Last month I attended the Wade Bales Wine & Malt Whisky Affair, held on the Piazza at Montecasino in Johannesburg. The weather acted up and brought the rain down, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the passionate wine and whisky lovers that attended. I was there on the Thursday night and Wade Bales must have thought that ol’ Murphy was out to get him. A 20 minute power failure just after opening left patrons in the dark for a short while, but thankfully the lights came back on and the evening was in full swing again.
Upon arriving at the entrance we received our tasting glass and quickly got our bearings. The marquee was a hive of activity, whiskies lined up on the left, wines in the centre and on the right, with the back taken up by an assortment of breads, cold meats, cheeses and divine chocolates.
I must say, I loved the format for the night. Each whisky merchant/brand/wine estate had the same 2 metre long metal table bedecked in a wine-red table cloth with an array of bottles lined up. That was it. No flashy stands, no over-the-top displays – the products were simply allowed to speak for themselves, and speak they did!
Several of my favourite whisky merchants and whisky friends were on hand to walk the public through their selected whiskies – Hector MacBeth, Paul laCock, Bernard Gutman, Dave Gunns and Marc Pendlebury to name a few. Several of them commented at the end of the evening that they were impressed by the level of whisky knowledge that the visitors had, and the thirst to grow that knowledge even further. It was also great to finally meet Wade Bales in person – a really nice guy who’s passion for wine is contagious.
Looking around the tent I found it hard to comprehend just how the guys managed to co-ordinate the line-up of whiskies on hand and get them all into the marquee, but that’s exactly what they did. I won’t run through the entire list again, but will pick out some of my favourites and interesting drams.
- Balblair 1989 – a smooth and gentle dram
- Clan Denny Ardmore (7yo) & Clan Denny Mortlach (13yo) – both great single malt bottlings from Douglas Laing & Co.
- Douglas Of Drumlanrig Aberlour (19yo) – a nice strong oak influence and plenty of fruit and spice
- Laphroiag Quarter Cask – I’ve been meaning to try this one for ages, and it didn’t disappoint. If you enjoy the Lahproaig 10, spend 10% extra and go for the Quarter Cask instead, you won’t regret it!
- McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt Whiskey – a young 3 year old single malt whiskey from the USA. It’s great to know that the Yanks can produce a quality malt!
- Amrut Fusion – a fruity and peaty whisky from Bangalore in India
- Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength – big and bold as you would expect, a very enjoyable Islay whisky
Our final whisky of the night was a special one – the perfect dram to cap off a great night – Glenfarclas 40, a sherry-bomb of a whisky! As Hector poured the dram he shared some of the Glenfarclas distillery’s history with us, and that deepened my appreciation of this gorgeous whisky. The more educated you are about what you’re drinking, the more you can appreciate it I find.
The Wade Bales Wine Society and the Whisky Tasting Fellowship ran a ticket giveaway and several lucky folks got to attend the show and enjoy the whiskies and wines on us. Here’s some feedback from one of the winners, St. John:
I must admit the venue seemed very small but after about 30 minutes inside the arena, one realises that every square meter has been used to accommodate the various exhibitors. The selection, quality and variety of wines and whiskeys was impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and most exhibitors knew their products inside out, making the event both entertaining and interesting. We happened to meet up with a gentleman by the name of Bernard, who writes articles on whiskeys around the world. He introduced my partner and I to some Japanese whiskey’s and provided background information to them.
On a whole the event was filled with like minded, friendly individuals that all shared a passion for fine wines and exclusive whiskeys!!
Many thanks again for the tickets!!
I loved the slightly “raw” feel of the show, where the spirits and wine were the stars of the evening. Wine and whisky under one roof just works so well and caters for a broad range of palates. I’m left wondering why this didn’t happen sooner! I really hope that Wade Bales is planning on repeating his Wine & Malt Whisky Affair again soon. I know I’ll be at the front of the queue when he does.