Whisky Advocate

A whisky festival question for you

December 27th, 2009

I hope you are enjoying your holiday season, spending your time with good friends, family, and great whisky!

I have a question for you. WDJK enjoys a global audience, and I need a global perspective.

When I dreamed up the crazy idea of WhiskyFest back in 1998, we were not aware of anyone else doing what we did–hosting a large whisky festival for the public that featured all the world’s whiskies (Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, Japanese, etc.) and the people who make them. Not only did we want to bring all the world’s whiskies together for a unified cause (to promote whisky), but we also wanted to credit and feature the makers (master distillers, master blenders, etc.).

I know that the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was hosting some great events here in the U.S. before us, but they were–at that time–smaller and focused primarily on the Society bottlings. [I really enjoyed them, BTW.]

I could tell you many stories on how my wife and I didn’t sleep for a month before our first event in New York. We put our business on the line. If the event failed, the industry would shun us and our business would probably not survive. But I will save those stories for another time.

For now, I am hoping you can tell me if you know of any other similar independent whisky events prior to 1998 (i.e. 1,000+ attendees, with whiskies from around the world, and master distillers/master blenders pouring the whisky and hosting seminars)? Whisky festivals are a great thing. It would be nice to sell how they all evolved. As you know, they are popping up all over the world now.


18 Responses to “A whisky festival question for you”

  1. Hi John,
    I absolutely agree with you statement: Whiskyfestivals are a great thing. Since 1998 we also have a growing market for small and bigger festivals. The small have about 300 to 500 attendees and the bigger more than 3500. Whisky Live Leiden attracts more than 5500 whiskylovers.
    I also began to think it could be better and started (together with a great crew) the in Groningen. It has also grown to more than 3500 people and growing.

    The world is ready to discover the true meaning of life. Whisky is an honest product to enhance you life and make it more a pleasurious way to enjoy it. We also are changing to “knowledgable” about the beautiful stuff, instead of let us tell what’s in the glass. The general idea of having the blenders, distillers and coopers around, is to inform people in first hand. And it works…

    Have a great New Year, with a lot of organoleptic surprises!

    Kind Regards, Dennis

  2. The Whisky/Beer festival in Vancouver, Canada (known as Hopscotch) has been going for 13 years. I didn’t attend it in the early years so I can’t give you much in the way of information but there might be more on their website. They have a great selection of whiskies, beer, cigars, and seminars.


  3. John Hansell says:

    Derek, this is nice to hear. What year did it start? And what whiskies did they have? Maybe I’ll check their website.

  4. John Hansell says:

    Thanks Dennis. Happy New Year!

  5. Kevin says:

    Celtic Malts has been hosting Whiskies of the World in San Francisco since ’99… That’s the only one I know of.

  6. Di Blasi says:

    Hi John!
    Happy holidays to you and yours too!!
    The Stockholm beer and whisky festival started (established) in 1992! I attended first, as a whisky judge, in 2007, and again this past year, fantastic, unbelievable! This past year 26,000 visitors enjoyed over 2 weekends. I believe Marianne Wallberg started up on her own, and continues to do so. Check out her site…

  7. patrick says:

    1000+ attendees in 1998 dedicated only on world whisky and with master blenders?
    To my opinion, whiskyfest was the first ever event to fulfill all these conditions.

  8. John Hansell says:

    Kevin, the Celtic Malts fest in SF actually debuted in 2000.

  9. Mike Dereszynski says:

    Hi John,
    I’ve attended Eric Braun’s Whiskyship Festival in Zurich and he has been doing it for some time now.
    I believe Eric celebrated his 10th anniversary back in 2008 so that would put him in the same ballpark or harbor depending on your favorite pastime lingo.
    Now if you were talking Beer Festivals (you know that younger malt beverage that Malt Advocate use to devote more pages to.) ,then I’d direct your attention to one of the officers in my Guild that I am a proud member of: Madison Homebrewers & Tasters Guild.They have been putting on a “little” fest called The Great Taste of the Midwest since 1987.But on the Whisky Fest question,I’d also suggest you talk to some of the distillers,like Jim McEwan who work the fests.I know he is one of the big draws at Whiskyship and he might be able to give you some info.
    I will try contacting Eric if he hasnt already contacted you.
    Keep doing what you do, I know Im not alone in appreciating it.
    Mike Dereszynski

  10. Gary says:

    I’ve been to the Boston Beer Festival a few times, but never any Whiskey Festivals, other than yours John. The best of course!

  11. Luke says:

    Here in Dublin/Ireland the disgraceful absence of any conference/festival/etc continues.

    I won’t continue with this rant, I’ll leave it open to my good friend J.C. Skinner to elaborate…

  12. I would not like to say which is the longest running festival or even the best one, but I can say that I have enjoyed visiting a few this year and making many new friends throughout Europe. I plan to attend more in 2010 in Europe, North America and possibly Asia and South Africa,and maybe even yours John.
    All the best for 2010.
    Stuart Nickerson (Glenglassaugh)

  13. […] Hansell wants to know about any independent whisky festivals you’ve […]

  14. John Hansell says:

    Stuart, I hope we get to see you at a WhiskyFest in 2010. We would be honored to have you.

  15. JC Skinner says:

    Luke’s not wrong.
    Unbelievably, there is no and to my knowledge never has been a proper whiskey festival in Ireland.
    There is a recent (and highly successful) independent Irish drinks festival in Dublin’s Phoenix Park which has run the past couple of years, which Cooley attend. And that’s it.
    I’d hope that at some point in the future one of the whiskey festival organisers will look into holding an event in the land where whiskey was born. I’m sure the Irish Whiskey Society would be more than eager assistants in making something like that happen.
    But till now Irish whiskey aficionados have been forced to travel abroad to enjoy the ambience of a whisky event.
    My New Year’s wish is not to have to take a plane if I want to attend a whiskey festival next year.

  16. patrick says:

    slightly off topic,but the Whisky fest is just on 1 day for 3 hours or am I wrong? if so, why so short?

  17. Naveen says:

    Hello All

    I am a newbie to the site but always been admirer of single malts. Recently for fun and as side business i thought to take distribution-ship for a new whisky in the market. Can any one help me with ideas on

    1. how to promote a new single malt
    2. where to in liquor dens or clubs or lounges (who consume more single malts on daily basis??)

    I wish you all Happy New Year and Good Luck with your future endeavors

    Thanks in advance

  18. patrick says:

    @naveen, in which country are you based?

© Copyright 2017. Whisky Advocate. All rights reserved.