By Rupert Wheeler

Spring is in the Air

It's time to get out and about
Manic March has been and gone and what a month it was. It's always a hugely busy month here as we have the Whiskies and Spirits Conference, followed in the evening by our annual Whisky Magazine Awards dinner. On the following day, it's over to the venue to set up Whisky Live London. I acted as a moderator at the conference this year and we had some excellent speakers some of who presented without the use of reading from a script, which I have always admired. This really improves the audience attention and involvement.

The Whisky Magazine Awards evening went extremely well and Fred MacAulay (Scottish comedian and radio presenter), who acted as master of ceremonies, went down a storm, especially for those from Scotland. I was sat at a table that had guests from Northern Ireland, Finland, Germany and the UK. Despite the language barrier, we were united in our interest in whisky/whiskey and I was fortunate enough to taste one of the winning entries which happened to be on the table - what a dram and, no, I have no intention of saying what it was.

For the second year running, I was on the Whisky Magazine stand at Whisky Live London and this year I noticed a difference between the visitors on Friday and those who came on the Saturday. Difficult to explain, suffice to say Friday's visitors were more interested in the books we were selling on the stand or taking out subscriptions and less interested in the drams we had on offer, whereas Saturday's visitors were the exact opposite. I am sure that a psychologist would be able to explain this better than me, but my theory is that there are basically two different kinds of visitors. Those who come on Friday evenings are usually coming straight from work and, from what I can understand talking to many of them, are going on to do something else later in the evening. Whereas those who come on Saturdays are usually there for the entire event.

This year we tried to have as many of the award-winning whiskies as possible but as usual these proved to be extremely popular and we ran out before the end of Friday's session. This year, I included a

Whisky Magazine Treasure Island where we had an illustration of an imaginary island divided into numbered squares where I had 'buried' 12 bottles of very good whiskies. The idea was very simple. Identify any of the squares where a whisky was 'buried' and win a great bottle of whisky. Despite it starting slowly, this proved a huge success and what was very noticeable was that all the winners immediately Googled to see how much their whisky was worth!

The event also gave me the opportunity to present to Neil Ridley an engraved decanter containing his Battle of the Blends winning blend. I was also able to introduce George Keeble (Manager at the Soho Whisky Club) who is our new contender. Both will be reporting on how their blend is doing in the next Issue of the magazine which publishes in the UK on 3 June.

I have kept back two engraved decanters of the winning blend and I am giving these away. All you have to do is contact me at editor@whiskymag.com and it will be the first two 'out of the hat' that win.

For legal reasons this is only open to readers in the UK. Apologies to the rest of the world.

With manic March out of the way I am planning to do some distillery visits, and due to a family commitment I will be up on Orkney in June. I always enjoy going back to Orkney and although I visited Highland Park Distillery in 2014, I will be revisiting them as well as making a first visit to Scapa Distillery, which last year opened its brand new visitor centre.

My major gripe - and I only have one - well I have two, (the weather) and the cost of actually getting there. I have investigated all sorts of ways but have ended up going with the most convenient which is flying from Norwich to Edinburgh and then on to Kirkwall. I contemplated taking the train from Edinburgh but it involved changing twice and taking about nine hours. Good grief. By road it is 263 miles and would only take about five hours.

For the cost of the airfare, I have just found out I could get a return flight to New York. What a surprise!