The Do’s and Don’ts of Whisky Festivals
Having been to and worked at quite a few whisky festivals now, I’ve seen the length and breadth of the behaviour spectrum — from upmarket jaunts to paramedics arriving on scene. A whisky festival is a scene of merriment (it’s not apple juice), but there’s a line that can get crossed when people are trying to “get their money’s worth” towards the end.
So, to help you make the most of your festival, here’s our list of whisky festival Do’s and Don’ts.
- Pace yourself
This is to make sure you avoid the big Don’t. (Spoiler alert: Don’t get drunk.) Take your time with each whisky. Whisky is a strong drink and it’s easy to get overwhelmed early and have to leave because you’re completely out of it. Then you definitely aren’t getting the most out of the festival. Whisky is also an amazingly complex drink and needs time to be fully appreciated.
- Take notes/photos
This is a great tactic. Not only are you going to remember each whisky better but it really helps you with pacing yourself. Personally, I’m a note taker. By writing down something, anything, about the whisky at hand, you slow the drinking process down a bit. It’s fun to read (or try and decipher) what notes you made the next day too.
- Drink water
This should be obvious but is easy to forget when you’re in the moment and having a great time — until you’ve got a splitting headache and realize you haven’t had any water all day. Water is normally provided at events and for good reason. It’s important to stay hydrated as alcohol dehydrates you. Try to have a glass of water after every whisky or two.
- Use palate cleansers
Bread is good and it’s going to help your body counteract the effects of the alcohol, but any palate cleanser is going to help you clear your palate from the previous whiskies and reset before the next one. My personal favourite is dark chocolate, as it cleanses the palate of sugars and the bitterness can bring out sweeter flavours in the whiskies.
- Talk to people
People at whisky festivals are always hugely friendly, and whether it’s the producers, ambassadors, or fellow festival goers they can give you an insight into what they’re drinking, why, and what’s next. Asking people what they would recommend next is a great tactic that can unearth some fantastic whiskies. This also splits up constant drinking and keeps you paced.
- Have special whiskies early
One of the best things about these festivals is the ability to try some whiskies you normally wouldn’t be able to access. Some festivals give you tokens to spend on rare whiskies. My recommendation is to try these early while the alcohol hasn’t affected you too much yet. You don’t want to go straight to the Port Ellen though, remember to warm up with a lighter whisky or two to get your palate in gear.
- Carb up/Eat plenty
Again, this is obvious, but it’s easy to rush on the day of the festival and forget to eat breakfast and find that there’s nothing to eat at the festival. Big mistake. Normally festivals do provide some sort of meal, but a big breakfast is a must for anyone looking to have some whiskies later in the day without getting smashed.
- Have fun!
Whisky festivals are amazing places. Great whisky is flowing, friendly people are everywhere and, as long as no one is too wasted, everyone is having a great time. Enjoy yourself!
- Don’t get drunk
Really there’s only one big negative to whisky festivals. But it happens at every one. If you aren’t extremely careful, at some point, it’s going to hit you that you’ve had too many. I see it at every show, around an hour before the end, people suddenly realize that the show is going to end soon and they want more. There’s normally a big rush at this point to get a few last drams in before the end. These whiskies are not really appreciated, because most drinkers are focused on getting the stuff down their necks. When the show does end, the producers and ambassadors then have to deal with the drunken behaviour. Most of it is harmless, but it can be aggressive, rude, and even dangerous.
Bottom line. Don’t be that person. Be the person that has paced themselves and had a great time.
Have you been to a whisky festival? Had a great time or want to add any tips I’ve missed? Let us know!
My number one don’t is don’t linger in front of the table. You see those people queued up behind you? They’re waiting for you to move on. Get your drink. Ask a couple questions. MOVE ON.