Every year the event gets bigger and better. This year saw it held at the Lowry in Salford. The premise is simple. You pays your money and then have four hours to sample as many whiskies as you can. Binge drinking for the connoisseur pisshead, if you like.
There are different approaches to handling it and everyone has their own strategy. Some go alphabetically, some go clockwise, and some try to seek out the rarest whisky they can find. My own approach is to avoid the stingy bastards and find the person with the shakiest hands when dishing out the measures.
Technically they advise that you progress through the five broad types in order. So, delicate and sweet first (e.g. Glenlivet), then fruity and floral (e.g. Jura), and then rich and spicy (e.g. Evan Williams). The last two are robust and tangy (e.g. Oban) and intense and peaty (e.g. Ardbeg).
Without boring you with exact lists-you lose track after about 20-it’s safe to assume that I, along with the experienced imbibers, ignored the technical approach. One thing did become clear: the likes of Taiwan, Korea and even Japan have a long way to go to match the finest offerings of Scotland & Ireland.
Of course, four hours of whisky tasting takes its toll. Especially if you warmed up with some excellent pints of Allgates, spicy Bohemian hopped, Vital and the crisp Oregon hops of Santiam. So a wind down course of more beer was prescribed to restore our drinking chi.
First stop was the newly reopened Black Lion in Salford. Here I was glad to see the return of a quality beer (Roosters Yankee back in form) served correctly, i.e. with sparkler. A couple here led naturally to the Port Street Beer House where Kirkstall Pale Ale was the top dog. Less impressive was the keg offering of Thornbridge Wild Swan-once again a shadow of its cask form.
Just when we were leaving, Jan and Dean staggered in and forced another drink in our hand, but then it really was night-night time. It was back to that Garden of Eden, Bury, where, unlike London, you can get a decent late night pizza on a Saturday. A good day out, even if we didn’t squeeze any cider in.