So last weekend wasn’t my usual type of weekend, I was at the Whisky Lounge festival in Newcastle. The difference for me this time was the way in which I was there. I wasn’t going to be the normal customer, this time I was going to be on the other side of the table.
My friend and fellow blogger Sorren of OCDWHISKY got in touch asking if I wanted to help with the Paul John whisky stand at the festival. Shilton Almeida the brand ambassador for Paul John was going to be doing another festival in Poland, this was my good fortune as it was giving me the opportunity to taste the industry from the other side.
The festival was going to held over two days with a late session on the Friday and two sessions on the Saturday. Friday came along and we jumped into the car for the drive to Newcastle, with a quick pit stop for coffee on the way up we arrived raring to go. Ok we might have been a little eager and early, only a little mind you, well about 3 hours. Time for a quick bite to eat and then on with the good stuff, we set up the table and after a few tweaks (Sorren is called ocdwhisky for a reason). Leaving us a few minutes to have a quick look around the other stands.
The doors opened and we were off, having been to a couple of shows before I had a little idea what was going to happen. What I didn’t expect was how quick the evening went. I was just getting into full swing with the pour and banter with the people on the other side of the table. Then the announcement was made, it was last pour time with just 15 minutes left for the first session. That was it the first one was over, a quick tidy and pack up and we were in the car on our way home.
After a restless nights sleep due to still being excited about the show and how well the first session had gone, I was back in the car heading out to pick Sorren up for the trip back to Newcastle. We arrived a little early again but not too much, just with enough time to set up and have a chat with the Dave from That Boutique-y Whisky Company over a cup of coffee and a bacon buttie. Then we heard that the sessions had sold out, 600 people per session this was going to be busy. At 12pm the doors opened on the first one, within seconds we had people stood opposite us asking us what was on offer. We had the full range from Paul John with the bonus of the ever popular #1906 single cask. It wasn’t long before we were in full swing, waxing lyrical about the Indian single malt that is Paul John. There it was again the announcement that it was time for the last pour, so we finished up talking to the lady’s and gentlemen that we had enthralled in front of us.
Now the last four hours had been a blur if I can take the words from the man himself Shilton Almeida, it was pour, replenish, repeat. So in the break between sessions we grabbed a bite to eat and a drink. Then it was restock and set up for the second session. We did get a bit of time to have a chat and try a sample or two from the other stands. I got chance to talk to Colin Dunn from Diageo and Paul Dempsey from Spey single malt & Beinn Dubh whisky, giving me chance to talk to them about their experiences in the industry. They also gave me lots of encouragement and some great advice (thanks guys for taking the time out to talk to me and answer a couple of questions), how these guys keep up with the crowds with such enthusiasm makes you see how passionate they are for the industry.
It was now 5pm time for the second session to start, much like the first session of the day within minutes we were pouring samples and talking about the qualities that Paul John Single malt has. One of the best parts of the day for me was when I talked to someone who didn’t like peated whisky, but when I got them to try the slightly peated Paul John Edited they were all “oh that is so nice, never thought I’d say that for a peated whisky”. This sessions was just as manic as the first session and by the time the shout went out for the last pour, my voice was starting get a bit horse.
The festival was over and we were packing up, getting ready for the drive home. It had been an amazing day for me. Getting to meet so many passionate people, all wanting to know as much as they could about the whiskies on offer at the show. Just as we were packing up a couple of the customers we had been talking to earlier came over to us, they wanted to let us know that they thought the Classic select cask expression they had tried earlier was the best one dram they had tried all day. This to me just topped of what had been all great experience for me.
This had been hard work but worth it, I had enjoyed every minute of it. We set off back home and during the drive myself and Sorren both agreed we’d love to do it again, yes it was hard work and more tiring than we had expected but very rewarding. I left there with a lot more respect for the people that do this day in and day out, anyone who thinks this is an easy job will be in for a big shock.
I would like to say thank you to Paul John whisky and Shilton Almeida for the chance to do this. I’d also like to thank the guys at the Whisky Lounge for there support over the two days, plus thank you to the representatives from the other distilleries that gave us support and advice.
Hope to see you at the next festival