FNB whisky live festival
Whisky Live Festival 2011 has come and gone, leaving a warm glow of satisfaction… as whisky tends to do! Once again it was a very successful event with an array of interesting whiskies, characters and international whisky aficionado in attendance. One of the most rewarding aspects of this year’s festival was the marked increase in people’s knowledge about this wonderful category.
Whisky magazine UK has two competitions every year, The World Whisky Awards and The Independent Bottler’s Challenge. Both of these competitions attract the best whiskies of their categories to enter and after they have been judged, the remaining samples are shipped to our festival for us to taste – an once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience something completely unusual and different. Each of the competitions has their own stand and it is here that those in the know tend to gravitate. Having manned both of these stands this year, it was here that I was amazed at some of the questions levelled at me.
“What is the ppm of this one?” I was asked by a young lady. She was obviously South African by her accent and after we discussed the parts per million of phenols which influences the smoky flavours of various brands, I asked her how she had such knowledge of this influence. She explained that this was her fifth Whisky Live Festival and she had been to lots of Master Classes in the past and every time had learned a little more about whisky and was now hooked.
She had obviously developed a good understanding of the tasting process as she confidently swirled her glass, nosed it and identified peat, tropical fruit, a touch of leather and… perhaps some vanilla? This was very rewarding for me, as we started the festival nine years ago with the very objective of getting people to ‘Discover the Mystery’ and unveiling the mystique of this wonderful drink.
Back then, whisky was considered to be a middle-aged, white, colonial man’s drink. Trying to get younger South Africans of all cultures to drink this special beverage was our objective. We did tastings at night clubs, employed promoters to ambush pubs and everything else we could to encourage the younger set to just try it, to mix it with their favourite soft drink…Coke, lemonade, orange juice, Appletiser whatever… but just try it!
Slowly but surely we started to get results, especially when young ladies realised that it is the least fattening alcoholic beverage when enjoyed with water, on the rocks or with soda.
Today the scene is very different. Cape Town and Johannesburg’s multi-cultured attendance is testament to all the effort invested in growing the appreciation of whisky in South Africa.
Seeing the same old faces was also rewarding and I was often informed by a proud patron that they had attended the very first festival in a tent at the V&A Waterfront and hadn’t missed one since.
I am very proud to have been one of the originators of this festival. Not only has it assisted South Africa to become the 5th largest export market for Scotch Whisky, it has afforded me an opportunity to meet some of the nicest people, develop a passion and spread the gospel of ‘Uisge Beatha’ – The Water of Life.
– Mike Orrey, Director of Haas Advertising and Keeper of the Quaich