Although there are plenty of write-ups from erstwhile bloggers and others already on this key event for us, we thought we should write it up from our point of view.
We always aim to do something a bit different in London particularly. It is already well serviced in terms of whisky events and there are so many happenings (not all whisky!) competing for the same people. We therefore don’t see the point of an event that doesn’t have several arrows in its bow, offering nothing new or interesting.
Enter, stage right, our chosen venue for this year, Oval Space in Hackney. We were actually approached by Daniel, the owner of the venue, as a whisky enthusiast himself, as to the possibility of producing a collaborative event. This doesn’t happen often and most venues, whilst beautiful on the outside, are really only interested in one thing – the money. It was therefore refreshing to come across a like-minded individual as keen as we were to put on something truly different, engaging and vibrant.
Plus the fact that Amanda believes us to be ‘brothers from another mother’. Not sure about that…
Separated at birth?
Anyway, I won’t bore you (further) with tales of how it all then came together. Suffice it to say, it did. And how.
When we opened the doors for the first session on the Friday evening, we had no idea what to expect. What kind of crowd would turn up? Would they get the earthy, industrial venue or what we were trying to achieve?
It turns out we had nothing to fear. It was a balmy Friday evening and the outdoor spaces were really appreciated by all – no feeling of being cooped up here, everyone was free to wander around the multitude of spaces at their own pace. Aside from the main space, where exhibitors were sampling their wares, there was the Jameson Pickle Factory ‘Takeover’, the cocktail terrace and the ‘Blitz Rooftop’.
In the main space we had distillers great and small and plenty of independent bottlers too as well as The Whisky Exchange retail store. It was a great turn-out from the world of whisky and we were very pleased with the response from them. I won’t list them all here as this has been done elsewhere, however what I will do is reveal the winners of our ‘Dram of the Day’ competition.
Predictably there were different results in each of the four sessions…
Dram of the Day – Highland Park 18yo
Stand of the Day – Maxxium UK (Macallan, Laphroaig & Highland Park) & Speciality Drinks (SMOS & Diplomatico Rum)
Dram of the Day – Balblair 1983
Stand of the Day – Diageo & Morrison Bowmore
Dram of the Day – Auchentoshan Three Wood
Stand of the Day – Dewars
Dram of the Day
1st – Auchentoshan Three Wood, 2nd – Balblair 1983, 3rd – Laphroaig 18yo
1st – Diageo, 2nd – Morrison Bowmore & Inverhouse, 3rd – Dewars
So hearty congrats to the winners and commiserations to the rest. I’m sure they will just try harder next time!
So to the ‘Blitz Rooftop’ where we hosted several tastings, the highlight of which were our Pre-War Masterclasses with antique whisky aficionado, Angus McRaild of Whisky-Online Auctions. For this I personally assembled (with Angus and Jonny Ms help) six whiskies that were all distilled before WWII. This in itself was a mammoth task but hugely enjoyable nonetheless. Thanks must go to Richard at The Whisky Vault in Leeds for donating a stunning bottle of ‘Crown VAT Old Scotch Liqueur’. So to the line-up…
1. Black & White Blended Scotch Whisky
2. John Haig Gold Label Blended Scotch Whisky, 70 Proof
3. Bellows ‘Partner’s Choice’ Blended Scotch Whisky, 86 Proof
4. Crown Vat Old Scotch Liqueur, ‘Strength 20-Up by Sikes Hydrometer’
5. Berry Brothers ‘St. James’s Blended Scotch Whisky’, 91.4 Proof
6. Bell’s Royal Reserve Liqueur 20yo Blended Scotch Whisky, 86 Proof
To be honest I could write a whole post about these tastings (there was one in each Saturday session). They were truly lovely tastings, with folks enjoying the sunshine on the rooftop overlooking one of the last remaining blitz-bombed sites in London. The whiskies themselves shone, with only the Black & White having suffered irrevocably from a low fill, but the Berry’s and Bell’s bottlings being the absolute highlights. Angus felt the Crown Vat would have been incredible some years ago but had lost a little ‘sparkle’. Definitely one to keep an eye out for!
Aside from these, we had tremendous tastings from David at Laphroaig and the inimitable Colin Dunn of Diageo who took an inquisitive crowd through a Talisker vertical, including 25yo…
In the Jameson Pickle Factory, there were Picklebacks (Google it!), an assortment of tasty mixed drinks and beers from the local superstar, Beavertown Brewery. Next door there was a BBQ cooking up some tasty burgers.
We also had The Original Fry Material cooking up some awesome fried fare and the much-vaunted Haggis panninis from Deeney’s.
Music-wise there was a real plethora of acts from solo acoustic to full bands. Some were appreciated more than others (ahem) but on the whole the quality was very good, with highlights being the guys from Josh Flowers & The Wild, Ben Longman and the fantastic Frankie Davies.
On the Sunday we had our ‘annual’ (alright its only the second time we’ve done it) ‘Jam & Dram’, with blending classes hosted by our very own Joe Clark along with performances from three ‘Whisky All-Star’ bands.
First up we had the sweet and sultry tones of Cat Spencer (Maverick Drinks), sexy Sam Simmons (Dr. Whisky, Balvenie), Simon Rosser (Simply Whisky) and Rob Allanson (Grant’s) aka Ethyl and the Aldehydes playing there lilting versions of pop classics. Then we had Tim Hain and myself guesting for some reggae infected blues (or Bleggae as Tim like to call it) and finally the mighty Prince Adewale & The Endeavours, featuring ‘Nerves of Steel’ Neil Ridley (Cask Creative) and Dr. ‘Cool as F**k’ Nick Morgan (Diageo). All of the bands were brilliant (well I would say that) and provided some fantastic entertainment for those at our last session of the weekend. Sweaty it was!
When finally the sun went down on this incredible endurance event, we were very much ready for beers and bed. We had sore feet, sweaty t-shirts and were filthy from our efforts of packing the show up – but we were also basking in not only the sunshine in the beer garden, but the reality that we had brought whisky to the good people of the East End in a good way.
Thanks again to all that came – customers and exhibitors – and helped make this such a memorable event. All power to you.
Now here’s a video for you of the goings-on for you to enjoy…