Whiskey Festival Survival GuideBy Thijs Klaverstijn
For the adventurous drinker, whiskey festivals are the ideal place to broaden your horizons. This is the place where producers and importers are more than happy to pour you a dram. It gives you a chance to taste something that’s normally out of reach, or to try that whiskey you’ve been eyeing for a while, but haven’t yet dared to try.
It’s also where the whiskey community shines bright. Hundreds of like-minded whiskey enthusiasts in one place usually makes for an inspired event. Inclusive is a word that aptly describes the atmosphere at most whiskey festivals. From absolute beginner to seasoned veteran, everyone is welcomed with open arms.
However, to make sure that your next visit to a whiskey festival is a successful one, there are some important things to keep in mind.
Pay attention, because this is by far the most important tip. Yes, drinking seems like an obvious activity. It’s the biggest reason why whiskey festivals even exist. But we’re talking about hydration here. At most festivals you’ll be given a bottle of water. Use it! It’s the only time double-fisting is appropriate, as long as it’s whiskey in one hand, and water in the other. Be sure to refill as soon as it’s empty.
Plan Your Visit
You’re just going to have to accept that it is impossible to drink every whiskey available. That’s why it is crucial to plan your visit. If you’re lucky, there will be a complete dram list available of the festival you’re attending. Otherwise, there’s almost always a list of exhibitors. This’ll help you map out your visit. Which brings us to our next point…
It is common sense to keep the best for last. It’s what we’ve been trained to do at tutored tastings, where the final dram is frequently also the finest. But on a day where you might try more than a dozen different whiskeys, it’s better to get those gems in early. If you wait too long, your palate will be too exhausted to really appreciate the good stuff. So be sure to make your way to the exhibitor with Pappy, Karuizawa or Port Ellen early on.
It’s Not a Race
The person who drinks the most, does not win a price. Sip, savor and enjoy yourself. It’s no crime to not finish a sample, especially if it’s not living up to your standards. If allowed, you can even decant into a sample bottle. Also, a good festival should have spittoons. Don’t be afraid to use them. Whiskey festivals are not supposed to be drunk fests.
The Order of Drinks
If you only want to drink high-strength peated whiskey, then you can safely ignore this tip. If you also appreciate other styles, you should probably stay away from Octomore and the likes at first. Peat smoke can be a very dominant flavor, whereas a whiskey bottled at 120 proof might just numb your taste buds. Save those types of whiskeys for later in the day.
This might be the second most important tip. While on the surface a whiskey festival is about just that, it is about human interaction even more so. Chatting with longtime friends, meeting new people, soaking up knowledge from one of the many brilliant industry insiders.
On a day like this, if you don’t feel like preparing lists beforehand or worrying about the order in which to drink whiskey, you’d be forgiven. All we want is for you to have fun! But, most importantly…
Get Home Safe
It should go without saying, but don’t drink and drive. There’s no excuse to fall into that trap, with the plethora of options you have to get home safely. Make plans ahead of time. Get someone to pick you up, arrange for an Uber or a taxi or use public transportation. You could also assign a designated driver, as some whiskey fests even offer discounted tickets for them.
With these tips in mind, you’re sure to have a successful whiskey fest. Now the only thing left to do is get your tickets! Some of these fests sell out months in advance so we recommend you start looking now.
Ready to go after reading our Whiskey Festival Guide?
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