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It’s a brand new Sydney Whisky Fair season so it seems fitting to launch our first lead-in masterclass with an independent bottler brand new to the Australian masterclass.

Just touched down on our shores, in very limited quantities, we’ve secured a range of drams from the Creative Whisky Company which we’ll be cracking and sharing with you at The Oak Barrel Wednesday 11 July. As part of the night we’ll be sampling single casks from Laphroaig, Ardmore, Glen Keith, Dailuaine (pictured above) and an undisclosed Orkney distillery (we’ll let you guess). On top of that, we might (read: will) throw in some surprises along the way.

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Although new to Australia, the Creative Whisky Company has been around since 2005. The project of David Stirk, he founded the business as the global brand ambassador for Highland Park job seemed out of reach. In the proceeding decade-and-a-bit Stirk has established himself as a renowned whisky expert, advisor and author.

We’ll be opening the range of whiskies here in Australia, which will be launched for The Oak Barrel on the night (we’ll only have a handful of each to sell).

In the lead up to Sydney Whisky Fair 2018 The Oak Barrel will be hosting a number of ‘Fair Masterclasses’. These will provide an opportunity to get up close and personal with brands and distilleries, with plenty of time to mull over drams and ask plenty of questions. We run them as satellite events so you’re not drawn away from the tables during the main event and so you have plenty of time with each whisky without the allure of other shiny things!

This Creative Whisky Company tasting will be hosted by importer Wonderland Drinks’ Scott Farrow and The Oak Barrel’s Dailuaine enthusiast Scott Fitzsimons.

 

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Above image a guide, different expressions have landed in Australia

On pour:

Ardmore 18-Year-Old ex-rum cask, 56.4%
Laphroaig 12-Year-Old refill hogshead, 56.2%
Dailuaine 10-Year-Old sherry cask, 55.6%
Glen Keith 23-Year-Old ex-bourbon cask, 52.8%
Orkney 15-Year-Old refill sherry hogshead, 56.7%

Plus one or two more surprises from the Creative Whisky stable on the night.

WHAT: Creative Whisky Company Launch Tasting
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 11 July, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $45 / Non-Members $55
TICKETS: SOLD OUT


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It’s time to announce the first big piece of exciting news for the 2018 Sydney Whisky Fair: we’re coming home.

Run by leading independent bottle shop The Oak Barrel, the Fair’s spiritual home is our extensive tasting room and warehouse space at the rear of the CBD store.

As announced in January, we remain on our traditional date, the last weekend in August, as we have for a number of years.

Our 2018 Venue: Locked In

We’re back to where it all began this year, utilising the many tasting room and warehouse spaces of The Oak Barrel, on Elizabeth St in Sydney’s CBD and near both train and bus stops. It’s our spiritual home and the location of some of our best memories.

Last year we expanded back up to Australia Hall, a theatre located above the store. It is unavailable this year undergoing renovations and repairs. Investigating all possibilities and horizons for this year’s event, we spoke to a number of nearby venues in recent months about relocating the show.

It became clear that to move to an external location Whisky Fair would have to change.

The logistical and financial implications would force us to either raise prices considerably or increase our capacity significantly. While we have no issue with letting more people in, Sydney Whisky Fair has always been about the rare, the exclusive, the new and the small. We would risk losing what makes Whisky Fair special if distillers and bottlers were suddenly forced to pour beyond their means of these small, something incredibly so, releases.

Instead, we’ve decided to invest in our own space – more space, more air conditioning, more lighting and more atmosphere. We hope to reveal some special features in the lead up to Fair.

What Does It Really Mean?

In real terms, it means that the 2018 Sydney Whisky Fair will be more exclusive than ever. A reduced capacity from 2017 to ensure by necessity and to ensure the event is the best it’s ever been. We ‘re dedicated to keeping Fair as Australia’s favourite whisky event.

We’ll be upgrading our intimate tasting space are and dedicating more of The Oak Barrel’s floor space to the 2018 event. You’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with distillers, importers, bottlers and whisky fans from all over the country.

The Oak Barrel’s loyal member base will again be given priority for tickets, ensuring that those who have long supported local, independent bottle stores receive another thank you from us. Specifics on the ticket release date and members pre-sale will be announced next week.

Some pictures below from the 2016 and 2015 events downstairs by Jonathan Walczak.

