Good whisky shows don’t stand still – they are constantly evolving, developing and reinventing themselves to take account of the changing world around them. Dave Broom reports from the French capital.
As I gently picked my way through the seated crowds on a Parisian rooftop, the thought came to me that whisky shows aren’t meant to be like this. A DJ was playing, and whisky cocktails made by some of the trade’s top names were being sipped.
The sun was shining, people were chilling, laughing, smiling. On the floor below, the queue for the Dead Rabbit pop-up had reached epic proportions. Boats filled with folk keen to learn more about Dalmore were setting off down the Seine.
Whisky Live Paris has always pushed the boundaries of what a whisky show could be, but this year, in the art space Les Docks, those boundaries were extended even further.
Don’t get me wrong. On the exhibition floor you could still experience the intensity that defines this show – every stand with a spittoon, small samples being poured, notebooks being written in.
On the first floor were masterclasses: Karuizawa, Nikka, a single cask selection being made by the audience, yet more of Dewar’s new single malt range and two sessions on rum.
Yes, rum. This has been a show which has – rightly in my view – cast its net ever wider not just in terms of experience but in the range of products on offer. I spent as much time tasting rhum/rum, Cognac and fruit spirits as I did whisky.
Tiki mash-up: Scotty Shuder of Dirty Dick in Paris mixing Monkey Shoulder
Of the latter there was a raft of new(er) distilleries: a definition of estery freshness from Eddu’s first foray into barley (they usually use buckwheat), the promise shown by Dry Fly and Sonoma County and, in the cleverly curated new zone ‘Works In Progress’, the fantastic quality of spirit coming from Cotswolds and Wolfburn.
The message was clear: there is space for all of this. You can drink a Monkey Shoulder tiki mash-up (courtesy of Dirty Dick’s Scotty Shuder), enjoy rum and fine single malts. Whisky, the show says, is no longer restricted and restrictive.
Will all shows become like this? I’m not sure. Maybe this format only works because the organiser (La Maison du Whisky) knows its audience and tailors the experience to suit, but surely there are lessons to be learned by all show promoters?
Pouring neat tots is no longer enough – there is a wider world to connect with.