SUMMERTON WHISKY FESTIVAL
May 28 2022 saw the VERY welcome return of our whisky festival to The Lower Red Lion in St Albans.
The first Summerton Whisky Festival took place in June 2019, featuring brands such as Bimber, Penderyn, Douglas Laing, Mackmyra and The Single Cask a great success, and an event we were keen to repeat the following year.
Due to certain world events that shall remain unspoken, subsequent events found a new digital home, with Summerton Whisky Club delivering one of the first full scale virtual whisky tasting events in 2020, with nearly 1000 attendees (watch the festival video here) enjoying a wide range of talks, music, masterclasses and whisky samples from Bimber, Glen Scotia, Hinch, The Lakes, Lambay, Mackmyra, The Scalasaig and Wolfburn. Once again, the feedback was phenomenal, leading us to repeat the event with new brands and speakers in 2021 – aside from some technical issues, we, our members and whisky lovers throughout the UK made the most of the day.
With the world slowly returning to ‘normality’ there was a whisky coloured glow of light on the horizon for 2022; finally we were able to return to St Albans and enjoy those elements we all missed – face to face conversation, fun in the sun and being able to raise our glasses in person!
Whisky fans queuing outside the Lower Red Lion, St Albans ahead of the festival doors opening (Photo credit: Simon Newbury Photography)
The doors were thrown open at midday for the first session, with a mix of Summerton Whisky Club members and non-members collecting their wrist bands, free tasting glasses and hitting the stands.
Henstone Distillery (view distillery insight) brought with them spirits of their ever-growing range, including Vodka, Navy, Rosé and Dry Gins, Nonpareil (an Apple Brandy, similar to Calvados), their popular Old Dog Corn Liquor, their award winning Single Malt Whisky and their 65.4% new-make spirit that offered an interesting glimpse into the nuances of the Henstone Single Malt spirit prior to maturation.
The Firkin Whisky Co.
The Firkin Whisky Co. (view distillery insight) had brought along a selection of golden delights – including the Firkin 10 (a 2008 Benrinnes paired with a Madeira barrel), the Firkin 49 (a Highland Tullibardine 2012 matched with a mix of Oloroso and Amontillado sherry), the Firkin Rare (a Speyside Aultmore 2010 – rare because it’s usually found in blended scotch – teamed with tawny port) and the Firkin Islay (Caol Isla 2010 with Marsala).
Heading out into the beer garden we are met with two large marquees filled with beautiful bottles. The first we come to is Cask Marketing, who manage a number of international brands within the UK, including Starward, Stork Club, Signal Hill, Mars and Masthouse.
Bottles on offer for sampling included;
- Starward Fortis (read more – previous club bottle in October 2021)
- Starward Leftfield
- Starward Nova
- Starward Ginger-Beer Cask
- Mars Maltage Cosmo
- Mars Kasei
- Masthouse Single Malt
- Signal Hill Canadian Whisky
- Stork Club Straight Rye
Next we come to Charles Edge London, an independent, family owned business who “create great tasting, classic spirits with a modern twist.” Every spirit is specially selected by Charles – their offering included Canmore Single Malt, Canmore 10yr, Canmore, 12yr, Canmore 14yr, London Square Blended Scotch and Scots Gold, an 8yr Blended Scotch.
Glenfarclas (view distillery insight) took the next spot, with a great looking stand with banners showing their story, pictures of the distillery, and very much ‘on-brand’ bar mats and brochures. Their range available for tasting covered the spectrum of available ages, from their stunning 105 Cask Strength, and 10, 12, 15 and 25 year old expressions. They also had a small display showing their grain, malted barley, new-make spirit, first fill sherry and fourth fill sherry cask colouration.
Mackmyra (view distillery insight) will be familiar to most club members, we have enjoyed a number of bottles from their Seasons and Moment ranges over the past few years, so it was great to see them at the festival showing off some of their newer bottlings and talking about their cask sales.
From the range, attendees could enjoy:-
- Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke)
- Svensk Ek (Swedish Oak)
- Björksav (Birch Sap)
- Moment Virvelvind – the 36th and last edition in the Moment series
THE OXFORD ARTISAN DISTILLERY
The Oxford Artisan Distillery (view distillery insight) were on hand to offer a fascinating insight into the grains used to produce their spirit. They claim to be “the only distillery in the world to use populations of ancient heritage grains to produce our full range of spirits”. They are also committed to soil quality, land regeneration, community and the environment – all elements we can happily support.
On offer from TOAD were:-
- Red Red Rye
- The Graduate
- Grain Stories Heritage Corn
- Oxford Rye
Arguably one of the better known brands at the festival, Tomatin proved a popular stop for attendees, with tastings available of their Legacy, 12yr, Cask Strenth, 14yr Port Wood and 18yr bottlings. They also brought along a Cù Bòcan Signature and Antiquary 15yr.
The English Whisky Co.
The last spot of the festival was taken by The English Whisky Co (view distillery insight), with a visually appealing stand and wide array of sample bottles available. These included;
- The English Small Batch Release – Triple Distilled
- The English Single Cask – Virgin Oak & Sherry
- The English Small Batch Release – Sherry Butts
- The English Small Batch Release – Smokey
- The English Small Batch Release – Smokey Virgin
- The English 11 Year Old (Batch 3)
- The English Original
- The English Small Batch Release – Vintage 2010 (Heavily Smoked)
They also brought along new bottlings,The Norfolk NOG (cream liqueur) and The Norfolk PX (mixed spirit drink)
On top of the brand stands offering tastings, there were also a number of masterclasses attendees were able to attend (limited to 20+ people per session).
Session 1: 12:30 – VIN PF
The first session at 12:30 saw Vin PF, club member and whisky reviewer from No Nonsense Whisky, share the journey that led him to create his own bottlings. Attendees got to sample a number of these expressions – in the words of one of those who joined Vin for the session “Great fun, very interesting and informative. Nice to get to meet Vin and chat about his whiskies”
Session 2: 2:30 – MACKMYRA
Mackmyra Director, Patrick Björsjö, offered attendees a chance to taste Mackmyra’s private cask whiskies and learn a little more about the innovative Swedish distillery.
Session 3: 5:30 – Waxhouse Whisky Co
Club Member Jamie Dimock (Waxhouse Whisky Co) shared the story of how three friends came together to create an Independent Bottler, and allowed attendees to enjoy some of their favourite bottlings.
Session 4: 6:30 – IAN WISNIEWSKI
World renowned Whisky author Ian Wisniewski (Drinks writer) delivered a fascinating insight into peated whisky, whilst attendees got to try a range of peated expressions (including our very own Summerton Whisky Club bottling from Glasgow 1770).
Session 5: 7:30 – Mackmyra
Mackmyra returned to the stage for the late session, this time with Matthew Davey taking the lead with the tasting of Mackmyra’s private cask whiskies and offering more details of the innovative Swedish distillery.
The venue (The Lower Red Lion) put on a barbecue for our guest, serving their delicious ‘Slider’ burgers. They were so popular, in fact, that the full allocation for BOTH sessions was exhausted towards the end of the first session – thankfully the pub were able to pull out all the stops and make more to satisfy the hungry attendees.
All in all, it was a fantastic day – awesome to see so many club members and whisky lovers in one place, with attendees travelling the length breadth of the UK (and beyond in some cases).
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