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The dates for the 2018 Sydney Whisky Fair have been confirmed, with Australia’s favourite whisky event remaining in its traditional last weekend of August.

Full details of the event will be revealed in the coming months, with tickets likely to go on sale June-July.

Sydney Whisky Fair will take place Friday 24 and Saturday 25 August.

It will be the eighth year of the event, see the photos from 2017 here.


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As the dust and drams settle on Sydney Whisky Fair 2017 (and planning begins in earnest for 2018…) we’ll always have the memories of friends and fun of that August weekend in Australia Hall.

Thankfully, the legendary May Lawrence was on hand to capture the event across the weekend.

One of Sydney’s best and most prolific photographers of the whisky and wider bar scene, you can see more of her work here.

There’s a selection of photos below, the full gallery of 150-odd images is available over on our Facebook page.


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2016 is barely done and dusted but we’re excited to announce the dates for the 2017 of Sydney Whisky Fair – Australia’s favourite whisky event.

We’ll be on the exact same weekend in August, which this year falls on Friday 25 and Saturday 26.

Held at The Oak Barrel in Sydney’s CBD, the Sydney Whisky Fair is a whisky exhibition with a twist. Focused on rare, small batch, premium and Australian whiskies, we’ve a strictly limited capacity because we have strictly limited juice!

Now in its seventh year, the 2016 edition sold out in record time – under 48 hours across two on-sale dates.

Further details of exciting additions for the 2017 events and ticket on-sale details will be released in the coming months.

In the meantime, save the date, don’t plan any weekends away in late August and pop by the store to see what we’ve got on offer at the moment!

You can see photos from last year’s event here, and there’s other whisky and spirit masterclasses at The Oak Barrel throughout the year.

– Scott Fitzsimons


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Thank you to everyone who made the past weekend’s Sydney Whisky Fair the best one yet (there’s plenty of snaps here).

Having taken a number of enquiries from people who couldn’t make it to Sydney, or who missed out on tickets, we’ve decided to offer a few select lines at Fair pricing for a very limited time.

This is the first time we’ve offered Fair pricing outside of the event itself and it will only last until Friday 5pm – when prices will begin reverting back to their usual status.

In the offering are the remaining bottles of some of our Fair exclusives (the single cask Black Gate is well-and-truly sold out, sorry). There’s also a whole host of rarities and new releases from Australian, Scottish and American distilleries.

See the list below, click on a name to be directed to The Oak Barrel website. Expect the list to grow (and sold out expressions to be removed) between Wednesday 31 August and Friday 1 September.

As these prices are already below members’ prices, there is no further discount.

THANKS EVERYONE – THE PRICES QUOTED ARE NOW WINDING UP AND RETURNING TO REGULAR SHELF PRICE, WITH 10% OFF FOR MEMBERS.

Latest Whiskies & Spirits at The Oak Barrel

Top image by Jonathan Walczak of The Whisky Ledger.


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That’s a wrap – thank you to everyone who made Sydney Whisky Fair 2016. From some amazing drams and friends old and new, nothing brings people together as well as whisky does.

While you can expect some more wrap-up details soon, we’ve put together this gallery of shots from across the the two days and three sessions.

All photos are courtesy of Jonathan Walczak of The Whisky Ledger, one of Australia’s top whisky bloggers.


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With Sydney Whisky Fair just a day away and excitement at fever pitch, we’ve put together a few quick things that’ll help you get the most out of the day.

There is special Fair pricing for whiskies on pour and that will come into effect once doors open at 5.30pm on Friday. The selection is available opposite the front counter in store and the Fair specials will run from Friday 26 to Saturday 27 August, with whatever’s left available on Monday 19 August.

If you don’t have a ticket you can still access Fair pricing by visiting the store from Friday evening until close of business Monday. These products will not be online during that period.

