WhiskyFest is a whisky lover’s paradise, offering hundreds of whiskies from distilleries across every major whisky-producing country. But the sheer abundance of great whisky can present any whisky lover with an almost bamboozling array of choices. Where do I start? Should I eat or taste first? How do I know which whiskies are the best?
There’s a lot going on, but a little advance planning can save time and ensure that you get more than your money’s worth of incredible whisky and great experiences.
Follow These 11 Tips to Have an Incredible WhiskyFest Experience
Map Out Your Can’t-Miss Drams
There are hundreds of whiskies available at WhiskyFest, and you’re bound to discover a few “dream drams” that you don’t want to miss. Consult the WhiskyFest website—or download the app, available a few weeks before each event—ahead of time to see the full pour list, including both VIP and general admission offerings.
VIP pours, which include many of the rarest and oldest whiskies, are limited. If you have your heart set on one particular dram, make that table your first stop to ensure you get a taste—even if it’s a whisky you’d normally only drink at the end of the night, like something heavily peated.
Choose A Focus Area (And Forget FOMO)
You can’t try everything at WhiskyFest—there’s just too much (and please, don’t take that as a challenge!). It helps to have a plan of attack that allows you to focus on a certain type of whisky and do a bit of comparative tasting
Begin with a list of a dozen or so. For instance, you might target single styles—single malt scotch, bourbon and rye, or craft whiskeys. You could fill in holes in your experience, like well-known whiskies that you haven’t had the chance to taste before, or whiskies you are thinking about buying and want to sample first. Or maybe you want to make it a full night of limited-edition and single barrel selections, or even spend your time exploring whiskies you’ve never heard of before. It’s up to you.
By going in a particular direction, you’re far more likely to enjoy the thrill of discovering a bunch of whiskies you’ve never had before and might not have tried otherwise.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
While planning is useful, be open to going where the night takes you. If something catches your eye, try it! Don’t know much about Canadian whisky or craft whiskey? Curious about Cognac, or Spanish brandy, or Venezuelan rum? (Yes, WhiskyFest offers a few non-whisky spirits too.) It’s not much of a commitment to try a quick pour, so why not? Even if you’re primarily focusing on one type of whisky, a brief change-up can refresh your palate and lead you down a new road of discovery.
Give a Gold Star
Have you found a new whisky you really, really like? If you don’t write it down, you may very well forget what it was by the morning. Your WhiskyFest program lists all the whiskies being poured at the event, as does the app. Put a star next to your favorites as you taste them so you’ll remember the next day. Or snap a photo of the bottle with your phone, which also helps the next time you’re scanning the shelves of your favorite retailer looking for it.
Waste Some Whisky
Here’s a truly critical tip for getting the most out of WhiskyFest: Don’t finish every glass…even of whiskies you like. Pounding pour after pour of high-proof spirits can burn out your palate pretty quickly—not to mention make you very intoxicated. Take a few sips, then pour out the rest into one of the dump buckets on each table. (Some of us even spit our whiskies like we do with wine.)
Of course, if pouring out a whisky would make you cringe—it’s that good, that old, that special—don’t hesitate to finish it. Just be sure to exercise moderation overall.
Eat Early, Eat Often
This one’s simple: Make sure you eat throughout the evening. Everyone knows the perils of drinking on an empty stomach. Have a snack beforehand, and enjoy the gourmet buffet. Grab food early, not just to avoid the rush later on, but to help buffer all the whisky you’re about to drink. And don’t hesitate to come back later for a second course or for dessert.
Drink Water, Then Drink Some More Water
Whisky should not be the only thing you’re drinking at WhiskyFest. There are water stations throughout the venue, and pitchers of water at every table. Drink water regularly and in quantity. Drink more than you think you need to. Keep drinking water throughout the evening. You’ll thank us in the morning.
Bring a Friend
Drinking is a social activity, and WhiskyFest is more fun with a friend—someone to compare notes with, challenge your tastes, turn you on to new bottles, and teach about your own favorites. You may find you’re more thoughtful about the whiskies you’re trying if you can bounce ideas and thoughts off a buddy.
WhiskyFest isn’t just about trying lots of whiskies; it’s a chance to meet and connect with fellow whisky lovers. If you’re enjoying a particular whisky and notice that someone else is too, talk to them about it. Find out what they like about the dram, and what other great whiskies they’ve tried. Feel free to approach our editors on the floor too. They’re always willing to share an inside tip.
And if the producer table isn’t too busy, don’t be shy about chatting with the people who are pouring your whisky. They know a lot about what they’re pouring, and some of them even made that whisky themselves. Got a question? They’re likely to have the answer.
Sit In On A Seminar
WhiskyFest seminars are one of the best ways to discover new whiskies, learn more about them, and try drams that aren’t being poured on the floor. Read our top 5 reasons to attend a seminar—and check the app and event program to figure out which one is right for you.
Know How You’re Getting Home
Before the night starts, determine how you’re going to get home from WhiskyFest. If you’re staying in the event hotel, that’s an easy one—just head upstairs. But otherwise, have a plan, whether it’s to take an Uber or a cab, ride public transport, or have a designated driver take you home. Don’t even think, under any circumstances, about driving yourself home after sipping whiskies for three hours. And if you forget to plan ahead, ask the WhiskyFest staff for help. We want everyone to get home safe.
Are you excited to implement these strategies at WhiskyFest? Buy your tickets now! And if you have your own preferred strategy for making the most of WhiskyFest, let us know in the comments.