Matt and I both attended our first whisky festival at the end of March and despite a bit of difficulty getting to and into the venue, we had a great time and can’t wait for our next one!
I had put this event in the SWWIG diary, but owing to a new job and a few other things going on, I hadn’t really thought I would be able to attend. Luckily, just over a week before, Matt saw the event reminder and contacted me to see if I was still interested. A few days later we had the tickets and hotel sorted and were finalising the plan to get there. The plan was simple – we would drive up Saturday morning, get the bus down from the hotel, enjoy the day in Stourbridge and spend the night in the local travel lodge. Nice and easy – sample the whisky until 4:30pm, then at closing time, walk the 2 miles to the hotel (burning off the remaining alcohol), then have dinner nearby and be in bed nice and early ready to drive back fresh the next day.
Unfortunately we didn’t realise how friendly everyone is at these events, so our best laid plans were soon ‘ruined’
Setting off for Stourbridge from Cardiff was about 2.5 hours – though we soon realised most of this time would be off the M5 in the 11 miles getting through the town due to the crazy roadworks combined with the one way system. Luckily the whisky gods were on our side and within 5 minutes of dropping the car off at Kingswinford, we were on a bus back into Stourbridge town centre. In the end, we somehow arrived only 25 minutes after our tickets let us in – but then hit the next queue of the day, waiting for the extra bags to arrive so we could get in. Not the end of the world, but when you’ve spent so much time and effort getting there, it was a little frustrating to be stopped at the last mile.
Inside the Festival
We got in, had a quick look around for a place to drop the coats (only to find it was the same spot where we just got the glasses) and soon we were back in ready to start sampling!
We tried to keep track of the list, but this is 90% of what we tried.
- Compass Box Peat Monster
- Old Pulteney Navigator
- Bunnahabhain 24 Year Old 1987 – The Octave
- Four roses x3
- Tomintoul 16 Year Old
- Bruichladdich Islay Barley
- Bruichladdich Laddie Classic
- Ardbeg Corryvreckan
- Ardbeg Uigeadail
- Yellow Spot 12 Year Old
- Glenfarclas 31 dream dram
- Glenfarclas 105
- Teeling Small Batch
- Elijah Craig
- Johnny Drum Private Stock
- Nikka Coffey Grain
- El Dorado Rum 8 Year Old
- El Dorado Rum 12 Year Old
- El Dorado Rum 15 Year Old
- Old Malt Cask Bowmore 15 Year Old
- Caol Ila 12 Year Old
- Clynelish 14 Year Old
- Laphroaig 18 Year Old
The highlights for me was the Timontoul 16yo, the Teeling, all the Ardbeg’s and finally the Four Roses bourbon – all of which I have plans to acquire soon. I was a little gutted to find that Hunter Laing had a classic Glenfarclas (the current favourite of mine) which is where my Dream Dram token should have gone, but at least I know better for next time.
Into the Evening…
Anyway, 4:30pm came and went and we were still chatting with a few people, and by then we ended up seeing a Kiwi guy we met at the Ardbeg stall earlier – who invited us to a drink with his mates. ‘Well, it would be rude not to’ I thought to myself – perhaps a quick half to let my head settle and then start the walk back.
So by 11pm we were finally making our way back to the hotel having experienced some excellent events including hearing the Kiwi bloke’s awesome life story (his opening line to his wife was, ‘I thinking of going to America, do you want to join me’), going for a curry in the Midlands (when in Rome) and finally getting ripped off by the taxi on the way home (but we had such a great time, we really didn’t care).
If this is what whisky festival’ are like, it’s definitely something I’m going to look at attending regularly. Despite a little hiccup getting into the festival, the overall event was exceedingly well run, not too busy and offered a good selection of whisky. Above all, it is attended by some great people from all whisky backgrounds all discovering their next dram together. I can’t wait for the next Midlands Whisky festival, but next time, I’ll look at getting there a little earlier, maybe attending some of the master classes and finally stick to the plan of stopping the alcohol consumption after the event – though I can’t count on the latter!