Monday, 6 July 2015

Stoke-on Trent Whisky Festival – Jubilee Hall, Stoke, 4th July 2015

Dee - The first Stoke on Trent Whisky Festival was held on Saturday 4th July 2015, in the Jubilee Hall in Stoke Town Centre.  It was to be our second whisky festival, the first being the Whisky Birmingham event back in March (click here for details).  The Birmingham event took place on a lovely sunny day andthat would be repeated this time, the difference being that there would be no outdoor area in which to enjoy it.
The venue was a single large room in the Jubilee Hall, with a smaller foyer where the retailer was located.  When we arrived, the festival was already in full swing and was busy, though not uncomfortably so.  We were greeted on arrival and handed our event guide, pen, bottle of water and very nice commemorative glass.
After an initial peruse of the stalls, we sat ourselves down in the foyer area, which would be our base for the duration of the event.  As more people arrived, the temperature inside the main hall inevitably increased, so we were glad of the cooler spot that we had found.
Even with the festival’s size, there were still over 70 whiskies to try, together with liqueurs and a few vodkas and gins.  We were never going to get round to sampling all of them, but we had a fairly good go.
I’ve written our selections up in the order that we sampled them, with links to each distillery, in the same way as I did for the Birmingham event.  Also as before, the comprehensive tasting notes can be accessed via the web site links.  Please note that all of these were snifters, rather than full measures, honest.

Dee’s Choices

Whisky No1:  Bowmore 12 Year Old
Distillery:  Bowmore
Dee said:  Lovely rich gold colour and distinctive peaty aroma.  Sharp and slightly sweet initial taste, leading to a warm and lingering finish.

Whisky No2:  Ben Romach Peat Smoke
Distillery:  Ben Romach
Dee said:  Quite light in colour, with a definite smoky aroma.  An initially earthy taste gave way to an unexpected pleasant sweetness.  The strong smokiness returned for the finish.  A very interesting experience.

Whisky No3:  Laphroaig Triple Wood
Distillery:  Laphroaig
Dee said:  Mid gold in colour but with a less pronounced aroma that the other Laphroaigs that I have sampled.  Slightly sweet initially but a little too subtle overall for my taste.

Whisky No4:  Connemara Peated
Distillery:  Kilbeggan/Cooley
Dee said:  Smoky yet smooth, elegant aroma.  A nice balance of sweet and earthy flavours.  A very pleasant drink.

At this point, I decided that it might be nice to try some unpeated whiskies, to experience some new tastes and add in a bit more variety.

Whisky No5:  Arran Sauterne Finish
Distillery:  Arran Whisky Distillery
Dee said:  Mid gold in colour, with a big hit of alcohol and sweet berries.  Very smooth in texture, and a light, fruity aroma that was nice to take in before each sip.

Whisky No6:  Kilkerran Work in Progress 7: Sherry Wood
Distillery:  Glengyle
Dee said:  Jay passed me this to finish, in exchange for what was left of my Arran Sauterne.  It was my first taste of Campbelltown whisky, and had a smoky, peaty aroma, though less pronounced than the Islay malts.  Jay had added a little water to it which smoothed the taste and released the flavour of the sherry casks.  I didn’t have any problems finishing this.  I liked it.

Whisky No7:  Springbank 10 Year Old
Distillery:  Springbank
Dee said:  This one seemed to be a popular choice as the next person in the queue to me asked for it too.  Another Campbelltown whisky, this one was peated again, and had a strong, rich and earthy taste.  It had a nice warming feel to it and I could imagine myself enjoying it while relaxing late in the evening.

Whisky No8:  Old Pulteney 21 Year Old
Distillery:  Old Pulteney
Dee said:  A strong, grainy aroma and taste which became slightly sweeter as it lingered.  Deliciously complex.

Whisky No9:  Ileach Peaty  Dee’s Whisky of the Festival
Distillery:  *secret distillery*
Dee said:  Back to the peated whiskies, and this one, distilled at an undisclosed location somewhere on Islay (or is it?), had a very strong aroma, leading to a rich, woody and almost buttery taste that gained a slight sweetness as it lingered.  Seriously good.

Whisky No10:  Longrow Peated
Distillery:  Springbank
Dee said:  I was back with the Campbelltown whiskies for my final tasting of the event.  This one had a pleasant mix of sweetness and peatiness which made for a carefully crafted complex drink.  Very good quality.

Jay’s choices

Whisky No1:  Auchentoshan American Oak
Distillery:  Auchentoshan
Jay said:  Lots of Vanilla.  Quite sweet.  A great start.

