In March this year I attended Whisky Birmingham 2016 with a group of friends. This is an annual event run by The Birmingham Whisky Club which is open for anyone to attend though they do also run a membership scheme for those wanting something extra.
The Birmingham Whisky Club have their own blog here on WordPress which I would highly recommend following: The Birmingham Whisky Club
Located in The Bond Company in Birmingham (UK) – a “unique complex of expertly renovated buildings which combine historic Victorian architecture with high-quality modern facilities.” (The Bond Company).
The location was certainly impressive. Cobbled courtyards hosting food vendors leading to what were indeed expertly renovated Victorian era buildings with just the right mix of old and new. Two main rooms contained exhibitor stands while small side rooms were used to host masterclasses.
General Tickets came in at £35 + booking fee and provided:
- Entry into the festival halls between 12 – 5
- Festival glass to take away at the end
- One ‘Dream Dram’ token
- The chance to try every dram on offer – no extra cost for the whisky
Masterclasses ranged in price starting at just £5 + booking fee for the Beginners Masterclass.
First Masterclass – Beginners Guide to Whisky:
A bargain at only £5 + booking fee this first Masterclass was to really set the mood for the rest of the day. The class was run by Jess from The Wellington:
This Beginners Masterclass was very different to last years. It was more of a down to earth approach to whisky, with Jess giving her honest opinions and making people (including herself I think) feel more comfortable with not being able to pick up all the minutia that distilleries can put into their tasting notes.
Everyone is given a ‘Dream Dram’ token as part of your ticket price. This token allows you to sample one whisky from a selection throughout the event which are otherwise not available for tasting. I knew from last years event that this is something to get early before the good stuff is snapped up by everyone else! With this tidbit in mind we set out to find a dream dram. We only had 30 minutes before our next Masterclass so we had no time to dawdle.
I went for whisky I’ve been wanting to try for awhile now – Macallan Rare Cask
Retailing at around the £190 mark it was nice to try this without breaking the bank! Although in truth it didn’t quite meet my expectations, although an excellent whisky I don’t think it lives up to the price tag.
As well as the Beginners Masterclass we also attended a Cheese Matching Class and a Taste of Asia class. By this point my ability to take notes on the whiskies was somewhat impaired by the large quantity of whisky I’d imbibed. All I can say is that both Masterclasses were very educational (at least I got that impression from the hazy memories I have). They were also once again great value for what you got out of them… particularly the Cheese Matching as lets face it, when you’ve had 15+ whiskies a pile of cheese is just what you need!
The Main Event:
Once again Whisky Birmingham proved to be wonderful event for breaking down barriers. With attendees coming from all walks of life it shows how popular whisky has become again. The event was busy – very busy in fact. But the layout had changed from the year before allowing for a better flow meaning less bottle necks of people trying to reach certain stands.
Exhibitors were friendly and happy to dole out information on their particular samples and advice to people unsure of what they were doing. The Birmingham Whisky Club seem to have a great knack for showing how the world of whisky isn’t as aloof as it is often pictured. The days of middle aged men in “Gentleman’s” clubs sipping Single Malts and scoffing at the plebs is long gone and Whisky Birmingham shows that.
After a total of 22 whiskies I certainly got my monies worth! I did however fall awry with my tasting notes with only 7 notes actually making enough sense for me to write up. You can find these through the links below:
- Bowmore 12yr
- Dalmore 12yr
- Macallan Rare Cask
- Kilchoman Machir Bay
- Highland Park – Dark Origins
- The One
- The One – Limited Edition (Sherry Cask)
This has become an annual tradition for myself and I get the feeling that the crowd I go with will grow each year. If you have an interest in whisky then I highly recommend attending. It’s easy to get to and good value for money, particularly in comparison to some other whisky festivals held in the UK.
Whisky Birmingham 2017 will be held on Saturday 4th March so get it in your diaries! Keep an eye on their Facebook event for further details.
If you decide to attend I would give 3 pieces of advice:
- Book on Masterclasses early to avoid disappointment.
- Get their early to avoid queuing for too long (take a hip flask if you like for while you wait). Or like I do book on the Beginners Masterclass – for only £5 you get to jump the queue and have a couple of samples before it all starts.
- Get your dream dram early before all the good stuff is taken.