Each year here in London, I look forward to one whisky show. Since I started this whisky journey, it has been a constant in my calendar and this year is no exception.
Taking place from the 3-4 October, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show brings together people from all across the whisky world to showcase their best drams, chat and innovations. Featuring masterclasses, food pairings, cocktails and dozens of exhibitors, the show has always impressed me for how much is on offer.
My first visit took place in 2011, right before I started this website. I remember shyly wandering around, doing my best to meet people and tell them that I was starting a whisky blog. My favourite memory? How accepting people were and how open they were to speaking to me. Many of the contacts made on that day remain friends and colleagues today and I feel lucky for the doors it opened.
This year, the show is moving from its tried and tested location at Vinopolis near London Bridge station, over to Old Billingsgate Market. The venue is set to be bigger to allow for more exhibitors and experiences for those attending.
And best of all? I’m hoping you can join us there! I’m giving away TWO TICKETS valid for entry to the show on Sunday, 4th October – details follow at the end of this post so be sure to enter!
But first, I sat down with Ollie Chilton, the Business Development Manager at Speciality Drinks, which puts on the show, to get more insight into what’s happening this year and a sneak peak at some show bottlings attendees can look forward to.
What are you most excited about for this year’s TWE Show?
Definitely our Legends of Whisky events. The Whisky Show has always been about people getting the chance to meet incredible figures in the world of whisky. This year, we’re bringing down people like Jim McEwan (Bruichladdich), Richard Paterson (Whyte & Mackay) and David Stewart (The Balvenie). We told them we wanted to celebrate a generation of people who introduced consumers to whisky and as soon as we said that all three wanted to do it and explain their lives through whisky. These are people who’ve changed the way we drink whisky. I mean, no one presents whisky like Richard, while Jim is like the original brand ambassador from the ’90s and David is probably the biggest legend of all. Each is coming up with a special whisky which they are creating just for the show. It’s going to be incredible.
What are key things making it different this year?
It’s a much bigger venue this year. The thing is, over the last two years we normally get to April or May and we’re getting calls from brands asking to have stands but we’ll have run out of room. We’re proud that we stock products from just about everyone and we want that to be reflected in the show. But without taking the whole building at Vinopolis we couldn’t fit any more people in so that’s made the biggest change. We’ll be getting more brands and up to 600 whiskies, and that extra space means you can have bigger stands so people can spend more time at each one speaking to the representatives without it being crowded. I’ve always thought that the thing that makes a great show is not getting 1500 or 2000 poeople into a room; it’s when you, as the attendee, get 30 minutes talking with the person you want to meet behind the stand.
How do you go about choosing show bottlings?
There are two types of show bottlings: those from own casks and those from distillers and independent bottlers.
For ours, we are getting samples all year long to create products for Speciality Drinks’ brands. We’re looking for something that’s good in quality and also affordable because we want people to be able to walk away with a bottle. We tend to bottle these as the retro labels and take inspriation from old bottles as we have such an incredible collection.
When we work with distillers or indie bottlers, Sukhinder (Singh, the owner of TWE) and I will draw up a list, probably just after the show has finished, to start getting the process underway for the next year’s event. It’ll be a mix of distilleries we really like or ones we have worked with before, and we’ll go with our experiences as to what we’ve liked in the past to see if we can get samples. For instance, we know that 1973 Glen Garioch is a magical vintage, so we’ll go to them and ask for a sample and start discussions. Sometimes we’ll get it, sometimes we won’t. Sometimes we may look at 30 samples from one place. I’m pretty sure we’re the biggst pain in the ass because we are so picky.
Can you give us any hints as to what we may get to try this year?
More and more we have been looking at other countries – places like Zuidam in Holland. This year we’ve chosen two casks with the English Whisky Company that are superb: so fruity, absolutely magical.
If I had to choose one it would be the Masterpieces Bowmore 1993, which we did for the show in 2011. It was my first year working in Whisky Exchange and mid-’90s Bowmore is awesome: just that, end of! I so vividly remember it because when you work in the TWE shop it’s manic, and you get 20 mintues to go around the show. I went to our stand and Tim (Forbes, previous editor of the website) poured it for me and I was instantly blown away by the fruit and ash and smoke. It was so big and impressive. Because it was my first year the manager, Alex and Chris (who also work in the shop) bought me a bottle.
Want to join in the fun of the Whisky Exchange Show in October this year? WIN 2 tickets to the event on Sunday, 4th October by answering the following:
Q: Who are three ‘Whisky Legends’ speaking at this year’s show?
Send your answer along with your email, phone number, Twitter address (if you have one) and address to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading: I WANT TO GO TO THE WHISKY EXCHANGE SHOW by the 23:55 (GMT) on the 15th September.
A winner will be chosen at random and announced on Twitter through the Miss Whisky account (@themisswhisky) on the 16th September and be contacted via email. The winner must respond by claim his or her reward by the 17th September, or another winner will be chosen. All winners 18+.
For more information on the Whisky Show and to see a film about last year’s event, head to: http://www.whiskyshow.com