The Victoria Whisky Festival Is Decadent And Delicious

The 2019 Victoria Whisky Festival marked my fifth consecutive year embraced within the warming confines of the Hotel Grand Pacific in beautiful downtown Victoria, British Columbia to mark Western Canada’s premier annual whisky extravaganza. Year one saw me sent on a work assignment to attend a Compass Box Blending Masterclass hosted by none other than Compass Box head honcho John Glaser. Year two I worked a table dispensing Scotch Malt Whisky Society drams and lowdown at the always lively and raucous Consumer Tasting. Year three I oversaw the formation of the first ever Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants Whisky Pop-up Shop at the event (a decidedly Herculean multi-month task that also coincided with the planning of my wedding). Year four, my first attending the VWF as merely an independent whisky journalist, was well documented on this very blog.

Year five, absent from work obligations or any of the silly drama and bureaucratic shenanigans of last year’s infamous raids, was perhaps the first time I’ve ever felt truly relaxed and undistracted at the Festival. At last able to focus on the simple joys of tasting and discussing a broad variety of world class whiskies from home and abroad with friends, associates, and whisky celebrities alike, my appreciation for the Victoria Whisky Festival reached new heights in 2019.

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Ticket For Guaranteed Fun

Choosing to attend only one day of the four day Festival, Mrs. Whiskymafia and I decided to maximize our brief attendance window with a Masterclass each during the day, followed by the Consumer Tasting in the evening. With my good lady wife attending a reportedly excellent Nikka Masterclass in a suite upstairs, I began my day at the festival perusing the wares at what should in all honestly be named the Pat Dunlop Memorial Strath Whisky Pop-Up Shop in the hotel lobby. I must say I was in awe of the breadth of the selection, with several fascinating new releases of both independent and official bottlings on display. Taking some time to chat with the friendly and helpful sales staff (one of whom was my dear friend Emily, current co-host of the Victoria’s monthly SMWS Outturns), I awaited both the return of my wife, and the start of an Ardbeg Masterclass I was set to attend downstairs. Several friends and well-wishers stopped by to say hello, including Shelter Point Distillery distiller Leon Webb, fresh off a stunning seven medal win at the 2019 Canadian Whisky Awards.

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Ardbeg’s Bryan Simpson

After trading notes with my suitably glowing spouse, I made my way to the downstairs Courtyard Room of the hotel, and was once again flanked by more friendly and familiar faces than I could shake a stick at. The Ardbeg Masterclass commenced at once, and was ably hosted by Bry Simpson (filling in for the absent Ruaraidh MacIntyre), an Ardbeg brand ambassador hailing from Scotland and now based in Toronto. A true whisky nerd first and foremost, Bry’s candor, self deprecating humour, and obviously genuine passion for whisky was an enormous breath of fresh of air from the standard issue Brand Ambassador claptrap. The lineup of whiskies was similarly refreshing, with some interesting additions to the stable led by the (comparatively) light and easy An Oa, and closed out by the absolutely staggering Twenty Something – 22 Year Old, a whisky experience so delightful I genuinely couldn’t shake the smile it put on my face for the remainder of the day.

After reconvening with Mrs. Whiskymafia, and later a pair of trusty malt mates Tyler and the aforementioned Emily for a delicious and fortifying meal of cheeseburgers and fries, we headed headlong into the fray of the Consumer Tasting. Two ballrooms packed with nearly two hundred whiskies to sample to your heart’s content for three hours. Things get decidedly blurry at this point, so I’ll conclude with a few quick notes:

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Future Glen Grant Global Ambassador Emily DeKorte
  • We were joined in our Consumer Tasting travels by my fellow Union Club bartender Kayla, a relative whisky novice. Undaunted by her lack of experience, she charged in with admirable enthusiasm and fervor, sampling a wide swath of whiskies from the four corners of the globe, and finding some real gems that spoke to her along the way. Truly a heartwarming spectacle.
  • Whisky celebrities on hand included Whiskycast’s Mark Gillespie, Canadian whisky titans Davin De Kergommeaux and Dr. Don Livermore, Westland’s co-founder and master distiller (and my doppelgangerMatt Hofmann, and even lamentable internet sensation foodquig AKA the guy who’s wife left him in the middle of a YouTube review of Laproaig 10.
  • Some top whisky sample highlights included the new GlenAllachie 25 Year, the Canadian Whisky Awards Gold Medal and Award of Excellence for Innovation winning Shelter Point Montfort DL 141, and a few drams bestowed by the Whisky Fairy (and definitely not poured or provided by any reps or ambassadors) a 1983 Old Pulteney and a 1992 Single Cask Sherry Puncheon Balvenie.

