Another stunning edition of the fantastic NB Spirits Festival in Fredericton New-Brunswick (Canada). You don’t have to gather 5 000 people or more to be a hit. It is not the quantity of the audience that matters but the quality. On this matter, this festival cannot be beaten.
Every year in November, the small town of Fredericton in New-Brunswick attracts around 1 000 whisky aficionados who even come from Ontario or Quebec to join the dedicated volunteer team of NB Whisky Society, under the guidance of Jackie and Frank Scott whose pub The Lunar Rogue is the whisky hub of the city.
Royal Lochnagar and the mint factor
The festival starts with a rum dinner which featured Flor de Cana this year (with a gorgeous 18 Year Old among others). The day after, I hosted the whisky dinner, sponsored by Diageo, Quite a challenging sensory journey through an eclectic selection.
I paired Glenkinchie 12 Year Old with salmon and crunchy vegetables profiteroles. The main dish was a bit of a walk on the edge of a cliff! I had chosen Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition (finish in a Muscat cask) as this single malt is so rarely available. To me, mint is the DNA of Royal Lochnagar. So I decided to serve it with a mint and green peas lamb stew, betting on the sweeter notes of the muscat finish to complement the mild flavours of the lamb. A bit risky but it worked.
Pairing Talisker Storm with a pear and Stilton tart was a safe bet. The cardamom crème brûlée could not but find the harmony with the impressive Mortlach 18 Year Old. The meal was beautifully cooked by chef Mindy Trail and her team from the Delta Hotel.
A solid cocktail
The cooking demonstration was sold out this year with 30 people attending. I chose two recipes from my book “à table” – which received an amazing welcome as I sold 70 copies in 3 days.
First a simple duck breast and fresh orange salad paired with the Macallan Sienna, flavours playing the match on the whisky sherry notes. And a very easy to prepare exotic dessert: a mango cappucino which consists of a mango purée topped with frothy and creamy coconut milk. A kind of solid cocktail!
The choice for tasting classes is amazing at NB Festival with a list of 50 seminars, hosted by brand representatives or individuals. I took a rather unusual path this year with a presentation about “the colour of whisky”, not the colour of the whisky in your glass but the colour which comes to mind when you sample your dram. Without any visual support, we adjusted our kaleidoscope on four 21 Year Old malts as to toast the 21st anniversary of the festival.
Auchentoshan 21 Year Old gave us the vision of a young girl dressed in a cream sober fluid dress and ready for her first ball.
Balvenie PortWood 21 Year Old took us to a castle in the 18th century where we met a beautiful mature woman in a pink and shades of red satin dress, we could see her walking in a cold corridor and leaving a fragrance of faded rose behind her. We were in Jane Austen’s novels.
Old Pulteney 21 Year Old introduced us to a sea-adventurer in the 19th century, coming back to his farm after gallivanting around the globe. He was wearing a green waxed coat.
With Glenlivet 21 Year Old, we met a contemporary Scottish country aristocrat, living in a mansion in Speyside and wearing a green and yellow tartan tweed jacket.
No, I had not smoked the carpet before, neither had the attendees, we just let our imagination and senses wander. What a fun moment!
Who can be lucky enough to sample a range of 6 Imperial single malts when this distillery no longer exists and has had so many silent periods?
This was the stunning tasting that Davin de Kergommeaux (the inspired author of Canadian Whisky, the portable expert, a must have book) brilliantly offered the audience.
From official bottlings to independent ones, that vertical was amazing, with such a difference in the profiles. The sample N°3 from Signatory Vintage Co was the most appreciated as it reproduced the floral and fruity character of this underrated (and long gone now) single malt. The sherried versions from Gordon & Macphail overwhelmed the distillery character.
Last but not least, the Chairman’s dram tasting gathered a few collectable drams. Starting with a characterful Littlemill 8 Year Old, we then enjoyed an enticing Rosebank 14 Year Old from Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice. We were all excited to taste the Millburn from the same IB but it proved disappointing with an unpleasant musty character. Springbank Rum Wood made it up for it and so did Port Ellen1991 from Gordon & Macphail, though maybe not the most outstanding Port Ellen but I enjoyed that wet tarmac character. To finish with, Frank Scott opened a bottle of my Port Charlotte Cask which I had brought with me. I can’t comment on it but it seemed to please the audience.
A lunch with a trio
On Friday, I hosted the lunch around Pernod-Ricard whiskies with Frank Biskupek, brand ambassador for the Scottish whiskies in Canada and Saraid MacCarrick, brand ambassador for the Irish whiskeys.
A cream of lentils cappucino paired with Glenlivet French Oak Reserve was followed by roasted salmon in a nut and spicy crust with Green Spot.
We finished with poached apples in a fudge sauce and Strathisla 12 Year Old. With a bonus as it was the older version. Good to be spoiled that way!
In black and red
It is always a joy to share a tasting class with the Whisky Lassie. I love Johanne McInnis’ passion, seasoned with a pinch of cheekiness. This year we explored the peat territory, presenting island peaty single malts and Speyside outsiders. I recommend this presentation (see below) about Islay peat by Benoît Bailey who is passionate about Islay and attended the festival this year and who is a member of Montreal Whisky club.
I don’t know any whisky festival with a shop indoors which can boast as incredible sales as NB Spirits Festival. New-Brunswick Liquor Board offered all the whiskies presented at the show and the different classes and sold for $271 000 in five hours! An absolute record.
See, you don’t need 5000 visitors to make a festival successful. You just have to have the right audience. And Fredericton attracts the most passionate but also the friendliest whisky aficionados.
I’ll be back next year.
The magic of Rossmount Inn
For the last three years, we have made a habit of relaxing after the festival at Rossmount Inn in Saint-Andrews where Graziella and Chris Aerni offer their guests an unforgettable evening with a gourmet dinner which I design with Chris. This year’s was another success. Here is the menu.
…. a tasting around colour….
“Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways”. ~Oscar Wilde
Poached oyster, creamed celery, Lovage root dust
New Brunswick snow crab quenelle, Sea buckthorn
The Glenrothes Bourbon Cask
Honey glazed lamb tartare
Craigellachie Thirteen Year Old
Pheasant breast, Oyster mushroom cream, wild rice croquettes, Pomegranate pearls
Old Pulteney 17 Year Old
Pineapple tarte tatin, Cardamom-vanilla ice cream
The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask
Another exciting moment for me in October. My cask of Port charlotte distilled at Bruichladdich distillery in 2001 was bottled. The first fill Bourbon Cask gave 214 bottles.
After a deep thinking, I decided to choose for the label a photo of a moonlight on Lochindaal, taken from my decking this Summer. And I added my tasting notes on the back label. I must say I am pretty pleased with my “house” whisky!
à table for Christmas presents?
and to finish, a wee update on my book. The sales are going pretty well. Nearly two-thirds of the 3,000 are sold or in deposit. Thanks to the distribution by Booksource, the book is available worlwide online through on amazon and bookdepository.
Thank you to all my friends who have helped by promoting it via social network.
Preparing the Whisky Chaser
Early December, I had the visit of John and Ally Richards from Colorado (USA) who are filming in preparation of “The Whisky Chaser”, a film dedicated to our sadly missed friend Michael Jackson. They produced “The beer Hunter”, a few years ago. I took them to distilleries and of course to the beach where we re-enacted a fond memory of Michael and I enjoying a dram of Laphroaig facing the waves. I can’t wait to see the film.
An emotional moment
This was in Montreal in November, just two weeks after Leonard Cohen passed away. In front of his house, passers-by kept bringing flowers and candles while his songs were played night and day. I felt the same emotion too.