For whisky fans and aficionados, few events are more loved or looked forward to than a whisky show. At such an event, you’ve got the opportunity to sample drams from all over the world, and from producers which range from the famed and loved, to the obscure, quirky, and groundbreaking. What’s more, they’re fantastic places to meet like-minded whisky lovers, get up close and personal with all-time favourite bottles, and gain plenty of industry insight to take your enjoyment to the next level.
However, as with many things in life, if you really want to make the absolute most of your whisky show experience, a game plan is sure to make a big difference. We’re not here to give you a long list of dos and don’ts, nor are we going to send you off for some intensive training in preparation for your next show. Instead, we’ve got some golden nuggets of advice to pass on, designed to help you avoid becoming a whisky show casualty, and to ensure you have a great and memorable time with your fellow whisky fans.
Take Care of Yourself
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? However, the problem with any kind of event which is built upon and based around alcoholic drinks is that people do have a tendency to get carried away, and common sense has a habit of flying out of the window. A bit of self care goes a long way at a whisky show, and will ensure you stay upright from the start to the finish. Simple things like making sure you’re eating enough (you’re less likely to feel the effects of whisky with a full stomach), and drinking still water between tastings really can make a massive difference!
Make Use of the Spittoons
One thing all whisky show attendees come to notice is that the events tend to be much longer than they originally anticipated. This is just one of the reasons why we’d encourage to make use of the spittoons at regular intervals. After all, this isn’t a trip to a massive pub with your mates, it’s a tasting event, and all those little drams quickly add up to a quantity you might never dream of drinking in a single day otherwise. There’s no shame in spitting, but there is shame in struggling to peel yourself off the floor in front of some of the industry’s most famous figures.
Don’t Aim to Taste Everything
Even if you make use of the spittoons, it’s pretty unlikely you have either the time or the stomach to manage to get through everything on show. We’d recommend taking a list (a bucket list, or bottle list if you prefer) of must-try whiskies – the kind you’d probably struggle to get hold of otherwise – along with you, and making a bee-line for those tastings when possible. This way, once you’ve sampled the greatest and most sought-after bottles, you might have time to check out some yet-to-be-discovered favourites.
Check Out The Underdogs
At any good whisky show, there’s likely to be a strong presence of world-beating brands, doubtlessly surrounded by a hefty crowd of whisky lovers keen to get a taste. However, there’s also likely to be some brands you’ve never heard of, and a handful of mini-events, lessons, or workshops which seem a million miles from the lofty heights of The Dalmore and all the rest. Overlooking these is often a big mistake, as they actually can turn out to be the most rewarding parts of a show. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new favourite, or be among the first to try a release which goes on to make massive waves on the scene.
Remember: It’s Not All About Whisky
Whisky shows have a lot of whisky – that much is definitely true. But there are likely to be stands belonging to distilleries of other spirits in presence, too, not to mention the glories of artisan cheesemakers, charcuterie craftspeople, chocolatiers, and all kinds of other delicious tidbits to explore. Make sure you do the rounds and get a nibble and a taste of whatever else is on offer. Firstly, it’ll give you a bit of a break from the relentless whisky drinking (and will line your stomach, too), and secondly, you’ll get the chance to try and maybe purchase some really lovely items made by passionate producers.
Network, Interact, Socialise… Whatever you Call It, Just Make Friends!
You know, and we know it too: whisky people are a special bunch. At a whisky show, you have the unique opportunity to spend time with a whole load of people who share your passion for this wonderful spirit, and who love it so much they’re willing to travel from far and wide to spend a full day in its presence. As such, you’re in with a good chance of meeting some very fine people, and possibly making some new close friends to share that next bottle with. Be open, be friendly, don’t be shy, and enjoy the meeting of minds and interests that these shows bring.
Finally… Don’t be ‘That Guy’
Essentially, be laid back, be cool, and don’t be the guy who is constantly trying to get all the freebies or more than one of the giveaways (despite the massive sign claiming that they’re one per guest), or is trying to hustle their way into tastings and after-parties. Whisky shows are generally sophisticated affairs, and if you want to experience the best of a whisky show’s hidden extras, be polite, be friendly and open, and wait to be invited. If invitations don’t come your way, take it on the chin, and enjoy the experience regardless… because there will be more than enough going on, without you having to muscle your way to the front of the queue all the time.
Well, there you have it – a quick survival guide for any whisky show. Most of this is based on common sense, good courtesy, and the idea that a little whisky really does go a long way (it’s not rocket science, I promise you). Whisky shows are brilliant ways to take your passion for the drink further, and with this kind of know-how, you can really make the most of these exciting events. Slàinte!