5 Things TheWhiskyMafia Has Been Up To

Yes, once again it’s been a long while my whisky friends. I managed to skip all of autumn and the first chunk of winter with nary a post to satiate you, my rabid and devoted thewhiskymafia.com readers. In order to get you, and myself, back up to speed, I felt it would be wise to grant you a slew of mini-updates regarding my whereabouts as well as some general musings from the past several months.

Continue reading “5 Things TheWhiskyMafia Has Been Up To”

Victoria Whisky Festival 2018!

I wanted to leave myself a little breathing room between the events of last weekend’s Victoria Whisky Festival and any musings on the subject. This was my fourth year attending the annual festival (which is now in it’s thirteenth year), but my first attending strictly as a guest and private citizen. Prior to 2018, my attendance at the festival was in a professional capacity, my previous job at The Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants (a long time sponsor of the for-charity festival), had been the driving force that brought me there. The previous two years in particular were a great deal of hard work, running a Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting table in 2016, and an ambitious three day pop-up whisky shop in 2017. It was therefore with enormous anticipation that my wife and I awaited this year’s festivities, as we’d finally be set loose to experience all of the sights, sounds, smells and flavours that #VWF2018 would have to offer. Continue reading “Victoria Whisky Festival 2018!”

Ask The Experts! – Whisky Clubs

I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of a private whisky club. I am a proud Scotch Malt Whisky Society member, I’ve attended tastings hosted by the Companions Of The Quaich, and private events like the Ypenburg Whisky Festival, but have never claimed official membership amongst any particular intimate collective of whisky compatriots. My lack of extended, hands on experience with such clubs only intensifies my desire to learn more, and to perhaps fly my own flag as leader of a merry band of malt mates some day. Continue reading “Ask The Experts! – Whisky Clubs”

Return to Canada! SMWS & More!

Apologies for my extended absence, whisky friends, but I’ve been profoundly busy since my rather abrupt return to Canada last month. Between sorting out the business of housing, jobs, acquiring furniture and so forth it’s been a bit of an uphill battle to make room for whisky, let alone writing about whisky, but I did want to utilize this Thanksgiving long weekend (for myself and my fellow Canadian friends at least) for a brief reflection on some of my more recent exciting adventures. Continue reading “Return to Canada! SMWS & More!”

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Netherlands

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will always hold a special place in my heart. Those of you who know me well will already be aware that my most recent place of employment, The Strath Ale Wine & Spirit Merchants in Victoria, British Columbia, was a retail partner shop for the SMWS in Canada, and for all intents and purposes I was the face of that partnership (along with the lovely faces of SMWS Canada founders Kelly and Rob Carpenter). With the help of my trusty sidekick, Mr. Adam Bradshaw (who has since taken up my old mantle of Whisky Specialist at The Strath), I organized and hosted monthly, and eventually twice-monthly tastings for around 50 eager SMWS members and guests. Naturally, when my wife and I spotted a chance to attend an SMWS Outturn here in the Netherlands (as the invited guests of SMWS Benelux Ambassador Hans Offringa no less) we jumped at the opportunity. Continue reading “Scotch Malt Whisky Society Netherlands”

Dram Good Netherlands – Scotch Whisky Samples!

As I concluded in my post documenting the happy experience I had while attending the Ypenburg Whisky Festival, one of the true joys of convening with other whisky people is the immediate sense of community the environment creates. One of the many connections I was able to make through this event was to a gentleman who has a small sideline in purveying 30ml sample bottles of the whiskies in his collection for a nominal fee (mostly to cover costs so he can then procure more whiskies). This is not at all uncommon practice in the whisky world, and national shipping laws permitting, many enthusiasts have taken to trading samples in order to spread the love and knowledge of whisky with friends and strangers alike (there’s even a /r/scotchswap subreddit for such transactions). Continue reading “Dram Good Netherlands – Scotch Whisky Samples!”