Awards & Events

Whiskies galore

Heaven is wall to wall Scotches, bourbons and malts for the taking. Stuart Maclean Ramsay had a hard time coping.
By Stuart MacLean Ramsay
It was a pleasant if somewhat overwhelming quandary for a whisky drinker to be in. Around 250 single malt Scotches, top class bourbons and other exemplary spirits to nose and sample; 10 whisk(e)y legends and pioneers to listen to and learn from; and a plethora of whisk(e)y makers and distillery managers to chat with about their creations. All of this, plus food and live ceilidh music, to be cherished and absorbed in the space of five hours.Such was the experience enjoyed by more than 1,000 whisky aficionados at the inaugural Whiskies of the World Expo, held in San Francisco in March this year. What was particularly enjoyable about the event was the opportunity not just to sample an incredible array of rare spirits in a relatively uncrowded atmosphere, but to be able to talk at length with the men who created them. The whiskey producers of the American South were there in force, represented by such spiritual heroes (in alphabetical order) as Parker Beam of Heaven Hill, Jimmy Bedford of Jack Daniel’s, Lincoln Henderson of Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve, Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey, and Bill Samuels Jr of Maker’s Mark. The Scottish contingent, in splendid shades of tartan, included Neil Macdonald of Aberlour, Andrew Currie of the Isle of Arran, Iain Henderson of Laphroaig, Frank McHardy of Springbank, and Richard Paterson of Dalmore. From Ireland, David Quinn of Bushmills and John Teeling of the Cooley Distillery offered Celtic samples.It was a pleasure, too, to taste the bottlings from many of the single malt Scotch independent bottlers at the Expo, and to visit with Californian pioneers on their home ground. Fritz Maytag of Anchor Distilling was there, serving his Old Potrero Single Malt Rye alongside Hubert Germain-Robain and his portfolio of superb Germain Robain brandies. Riannon Walsh, the red-headed spitfire who founded and coordinates the Whiskies of the World Expos, explains the philosophy behind them,”The goal is to provide a highly educational evening that will enrich the connoisseur’s knowledge base and also stimulate the novice spirits enthusiast to continue his or her exploration of the world of distillation and distilled spirits. Distilled spirits of the quality represented at this event are produced through craft, artistry and perhaps a touch of magic. The passion of the distillers is passed on to the spirit and is part of what comes through in every dram. The opportunity to meet and learn directly from those who nurture the unique characteristics of these spirits is priceless. This is what we endeavour to offer at a Whiskies of the World Expo.”I asked Riannon what her plans were for the Expos in 2001. “We anticipate some interesting whiskies that weren’t able to exhibit in March, of course many of the companies that were with us in the first Expo will be coming with new bottlings and launches of ‘first time in the US’ whiskies. In San Francisco and Chicago next year we will have the Speaker’s Forum again, and in addition there will be exciting and provocative panel topics moderated by strong-willed whisky experts .”The dates and locations for Riannon’s Whiskies of the World Expos in 2001 are: Saturday, 24 March, 2001; 5pm - 10pm The Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street @ O’Farrell, San Francisco, CA. Saturday, 20 October, 2001; 5pm - 10 pm Westin River North Hotel, 320 North Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL. For more information about the Expos and ticket ordering, call their toll-free number in the US: 1-888-748-2400, or visit their website at: www.celticmalts.com; a 10 per cent discount on ticket prices is available if bought before
31 August .