The Midlands Whisky Fest – Stourbridge 29 March 2014

Whisky Corner takes in The Midlands Whisky Festival for the first time.

Midlands Whisky Fest Glencairn
Midlands Whisky Festival Glencairn

First off, I have to note that I am so very late in reporting on this, I have excuses coming out of my ears, but it’s not good enough and I’m very sorry, but moving on…

So back to January we go, I have my birthday (no I’m not saying how old I am, forget it and move on, that’s what I do anyway), and then on 31st January I get a message to say that I am a lucky, lucky winner of a pair of Midland’s Whisky Festival (@midlandswhisky), could I be more excited?  It’s safe to say I could not.

Here’s a little bit of information on the Festival.  This Festival is held twice yearly in April and September and it’s hosted and ran by Nickolls and Perks (@Nickolls_Perks).  A fantastic wine and spirits merchants dating back to 1797, if you want a good rare single malt, or anything else these are the guys to go to.  What makes them so great?  They are third generation family run, yet understand the need to modernise and evolve without every compromising or losing sight of their beliefs and customer service, if you want a company that will go the extra mile then see their website here.

It just so happened that at the last minute, the weekend before the Midlands festival we hit Whisky Live London, read all about that here.  Not to be defeated by one long coach journey, we packed up our belongings and hit the coach again.  500 mile road trip, here we come.  The Festival was so impressed with our efforts that they offered free tickets to anyone who travelled further (not sure that anybody got those).

Trust me one attempt to many to get the perfect "selfie"
Trust me one attempt too many to get the perfect “selfie”

The weather was great, so that was a bonus, and we met the very lovely Alwynne at the train station, which was great.  We were also lucky enough to attend Alwynne’s (@themisswhisky) Masterclass, a whisky and chocolate pairing – read more about this here.

After a short queue, in we went and how was it?  Find out below.

The Good

The tiny train we had to take to get to Stourbridge (it was seriously cool)

Fantastic, friendly, knowledgeable staff, even the staff who (I’m guessing) were provided by the venue, who knew little to nothing about whisky were just so helpful and friendly.  They were all really happy to talk and not shy to ask a little about whisky too.  Spot on.

David Gardiner, what a great guy, so friendly, so knowledgeable, so helpful, nothing was too much trouble.  He sought us out when we arrived and came to say hello and offer any help that he could.  If only we would have had more time, we would have loved to share a dram or two!

For the most part friendly, knowledgeable exhibitors

Catching up with friends, having never met them before, we got to spend two weekends in a row with Alwynne, Dave (@whiskydiscovery) and Kat Presley (@whiskydiscoverykat), Andrew Purslow (@ardbaggie) who was also hard at work and fellow ticket winner Mike Jackson (@mikejack1976) and his lovely wife Pam, it was great.

Some truly amazing dream drams!  Also the chance to purchase extra dream dram chips was a great idea too.

The timescale a very generous 12.00 – 5pm (the Festival shop closed at 6.30)

A good range of exhibitors

The chance to try a varied selection of malts rare, and some not so rare, but all great in their own way, and learn a little along the way too.

Joanne Brown and Kirsty
Joanne Brown and Kirsty

The Demo Stage – what a great concept and completely free.  Sign up when you arrive to attend small demonstrations, Greg Slatery talked Red Breast Experience, Joanne Brown talked about Bruichladdich and its latest offerings and Colin Dunn told all about Talisker.   We like this a lot!

The Bad

The venue was interesting and by no means a bad choice but could maybe do with being a little bigger (that’s what happens when the Festival is good, people come and it gets busy).

A very small minority of distributors and Distillery exhibitors who were completely uninterested!  I won’t name and shame but there were a couple there who really didn’t seem to care less and were not interested in interaction but merely wanted to pour you a dram and move you on.  It was only one or two but it was a disappointment all the same.   The rest however, as mentioned previously were all genuinely delighted to be there and were more than happy to talk whisky and share their knowledge.

The Ugly

The heat, wow it was hot!  So hot in fact that Stewart (@stewartcraigon) and I were taking it in turns to go and get a dram, whilst the other sat out in the hall area to cool a little.  It made drinking conditions a little tough, but like pro’s we managed to push through.

Festival Highlight……

Islay Grown Octomore
Islay Grown Octomore

Just one?  This is going to be tough.  For me I think the staff really helped make this Festival, along with some amazing distributors, fantastic dream drams (we had the Brora 35, which quickly poured out) a really interesting demonstration from Joanne Brown (@job_islay) and a great dram and David himself!

Stewart makes a new (old) friend
Stewart makes a new (old) friend

So that pretty much sums the Festival up for us.  If you haven’t been before then you should consider going, and if you have, well then I am sure you will go again.  Tickets for September’s Festival go on sale at 1pm on May 1st, but you’ll need to be quick!

Whisky Corner would like to thank everyone involved with the Midlands Whisky Festival for making it such a great day, and I am so lucky to have won such a lovely late birthday present.  Here’s to the next one.

Kirsty Clarke (@kirstyclarke29)

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