Whisky No2:  Spice Tree
Distillery:  Compass Box Whisky
Jay said:  I’d been wanting to try this since missing out on it at the Brum event.  Felt warm and spicy but couldn’t place the spices themselves.

Whisky No3:  Fireball
Distillery:  Buffalo Trace Distillery
Jay said:  More of a liqueur than a spirit.  Tasted like whisky mixed with cinnamon.  Fiery, slightly medicinal and ultra-sweet.

Whisky No4:  Tullibardine Sauternes Cask Finish
Distillery:  Tullibardine
Jay said:  Didn’t get a heap of sweetness from this, which was what I was expecting.  Taste and texture were softened with a little water.  Nice but wasn’t blown away by it.

Whisky No5:  Kilkerran Work in Progress 7: Sherry Wood
Distillery:  Glengyle
Jay said:  A bit peaty.  Not for me, sorry.  I passed it to Dee.

Whisky No6:  Arran Sauterne Finish  Jay’s Whisky of the Festival
Distillery:  Arran Whisky Distillery
Jay said:  This was what I exchanged my Kilkerran with Dee for.  Loved this.  Overtook the American Oak as my favourite so far…

Whisky No7:  Auchentoshan Three Wood
Distillery:  Auchentoshan
Jay said:  My love affair with Auchentoshan continues.  Got a lot of honey up-front, but it didn’t linger.

Whisky No8:  Paul John Brilliance
Distillery:  Paul John
Jay said:  Fruity aroma.  Full of flavour at the first taste but not one to linger.  A good single malt though.

‘Whisky’ No9:  Warner Edwards Rhubarb Gin
Distillery:  Warner Edwards
Jay said:  I know it’s gin, not whisky, but I got distracted.  It was gorgeous.  Not too sweet.  Like being smacked round the face with a stick of rhubarb.

Whisky No10:  Arran Amarone
Distillery:  Arran Whisky Distillery
Jay said:  It was pink.  Aroma sent tingles up my nose.  Big strawberry flavour at first but mellowed out to reveal a vanilla-ish smoothness.

That concludes our selections for the first Stoke Whisky Festival.  Since starting work on this blog entry, I have found out that plans for a second event are already underway, which is great news, as both Jay and me enjoyed it very much.
With it being a first event, there were inevitably a few challenges.  Firstly, the water supplies were running low about half way through the event.  No doubt the temperatures had a hand in this, but luckily the organisers managed to sort out a fresh supply, I think from a nearby supermarket.  We also found the nibbles and food to be in short supply.  Maybe for next time an on-site caterer would be a welcome addition.  Lastly a bit more seating would have been good as the middle of the room was fairly empty with the areas round the stalls a little crowded.  There were plenty of chairs at the back of the hall, and probably enough room for a few tables down the middle where people could sit and enjoy their drinks.
Despite this, the event was certainly a success, and we only heard good feedback from where we were based.
The smaller size of the event allowed for more opportunities to talk with the exhibitors and fellow attendees, one of whom had seen a booklet on peated whiskies that I had picked up, and recommended the Smokehead Whisky (click here for details) to me
The retailers were doing a brisk trade but remained friendly.  They had with them a stock of a number of the whiskies on offer at the festival, but unfortunately not my whisky of the festival, the Isleach Peaty.  In lieu of this, I chose a bottle of Springbank Ten Year old, which I was more than happy with.  Jay was luckier and bought a bottle of Arran Sauterne finish.

Although the festival was over, our whisky adventure had one final stage.
The day after the festival we were heading home, and stopped off at the Trentham Estate to have a look round.  We called in at the Whisky shop there, and I straight away began scouring the shelves for the elusive Ileach Peaty.  Sadly it continued to elude me, but I picked up a small selction of Bowmore single malts, including the 12 Year Old, which I was very fond of.  I was assured that if I liked the 12 Year Old I would get on fine with the others, so I am going to save them for a tasting session in the future.

It’s 8.50pm as I finish typing this, so I think it’s now time to pour myself a glass of that Springbank 10 Year Old.

Reviewed by Dee, 6th July 2015


  1. Great summary of what sounds a fab event. I'm more of a bourbon fan while my husband likes a nice smokey whiskey, so lots of great ideas for both of us from this post! Sarah :)

  2. Hi Sarah, Glad you enjoyed the write-up, and thanks for your comment. Whiskies from Islay are noted for their smokiness. Would be great to hear about any that you try out.