Category Archives: Concepts & Opinions

4 Whisky Festival Survival Techniques

You are not a dedicated whisky enthusiast until you have attended a whisky festival. But the many spirited temptations may lead you into an abyss of sensory deprivation, undignified intoxication and starvation. One way to avoid this is moderation. Another is to use our 4 whisky festival survival techniques.

  1. The thinking bourbon
  2. Stints & Meals
  3. Line-ups
  4. Raids

1. The thinking bourbon

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Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon at Whiskymessen 2013

Despite the efforts of even the most skilled organizers, whisky festivals are highly disorganised events. Hundreds of whiskies on offer from brands and retailers each offering a variety of quality and whisky styles. As the day progresses the festival infrastructure is strained as the collective intoxication increases and food reserves are depleted.

The thinking bourbon is the first drink of the day. It is the most interesting or expensive bourbon of the festival ordered straight on arrival, and something to enjoy while getting situated at the festival, locating interesting whiskies, scouting food stands and the general situation. You want a bourbon for this not because it is easier to think while drinking bourbon rather than whisky, but simply because bourbon will rarely be able to compete with the strong, old and peated single malts you will be spending the rest of the day with. Might as well get the best out of the bourbon selection while you can.

We cannot take full credit for the concept of the thinking bourbon. It has been introduced to us by Peter Votava of the Berlin-based doom metal & whisky tasting concept Taste The Doom, which we interviewed some time ago.

2. Stints & Meals

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Resting the taste buds in the middle of Whiskymessen 2012

The main components of your day at a whisky festival should be stints and meals. A stint consists of a number of whiskies no greater than 10. Either in the form of a pre-planned line-up (third technique) or a brand raid (fourth technique). Stints are clearly divided by a meal, which includes a cup of coffee to keep you on the toes and help neutralize your tasting organs.

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Queue in front of a sold-out hotdog stand at Whiskymessen 2012

If you have not had the thinking bourbon (as described above), chances are you have not assessed the food situation correctly. This means you easily risk facing the danger of starvation. Here you will either have to wait in long queues, wasting valuable tasting time, or you risk drinking on an empty stomach and scorching your taste buds because of an un-neutralized tongue and palate.

3. Line-ups

Making a sensible line-up of different whiskies is a well known activity for any experienced whisky drinker. Start gently and somehow balance between old whiskies, peated whiskies and unpeated cask strength whiskies to end up in the glorious climax of old peated cask strength whiskies. Common sense suggests a good line-up consists of 7-10 whiskies of increasing spirit and peating levels.

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Hitting it hard at Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011

While this challenge can be hard enough when spending money in a whisky bar or joining whisky collections with your mates in a private setting, it is made all the more hard by the disorganized nature and vast selection available at a whisky festival.

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Martin feeling the burn at Mac Y Rum & Whisky Festival 2011

Having seen a festival program before attending is a good way to point out what you want to taste. However, on the actual festival site the most important question becomes where you want to taste. All this is sorted out by using the techniques above:

Getting situated by the use of the thinking bourbon is essential, as your sense of space and direction will get challenged during the day.
By dividing into stints and meals you should be planning the line-up of your forthcoming stint as the main conversation subject during the meal.

4. Raids

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Raiding Glendronach at Whiskymessen 2011

A great alternative to line-ups are to do a raid. This means choosing the stand of an interesting distillery or bottler and picking out 6-8 of their whiskies under the informed guidance of a brand representative. This gets some fast rough insight into their selection and should always be considered when planning a stint.

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Danny more or less coping with the antics at a master class at Whiskymessen 2011

Raids are also a good alternative to a festival master class, where an official brand representative tries to impress a room of predominantly old tired festival drunks, which potentially results in a slow pace and the lowest common denominator often setting the standard for the humor and anecdotes.

While some master classes offer tasting of exclusive whiskies not available on the regular festival stands, it is always useful to weigh your options by considering a raid given the time and energy spent with a festival master class.

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Excellent Mackmyra raid at Whiskymessen 2013. Read about it here.

When doing a raid it is important to step away from the stand in between the whiskies you are trying. It is not only courteous to give space to the thirsty people behind you, but also very useful as you will avoid the pushing, shoving and increasingly distracting sweat stench in front of the more popular stands.

Moderation?

