Kensington Spring Single Malt Whisky Festival REVIEW – Thursday June 9th, 2011 – Scotch Whisky News

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The Travels of Whisky Intelligence – Kensington Spring Single Malt Whisky Festival – Thursday June 9th, 2011

Kensington Wine Mart (KWM) in Calgary, Alberta hosts a Single Malt Festival twice yearly in the Spring (Spring is usually tardy in Alberta and quite frankly it can snow at any second no matter what time of the year) and Fall; due to space constraints the Festival is limited to 100 participants. The extensive wine racks  are pushed back to make space, the beer is ignored,  the tables for the various brands & distilleries are shoe horned in as best they can and an extensive array of whiskies is offered to the lucky few whom are able to attend. Whisky Intelligence was one of the lucky attendees this Spring, our attempt to attend in the Fall of 2010 ended before it began due to extremely poor flying weather and aircraft problems (better to experience aircraft problems on the ground rather than half way there). This time the flying weather was perfect and the flight time was mercifully short at just over an hour in duration.

In many ways Alberta is the Canadian version of Texas with lots of income from the oil & gas sector, lots of cowboy hats and boots, big pick up trucks; no provincial sales tax (except for the federal tax, the GST) and basically a free liquor market not burdened by a government monopoly as in other Canadian provinces. The net result is a very vibrant whisky community with very decent prices and loads of selection.

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The Festival is organized by Andrew Ferguson (who was recently inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich) and he’s the resident ‘scotch guy’ at Kensington. Customers are kept in the loop by his emailed Malt Messengers newsletter which affords them the inside track on new products, tasting notes, sales, monthly dinners & tastings featuring various single malts and details of distillery trips to Scotland, also led by Andrew.

For such a physically small location crammed with 100 people the line up of whiskies was impressive indeed; Authentic Wine & Spirits with three BenRiach, two Isle of Jura, four GlenDronach (including the Glendronach 1995 KWM PX, a KWM exclusive) and a Dalmore, Purple Valley Imports with Stronachie 18, two Amrut, four different Roughstock, the English Whisky Company, Sullivan’s Cove and a very nice 26yo Glenglassaugh. Diageo Canada had Port Ellen 8th Release, Lagavulin DE, Oban, Talisker, Caol Ila, the Singleton and Bulleit Bourbon. Charton-Hobbs had EIGHT different Glenmorangie, several Ardbeg and a few Glenrothes. Not to be out done the table featuring Edradour and Signatory featured eight bottlings ranging from Edradour Caledonia to Glen Mhor 1982.

United Distributors offered seven bottlings from Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig and Deanston while Harvest Vintage Imports offered six Isle of Arran (including two Kensington exclusive casks, one sherry and one bourbon) as well as two Finlaggan. Saverio Schiralli poured a couple of Auchentoshan, four Bowmore and two Glen Garioch.

PMA Canada was pouring three Glenfiddich and five Balvenie. Beam Global had a great selection of three Macallan and four Highland Park (including the recently arrived St. Magnus) as well as the brand new to the market Alberta Premium 30 year old. Gold Medal Marketing featured and impressive line of thirteen Duthies, three G&M Connoisseurs’ Choice, a couple of both Mackmyra and Kilchoman.

The Kensington Wine Mart Table (actually an up ended barrel) featured Tullibardine 1987,   G&M Connoisseurs’ Choice Glen Keith 1968, Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon, G&M KWM Glen Grant 1966, Mackinlay’s Shackleton, Compass Box Hedonism Maxximus and a Signatory Bowmore 1970 40 Year Old. Stellar use of an up ended barrel!

The Curiosities Table was happily controlled by Dr. Jane Cameron who poured Lagavulin Feis Ile 2010, Yamazaki Sherry Cask, Yamazaki Puncheon, Port Charlotte An Tura Mor, Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey and Nikka From the Barrel. Later in the evening Whisky Intelligence earned a wry glance from Andrew Ferguson for blending the Yamazaki Puncheon and the Port Charlotte An Tura Mor together but his look changed to one of pleasant surprise at the result!

Despite the size of the location and the number of people there is no trouble in navgating between tables and everybody is very friendly. Alas, is short order the Festival was over at 9PM sharp however there’s no room for complaint since the selection of whiskies on offer is simply more than you can appreciate in a single evening. Since the selection is so extensive there is something for everybody. Most, if not all of the whiskies were on sale at between 5% and 20% off during the evening and Whisky Intelligence took the opportunity to buy a G&M single cask 1995 Old Pulteney 60.5% from a First Fill Sherry Butt Cask #1505 and a Bruichladdich Classic Sherry 46%, neither of which had been sampled by WI prior to the Festival.

Post Festival WI had the distinct pleasure to have a dram or two with Glenn Todd & Stan Willow, members of the Companions of the Quaich and directors of the Victoria Whisky Festival who were also in Calgary for the Kensington Spring Single Malt Whisky Festival.

Indian Hunter, c. 1855 Collection of Glenbow Museum

Indian Hunter, c. 1855 Collection of Glenbow Museum

As with past festivals (as WI readers well know) the opportunity was taken to visit a local museum and in Calgary the one to visit is the Glenbow Museum which was just a two minute walk from the Fairmont Palliser in the down town area. The selection of historical oil paintings really was first rate and depicted the West extremely well. A nice way to finish the trip and they even have a few paintings by Cornelius Krieghoff, remember him from the Spirit of Toronto trip?

Cornelius Krieghoff

Cornelius Krieghoff

William Bradford The English Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin

William Bradford The English Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin

From www.glenbow.org

Glenbow Museum’s holding of nineteenth century art is strong in works on paper featuring topographical and illustrative images, which were created by itinerant artists. They were not professional artists but explorers, engineers, surveyors, and military officers documenting the opening up of the West. Another significant part of the art collection relates to the exploration of the Arctic.

Glenbow also has a large body of works by artists, most members of the newly created Royal Canadian Academy, whose trips to the West were promoted and sponsored by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Large oil paintings by these artists were typically done in Ontario, based directly on sketches, photographs, and watercolours executed on western trips. Over the years, through purchase and donation, Glenbow has acquired many important works of art by artists from eastern Canada and the United States.

Frances Anne Hopkins Canoes in a fog Lake Superior 1869

Frances Anne Hopkins Canoes in a fog Lake Superior 1869

The Glenbow Museum even had an exhibition of Karsh photographs which was very interesting (but of a lot of deceased people).

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Sir Winston Churchill by Karsh

Traditions must be maintained so later in the day at the airport on the home ward leg of the trip in the comfort of the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge a pre flight ‘blend’ of one ounce of Glenlivet 12yo mixed with one ounce of Johnnie Walker Black was enjoyed, an opportunity was had to reflect on the Kensington Spring Single Malt Whisky Festival and what an enjoyable event it is. If you have the opportunity (or if you don’t have the opportunity make one) then you really must attend one of Kensington’s Festivals, they have a great selection of whiskeis and it’s a very good whisky shopping opportunity.

Whisky Intelligence would like to thank Andrew Ferguson and Kensington Wine Mart for the ticket to the Festival. Visit Kensington Wine Mart at www.kensingtonwinemarket.com 

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