This last Saturday I had the great pleasure of working for Paul John single malt at the Wee Dram festival in Bakewell. It was the first time I had been to this festival, having been unsuccessful at getting tickets to it as a customer in previous years.
So I set of early to make sure I was there in plenty of time, wanting to make sure everything went to plan. Now I love Bakewell having visited many times, either as place to grab a drink and snack when I was riding my motorbike, or for a little stroll round with the family to do a bit of shopping (they have a great little whisky shop). With a nice uneventful trip through some beautiful countryside, I arrived in Bakewell and parked up just at the same time as Adrian the owner of the Wee Dram shop.
This was a great opportunity for me to have a little chat with Adrian and find out how the festival was going to work, having done a few different festivals for Paul John I’ve learned that each one is individual. So while we walked to the town hall, I asked how many people he was expecting along with the etiquette for festival regarding the drams poured etc. Finding out that it was going to be a pretty laid back festival with about 300+ people expecting to turn up, I felt more relaxed and was looking forward to what I’d been told was a great little festival.
Entering the town hall I was introduced to more of the staff that were helping throughout the day, with them showing me where I was to set up and pointing out the facilities in the building. The festival was to be split over two floors, with me setting up the Paul John stand downstairs which I thought was a great position. It was the first table to be seen as the customers walked through the door, and the eye-catching display I was setting up made me sure they would flock to the table.
Once set up I had a bit of time to look around and catch up with the fellow exhibitors, talking about what we had done since we last seen each other. I had a great conversation with Paul Dempsey from Spey distillery and a couple of others about family trees, history etc. Just showing that even though they might be competitors when it comes to whisky, they are a very friendly and supportive bunch. I just had time to have a little chat with Colin Dunn before the festival began, someone who you can not help but admire for his enthusiasm for the job and makes you want to do better at it yourself.
It was then time to start, with a very expectant crowd gathering at the doors we were off. Now I have done a fair few festival’s for Paul John and I can honestly say I’ve seen a change this year, I can guarantee some of the questions I will be asked. Where is the distillery based, do they import the barley from Scotland, is it made in India etc. Without fail I will get asked those at least once at every festival but things are changing, I will now get asked more about how it came about, is the process different to Scotch whisky. I also get a lot more people telling me they have tried one or two of the expressions already, they come to the stand wanting to try the rest and learn more about the brand. To me this is great news and let’s me give some more detailed information on the distillery, I might have only learned about these facts myself a few days/weeks before.
Another thing I have noticed is the change in people coming to the festivals, Whisky is no longer the drink for older men. I get to talk to a lot of younger people and not just men, a lot of the more interesting questions I get asked come from the women that are attending. It was very evident at the Wee Dram festival that the people wanted to know more, not just about the brand but other ways to enjoy it. From asking about food pairings for each expression to the types of cocktails that could be made with them, also if there was a specific time to enjoy the different expressions. Like is Bold best just for those cold winter nights with it being peated.
I know this may sound daft to some but when you’re new to the world of Whisky it isn’t. I’ve heard so many times how some wines are to be drunk at certain times or with certain meals, so why would you assume whisky is any different if you have never been told. So for me being able to talk to these people and let them know that as long as they enjoy it there isn’t a wrong way to drink whisky. Yes I’ll tell them what food I like to pair with the expressions or how I like to drink it but I make it clear that this is my opinion and that doesn’t make it the correct or only way to drink whisky.
After five hours of talking about whisky the festival was over, it was a very relaxed atmosphere throughout the day. With everyone I spoke to having a genuine question to ask me, making this one of the most enjoyable festivals I’ve done for Paul John. I received a lot of positive feedback for the brand and myself, which I felt very humbled with. For myself if I leave a festival with someone saying that X expression was the best they tried or they have picked up/ordered said expression, then I feel I’ve done a good job. It’s nicer still when they get back in touch over social media, letting me know how much they enjoyed it with friends & family who have now gone on to buy it.
So if you live in or around Bakewell, then I can’t recommend highly enough going to the Wee Dram whisky shop and if by any chance you get the opportunity to go to the festival, jump at it. Please call in and see the great range Adrian has to offer, with his expertise he’ll be able to find a whisky to suit you.
Again I’d like to say a big thank you to Shilton Almeida and Paul John for the opportunity, also to Adrian and Alison from the Wee Dram for the great hospitality. I had a great day and so much fun, I hope to do it again next year.