So I’m back. How was it you ask? It was wonderful! one of the better weekends I’ve had in recent years. full of whisky, friends and adventures. I decided to break my Maltstock adventures into 3 parts, this is the first, and two coming posts about two very interesting master classes I’ve attended : Master of Malt’s new IB label, and The Benriach/Glendronach session with Donald MacLellan.
I landed in AMS airport early Friday morning (Early for some *wink* ) after waking up really early to catch the 6 am plane from Tel Aviv, just in time to meet a great whisky friends I’ve met only online via twitter, Sjoerd, who kindly agreed to drive me along with Tom, another virtual friend i was thrilled to meet as well both lovely guys from around Amsterdam. Sky was blue, and the sun was shining, a wonderful day for traveling to the south of the Netherlands towards Nijmegen.
My two friends were kind enough to show me to a lovely whisky shop on the way (in Den Bosch) named “De Koning” which stock amazing whiskies, and i was tempted and glad i was, to buy a nice Lagavulin 12 FOCM sherry, which tickled my fancy. I managed to get hold of a local SIM nearby (I am a twitter/ FB addict as you all know), and i was back in business. tweeting and enjoying the lovely Dutch scenery (I know it’s a flat country, but coming from dusty Israel and a 5 month long summer without a drop of rain, every green pasture is a sight for my sour eyes).
As it turns out Nijmegen is not that long a drive from Amsterdam, and in no time we made it to the Maltstock location a few hours ahead of time. What can one do when you have some time to pass? Sit, drink nice beer , have a bit, and talk whisky stuff. Luckily there is a little restaurant 2 minutes from Maltstock, so we sat there in the open air, and enjoyed a small snack (note to self: those Dutch pancakes are really big and awesome), a few beers, and time passed until the Maltstock site was officially open at 4 PM.
Now, Maltstock is located in the middle of nowhere, in a nature reserve or something the like, very pastoral, with some nice walking tracks nearby. I was greeted nicely by the Maltstock guys, and was happy to meet the entire MS gang led by Tuen (One more mental not : Dutch names are a bit hard to pronounce. I hope i figured out how to properly pronounce some by now) and got my nice little badge (only one with an Israeli flag!).
As it happens I was about to share a small room with 3 more people, but since two were not there eventually, I ended sharing my room with Jon Beach, the lovely owner of the Fiddler’s Bar near Loch Ness. A lovely Scot, and a big Port Ellen Collector. Each room was kindly provided a complementary Bunnahabhain Malts of Scotland bottle for enjoying, how cool is that?
Downstairs in the main yard, people were starting to arrive each bringing his own bottle to the shared tables (BYOB is a grand idea), for everyone to enjoy. I picked up the Maltstock Glencairn glass I was about to make big use of, and also my Whisky Cord (you know the stuff you hang around your neck and put around your glass so you can enjoy hands free usage with a dram hanging down you neck. brilliant stuff! (Cheers Tom!). Also picked up some bottle of water, and lovely little MS branded cupcakes. Life is good!
As more and more people arrived, i was thrilled to meet a lot of Facebook and tweeter friends (most Dutch) for the first time, as well as a few Old acquaintances Such as Billy Abbot (who was late AGAIN! , but this time he was not to blame), Ben Ellefsen of Master of Malt I have been waiting to meet for ages, Joel (1/2 of the Cask strength gang – sadly Neil was not there), and Jason B.Standing of Whisky Squad, Cat Spencer from MoM , Giovanni M., John Derks, Gert-Jan, and many many more whisky buddies I apologize in advance for not mentioning (the list is long!). All were so friendly and it seemed we knew each other for ages and not only Online.
After saying hi to many people, and having a few drams from the tables, I set foot to my first Master Class, A Glenfiddich session with Tony van Rooijen (Brand Ambassador for GF, NL) who is a funny funny man. Although MS is a Dutch production, most MC are done in English, and this one was not different. Tony was about to do it in Dutch, but since Myself and a few more are pretty bad in Dutch, he had to break his teeth and do it in English, which made it even funnier.
Gladly Tony did not take the much trodden path, and did not do the regular 12,15,18,30 year old Fiddich tour, and although the theme was “Virtual tour”, he assumed we were mostly whisky geeks who knew pretty much everything about GF and how things are done there (good as I’ve done that exact presentation with Ian Millar a few month ago). Instead, we were about to taste a few interesting drams the first of which was a cask sample of the lovely 14 year old “virgin oak”, at Cask strength. that was a beauty of a dram, much thicker and full of flavour than the good as it is 14 yo virgin oak. This is how Glenfiddich should taste, very nice! In addition we had a go at the 1974 vintage GF, which was also excellent stuff, 1 year older than myself, and well worth it. A cracking dram.
Session was over and we went down for some more mingling, and a very nice dinner , Asian style.The cool stuff about malt stock is that it never really ends, you always have things to try people to talk with, have drams with, and not a dull moment. Later that evening we sat down in the main hall for the infamous “whisky quiz”. I teamed up with the English speaking guys (Billy,Jason,Cat,Ben,Joel,Rocky) at one table, and it was hilarious. We almost won (not really, and mainly thanks to Billy who was super fast and mostly correct).
That quiz was long i must tell you, and fun. But at around midnight I was pretty wasted (Having woken up the day before at 0230 AM!!, and having barely slept at all on the plane). So i crashed on my bed, taking no notice of the guitar playing and singing (By Sam Simmons A.K.A Dr. Whisky and Balvenie Brand Ambassador ) which took place outside until 0400 AM… (i woke up to pee a few times, so i noticed it – a lot of whisky and beer in my system…)
End of part I.