This is going to be a short review with lots of photos (scroll all the way down) because The Whisky Exchange’s 2018 Old & Rare Whisky Show in Glasgow was simply the best whisky geek experience I’ve every had. It’s also the case that I spent more money at that show than I have ever spent at a whisky show before; but damn, was it ever worth it!
The event took place in one medium-sized ballroom in the elegant Glasgow Grand Central Hotel and in a side room for masterclasses. Despite there being only 10-15 tables not quite filling that ballroom, the selection of whiskies was almost completely overwhelming. Thankfully, I was able to buck up and manage it. As the name of the event suggests, the whisky there was all old or rare, and in some cases, both. Just take a look at the photos for some sense of the offerings.
I started with a Balvenie 12 year-old from the early 80s. That cognac wannabe bottle was unopened when I bought a dram, and it turned out that the cork had failed. So they engaged Angus MacRaild, intrepid whisky writer and auction expert (as well as the wicked wit behind The Whisky Sponge), to extract the damaged cork properly. I’d say it was an inauspicious start to the show, but in actuality, I got the full experience right off the bat: I chose an old bottle, and it did what old bottles do.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of every single thing I drank after that (though I could), but some of the single bottle photos below give you an idea of some highlights. I should note that I hunted values, since I’m not accustomed to spending a lot of money at a whisky event for which I have a press pass, and I found many values. A 30 year-old Longmorn from the SMWS for only £12? Yes, please! A Ballantine’s from the late 1940’s made up largely of 1930’s Ardbeg for £5? Don’t mind if I do! A 25 year-old Glen Grant from what must have been a second- or third-fill Sherry butt for £5? Absolutely!
The number of whisky luminaries at this event was also overwhelming–though not surprising after seeing what was on offer–and many of them graciously agreed to be photographed in the Grouchos with me, as the rogues’ gallery here attests. The one miss on that front was Charles MacLean, who was extremely kind and chatted with me for quite a while. I had many, many Groucho photos by that point, and I didn’t want to bother him with it at the time, but next time, Mr. MacLean, next time…
At this event, I also attended just one masterclass, because it was, for me anyway, the masterclass to end all masterclasses. You can read more about it in my write-up for the SMWS website here. The Old & Rare Show would be mythic just for offering that masterclass, in my opinion, but it actually achieved that status before I even walked into that masterclass. Superlatives fail me here, really. If you’re a whisky geek, this is the ultimate show for you.