Don’t let 2018 pass you by without visiting one of the world’s best whisky festivals.
We all like to feel special. We love being pampered and told that we are being rewarded for being… well… us. It is part of the human condition I suppose, a manifestation of our own self worth – our own inflated sense of worth some would argue. Why should we get something just because we exist? That’s one for the psychiatrists among you.
I began musing on this when I read of yet another whisky show which offered a VIP option for attendees. This has become so engrained in shows recently that it hardly raises an eyebrow. Yet what does whisky’s equivalent of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket get you? It could be early entry, it could be food, or access to drams which aren’t available to others. In one case, the VIPs were the only ones to get access to in-depth masterclasses. Any other classes simply showed whiskies which were available on the floor.
By only allowing wealthier visitors access to certain whiskies, shows are creating a divide and preventing the spread of education.
Let’s look at this in more detail. Earlier entry, in simple terms, means you pay more to be able to try more whisky. Why can’t the show simply run for longer so that everyone can get an equal chance? Restricting the time available opens up the real possibility that those who haven’t taken the VIP option will drink more quickly when they do finally get in. Result? Carnage.
It is the access to drams and classes which worries me the most, however. Both are examples of the creeping elitism which is appearing within whisky. This approach quite clearly divides whisky into the haves and the have nots. The monied folks can drink any dram they want; those on a smaller budget have to make do with something else. That isn’t what whisky is about.
A whisky show should be egalitarian, it should be about enjoyment and education. It’s the only opportunity that most people have to try some of the bottlings which they know they cannot afford to buy, but are still interested in.
Restricting classes to VIPs is, however, the most insidious manifestation of this elitist approach because it restricts education to those who can afford to pay for it. Where, I ask you, are the new generation of whisky drinkers going to come from if knowledge is restricted in this way? How can the industry hope to educate bartenders or students, people who are low in budget but high in interest if show organisers refuse to engage?
I’d think twice about attending a show which runs a two-tier system. There are alternatives. There are rooms out there filled with people who want to talk, and share, and celebrate in a spirit of equality. Whisky is for everyone.
- Jameson Triple Triple lands in Duty Free
- New whisky reviews: Batch 209: Daftmill 2006 single casks
- Johnnie Walker launches Highball campaign
- Diageo whisky production faces strike threat
- New whisky tasting notes: Batch 208: Distell Limited Releases 2019
- Let’s start treating whisky as an ecology
- Johnnie Walker Blue remembers Glenury Royal
- Interviews: Jim Beveridge OBE, Johnnie Walker
- Whisky’s curious medicinal history
- Lower-alcohol whisky cocktails for summer
The way I see it... 11 September 2017
With festival season under way, a ‘whisky veteran’ laments the lazy use of the M-word.
Features 25 September 2018
These top tips will help you make the most of whichever whisky show you’re visiting.
Festivals and events 07 April 2016
Whisky, food and an indefatigable volunteer force make a former church in Groningen the place to be.
Festivals and events 03 October 2018
The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show scaled up for its 10th anniversary edition in London.