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article imageReview: Rare whiskies and fun at the Harrow Whisky Festival Special

By Tim Sandle     Jan 17, 2016 in Food
Harrow - The inaugural Harrow Whisky Festival took place across January 15 and 16, 2016. The event included good food, entertainment, and a selection of fascinating whiskies from around the world.
The Harrow Whisky Festival took place in the Grim's Dyke hotel, located in Harrow, on the edge of North London. Grim's Dyke is a splendid Victorian manor house, built from 1870 to 1872 by the architect Richard Norman Shaw. The most famous resident was W.S. Gilbert, who partnered Sir Arthur Sullivan to create a series of comic operas (the 'Savoy Operas') to delight Victorian society. Their works included H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado.
The Grim s Dyke hotel in Harrow  London. From 1963  the house was used mainly as a location for film...
The Grim's Dyke hotel in Harrow, London. From 1963, the house was used mainly as a location for films and television including Futtocks End with Ronnie Barker; Doctor Who: The Evil of the Daleks, and The Avengers. It later became a hotel.
Digital Journal has previously covered the history of the building, in a photo essay. It is a fine venue for any event; given the long-process required to make a decent whisky (ten years at least), the period setting was very appropriate.
Inside the Grim s Dyke hotel  with Victorian magnificence.
Inside the Grim's Dyke hotel, with Victorian magnificence.
This winter the hotel hosted the first Harrow Whisky festival.
The program for the Harrow Whisky Festival. The event included several talks as well as tastings.
The program for the Harrow Whisky Festival. The event included several talks as well as tastings.
The focus was on hard to find or less common whiskies from around the world (and inevitably a good number of Scottish whiskies.) Almost every whisky on show could be sampled. Given Digital Journal's visit was during an afternoon, this reporter had to be a little circumspect...well, slightly!
Attendees enjoying tasting some interesting whiskies at the Harrow Whisky Festival.
Attendees enjoying tasting some interesting whiskies at the Harrow Whisky Festival.
Of the different whiskies, there were some fine offerings from the Isle of Arran, a distillery of the same name located off the west coast of Scotland. These are single malts, of different ages, made from barley. The classic expression is the 10 year old, at 40 percent proof. On tasting this whisky there is an initial rush of rich vanilla sweetness, followed by cinnamon on the palate, and a lasting taste of oak and honey. The distillery also produces a fine slightly peated version called Machrie Moor. There is a fine taste of peat, followed by salty licorice and grapefruit, with this dram.
A view of the main room of the Harrow Whisky Festival.
A view of the main room of the Harrow Whisky Festival.
A different offering was Tullibardine, a softer whisky. This whisky is matured in first fill Bourbon barrels, and this helps to create a taste of barley and pear drops, with creamy chocolate notes.
Tullibardine whisky. This bourbon barrel matured dram is packed with vanilla and spice.
Tullibardine whisky. This bourbon barrel matured dram is packed with vanilla and spice.
Another stand out was Illeach, a peaty single malt from a secret Islay distillery (Islay is another Scottish island.) This fine whisky produces malty notes, peat, peppery spices, tannins, a touch of fruit as it is sipped.
Ileach is a big Islay whisky  full of powerful peat.
Ileach is a big Islay whisky, full of powerful peat.
For an even more peaty and smoky taste, a selection of Laphroaig whiskies were on offer, including some that are hard to get hold of. The newest is Laphroaig Triple Wood, which adds sherry notes to the smoky flavor.
A set of specialist whiskies on show  including Laphroaig. Laphroaig is a distillery whose malts are...
A set of specialist whiskies on show, including Laphroaig. Laphroaig is a distillery whose malts are massively individual and utterly distinctive.
In terms of whiskies from other parts there were U.S. corn whiskies, whiskies from Ireland, and several top notch ones from Japan, including Hakushu and Hibiki.
Whiskies from the Netherlands  U.S. and Ireland  made from different grains  on show and ready for s...
Whiskies from the Netherlands, U.S. and Ireland, made from different grains, on show and ready for sampling at the Harrow Whisky Festival.
A shop was positioned away from the tasting, allowing people to ponder before making any choices. Many whiskies were reasonably priced, although some of the hard to find ones were very expensive.
A pop-up shop at the Harrow Whisky Festival. Some whiskies on offer were priced at $30  others at $3...
A pop-up shop at the Harrow Whisky Festival. Some whiskies on offer were priced at $30, others at $3,000!
The most expensive whisky tried by this reporter was The Macallan Rare Cask. This whisky was launched by the big selling distillery in 2015. It's comprised of whiskies drawn from 16 different Sherry cask styles. It is a rich, spicy Speyside single malt, and it sells for a mouth-watering $300.
The Macallan Rare Cask  a new and more expensive dram. The finish is a heavy syrup chocolate flavor ...
The Macallan Rare Cask, a new and more expensive dram. The finish is a heavy syrup chocolate flavor that lasts a very long time.
The event was also educational. There were talks about wildlife, history and the whisky making process. There were also exhibition stands explaining the delights of the Scottish islands.
Two exhibition stands at the Harrow Whisky Festival  one featuring an overview of the beautiful isle...
Two exhibition stands at the Harrow Whisky Festival, one featuring an overview of the beautiful isles of Scotland.
As well as the whiskies there was good hotel food, including some melt-in-the-mouth blue cheese scones, and some good sing-along entertainment.
An Irish folk singer performs a series of well-known songs at the Harrow Whisky Festival.
An Irish folk singer performs a series of well-known songs at the Harrow Whisky Festival.
The Grim's Dyke itself has a well stocked bar, and proved a comfortable place to take tea or coffee...or more whisky.
The bar at the fine Grim s Dyke hotel.
The bar at the fine Grim's Dyke hotel.
The Harrow Whisky Festival was very enjoyable, relaxed and informative. Hopefully it will become a regular event.
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