Ardbeg add the Wow Factor to The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2013

Ardbeg add the Wow Factor to The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2013

Proving as ever, if not more, popular than the last show in 2012, and growing year on year, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show (TWEWS) is becoming THE place to be when it comes to whisky.

Every barrel holds an individual taste and ever bottle a different story. Even within the seperate ranges there is so much diversity of taste and expression. To label one maker as not of your choice, on a single tasting, is to lose out on a world of experience and discovery.

And every so often something comes along which creates such an impression that we have to open our minds a little further in the discovery and re-discovery of flavours that we may have previously passed by.Ardbeg paired with Blue be Basque

Personally, I am not a whisky lover, opting for a nice glass of brandy over the smokey, peat tones of the many varieties of whisky I have encountered over the years but again at this year's TWEWS I have to admit to not only trying a few things I would normally avoid, but actually liking them to boot!

TWEWS food pairings may have become an integral element of the Whisky Show but when I found myself faced with a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail and a block of Bleu des Basques I was indeed challenged by my least favourite items on the food pairing menu.

The Uigeadail takes its name from the loch which supplies the peat-laden water used to make Ardbeg and the Bleu des Basques is a blue pasteurised ewe's milk cheese - both of which I would usually be happy to avoid.

Ardbeg claims to be the 'Ultimate Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky' - perhaps the most peaty malt whisky in the world - yet despite my knowledge of this taste and my dislike of the peat and smoke AND with a lot of encouragement, against my better judgement I agreed to try this pairing.

True to form, the first drop of Ardbeg hit exactly as expected - too much peat for my palate and harsh on my throat. Close behind came the cream of the blue cheese - earthy and soft but not a pleasant choice for a non-blue lover.

As directed, the blue was chased with another wee dram of Ardbeg - and it is at this point that I begin to appreciate the knowledge and understanding that has gone into this pairing, experiencing the eureka moment that personally made this year's show so special for me.

Together my two adversaries became welcome companions - the cheese melting under the warmth of the whisky, mingling to create a distinctive AND delicious combination. What had been avoided until the end of tasting became the one to wait for and thoroughly explore. I am not sure who was more surprised, me or the man offering the whisky and cheese pairing.

Would I try Ardbeg again if the occasion arose? Most definitely based on this. In fact it would be interesting to see what else it marries with.

Other pairings on offer throughout the weekend of the show saw Artisan du Chocolat paired with Glenmorangie Signet - BalBlair 02 with the Turkish Deli's Turkish Delight - Chivas Regal 18 brought out the flavours of the Borough Cheese Co's 15 month Comté and Kilchoman's Machir Bay simply praised the delightful flavours presented in the Cannon & Cannon Cobnut Sausages.

From the Compass Box Whisky Co we had a selection of pairings. Great King paired with Joe & Seph's Popcorn As a specialist Scotch whisky maker, with Compass Box you will discover a world of small batch Scotch whiskies, made in a variety of styles to appeal to a variety of tastes.

Their Great King St. Experimental Blend Batch # 00-V4 (Orange) with its sweet, fruity notes of blueberry jam, ripe plums, candied oranges and toffee popcorn paired well with some Richmond Park Natural Honey - while the Experimental Batch # TR-06 (Blue) which is complex, smoky and aromatic, with notes of seaweed, mint, salt spray and an underlying dried fruit sweetness paired with another liquid in the form of the Weird Beard Brew Co's Fade to Black IPA. Definitely a winning combination.

We were excited to see their Great King St. Artist's Blend sitting with another favourite of ours, Joe & Seph's Caramel, Macchiato & Whisky Popcorn. Surprisingly though we found this not the best match together considering we liked both components when sampled individually. This can only emphasise the need to try everything without instant dismissal as the flavours you love may not sit as well when paired as the flavours you would normally be happy to avoid.

Of course, in the end it all comes down to personal taste and individual choice - and that is the beauty of TWEWS. With such a large variety of different blends, amazing whiskies, single casks and dream drams plus a two-course whisky inspired meal, masterclasses and cocktails, what more could such a show have to offer...Wild Turkey's American Honey

Well, how about a bit of Wild Turkey's American Honey for starters? One to watch on the consumer market and set to make a splash when aimed at any 'toffee vodka' drinkers who are ready to branch into a little whisky, this is the ideal cross-over drink to captivate and excite a completely new collective of drinkers.

"An exceptionally smooth liqueur blended with pure honey and Wild Turkey® Bourbon. It's perfect served straight, freezer-chilled or on the rocks. It's the ultimate shot for when you and your friends gather around to kick-off the night or celebrate at the after-game party."

Yes, this may kick against the establishment of 'serious whisky appreciation connoisseurs' but opens up the doors to converting over a whole world of drinkers from the 'Dark Side' - and it is elements like this that show how much TWEWS brings to the consumer on all levels.

Another favourite that always delivers, and becoming a personal best, is the Dalmore 15, with their King Alexander III running up close behind.

Worth a mention and one both I and our Islay loving photographer agreed we could drink together was the Balvenie DoubleWood 17. Retailing at around £65 a bottle this is affordable, enjoyable and exceptionally drinkable.

If you are looking for a whisky that is also a little 'greener' then located eight miles from Stirling near Doune and just 45 minutes from Edinburgh and Glasgow, Deanston Distillery sits by the River Teith at the entrance to the dramatic Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Having been a cotton mill for 180 years, Deanston was transformed into a distillery in the 1960's and has been distilling whisky using traditional methods ever since. They are working towards being 100% organic and already produce all their own hydro-electricity, as well as powering the surrounding town. And their whisky tastes good too!

Check out our Whisky Show 2013 pictures on Flickr

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