Whisky Bristol Underground 2017

So it’s been and gone; DBC’s first whisky festival, from the other side of the table is over.

And with all modesty, it was a roaring success.

Tom and I caught the train down from Wolverhampton and after hitting delays at New Street, diversions via Newport we finally arrived at Bristol Temple Meads, burdened with around a dozen bottles of whisky.

The Loco Klub, was just around the corner and on entry we were completely in awe.
The atmosphere was amazing, perfect for the event. The venue was expansive yet intimate, if that’s possible; kind of labyrinthine in  layout with more whisky waiting round every turn and in every alcove.

We met up with Rob B and promptly switched into our fancy new DBC shirts (Represent yo!), set out our bottles and gave ourselves a bit of Dutch(Scotch?) courage with a drop of Springbank 20 year old (1st fill sherry cask) that Tom had brought along, before sampling a drop of the Claxton’s bottles each to be 100% confident we had a good grip on what we were presenting.

We braced ourselves for the first festival-goers.

The VIP ticket holders began arriving and due to our prime location, as one of the first tables both visible and encountered, we garnered a lot of interest from the get go.

There weren’t too many VIP ticket holders so it was a nice way to ease into the style of conversation we’d be using throughout the day. Also, conversation with the VIPs was, in my opinion, more full-on and required you to know more of the intricacies of your drams, which was painful at first but was a godsend once the standard ticket holders arrived as you knew your shit inside and out.

Dave Alcock dropped by to try some of the Claxton’s Ledaig 9yo.

Dave Worthington came over and had a chat with us, dropped off a couple of surprise bottles of Boutique’y, and if I remember rightly sampled some of the Hellyer’s Road wares.

Once all of the ‘punters’ were allowed in the day was pretty full-on. We had a quiet initial 10 minutes while people had a look around the festival and oriented themselves, and then we were nigh-on inundated, with at least 4 or 5 people at our stand at all times throughout the day.

One of the Whisky Bristol team came round at around 1230 dishing out breakfast rolls, one of the most welcome sights I have ever beheld (thank you that man, whoever you were!)

After yamming down my roll and talking drams for another half an hour or so I made my excuses and dashed outside to join Dave Worthington and Andrew from Davidoff cigars for a Cigar and Whisky Session/Masterclass.
The cigars were good, but the Boutique’y blends were better.
‘Blended Malt #2’ was great, ‘Blended Whisky #3 23yo’ was the winner though.
The whole pairing went really well and I learnt that, to be honest, you don’t want a huge punchy whisky with your cigars, you want a well balanced smooth dram to compliment and accentuate the cigar – not overpower it.

I strolled back in to see one of our mates from back home, Joe, yucking it up at our stand.

I got straight back into the swing of it though as Tom and Joe went off to explore the festival.

Dave Worthington headed back over to us after everyone had finished up with the cigar session and, to our surprise, donated the 2 Boutique’y blends to our stand.

There was a lot of interesting folk who came up and had a good chat with me over the course of the day, with a hell of a lot of interest in the Paul John and Hellyer’s Road drams; things people hadn’t tried before and were eager to get stuck into.

When walking people through the Paul John expressions it was ideal having the Boutique’y 6yo to offer a contrast between cask strength and retail strength bottlings.

Everyone preferred the CS.

Tom returned and Rob B took his place, touring the festival for Joe’s second turn.

We carried on pouring and chatting, pushing our competition, Tom raving about Colin Dunn’s ‘Smokey Cokey’.

The Claxton’s Glen Elgin 20yo was drained fairly rapidly; for every person who came to us knowing what they wanted to try we had 2 people come up asking to try “the best whisky you’ve got!”

“Do you like peat?”

“Do you like sweet whisky?”

“Do you like high ABV?”

It was an infuriating question, with no right answer.

Invariably we recommended the Glen Elgin. Strong but not too strong, no divisive peat and plenty of complexity to get people cooing.

Rob B finally returned and it was my turn to survey the wares on offer.

I took Tom’s advice and grabbed a smokey Cokey,  from Fentimans though, not Mr Dunn. The drink was great my first experience of Black Bottle, shame the bartender/server/mixologist was an utter twat. But, hey ho.

I had a good time talking with Aiden Smith of Fox & Fitzgerald; a fantastically affable chap, warm and welcoming with and cracking laugh. F&F own the Rest & Be Thankful line of bottlings and I was lucky enough to try one of their Octomores (memory escapes me on the exact expression) – sublime. We talked industry for a bit and I duly departed for Mackmyra.

The chap at Mackmyra seemed a good guy, and the Svensk Rok, a peaty expression, definitely turned my head.

Stomach rumbling I made a beeline for the burger van outside, staff coupon in hand.

I bumped into Amy and Dave Worthington, ordered my mushroom and halloumi burger and sat down with Dave to eat.

I had a great time talking with Dave about the pros and cons of working in the industry and he recounted, for me, his journey from an engineering background into the industry, interesting and honest to hear.

Not too long after returning to the stand we drew the winner (Ryan Craymer) of the competition we had running, in which you could win a bottle of Glendronach 12, and settled in for the home stretch.

We shut up shop around 5 and breathed a weary sigh of relief.

We had a good day. Plenty of good conversation, a lot of fantastic comments about our stand, our blog and our conversation. But we were knackered. Happy but knackered.
It was a great experience that we all enjoyed but it is in no way shape or form the same as being on the other side of the table. It’s definitely a day working at a festival rather than going to a festival.

The Glen Elgin came away as the punters’ favourite of the day. I think that choice was a fair one, although I did love that Paul John 6yo from Boutique’y.

We helped pack away, divvied up the few remaining dregs and Tom and I parted company with Rob (who was catching a lift back with Vicky and Dan), heading off into the Bristol sunset for some grub.

Cue getting lost in Bristol, our taxi driver getting pulled by the police, train delays and illicit gin on the train with Amy and her crew.

We’re toying with the idea of doing other festivals but that conversation hasn’t really taken place yet, maybe, who knows.

Finally some thank-yous:

  • All of the brands who so bravely allowed us to represent them at the festival
  • Amy and Vicky for asking us to run the stand
  • The WhiskyBristol event crew
  • All of the festival-goers who paid us a visit and had a chat
  • Dave Worthington for being so generous with the bottles
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