It was busy with lots of non-Scots in attendance - heard a few 'Glendronak' pronunciations from visitors from the south though the Germans and Spaniards present had no bother with the Scottish 'ach'. Lots of female connoisseurs too - the auld days of whisky being principally an auld man's drink are over.
As to the exhibitors, there seemed to be one or two omissions from last year. Sadly there was no sign of Duncan Taylor or Compass Box and while Gordon & MacPhail were present, it was only in their Benromach guise. That isn't a bad thing but G&M have such a wide and varied range of malts and it was a shame not to taste some of the jewels from their deep treasure-chest. Who can forget last year's cask strength Imperial from 1977?
Fortunately, there were still some cracking drams on offer.
My vote, and those of friends, for the Spirit of the Fringe award, went to dark horse that is Glen Moray. The Glen Moray 2003 Chenin Blanc was simply a revelation. Sweet, complex and mouth filling, it had all you want from a dram. A single cask at 60.7%, this will be worth every penny of the £59 they ask for it.
Glendronach had 4 excellent drams on offer but the 1993 Single Cask 19yo was the pick of the bunch and almost the dram of the Fringe. A true sherry monster, it seemed to expand on the palate until your mouth was filled with clouds of sweet vapour - honey, raisins and prune juice. Drams like this one just make your day.
Honourable mentions should also go to Adelphi as well as Tomatin with their expensive but elegant 1982 Single Cask. All in all, Tomatin which some may describe as 'unfashionable' along with Glen Moray, had an excellent Fringe. Interesting whiskies poured by an enthusiastic, friendly (imagine that!) and knowledgeable ambassador for the distillery.
Adelphi chipped in with the likes of the 15yo Clynelish at 54.4%. This had one of the most interesting noses I've even had the pleasure to introduce to my nostrils - big time sweetness dripping with maple syrup, honey and nectar. The palate didn't disappoint either.
The half-time oranges were almost worth the ticket price alone. Two 50yo North British grains?! A 40yo Tomatin?! All of them a joy and privilege to lay on your tongue.
Those that did disappoint were few and far between but also deserve a mention. Kilchoman 5yo Single Cask is the worst dram I've tasted since the first Abhainn Dearg release. Fiery and hot, it had none of the complexity of a young Ardbeg and even the Glen Moray peated spirit was in a different league from this expensive but poor excuse for a whisky. I love Bunnahabhain usually but I fail to see the excitement in their 25yo. Flat, flat, flat. This is one that should be bottled at cask strength.
Others that underwhelmed were: Smokehead 18yo - very pleasant but far too tame, especially at £91! Laphroaig 18 knocks the socks of this one. Arran Amarone and BenRiach Solstice were also in the 'pleasant but uninspiring' camp.
All-in-all another well organised and stimulating Whisky Fringe.
Hopes for next year? How about a Bladnoch/ Whiskybroker stand to showcase their impressive range of Bladnoch and other bottlings? A well stocked Gordon & MacPhail would also go down a treat. Similarly, a Diageo stall that permits us to sample some of their own gems and not just the usual supermarket heroes we all know anyway. How about a Loch Lomond stall showcasing some crackers from Glen Scotia, Inverleven or the deceased Littlemill?
On top of that is what really makes a successful Fringe. Friendly staff and not just automatons hired from a PR company go a long way. On this count, both Tomatin and Balvenie did well as did Glen Moray. For that alone, I intend to visit all of these distilleries before the next Fringe comes along.
Start ticking off the days...