For many of us, visiting a whisky (or whiskey) festival is something that has been on the bucket list for a while. Perhaps you’ve dabbled in a whisky event or two, you’ve attended a tasting at your favourite bar, maybe you’ve even whetted your whisky appetite with a Morning Masterclass or a Platinum whisky tour here at the Scotch Whisky Experience; either way, if you’ve got the bug and want to find out more, a whisky festival is a perfect place to immerse yourself.
The Scotch Whisky Experience team has in its ranks – perhaps predictably – some big fans of a classic whisky festival. From Spirit of Speyside to Feis Ile, you name it, they’ve probably been there, got the t-shirt, and tried some cracking drams into the bargain.
But, if you’re struggling to persuade pals, family members, or even better halves, to join you in the queue for the nearest dramtastic celebration, look no further! We’ve rounded up a few reasons why visiting a whisky festival needs to be on your ‘must do’ list this year.
1. The variety
The appeal for so many who attend whisky festivals on a regular basis is usually the variety of things on offer. Whether you’re on the hunt for weird and wonderful finishes, your new Christmas or birthday bottle to add to your wishlist, or perhaps if you’ve just found out about the different whisky regions and want to explore those flavour profiles, a whisky festival is the place to mingle, chat, try new things and compare. Depending on how strict you’re being, you could even make tasting notes to refer back to once you’ve left (just don’t rely on them after 10pm).
2. Build that collection
As you might have read in SWE team member Jim’s blog post on how to build a whisky collection, whisky festivals are a great place to get started. Many of the larger regional festivals will have special bottlings created by the distilleries they involved – these are often snapped up quickly, either during the event or soon after, never to see the market again. Attending a whisky festival doesn’t just give you the chance to say you were there, you can prove it too.
3. A chance to meet the people behind the drams
Let’s face it, the enthusiasm of someone in the drinks industry who is good at their job knows no bounds. The passion that goes into creating the whisky is truly reflected by the people you meet representing their whiskies, and you’ll be in no doubt that they are on a mission to convince of your new favourite dram, with all the stories and secrets at their fingertips to do so. Ask questions. Get enthused. Be open to recommendations. Take advantage of the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry – you may even get to try something seriously special that they’re keeping under the table.
4. A money-can’t-buy experience
From masterclasses to distillery visits with a difference, a good whisky festival will be about more than just a series of samples. If you want to get a bit deeper with your whisky knowledge, to see the parts of a distillery that are ordinarily roped off, or even to try a not-yet-released bottling: make sure you take a good look at the line-up of events, talks, discussions and tastings, to ensure you get the most out of your ticket. The anecdotes of what you tried – and the kudos of knocking back drams that many may only dream of nosing – will give you plenty to talk about for years to come.
5. The fellow enthusiasts
Many whisky enthusiasts see the whisky festival calendar as a chance to try new things, find out about new trends in whisky, catch up on industry news and generally have a good time. While snobbery may exist, it should never put you off heading to the whisky festival that’s taken your fancy. Someone who truly loves the amber nectar will jump at the chance to chat to you about what they like, make recommendations, and (crucially) listen to your thoughts on the drams you’re trying. Come prepared with good chat and an open mind, and you’ll be in the running to make some friends for life.
Want to find out more about whisky festivals to visit? Take a wee look at our post on what’s going on worldwide throughout the year. There’s something for everyone, wherever you rest your glass.
Main photo, and photos 1 and 3: taken by SWE team member Andrew Palmer, during our annual Distiller’s Fair in 2017.
Photo 2: Scotch Whisky Experience
Photo 5: Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival