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Finest Spirits Munich 2011

by Oliver Klimek on February 20, 2011

Having a major whisky festival more or less around the corner is a rare privilege, so it’s virtually mandatory for a whisky blogger to attend it. Even though Finest Spirits is devoted to distilled treats of all kinds, whisky has historically been the strong point of this festival.

After a pit stop at the Deutsche Museum last year, the festival has changed location again because not everything went smoothly in 2010. This year it was hosted from 18th to 20th February in the MVG Museum, a most unusual venue as this is the museum of the public transport company of the City of Munich. Nestled among ancient tram cars and buses were the stands of distilleries, independent bottlers and other participants of the festival. Unfortunately I can’t give you the exact number because I have not counted them myself and the website only gives you a list of available brands – in an obvious attempt to make it look more impressive as quite a few stands featured several brands.

The atmosphere of the museum created quite a nice ambience for the festival, but especially in the later hours it was rather crowded, making it virtually impossible to look out for someone you’d have liked to meet if you haven’t fixed time and location.

Dozens of masterclasses of high profile presenters could be atttended for very reasonable feees, usually €10 or €15, scheduled in an hour-by-hour staccato at two different locations. It was great to have such a good choice, but the busy schedule sometimes made it difficult to give the fine drams that were offered the attention they deserved. Reports about the three masterclasses I attended will be posted in the course of next week.

Especially the independent bottlers that were present at the festival (Douglas Laing, C&S or Cadenhead’s to name just a few) and two speciality dealers (Lothar Langer and Whisky Antique) offered a great range of whiskies from very affordable to truly esoteric, and luckily all were happy to fill their drams into sample bottles for later appreciation; a service that I relied on heavily to be able to continue serving you tasting notes on a daily basis.

The whisky industry was present as well with the usual big appearance of Diageo’s Classic Malts, the rival Signature Malts, and the Edrington Group. Ardbeg featured two pseudo-folkloristic peat girls shoving around a wheelbarrow with a bottle of Mor on a bed of peat.

About half of the stands were dedicated to other types of spirits like rum, cognac, eau de vie, tequila or vodka. I can’t really comment because this was only the second time I attended the event, but I heard voices that the whisky presence on the festival had been in steady decline over the years. But what I did notice in comparison to last year was that especially some independent bottlers seemed to have smaller stands in 2011.

Overall, Finest Spirits was an event well worth visiting despite the small glitches mentioned above. But one other issue has to be mentioned as well. The gastronomy accompanying the event did not live up to the standard at all that was set by the quality of the spirits. Coffee in paper cups, rolls with cold cuts and spongy sandwiches just don’t cut it, and neither does a potato lasagne in an aluminium tray. And who would like to ruin their palates at a whisky festival with chili con carne?

And one final plea to the organizers: Please get rid of that mountain-of-ice-in-a-whisky-tumbler poster! You intend to serve us the finest spirits, so please don’t advertise them in a form you wouldn’t touch them yourselves.

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