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Dramming at WhiskyFest New York 2011

by Oliver Klimek on December 14, 2010

It’s official: I will travel to New York to attend the 2011 WhiskyFest on the First of November – unless some unexpected events will force me to back out.

So far I just got my VIP ticket, it is not decided yet when I will arrive and how long I will stay. I will combine the trip with the obvious NYC sightseeing and may also meet some friends.

I was in the US only once before, and that will be fifteen years ago in 2011. Apart from a week in New York City, fate had actually led me right down to Kentucky, but this was way before I got interested in whisky. What a pity. So I’m looking forward to crossing the pond again, this time for the praise of the spirits.

And before anybody is asking: This is not a sponsored trip! I paid for the ticket with my own hard earned money, and I am prepared to do so as well when it comes to booking flights and accomodation.

All right then, but is it worth the Money?

Even with the Early Bird discount, $170 for a festival ticket is pretty steep. Should I try to calculate an average dram price based on my dramming stamina over a four hour period? Better not. Chances are that I might never get my money’s worth in whisky while still being able to leave the premises on my own legs.

But apart from the fact a free choice of master classes is included in the ticket price as well as beverages and food (purportedly of high quality and in sufficient quantity), an event like this should give you the chance to meet people you might not have the chance to see again very soon, especially when it is taking place on a different continent.

A decent opera ticket in conjunction with a nice dinner would set you back about the same, so from this viewpoint – if the event is able to deliver what it promises – I don’t think it is overpriced. I would hesitate to factor in travel costs though. Sooner or later I would have set out for a journey to the most amazing city of the universe anyway.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Vincent December 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

“Chances are that I might never get my money’s worth in whisky while still being able to leave the premises on my own legs.”

Can’t you take samples home in such events ?
I mean you come with a bunch of those 5cl bottles and instead of having the distillery guys pour you the whiksy in a glass, you hand them those bottles.

If you can’t then, well, looks like it’s not worth it. I’m new to this but it seems to me that standing in the middle of a big crowd, in an overheated exhibition hall, isn’t the best way to get the most out of your whiksy, is it ?

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Oliver Klimek December 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

There are two different philosophies for festivals. One is “Pay all with the ticket” like in WhiskyFest. If you bring along sample bottles, distilleries will have to give you the whisky for free to avoid conflict with licensing laws. Prices are calculated on the basis of how many drams an average person can take. If everbody takes home 20 samples in addition to the drams they have, it will be a financial loss for the distilleries, obviously.

Other festivals allow sample bottles, but you have to pay for the samples.

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WhiskyBrother December 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm

If you can afford it, why the hell not! The relationships and memories you’ll make will be more valuable and meaningful than any bottle of whisky you can buy for $170. I know its a long way away, but looking forward to the resulting posts, lol.

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gal December 14, 2010 at 4:33 pm

170 $ is a lot, but hell, one doesnt visit NY every year, so why not indulge?

enjoy !

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Keith December 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Oliver,
firstly I wish you an enjoyable and safe journey.
Yes, the chance to meet people is great at an event like this, but no, I do not think it makes good value for money at all.

I have recently had many discussions about events like this and I would agree that if one is able to pour drams into sampel bottles for later enjoyment, then the value would be better. Also, as what organisors and exhibitors see as ‘free samples’, even though such a high entry fee has been paid, are frowned upon, I would be happy to be able to actually pay more money for the samples to take away.

Sadly, when I have broached this discussion before with the good folks visiting events at that side of the pond, I hear stories of ‘guards’ on the doors searching and ensuring that no alcohol is taken out of the event in the form of bottles or samples.

Big Brother and 1984 or what?

You also say that in the VIP ticket you can have your choice of Masterclasses. Errmmm, how does that work at an event which lasts at most 4 hours?

This leads me to a related point in that a ‘festival’ would normally by definition be expected to span more than a single day, or at the very minimum a full day. This would allow Masterclases to be visited as well as the exhibitors’ stands.
For me, sorry but 4 hours is a tasting not a festival.

Controversially with kindest regards and yes, I do wish you well with a safe and enjoyable journey,
Keith

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Oliver Klimek December 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I know that festivals are a well-disputed topic. And to be honest, I tend to prefer the “bring your own bottles” style as well (I think you know this anyway, Keith). But this won’t keep me from experiencing and potentially enjoying an “all inclusive” event. And how on earth can I make a fair judgment if I have never been to one of those? I guess they both have their up and down sides.

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Oliver Klimek December 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm

The more comments I read about this issue here and in other places, the more I am convinced that there is no single type of whisky event that will be perfect for everybody. Just like there will be no single whisky that will be the favourite of everybody. Tastes for whisky are different, and so are tastes for whisky events.

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Joshua December 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Hey Oli – I’m happy to hear you’re coming out to the US and my neck of the woods! I will be there for sure and look forward to meeting up with you and sharing some drams.

While yes, the event only lasts about 4 hours, maybe 4.5 – it is a big whopper of an event and I just suggest that you layout a plan of what you want to see, taste & learn about and who you want to meet and talk to and STICK TO THAT PLAN. If not, you may get overwhelmed.

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Richard December 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

“Should I try to calculate an average dram price based on my dramming stamina over a four hour period? Better not. Chances are that I might never get my money’s worth in whisky while still being able to leave the premises on my own legs.”

I will say this as having been to WhiskyFest 2010 for the first time. I went with my girlfriend, who is just starting to appreciate Whisky, had to get the tickets on Ebay since it was sold out, and only got the regular admission ticket. What is worth it? EVERY PENNY.

For the $100 I paid per ticket on regular admission alone I was able to try some really amazing expressions. From Macallan 17,25 yr, to Highland Park 12,15,18,25 and 30 yr. to more rarer and more expensive drams. I know that the VIP gets you even more exclusivity like trying older expressions of Laphroaig etc… Plus you avoid the crowds for the first part of the evening (I actually didn’t make it around to every booth becasue there were so many distilleries there)

A couple of answers to questions:

You may go back and get as many refills from as many different bottles you’d like, there is no limit to how much you can drink. Please note however that pours will be smaller than normal, but you could just keep coming back if you really like something, tried Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist for the first time and loved it!

They provide plenty of water which I would chug between tables, just to keep upright. As well as plenty of bread and other heavy food to munch on, breaks are a must!

No, you cannot take whisky home with you, although you do get a nifty Glen Cairn nosing glass to keep!

I guess I felt like at the end of the night if I had thought about all the whisky as well as american bourban I was able to experience, some far beyond my price range per bottle, or per dram for that matter (dram prices in the city range from about $15 to $50 in the city), the price to do this anywhere else (i.e a bar) would have far exceeded the price of the ticket, so in my humble opinion the cost is well worth it, and I will be going in 2011 but this time VIP :)

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John Hansell December 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm

It seems like the people here who have actually been to WhiskyFest liked it and recommend it, and those who haven’t been to WhiskyFest yet are the ones who are saying it’s not worth it… :)

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Oliver Klimek December 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for taking the time to drop in, John. I am very curious to find out, as it will be the first event of this style that I have attended. I do indeed like the “liberal” approach of paying for your drams on the stands, as it gives you total freedom of choice. But I am also aware that a “flat fee” event has its advantages too. Anyway, I am looking forward to the Fest.

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John Hansell December 16, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I look forward to meeting you at the fest.

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