The show took place in the sleek and spacious Seaside Pavilion, right in the heart of the Lebanese capital’s Central District, overlooking the Mediterranean sea.
With a three-year worth of Covid-induced thirst, a crowd of enthusiast imbibers flocked to the show to enjoy some of the best-known international brands, from Glenmorangie to Jack Daniels, alongside whiskies from more left-field producers like London-based independent bottler Compass Box and France’s brewstillery Ninkasi.
The show featured an exciting range of local brands too, including Beirut-made blended whisky Ana Beirut and Blak Blended Scotch. Independent local winery and whisky bottler Domaine des Tourelles presented Glenbey, whose name is both a nod to the liquid’s Scottish origins (Glen) and to its Lebanese blender (Bay is short for Beirut’s French name, Beyrouth). The brand comprises a flagship no-age-statement Scotch that is ideal as a base for highballs and classic serves, and a more complex 12 Years Old Scotch with plenty of tobacco, nutty, fruity notes and a touch of smoke. This works well on its own but can also make a delicious Old Fashioned.
From the same producer, GinBey was also present at the show. This is an elegantly perfumed gin largely made with botanicals of Lebanese origin – including rose petals, pomegranate seeds, and citruses – and rested for six months in the same amphora jars traditionally used to mature Lebanese Arak.
Local Rechmaya Distillery presented its range of Lebanese gins and liqueurs too. The flagship expression, Jun Botanic, is a smooth, creamy gin mostly made with local ingredients, including the intensely piney juniper variety, Excelsa. Rechmaya’s Jun Dry is instead a drier, more classic style, yet still made with plenty of Lebanese botanicals.
Meanwhile, Istanbul-based bar consultants Twins Cocktail Lab introduced whisky lovers to its line-up of innovative cocktail ingredients, from a range of fruity premixes to a handy vegan foamer agent. No more than three or four drops are required to concoct a delicious, animal-free Whisky Sour.
The show offered a rich and varied programme of masterclass and practical sessions. These included a discussion on the effects of tropical ageing on whisky, a look at whisky investments, and this writer’s session on beer cask finishes. Tutored by Whisky Live Paris organiser La Maison du Whisky, the “Past, present, and future of Japanese whisky” offered Lebanese malt lovers an opportunity to get to grips with the latest developments within the Nipponic whisky scene, particularly following the announcement of the new Japanese labelling standards last year.
A series of more practical sessions covered topics such as sustainability behind the bar and chocolate and whisky. Greek brand ambassador Alexander Sourmpatis led a useful DIY three-ingredient cocktails masterclass, teaching imbibers how to craft simple classics such as the Old Fashioned, as well as riffs on the Dark ‘n’ Stormy and the Jack Rose at home. The programme climaxed with daily food and whisky pairings sessions, including a selection of Japanese and Taiwanese drams matched with beautifully crafted dishes by culinary consultant Tarek Alameddine. A rather unconventional pairing of Ichiro’s Malt & Grain World Blended Whisky with a dish of eight different varieties of citrus, Turkish chilli flakes and coffee distillate jus was the start of the show.
“Whisky Live Beirut never fails to bring magic and sparkle to our capital, and we are delighted to have been able to organise this special event despite the numerous challenges,” commented Joumana Dammous-Salamé, managing director of the event’s organiser, Hospitality Services. “The success of our fifth edition at the end of what has been another difficult year for our country is proof that the Lebanese spirit to continue moving forward will always prevail, no matter what.”
After 2022’s successful post-Covid return, Whisky Live is set to take place in Beirut again from 26–28 October 2023.
Find your local Whisky Live event at drinks-live.com/whisky-live.