It’s not often that a festival is dominated by talk of politics. It’s a subject which, in my experience, is studiously avoided. That sort of discussion does tend to change the atmosphere somewhat, especially after drink has been taken. And this is also Canada, where confrontation is simply not allowed. All of that changed at this year’s Victoria Whisky Festival, sadly.
The whisky show calendar isn’t just spreading across the entire year, but also heading north. Saturday, 13 January saw the fourth Arctic Whisky Festival, held in the island city of Tromsø in Norway. It is organised by Norway’s Mr Whisky, the indefatigable Chris Maile, who also operates shows in Trondheim and Oslo. As ever, any announcements are preceded by him playing the bagpipes, which certainly gets folk’s attention, although no-one started dancing.
Immediately compelling. There’s classical, old, relaxed maturation at work here, with elements of a traditional bookbinder’s workshop, with gums, glues and old leather, glimpses of tropical fruit, then hints of wine cellar before a more garrigue-like herbal element begins to come through – thyme, bay leaf and lemon myrtle – before it settles into cedar oak, and moss. Water dries things slightly. The question is whether the palate can measure up to the exotic and complex nose.
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