For whisky connoisseurs, there are times when there is nothing better than pouring a glass at the end of the evening, sipping on it and enjoying the unique and complex flavors. Now multiply that times 20-30 and that best describes the experience at WhiskyFest.
A first time attendee, I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience last week at the Marriott Marquis. Whisky Advocate magazine does a great job of organizing the event, bringing together the finest distilleries from around the globe. Here are a few thoughts and observations:
If you’re a fan of whisky, scotch, bourbon, etc., there might not be a better event to go to. Attendees have everything in front of them – multiple offerings from each brand, a chance to talk to distillers themselves or brand ambassadors, plus, for VIP, some rare pours that are hard to come by.
If attending in the future, map out a game plan ahead of time. WhiskyFest organizers always puts out a comprehensive list of brands in attendance and what they will be pouring. Circle a few names that are must-tries in your mind. Trust me, it will make it a lot easier on the night of the event. I made the mistake of trying to walk through the room and sip at various booths – by the time you get through about four or five, let’s just say your mind can wander a bit. Select five or six that you must try, hit those stations first, then adjust your plans accordingly throughout the evening.
Pace yourself. As a wise bartender or two once told me, it’s not a sprint but a marathon. Don’t race around and try to get to every single booth – it’s impossible and not safe for your liver. Plus, the event is not meant to be about that. I highly suggest eating something before the event. Also, take advantage of the buffet throughout the evening – it’s running all night for a reason. Walk around and mingle, talk to some of the producers and enjoy the overall experience.
Take notes. WhiskyFest is a lot of fun and you’re trying some amazing spirits but it can also be a wonderful learning experience. Hearing about each bottle, how it is produced, the similarities and differences with each offering and even getting a history of the producer. It’s like you’re traveling back to each distillery and taking a tour, with your own personal tour guide.
Attend a seminar or two. One thing I really missed out is attending one of the many seminars at WhiskyFest. Getting to the event late, I was a bit behind and couldn’t make any of the talks. I would highly suggest early tasting, taking a break at a seminar of your choice, another round of tasting and then maybe hitting up a final seminar.
Overall, WhiskyFest is a great event and an informative look at a very complex and sophisticated industry and spirit. And the best part – it’s coming back to San Francisco next October. Tickets go on sale in December.