The Spirit of Toronto Saturday May 14th, 2011 – Scotch Whisky News

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The Travels of Whisky Intelligence

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The 7th Annual Spirit of Toronto

East —->

The flight left the gate a mere 10 minutes late due to a reset of the on board computers but arrived over an hour late in Toronto. Now how does that happen? Did they take the scenic route? An unstable worm hole was to blame? We don’t know since they never made an announcement. Very irritating none the less and now an hour behind schedule and lunch with Davin de Kergommeaux of www.canadianwhisky.org fame was off the table, so to speak.

After meeting Davin at the Fairmont Royal York we headed over to the Spirit of Toronto venue Roy Thompson Hall to drop off a box of samples for Davin’s masterclass. At the door we were met by a very nice man in a black suit and a radio who immediately zeroed in on the box. “Is there alcohol in the box?” Yes we affirmed. “You cannot bring alcohol into the building; there are children in the building”. Excuse me? What the hell is he talking about? We didn’t want to serve it to them we just wanted to store it and prepare for the masterclass. “No. You cannot bring it into the building while children are present.” Oh for pities sake. Welcome to the cloud cuckoo land that is Ontario. One wonders how the little dears manage to walk past a bar in a hotel lobby without being scared for life.

So box in hand we made out way across the street to the Elephant & Castle to wait out our time in the penalty box until the building was clear. Some other law was most likely broken by bringing the box into the Elephant & Castle but they never said anything. The sliver lining is we did have an opportunity to have a late lunch and to line our stomachs prior to the commencement of hostiles. Joining us was fellow Malt Maniac Nabil Mailloux who was also in town for the Spirit of Toronto.

Eventually Roy Thompson Hall was swept clear of all children and we could return, fortuitously it was already time for a pre show masterclass, Gordon & MacPhail led by Michael Urquhart. After a very informative talk on the history of Gordon & MacPhail Michael led the room through samples of Mortlach 15yo, Glen Grant 21yo and Strathisla 25yo which were all very good. Also on the tasting mat were two other unidentified samples which were revealed in sequence, a rather lovely Benromach 30yo followed by the highlight of the class which was the G&M Glenlivet 70yo. There were gasps from all over the room as this was completely unexpected by the attendees. One poor fellow actually knocked over his glass of the 70yo earlier in the class; Michael Urquhart didn’t even blink.

After the Gordon & MacPhail masterclass it was time to examine the venue, new additions were Classic Cocktails by Yuki Yamazaki and Kentaro Wada, the Blind Whisky Challenge with Regis Lemaitre (participants had 15 minutes to identify 3 blind samples; single malt, grain or blend?) the Whisky Pod video stand where attendees reviewed their favourite whiskies and the Canadian Whisky “All Stars” in the American Express Lounge featuring Crown Royal XR, Canadian Club 30 Year Old, Wiser’s Red Letter and Gibson’s’ 18 Year Old.

As for the stands there was a good showing from Glenlivet and Aberlour, Glenfiddich and Balvenie, Highland Park,  Macallan and the Famous Grouse, Compass Box with John Glaser, Isle of Jura with Willie Tait in the Whyte & Mackay corner, Nikka with a real show stopper of a Nikka Taketsuru 12yo, Glenrothes, Lark DistilleryGordon & MacPhail and Glenmorangie.

At 8:30PM Ross Hendry started his Glenrothes masterclass and took us through their line of single malts explaining their careful wood policy, their attention to detail and that they only bottle vintages when they feel the whisky is at the peak of its maturity. Ross presented the Select Reserve,  1994, 1995, 1985  and the 1978 to the class.

The lady at the Glenlivet table took one look at the well travelled Guardians of the Glenlivet member card and promptly apologized for not having any Glenlivet 21yo for the Guardians. Whisky Intelligence accepted a fine dram of Glenlivet 15yo French Oak in its place.

As per tradition there was a gathering at the Elephant & Castle post event for a few drinks (because one must always have more drinks after a whisky festival) and there was one more bit of cloud cuckoo land fun. Since the group was so large it was proposed that two tables be turned end to end and joined together but this was quickly rejected by the locals. “Don’t do it” they warned, “this is Toronto, they’ll ask you to leave!” Odd, odd, odd.

Sunday morning after an amusing breakfast with Davin we grabbed a taxi and headed to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) www.ago.net  via a circuitous route due to the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon which neatly screwed up the traffic. The marathon caused the taxi driver to complain some what bitterly about the lost revenue. Perhaps if they put all the runners in taxis and had the taxis race through the downtown core on the prescribed route if would offer more revenue for the taxi drivers and a really cool spectacle for those viewing from the side lines. 2,000 taxis crammed full of runners racing through downtown, now that would be something to see.

Cornelius Krieghoff

Cornelius Krieghoff

Once in the AGO we made a bee line to the excellent paintings of Cornelius Krieghoff  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Krieghoff ) in the Kenneth Thomson Collection featuring may scenes of early Canadian life.

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The Toll Gate

The Krieghoff’s were followed by the Canadian Group of Seven, the Thomson Collection of Ship Models and then some impressionist paintings including the excellent Alfred Sisley ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Sisley ). Alas our time was soon up and we returned to the hotel (with more marathon complaints from another taxi driver) and then our separate ways.

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West <—-

Hours later while enjoying the comfort of the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and enjoying a pre flight ‘blend’ of one ounce of Glenlivet 12yo mixed with one ounce of Johnnie Walker Black, an opportunity was had to reflect on the Spirit of Toronto. It really is a very good festival and the extra hour added just enough time to visit the stands and meet old friends and make new acquaintances.

Whisky Intelligence would like to thank Johanna Ngo and Charles Anderson, the producers of the Spirit of Toronto, for the tickets to their excellent show. Please visit the Spirit of Toronto at www.spiritoftoronto.ca and plan to attend in 2012, it’s scheduled for Saturday, 12th of May 2012.

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