We generally recommend avoiding moderation as much as possible. This includes: Not drinking a whisky you are merely curious about. Spitting perfectly drinkable whisky out to save yourself for later, thus missing out on the aftertaste or throat burn. Watering a whisky down by more than a single drop per centiliter. Wasting time writing useless tasting notes about each and every whisky.

If you are of normal fitness and follow the techniques above, you will find that moderation is not needed to sustain a full day of whisky festival activity.

Danish whisky festivals

We have developed these techniques by attending numerous editions of the two annual Danish whisky festivals on the Jutland peninsula. Namely Mac Y Rom og Whisky Festival and Whiskymessen. You can find our comparison of the two festivals here.

Later this month the 2014 edition of Whiskymessen is taking place and once again we will be there, avoiding moderation and worshipping the dram.

d & m / Whisser – A Danish whisky blog

Black Metal Blend

What to do with boring near-empty whiskies? How to hit the right mood for a black metal concert? This guide answers both.

Boring near-empty whiskies are a common problem in any sensible whisky collection. A near-empty bottle loses taste fast, so either you have to geek out and pour the whisky into a smaller bottle, or you have to drink it. If the whisky has started boring you since the opening neither of these seem worth the effort.

The right mood for a black metal concert comes easy for some and not at all for others. But even the first group of people may still need some aid: The band does not play up to expectations. Local support acts strain your patience with mediocrity. The venue is poorly suited for the action. In all instances; the right kind of intoxication helps. However, due to the unpredictability of most concert schedules, getting warmed-up at home is a balance act between arriving late and arriving sober to the support acts. And most venues only offer bland lager and generic booze. This will not help to set the mood for grim Nordic darkness.

To solve both problems you will need something like this:

Black Metal Blend
GlenDronach 12, Talisker 10, Finlaggan Original Peaty, Big Peat, Hip flask

Getting the size of the hip flask right is important. Bringing a flask is frowned upon by most venues, so it has to be concealable. Secondly you need to figure out how many acquaintances you are likely to pass the flask around to at the venue, and if any of them are bringing their own flask to pass around. Missing this last bit of info is a common reason for downfall.

There is something about peated smokey whisky that fits black metal. Maybe it is because peat has a brooding Nordic character to it. Maybe the smoke is bit like standing next to a burning church. There is a lot of peated whisky around for small money these days – it seems that you cannot pass your local street corner without someone throwing peat at you and not asking for more than a couple of dimes – hence; it is easy to end up with too many strange bottlings and blends of Islay malts (Finlaggan, The Ileach, Smokey Joe, Islay Storm, Black Bottle, Auld Reekie, Smokehead, Big Peat, Islay Mist,..). It is recommended to fill 3/4 of the flask with your boring near-empty peated whiskies.

Cutting yourself to add blood will probably set the mood, but it is not recommended because it will dilute the blend, and most likely make you too dizzy to withstand the blast beats. Instead we recommend filling 1/4 of the flask with boring sherry/wine cask finished whisky. This will give the blend a fitting soft bloody edge, but will also very likely improve the one dimensional character of the whiskies in the blend. Cask finishes is another type of whisky undergoing inflation right now, which means the truly priceless gems (like Bruichladdich Black Art 2) are well hidden beneath heaps of intriguing whiskies that quickly lose appeal. These boring specimens pile up, and are put to better use in a blend than open on the shelf.

Ok, now shake it, enter the venue, drink when you need to – and you are ready to join the fun.

Taake
Taake

d & m

Why?

So we have started a whisky blog. Why?

1.

Most whisky blogs are unbearably bad. Littered with irrelevant tasting notes and dishonest rating systems, which somehow end up rating all whiskies pretty good out of 100. The fact is that the experience of whisky is hugely affected by all the stuff not in the bottles: The story behind the specific bottles. The context it is being ingested in. This is what we want to write about.


Bruichladdich, April 2009

2.

We have decided that whisky is not an interest, escape or a pile of collectables. It is a passion and a life style. We want to expunge whisky from its traditional comfort zone and bring it into inspiring social contexts and the center of fulfilling adventures. We will strive to make these efforts a good read. Thus we want to show that worshipping the dram is not reserved for old red nosed drunks with a tasting journal ready at hand.


MacY Festival 2011

3.

Perks.

d & m