Once More Unto The Breach | Blog # 115

Welcome to 2016 and the start of another amazing year of whisky experiences. I hope everyone had a refreshing time over Christmas with family and friends.

Time to get back at it and every New Year for me really starts with what is now known as Whisky Week. 3 whisky festivals in Alberta followed by 2 more in British Columbia.

So first as ways it’s the trek to Red Deer for a great little festival that is part and parcel of the support for the MS society as are all the 3 Alberta festivals this week. At the Red Deer Golf and Country club and in only it’s second year it has to be the best opportunity for anyone to really delve into the whiskies presented and be able to have valuable one on one time with all the vendors present. With only around 100 people attending it really is a relaxed atmosphere. I really enjoy the opportunity to chat with attendees and talk the nitty gritty of various whiskies. Even if you are in Calgary, Edmonton or surrounding areas I would encourage you to come along to Red Deer as an educational alternative.

“This year I’m just going to condense my experiences into one blog for the festivals that we covered last year. I will however slot in a unique blog about a brand new Vancouver festival that is just launching this year.”

This year for the first time we showcased the Angels Share Glassware with all profits donated to the MS Society as part of the fundraising effort. It was great to see some people grabbing a hand blown water dropper or whisky glass lids and helping such a great cause. One lucky winner also won a table full of assorted whiskies a fantastic way to start or extend a good whisky collection.

The weather was kind as I headed North to Edmonton for one of the busiest festivals of the year. With bright shiny Lexus vehicles dotting the room and Scottish Dancers and pipers in attendance the Edmonton festival has a uniquely upbeat atmosphere. Plying the seasoned and new whisky drinkers alike with delicious drams is a privilege that I relish and this week really gets me excited about the year to come.

This year I had 3 whiskies from the 2nd Edition Calendar, Wemyss Dark Treacle Fondant Craigellachie – Blog #…, Samaroli Miltonduff (Red Deer and Edmonton) and Samaroli Benriach (Calgary) and the Malt Whisky Company Portsoy (Glenglassaugh) Sauterne. Accompanying these single cask options was the launch of the Single Cask Nation Independent Bottling club into Canada. On show in Red Deer was the Cooley 13 year old Irish Single Malt and added for Edmonton and Calgary was the Tobermory heavily peated 10. You can read more about Single Cask Nation here and if you get in quick you can take advantage of a great deal to join as one of the first in Canada to gain access to their amazing whiskies. A.D. Rattray was represented with the ever popular Stronachie 10 and Cask Islay. Our Canadian option was none other than the Canadian Whisky Awards best new whisky of 2015 Stalk and Barrel Rye and rounding out the ample display was probably the most popular choice for tasting amongst festival goers, the Hyde 10 Year Old Sherry finished Single Malt.

“At the newly renamed Arts Commons on Stephen Avenue downtown the Calgary festival is a unique space to enjoy a vast array of excellent whisky.”

Looking to the skies with a touch of trepidation as the snow lightly fell at the conclusion of the Edmonton festival I awoke to find a clear morning for the drive back South to Calgary.

Boasting the oldest whisky to be poured at any festival (50 year old North British Single Grain) this year was again a treat for any whisky enthusiast at the longest running festival of the 3. Attending festivals like these can expand your whisky palate immensely. More than worth the cost of admission it a chance to try the unique and rare, single casks and special editions that would normally cost a small fortune to try.

Packing up 4 cases of various whisky paraphernalia in the morning after Calgary was done and dusted for another year it was time to make the annual pilgrimage to Victoria. I love this festival and have only missed 2 since its inception.

Not participating in the masterclasses this time around left me some time to catch up with the many whisky characters that flock to Victoria every year. It is very tough to get tickets and those outside the province have to bundle a hotel room to even get a look in. November is when it all happens so if you plan on coming along be prepared to have your finger on the button the day the tickets are released. I love the opportunity to catch up with so many great people that share my passion.

Fabulous to have Dave Broom at the festival this year signing his Whisky Atlas and enjoying the amazing array of whiskies on offer. Dave is a great guy and very unassuming, perpetually bright eyed and in awe of this amazing drink that we love I found him to be a kindred spirit. Thanks for sharing this year’s festival with us Dave.

With the array of whiskies on offer the Secret Spirits table was extremely busy during the Saturday evening main event. With our British Columbia import license finally secured it will not be long before our whiskies hit the private store shelves.

Once again Lawrence, Iain and the team did an incredible job. All good things must come to an end and the pod of orca’s cruising alongside the ferry on the way back to the mainland was a fitting farewell to Victoria for another year.

Next week I will post a detailed report on the first annual Vancouver Whisky Festival.

Until then if you didn’t get a chance to get along to any of the above 4 festivals this year then make it a must for 2017.


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