Appreciation for the water of life is at an all time high globally. If you are reading this, chances are, you are either getting into it, into it, or really really into it. Not only that but more than likely you have been to a Dramnation tasting experience in the past or will be soon (hopefully). Dramnation's focus is to help nurture the whisky audience of Western Sydney where distance and travel limit access to these whisky experiences often found in the Sydney City reaches. Living out west though is no reason to not make your way into various whisky events and if you are going to make the odd trek each year then be sure to include one of the several whisky expos, such as Whisky Live as part of that.
Many years ago whisky tastings were few and far between. They were always held inner city, often expensive and always on weeknights. This is how I started so I remember those days well. These tasting were then the domain of the brand and so when you attended a tasting you simply tasted that brand. This is not a bad thing but it certainly limited and controlled what you could try. Large retailers would only stock the most commonly appreciated drams while independents would work to secure harder to get items in order to build more awareness but you paid for dearly. Often access to these independent stores were either out of the way or simply closed during the hours we could make it there. A yearning for more whisky built and so the market built in turn.
Over the last few years though expo platforms much like a trade show for whisky vendors have been on the rise here in Australia to quell that yearning. One of these expos, and certainly one of the first in Australia to have appeared, is Whisky Live Sydney. Now the first of the whisky expos on the Sydney whisky calendar each, Whisky Live delivers a rounded approach to whiskies for guests to try. Starting at some of the more common denominators in entry level whisky, things ramp up very quickly and all the way to the top shelf with the Old & Rare Bar. The format is simple and effective. Each guest pass for a 3.5hr to 4hr experience at one of several sessions over 2 days. The guests receive a Glencairn whisky nosing glass to keep, a satchel, plus access to the expo floor. The floor is filled with whisky vendors putting on a vast array of whisky to experience to your delight. The vendor tables, often attended by educated Brand Ambassadors, will pour 7ml measures of any whisky you wish to try and answer any questions you want to ask. Food service is included with Whisky Live being by far the best in show for this.
This year, we teamed up with Whisky Live Sydney, to do a guest pass giveaway. The pass valued at almost $100 was given away to one lucky winner. The competition was a simple 25 words or less answer and only available to previous attendees of a past Dramnation event. Accompany the winner we also attended event operating as a Whisky Tour Guide while lending advice where necessary and commenting on any particular questions the individual had.
Our winner was Mark Garroway and I think this shot above sums up just how much fun he was having on the night. Mark commented on how much fun he had and how this was the first of these kinds of expos he had attended. Following is Mark's experience in his own words:
My Experience at Whiskey Live was one I immensely enjoyed. Being 20 years old, I’ve only been drinking whiskey for the best part of 9 months, and it’s no secret there is a LOT of juice out there to try. This was why I was looking forward to the event so much, I could cross of a few premium drams from my “To-Drink” list without shelling out for a full bottle, as well as discover some new styles I knew nothing about.
Matt was an excellent guide for the evening. When the doors opened we took a quick walk around to check out the stands and he introduced me to several people, reps as well as friends, and gave me a quick intro to each stall as we passed. We began on the Non-Peaty aspect of things, beginning at Balvenie, which I had never tried. Along with 95% of the whiskies tried on the night that he was familiar with, Matt gave me a quick crash course in what made each one unique to both its brand, and the overall whiskey market. In the case of Balvenie it was their wood management, and how that was able to lend the whiskey a subtle intricate depth unique to that distillery.
I tried a grand total of 34 whiskies over the night from all over the world, including Scotch, Bourbon, Australian whisky (The rep from Starward was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and guided me through some fantastic whisky) and also Indian Whisky! It’s hard to choose favourites, because most of the stalls had their premium whiskies on tasting, but some highlights were the Glenlivet Single Cask, which had the most incredible nose on it (Glenlivet also had the most visually appealing stand of the night). The Woodford Reserve Double Oak bourbon was amazing and such a step up from the standard Woodford Reserve which I’m a big fan of. Probably tied with the Double Oak was the Paul John Edited Whiskey from Goa, India, which was so raw and interesting, with a medium peat undertone.
I went to the convention hoping to find some unknown-to-me styles and favourites which I did in Paul John and Starward, as well as try some incredible expression from the big players which I did from the likes of Balvenie, Aberlour and Glenlivet. Massive thanks to Whisky Live & Dramnation for the ticket, my Whiskey-to-Buy list is almost at a farcical length after this night.
Through the evening we the room exploring the full range of Paul John whiskies from India (you will note in the photo Paul John was Mark's choice whisky on the night), had a long chat with David Vitale of Starward fame, explored the range form The Balvenie & sister distillery Glenfiddich, delved into the reaches The Glenlivet Nadurra, the explosive nature of Bruichladdich Octomore, big vanillas of Woodford Reserve and the salty smokey characteristics of Laphroaig and Bowmore with a dabble of fresh chucked oysters. Let us not forget the party of whiskies at Berry Bros. & Rudd or the refreshing cocktail by the dapper lads at The Singleton stand.
Food service by Whisky Live was off the charts with some fantastic hold and cold foods, sushi, breads, and salads. There was no excuse to not spend some time pairing your drams with various foods and flavours or just to sit down and have a tidy meal.
We completed the night with a final whisky before making tracks for home well and truly contented. Being hosted in the middle of Sydney city at the meant that access to and from the expo was simple and safe.
For future events by Whisky Live be sure to follow them on facebook and or subscribe to their email notifications on their website.
See all the action on the night with our own Dramnation facebook album.
We have to give a tremendous thank you to the boys at Whisky Live for helping bring whisky to the wider audience and of course allowing Mark to be your guest for the night. We also must thank Mark for his involvement and time on giving his own feed back.