The Maltstock Report

The Arrival

Last Friday the day had come. After looking forward to it for months it was finally time to leave for Maltstock. Thankfully the rain had stopped pouring down. And upon arrival I was able to put up my tent without getting soaked. I picked up my tag and festival glass. And dropped the bottle of whisky I brought off at the table where 300 of its siblings had already found their place, and set out to mingle.

This proofed rather challenging at first. The visitors of the festival we’re all occupied greeting one another like long lost friends. There was plenty of comradery going around. But as a newcomer I found it challenging to find my place as I had no one to greet. Thankfully though I could occupy myself with enjoying the wonderful welcome dram: An eleven-year-old Glen Moray, bottled by The Single Cask and soon after that dinner started and while finding a place to eat, I made my first connections.

I immediately felt at home with a group of whisky enthusiasts from Friesland and North-Holland. They called themselves the three musketeers, because it had all started out with three childhood friends. And even though they we’re a group of four now, they had decided to stick with that name. It was them who taught me the magic of making connections at the festival… just wait until everyone has had a couple of drams, everyone will be your friend.

The Waterford Master Class

Not long after dinner it was time to go to our Master Classes. Here I joined Ian from Waterford Distillery to try out some wonderful whiskies from their range. A total of five drams had been set out for us. And as we nosed and sipped our way through three unpeated, and two peated releases, I noticed how Ian’s passion peaked when he spoke about the heritage of whisky. With great enthusiasm he told us how Waterford is currently exploring strains of barley that haven’t been produced for ages.

The reason these strains of barley are not in use anymore never had anything to do with flavour, if anything it had more to do with yield. Their low yield means the strains are not very cost-efficient, which is the main reason these types of barley we’re lost to the world of whisky. At least, until Waterford decided to bring them back. They’re currently working on strains that go as far back as the Middle Ages. How cool will it be to taste something like that!

Aside from the cool historic side of their whiskies I would also like to add that they produce some very promising spirits. It’s a very young distillery and thus most of what we got to try was only around three years old. Keeping that in mind you’d be amazed about how much flavour and complexity these dram’s already hold. If they’re any indication of what heritage barleys might offer at higher age statements, the future of heritage is bright indeed!

The Missed Midnight Snack

After the Master Class I struck up conversation with two guys from Limburg belonging to the Skotsj Fellowsjip. We had a wee chat about their club and a much longer chat about whisky (though in fairness, the club is also about whisky).While doing so we found our way outside to the whisky table where I quickly mingled among the rest of the festivalgoers while enjoying the drams the table had to offer. My personal highlights of what was on the table that night we’re: a Laphroaig Sherry Cask, a 5-year-old Glen Grant (from the 1980’s), and a Port Askaig 100 Proof.

I still remember checking my watch to find out if it was time for the midnight snack, only to find out it was half past four already. Time flies by when you spend it among good people (and good whisky) but that didn’t make it any less of a challenge to get up the next morning at 9 am. But I did not want to miss out on the Scottish breakfast, for at 10 am the detox walk would start.

The “Detox” Walk

The first thing I learned during the “detox” walk was that the name was a lie. In fact, it was actually a retox walk. During the short (45 min.) walk we made two quick stops, and both turned out to be not much more than an excuse to enjoy a dram together. The first stop we all enjoyed a nice Irish whiskey and at the second stop we switched to a 16-year-old genever.

The story behind the genever was an interesting one. Most of the dram was 23 years old, but after 7 years of aging a new employee (not aware of the angels share) noticed the barrels weren’t full and decided to top off the barrels. Thus, the age statement started at zero again and from that point on it was aged for another 16 years (hence the age statement). From a couple of genever enthusiasts I heard it was a great dram, but sadly genever still isn’t really my thing. Bottled at 59% (118 proof) it did make quite a hearty early morning dram.

The Speed Tastings

We have all been there, we’re looking to find a new whisky in our lives. But no matter how much you look at the face stats and tasting notes, you’ll never know for sure if you and the whisky will match until you meet in real life. For that purpose, Maltstock developed their Speed Tastings. Saturday from 12:00 till 19:00 every twenty minutes there were different speed tastings. Where in twenty minutes time brand ambassadors, independent bottlers, and the like,  gave you a quick flight through some of their drams. You were free to enjoy as many of these as you wanted and even though the available seats we’re limited, there were plenty to go around.

In the end I managed to visit 7 different speed tastings:

Whisky4all:

My first Speed Tasting was given by Norbert from Whisky4all. He focused his speed tastings on American Whiskies and boy was I happy that I decided to visit this tasting. Not only does Norbert give a very informative tasting, but among his line-up there was a whole set of whiskies from one of my favourite American distilleries: Balcones! We got to taste the Single Malt, the Mirador, and the Tres Hombres. Of which the latter was my absolute favourite! It’s an American whisky made with three distinct grains: Roasted Blue Corn, Malted Barley, and Rye. And it’s a definite recommend in my book!

