime (by train) in Munich. The location is predestined for a whisky festival due to the fact, that in former times schnaps and liquers have been produced here. The main area has been installed in the Old Filling Hall, well ‘ nomen est omen’.

The area equipped with booths from the different import companies or the distilleries is about half as big as the “InterWhisky Fair” in Frankfurt. This time Ireland was represented very strong with three booths. After tasting the Clontarf, a much too sweet blend from the green island, we’ve found the revelation from Ireland: Bushmill has bottled a special fair Single Malt richly peated and with some components which has reminiscence of Islay. I am awaiting the delivery of two bottles for our Whisky Bar in the hotel, Dehner Blumen. Most of the other exhibitors didn’t pour out anything, which was surprising and disappointing.

The booths of Talisker, Glenfiddich and Balvenie have been extremely overcrowded and is was hard to get a drop of the Balvenie Islay Cask. At the Talisker booth I had the luck the meet the secretary of the Germany chapter of the “Keepers of the Quaich”. He took us behind the booth to taste the new 20yo with a bit more silence.

At the booth of a well-known trader from Nürnberg, who only sells Chieftain’s, we tasted a 30yo Brora Pedro Ximenez Cask. A wonderfull strong sherry character without water; put some water in it and you’ll have a typical northern highlander with loads of pepper and salt.

Joining another trader we’ve been provided with a sample of the new Edradour 1994 Bordeuax Finish Cask coming out later this year; what a nose and what a taste, hints of cognac and strong oak, really great, I’ve ordered two bottles.

Passing by at Laphroaig and meeting again Robin Shields, we had to realize, that there wasn’t any drop of the new quarter cask at the booth. We had a nice small talk with the promise to meet again in June on Islay.

The best experience, of the day, was at the overcrowded booth of Ardbeg. First we had a dream of the Kildalton, which you surely know, lightly peated but still an Ardbeg. But the highlight for me was tasting the 21yo Committee whisky in cask strength. The drams were very expensive but we took two; wonderful! Now I am desperately searching for such a bottle. The Kildalton is not a problem, but the 21yo, well.

We finished the day with a dinner in a restaurant close by and took a late train back home.

I am looking forward to the next whisky festival in Limburg in April, but first Scotland also in April.

All the best from Bavaria


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Islay Festival of Malt & Music

On Saturday the 29th May 2004 The Islay Festival of Malt and Music kicked of again. This is the third year the Islay Whisky Club will be enjoying this fantastic event with Club Members and Islay Malt enthusiast’s from all over the world.

As in previous years, each distillery has a special programme of events for the one day. Each Distillery has their own Open Day with special tours and whisky events. In the evenings there is Music and Dance at different locations on the Island. Some of the Distilleries produce a limited edition of their best malt to celebrate the Festival. These Special Editions are only sold at the distillery during festival week and on the basis of one bottle per person.

The Islay Festival of Malt and Music 2004 was again a great success with visitors as far away as Australia and Iceland.

The Open Distillery Days were well organised and attended.

This was my third Islay Festival as President of the Islay Whisky Club and by speaking to many members and none members, who are regular visitors of the festival, many among them fear that the festival is going to be taken over by the’ Marketing Boys’ who seem to be trying to turn the festival into a commercial circus, I agree with them.

The Islay Festival of Malt and Music is for the people of Islay who have worked hard to make the festival a success and the visitors, who have gone to great length and expense to come to Islay; we want to talk and learn from the people who make our beloved product.

We do not want to be lectured by these’ Marketing Boys’ about how good the sales figures are and how many rewards they have won, this should be kept for the retailers etc. The majority of us come to Islay, during festival week, because we have a passion for Scottish Malts and particular Islay. We want to enjoy a nice dram with either the locals or the people who make it and meet fellow Malt Lovers from all over the world and listen to the beautiful Ceilidh’s in the evenings.

For many years The Feis Ile Committee ( who are local volunteers) have organised this event and have worked very hard and successfully, but are now in danger of being pushed aside by the professional marketer’s.

The Islay Festival of Malt and Music is unique in the world and that is how it should stay.

Ardbeg Distillery Manager, Stuart Tomson, summed it up when he said “We at Ardbeg Distillery have a passion for our product. People come to Islay because they have a passion for the Islay malts. Here at Ardbeg we will do everything in our power to make their visit unforgettable “.

The Islay Whisky Club organized this year activities in the Club House in the Ballygrant Inn.

On Wednesday we had The Howff Band playing in the function room and in one word they were outstanding. We started of at around 9.30 pm and they played nonstop till 2.30 am. Some local ladies joined in and taught us how to dance the Scottish Dances. Apart from some young male club members (who did not want to leave their ‘amber nectar’) everybody joined in and had a fantastic time.A special mention of Kim (our member from Japan) who surprised us all by moving over the dance floor like he was made of rubber, though he did not have a clue where he was meant to be, he got a big round of applause, which was well deserved.

Thursday, around 6 pm, club members gathered together for a chat and a dram followed by a fantastic buffet prepared by David, our Vice President and his lovely wife Ruby, then followed the Whisky Quiz.

Friday should have been a musical evening with a band from Jura but they cancelled at the very last minute. Needless to say we will not be inviting them back to play at the club.

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