  • Sydney Whisky Fair 2016 is sold out. Selling out in record time this year, there will be no tickets available at the door.
  • Know your session. There are three sessions across Friday and Saturday, make sure you’re at the right one. Due to the strict capacity levels if you’re at the wrong one we can’t let you in L.
  • Your food voucher is like cash. You’ll receive a food vouched upon arrival at the Fair, redeemable at the canteen (which is powered by the legends at Nighthawk Diner). Don’t lose the voucher!
  • The list of exhibitors is confirmed. See them here and plan out your day. You can also see the list of independent bottlers here. In total there will be 23 stands pouring whisky.
  • If you can’t make it anymore. There is an extensive waiting list of Oak Barrel members who’d love to take your place. If you’ve suddenly got a clash, move the clash. If it’s absolutely unavoidable get in touch and we’ll pas sit on to the waiting list. Please note tickets are non-transferrable and the entry list will reflect that.
  • Don’t be a plonker. Whisky Fair has a strict Fair Play policy which we expect you to uphold. All exhibitors will be observing strict Responsible Service of Alcohol guidelines and security will be present throughout. We’re sure everyone will pace themselves and act as mature adults so we’re confident this is going to be the best Fair yet!

WHISKY FAIR 2016 CHEAT SHEET

Getting There

Whisky Fair is at The Oak Barrel. Get a train to Central/Museum station or a bus to Elizabeth St. Map at the bottom of the front page here.

Exhibitors

23 tables pouring whisky. full list of distilleries here, independent bottler details here. Click on the name of a distillery on the Confirmed Whiskies page for more information about them.

Exclusive Whiskies

Four new exclusive whiskies for this year’s Fair, from Black Gate (Australia), Paul John (India), Dailuaine via Berry Bros. (Scotland) and The Oak Barrel’s own Cask 37 (Australia). These will be allocated across the three sessions, so don’t fret that they’ll all sell out on the Friday.

New Drams Being Launched

There’s host of brand new and recent releases to try from around the world. Here’s a select few we’ve picked out of the program that are being released at the Fair or have landed in the past month:

Iniquity Gold Label (launch of South Australian distillery’s new Gold Label – it’s cask strength)
Limeburners Darkest Winter (if you missed the masterclass, Darkest Winter is now available officially)
Upshot
(West Australian whiskey launches on the east coast – available to taste at the Fair, to buy in October)
BenRiach Peated Quarter Casks
(One of Speyside’s most excited distilleries ups the smoke)
Laphroaig Lore
(the most exciting addition to Laphroaig’s core range in years)
Armorik Der Venn (first single malt from the ‘new era’ of this famous French distillery)
The Irishman (full range of new Irish whiskies from the Walsh family, rushed into Australia to make the Fair)
Hyde Single Grain
(new from the Irish whisky bottlers, who may have some previews as well)
Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection Linkwood
(delicious new wine cask-finished expression from the masters)
Rest & Be Thankful
(independent bottler new to Australia)
Signatory Vintage (new expressions from distilleries like Glenrothes)
Blackadder (expressions taken from the very latest shipment)

Food

Once again being provided by the legends at the Nighthawk Diner.

Latest Whiskies & Spirits at The Oak Barrel

Top image by Jonathan Walczak of The Whisky Ledger.


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Although every distillery has its own character – some more than others – sometimes the best way to understand the full scope and power of a distillery’s whisky is through the drams of independent bottlers.

independent-bottler-bunna-89An independent bottler is someone who will purchase casks of whisky from a distillery or cask trader and bottle them under their own label. All the rules are off as soon as that whisky has been removed from (or the bottlers might say “liberated from”) the ownership of the distilleries and their parent companies. The cask management, length of maturation and general treatment is then at the discretion of the bottler and it leads to some fascinating experimentation.

How good is Bunnahabhain’s peated whisky when it’s not just used by blenders? How much flavour is a Clynelish matured is casks so tired that it remains the colour of Sauvignon Blanc? How versatile is Dailuaine, know for being everything to everyone by blenders? How does the textural elegance so sought after by blends like Johnny Walker of Linkwood stand up against sherry casks? How intense is a young, peated Caol Ila?

Fair to say, we’re a little bit fascinated by the possibilities presented by independent bottlings and The Oak Barrel’s shelves are regularly full of them.

This year’s Fair will see a number of expressions on pour from a range of independent bottlers. Some buy whisky young and mature it themselves, others hunt in warehouses for casks really to bottle tomorrow.