Glenfiddich:

Everyone I spoke to at the festival told me there was one tasting I could not miss, I absolutelyf had to visit a tasting from Glenfiddich. Not per se because they served the best whisky, but because brand ambassador Tony can turn twenty minutes into an entire festival of its own. Not a word of this turned out te be a lie, which is why I visited another Glenfiddich tasting later that day. During the first tasting we started things off with a dram of Monkey Shoulder. A pleasant dram, but perhaps not as spectacular as I had hoped for. That changed with the second dram though, when Tony served us a 23-year-old Kininvie. It was amazing! We closed the session of with a dram of Glenfiddich 14-year-old Rich Oak.

Watt Whisky:

The next tasting was led by Mark Watt from Watt Whisky himself. A man I could listen to for hours. Not only does he know a lot of whisky, but I can also guarantee that no one can finish one of his tastings without having a good laugh. The best thing about the tasting were still his whiskies though. We got to taste two of his bottlings and they blew me away. I remember that one of them came from Singleton and the other was one of his personal favourites. The sad thing is that this is where details start to get fuzzy for me and I forgot to take pictures of the bottles. But I will try to find out, as I’d love to add them to my collection so I can try them again (and again, and again).

The Single Cask:

Torsten and Teo joined hands on this speed tasting by the Single Cask. Torsten told us all about how he changed career paths to make his passion his work. Which led to the creation of Scotch & Tattoo’s. We tasted three different whiskies: a Scotch & Tattoo’s 12-year-old Dailuaine from the Family Series, a Scotch & Tattoo’s Linkwood, and one of Teo’s favourites, that I don’t remember the name of… As you can maybe tell by now, I have learned a valuable lesson for future Maltstock events. Take notes and take pictures, because even though I clearly remember the last being my favourite, I now can’t recall what it was. Perhaps it’s because I already enjoyed so many good drams, but it also had to do that I got so enthusiastic talking to Teo about his whisky that I forgot to write the name down. Either way… sorry Teo!

Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Lee “Connas” Connar was at Maltstock to represent the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (or SMWS for short). During his tasting he told us all about what it meant to be a member (not that he had to convince me personally as I already signed up a while ago). And what better way to convince whisky loving people than by pouring them an amazing dram? And that’s exactly what he did. His dram was my personal favourite of the entire festival: SMWS bottling 4.332 “Mythic Beast” – (psst… it’s a 20-year-old Highland Park, matured in an Oloroso Butt and finished in a first fill ex-PX butt).

The Whisky Exchange:

Billy from The Whisky Exchange was another must visit according to my fellow festivalgoers, and I can see why. His speed tasting was a display knowledge about whisky and his passion for the liquid worked infectious on the crowd. We joined him in a tasting of three different bottles. All without a label. At The Whisky Exchange you can put your own label on a selection of their bottles, and these three used to belong to that line-up quite some time ago. For me, the absolute highlight of the set was the Clynelish. Which came as no surprise as it’s a distillery that holds a dear place in my whisky journey.

Glenfiddich Part II:

By the time it was six o’clock I was way past trying out as many different tastings as I could, I was purely in it for fun. And if you’re looking for fun at Maltstock… just look at whatever Tony is up to! Without an exaggeration; Tony tastings are an absolute blast, and I can’t think of many people who can get a crowd going better than he does. Though Mark from Watt Whisky did give it a try… It led to somewhat of a shouting contest with our group yelling “Hi Mark” and Mark’s group replying with “Hi Tony” which all culminated into parading through eachothers tastings in a polonaise. If this sounds weird to you… well perhaps it was, but it was awesome!

We did also taste some whiskies though. Tony brought a bottle of project XX with him and shared it with us, after which he revealed the whisky that he personally picked for it (for those who don’t know: Project XX is a blend of twenty whiskies chosen by Glenfiddich’s Ambassadors worldwide). I’d love to share with all of you which whisky that was, but once again I don’t remember what it was…

The No Campfire, Campfire Tasting

After enjoying the BBQ, it was time to close the festival off with the traditional Campfire Tasting. But due to unforeseen circumstances the festival couldn’t take place at the usual location and the location the organisation found as replacement did not allow campfires on its grounds. But Maltstock wouldn’t be Maltstock if the team behind it didn’t find a relaxed way to deal with it. Instead of a campfire we all played a lying game, where some of the representatives at the festival told us stories of which we had to guess if they were true. And ofcourse with each story we were served a dram. And not for the first time, we all had a blast.

After the Campfire Tasting there was still a midnight snack to come (which I didn’t miss this time) and ofcourse there was still the table full of whiskies. I’m proud to say that at this point I remembered to photograph some of my favourites, among which were: a Kilkerran 12, a Kilchoman Coull Point, and a Westward Stout Cask (WTF-festival bottling). This night I made sure I made it a little less late than the previous night though, as I had to travel back home the next morning.

Goodbye Maltstock, See You Next Year!

After two amazing whisky-fueled days, it was time to pack up the tent, say my goodbyes, and head back home. But what a wonderful time I had and what memories I made. I’ll be buying my tickets for next year as soon as I scrape together the cash (as many before me the whisky hobby has left me a man without money) and I can advise anyone with the possibility to join me there next year to do just that. I can guarantee you won’t regret it!

Dramble on!

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