I have to admit that when we left York at 6am on the Saturday for what was now our 5th Whisky Festival in the space of 7 weekends, I was pretty low on energy! Getting up early in the morning is never our favourite, but with the thought of an 18-hour day ahead of us, it was even more of a challenge!
However, once we got set up at the fabulous Lowry Hotel and welcomed our first session of customers, we were well into the swing of things.
We always knew the first session, between 11am and 3pm, was going to be the ‘quieter’ of the two sessions, but nearly 400 people came through the door. As always we ‘processed’ everyone through the door as quickly as possible in order for them to get dramming as fast as. Once through the door they soon found that there was a lot to take in. Our exhibitor list has grown again, as we make new friends and consolidate with old ones.
The list for 2011’s event went a little like this:
Amrut, Ardbeg, Compass Box, Creative Whisky Co., Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich, Glengoyne, Smokehead, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Diageo (Flavour Map, Distiller’s Editions, etc.), Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, Suntory, Dalmore, Jura, The English Whisky Co., Old Pulteney, Balblair, An Cnoc, King Car (Taiwanese), Glenfarclas, Gordon & MacPhail, Glenglassaugh, Cooley (Irish Distillers), Glenlivet, Aberlour, Longmorn, Kilchoman.
I know one or two customers thought there were fewer exhibitors than last year, but by my reckoning there were at least the same number. Last year, though, Amrut and English Whisky had their own stands, whereas this time they could not make it individually and so were under their distributor, Gordon & MacPhail.
I will say that I was disappointed not to have one Bourbon producer there. We have been trying all year to secure the regular support of one of the many, and although I have made good in-roads for 2012, it wasn’t in time for this year. Please do not think it was for the lack of trying though!
We did however have a European exclusive, with the appearance of Kavalan… along with Dr. Jim Swan, their roving consultant and Ian Chang, the head of distillation. They brought pretty much everything from their range and wowed people with the sheer quality on offer. This was ratified by the fact they were voted ‘Stand of the Day’ by a sample of customers on the day.
Our favourite comment from one festival-goer was simply;
‘The best afternoon I’ve had since 1994… and I’m not joking!’
Another of our new friends, Kilchoman… Islay’s newest distillery… won the main prize in our ‘Dram of the Day’ using the same process. For a distillery that has only been distilling for 5 years, this is an amazing achievement and a testament to the hard work the Wills family have put into making and marketing the whisky.
Other highlights for festival-goers were a 1978 Balblair, a Berry Brothers Bunnahabhain 1979 and Ardbeg Corryvreckan.
The sheer diversity of drams and companies exhibiting never ceases to amaze even me. The fact that we are able to get into one room companies turning over X number of £Billions next to small family firms who do it for the love of the dram is what it’s all about.
For next year we aim to raise the bar higher, with plenty of ideas to keep everyone interested and to, of course, bring new ‘Loungers’ into the fold.
Thanks again to all those who attended and/or exhibited… see you next year!