Independent Bottlers

Adelphi (One of the world’s highest regarded indie bottlers, with both current and archive expressions)independent-bottler-adelphi-ben-nevis
Berry Brothers & Rudd
(As seen with our Australian exclusive expression)
Blackadder (The ones with the bits of cask in the bottle by Robin Tucek)
Gordon & MacPhail
(Who hold some of the oldest and most sought after casks in Scotland)
Heartwood (Tasmania’s own indie bottler, Tim Duckett will be in attendance)
The Oak Barrel (With our own “Cask 37” release)
Port Askaig (An Islay label of The Whisky Exchange’s/industry legend Sukhinder Singh)
Rest & Be Thankful (Brand new into Australia from whisky merchants Fox Fitzgerald)
Signatory Vintage (One of Scotland’s most famous names and new into Australia)
The Ten Series (A numbered collection of educational but not necessarily entry-level whiskies from France’s La Maison du Whisky)
Wemyss Malts (A historic Scottish family name turns its attention to award-winning whiskies)

This list doesn’t include the Irish whiskies Hyde and The Irishman, whose ‘official bottlings’ are made up of whiskies from various Irish distilleries and thus can be considered independent bottlers. They’ll have stands at the Fair as well.

The distilleries on our Confirmed Whiskies page refers to the brands which have ‘official’ representation at this year’s Fair, and so distilleries that will appear through independent releases are not on that list.

For curiosities sake, here’s a full list of distilleries, again in alphabetical order.

The Distilleries

Ardmore
Arran
Auchentoshan
Aultmore
Ben Nevis
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Caol Ila
Clynelish
Dailuaine
Edradour
Glenburgie
Glenlossie
Glenrothes
Highland Park
Lark
Linkwood
Longmorn
Mortlach
North British
Octomore
Southern Coast
Tamdhu

There’s also one or two vattings of malt whiskies by indies as well as a couple of single malt from distilleries that haven’t been disclosed.

The well-and-truly sold out Sydney Whisky Fair happens Friday 26 and Saturday 27 August at The Oak Barrel.

Latest Whiskies & Spirits at The Oak Barrel

Top image of various casks in one of vGordon & MacPhail’s enviable warehouses.


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There will be three exclusive bottlings for this year’s Sydney Whisky Fair (one and two announced here). But because you can never have enough shiny things to play with we’ll also have an Australian exclusive from Scotland thanks to a single cask Dailuaine from Berry Brothers & Rudd.

Dailuaine is one of the more mysterious distilleries in Scotland, not because it’s inactive or haunted or demolished but because it’s so hard to pin down. The vast majority of what the distillery, located in Speyside near Aberlour, produces is destined for blenders, primarily Diageo’s stable of brands like Johnnie Walker. Given the distillery’s lot in life, it produces quite a versatile spirit and can be any number of things.

With the discontinued Flora & Fauna 16 Year Old the only real yardstick of an ‘Official Bottling’ we have, Dailuaine’s character is pieced together from independent bottlers who’ve liberated casks over the years.

Traditionally though, Dailuaine is in the thicker camp – with a meaty spirit that encourages comparisons to Mortlach. It’s even said that up until recently they used stainless steel condensers to purposely chase sulphur in their new make (they’re understood to be copper now). It was, then, a spirit that struggled through youth but revealed something special after a decade or so of maturation.

It’s from this ‘thicker’ era that this Australian exclusive single cask offering hails from. London’s Berry Brothers & Rudd – a company that dates back to 1698 and supplies the Royal Family – are renowned for their Berry’s Own releases. We’re delighted to exclusively secure the Australian allocation of this particular one.

This 1992 vintage was filled into a refill hogshead and matured for 22 years before it was bottled in 2014. The cask yielded 291 bottles at 43%. The Australian allocation of 12 bottles arrived earlier this year and have all been held back for the Whisky Fair.

In the words of Berry Bros’ spirit supremo Doug McIvor: “A beguiling nose offers much in the way of brown sugar sprinkled melon and dark chocolate with a hint of Turkish Delight. The palate expands with bursts of tropical fruit, beautiful honey strands and delicate perfumed complexity. This is a remarkable sophisticated Speyside.”

Available to sample and purchase at this year’s Fair, also on the Berry’s Brothers stand will be the brand’s Blue Hanger 11th Release, their premium blended malt and the pride of McIvor. The 11th release features a warming peat finish (probably from some solid Bunnahabhain stock), which hasn’t always been the case with the Hanger malts. They’ll also have some Glenrothes expressions, the stand-out being the long-overdue second release from their 1992 vintage. One of the thickest Glenrothes to date.

The well-and-truly sold out Sydney Whisky Fair happens Friday 26 and Saturday 27 August at The Oak Barrel.

Latest Whiskies & Spirits at The Oak Barrel