It’s a busy time of year for the team, as Autumn sees a number of whisky festivals being held up and down the country, as well as a few further from home. If you’ve never been to one of these festivals, we highly recommend giving one a go.
Most events can get pretty packed, yet they always seem to maintain a relaxed atmosphere.
Just the name ‘whisky festival’ conjures up all kinds of imagery, so what should you expect? A day reserved for only the hardiest and most discerning whisky aficionado? An expensive hangover, or simply a novel excuse for a bit of a bender?
The answer really is none of the above. While every show has its own unique atmosphere, one of the benefits of being on ‘the circuit’ is that we see the same familiar faces at many of these events, and it is these people who make the journey worth your time.
Sure, you may forget at least half the things you learn... but that's beside the point.
One of the reasons whisky has been so successful around the world is the story behind it; one which goes back centuries and varies from one distillery to the next. If you do find yourself at a whisky festival, take the chance to speak to the folks working at the heart of those stories.
There are loads of stories about our favourite old distilleries. So much, in fact, that they surely can’t all be true, such as the mysterious wee pipeline that was discovered connecting the cask filling station to a neighbour’s back garden at a certain Highland distillery…
If you like keeping up to date on the latest developments in the industry, you can hear all about the origins of the country’s youngest distilleries, often from the very people who have been there from the start.
You can also test your own knowledge, such as trying to guess where our latest 'mystery dram' was distilled. (In fact here's a hint - it won't be from the heart of Speyside because I've yet to find a map that's big enough...)
All of this is of course in addition to the superb range of drams on offer. Naturally there are many of the usual suspects at each festival, a lot of which you may well have tried before. Hidden under counters and behind stands however are often a few hidden gems worth finding. In fact we like to take these opportunities to share some of our own favourites from times gone by; bottlings that have long since sold out but for the last one or two we found hiding in the office.
For example, what you can't see here is one of the last remaining bottles of our 7yr English Whisky, hiding under the stand. (Well, there may be one bottle left, but you'll have to fight my colleague Brendan for it...)
So, if you want to learn what’s new in the world of whiskies, or just take the chance to try something new, be on the lookout for a whisky festival near you. There seem to be more and more every year!