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.

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10 Scotch Whisky Distilleries I’m Intrigued By

Look who’s back! After a multi-month hiatus due to general business/ potential laziness, The Whisky Mafia has risen from the ashes and is born anew. When last we left off, I presented you all with My 10 Favourite Scotch Whisky Distilleries, a post that spawned much heated and furious debate. Today, I’ll be taking a more relaxed and meandering approach to whisky-related list making, and take a run through 10 of the Scotch whisky distilleries I’m currently intrigued by. Without further preamble, I present you, dear readers, with my list (presented in no particular order, and grouped by category):

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My 10 Favourite Scotch Whisky Distilleries

Anyone who is obsessive and geeky by nature will begin compiling lists at one point or another in his or her life. Since my early teenage years I’ve made lists of favourite basketball players, video games, movies (often broken down by genre or decade), superheroes, bands, wrestlers… you name it and I’ve agonizingly and meticulously considered it. Whisky list making is the obvious and natural progression of this tendency (and indeed I’ve already given you lists of my favourite Beginner Whiskies and Canadian Whiskies), so today I present you, dear readers, with a list of My 10 Favourite Scotch Whisky Distilleries. This list is by no means set in stone, and is instead a living, breathing, organic, and ever-fluctuating compilation of some of the whisky distilleries that have touched me the most at this point in my life. Also bear in mind that the distilleries presented here are merely my personal favourites, and your tastes will invariably vary from mine (“Just an opinion, not a fact!” as our malt mate Ralfy would say).

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Do Scotch Whisky Regions Still Matter?

Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Islay & (sometimes) Islands. For better or worse, these are the regions that comprise the present landscape that is Scotch whisky. There has been some measure of debate over the years as to the merits of this somewhat loose codification of the whisky regions in Scotland, and I’m here today to throw my two Canadian cents in. Continue reading “Do Scotch Whisky Regions Still Matter?”