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whisky liveThe whisky events are coming thick and thin at the minute, culminating with the annual get together of bloggers, enthusiasts, brand ambassadors, PR bods, marketing folk and the odd random who was forced to go along with their friend to Whisky Live 2014.

I’ve been doing Whisky Live for three years now, ever since I won free VIP tickets through the very first Twitter contest I took part in and have never looked back – I buy my tickets the day they go on sale and arrive 20 mins early to get into the queue, survey the halls, check my coat and bag (for carrying inevitable purchases home later, lesson learned after the first year) and to obtain my new Glencairn glass for tasting.

It is a ritual honed after feeling like a newbie despite being a collector of many years already when I attended the first one.

This year was a little different for me, previously I have been accompanied by my ever-brilliant fiancé who, since the first year we attended, has grown to enjoy whisky with me as a shared passion that we have also included my father-in-law-to-be in also. This year however I chose to take my Best Man, Martin, to have a ‘man day’ of whisky followed by a lovely dinner at Boisdale’s in Pimlico afterwards.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Whisky Live, basically it is this:

  • Buy a ticket (around £50-75)
  • Turn up, on time
  • Receive your program and free Whisky Live branded Glencairn glass
  • Go around the rooms trying as many or as few of the whiskies on display as possible
  • Buy what you need or loved at the temporary store on the way out

As ever, as soon as we arrived it started raining, but with our spirits undeterred we headed towards the amber spirit that would see us through the occasional rainy patch, whisky.

I’m astounded every year by the breadth of people you see at the event, and Whisky Live 2014 was no different.

There were:

  • Those who knew
  • Those wanting to be in the know
  • Those thinking they knew and
  • Those who take it all far too seriously

We started off by visiting the Whisky Discovery guys (Dave & Kat) on the Balcones stand to sample their ever punchy multi-award winning whisky straight from Texas, often billed as “A one-of-a-kind Texas spirit, made with all Texas ingredients”.

Always a pleasure to try and talk about Balcones, even more so to sample their new single malt – lighter than I expected, but only in comparison to True Blue (my favourite of their products), and with a lot more depth than maybe we have seen in some of their releases. Worth a try if you get a chance.

Other highlights included sampling Kavalan Taiwanese whisky for the first time, and it being really nice albeit more spicy than I’m normally interested in. Strangely, not too far away was the world’s only Dutch whisky – I liked this but could not really describe it, felt quite palatable yet more like a session whisky than one to be savoured or given much time to.

It was really nice to see some examples of Glencairn glasswear on their stand to see what all the brands have been having created to stand out in bars, at events and likely in the home – gave me a few ideas for the next stages of the blog too so stay tuned.

I must stress here that for me Whisky Live is all about trying single malts, grains and blends that I either have never had the chance to try or that I don’t have in the cabinet at home so am in need of a bit of convincing.

With that in mind we headed to the much anticipated Girvan single grain whisky stand from William Grant’s.

I have been looking to get my hands on a Girvan single grain anything for months so to be able to try a couple full drams each of their incredible “4 Apps”, 25 Year Old Launch Edition and 30 year old was a real treat and worth the money in alone.

It was here that my brand consultant head briefly reared itself and I stood back in awe at their incredibly detailed and interesting packaging design, brand application, iconography, photographic style (especially their visual tasting notes) and the all round polished feel of a brand that has been well thought out and decades in the making. So much so that I dashed over to Billie at The Whisky Exchange and bought a 25 Year Old Launch Edition, one of only 500.

From here we wandered around speaking to the odd blogger and brand ambassador that recognised me from various events and enjoyed a few more drams of such illustrious distilleries and blending houses as:

Compass Box – their tenth anniversary Peat Monster was incredible
Penderyn – always a big fan of these guys and heard lots about their soon-to-be-released marquee product called Dylan, hoping to get a hold of that to review next month
Nikka – having had a lot of their products in the past, it was interesting to stiff, sample and discuss their full range, I ended up buying a couple of bottles of the All Malt too as it is remarkably smooth
Boutique-y – great to see Cat as always, caught up with her for a while talking all things whisky, Boutique-y and marketing in general

Then last measures were called and we figured this was the best time to get to the shop, enthusiastically stock up (being a little worse for wear no doubt encouraged the spending) and headed off into the sunset with a spring in our step and a great day to reflect on.

Looking forward to next year’s Whisky Live already…

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