Last year I ran a poll here asking what type of whisky events readers prefer, all inclusive or pay per dram. All inclusive won by a good margin, and I promised to post an in-depth comparison in the future.
I have visited several events of both types in the last few years, so I had enough time to make up my mind about this question. Pay per dram seems to be more prominent on the European mainland (like Limburg or Munich) while all inclusive (for example WhiskyFest or the TWE Whisky Show) is quite popular in the anglo-saxon parts of the world. This discrepancy may also be caused by differences in alcohol related laws, as pouring booze for money at a festival may turn you into a makeshift bar in the eyes of some legislators.
Pros And Cons
The headline already tells you my personal opinion, but this does not mean I regard this as a black or white issue. Both types of event have their advantages and disadvantages, and at the end of of the day it is a matter of how weighting the different points according to your personal preferences. Let’s collect the facts:
- Pro: Peace of mind – once you have paid, you don’t have to worry about your budget anymore and you can taste all drams on offer as you please.
- Pro: No seller/customer relationship – Not having to pay for each dram can make it easier to get in touch with the people running the stand.
- Con: As entry fees are often pretty steep, you may experience psychological pressure ‘to get your money’s worth’ by drinking as many drams as possible.
- Con: A flat fee may encourage guests to take an all you can drink approach and drink more than they should.
- Con: Limited selection of drams – Usually exhibitors will only have a handful of bottles open to pour since they don’t receive a benefit from pouring more.
- Con: Taking home sample bottles for further examination is a big no-no as flat pricing relies on the fact thay you can only drink a limited number of drams in a session.
Pay Per Dram
- Pro: Full control of your expenses – You can choose to drink only little without feeling pressure, you can stick to cheaper drams if you are on a budget, or you can play high roller if you can afford it.
- Pro: Big selection of drams – Exhibitors can afford to open a large number of bottles because they are guaranteed to get paid for the whisky they are pouring.
- Pro: Exhibitors are usually happy to fill sample bottles.
- Con: Constantly having to pay for drams may take away some of the fun.
- Con: Depending on your personality you may choose to not have a tempting dram because you feel it is too expensive even though you could afford it.
- Con: You may get carried away by spending more money than originally planned.
There may be more points that could be brought up here, but these were my personal critera for making up my mind. The key points which make the difference for me are choice and samples, and they both go hand in hand at a pay per dram event.
The selection of whiskies ready to be poured at all inclusive events just is not comparable to the immense choice you have when you pay for your drams. And being able to take some goodies home with you to where you can taste them at leisure just adds on top of this. After all, it is the whisky that makes us go to whisky events.