It’s been a few weeks since the Whiskeys of the World event in Atlanta, and while I apologize to the event’s organizers for the lateness in my write up, it’s been nice to ruminate on the experience. I’ve been to a lot of these types of festivals over my whisk(e)y drinking life and they all have positive and negative aspects. I’m going to start off by talking about the event itself and then move on to some of the specific whiskeys and whiskies that spoke to me in some way.
(Edit: This post ended up being a lot longer than I intended so, I’m going to separate the event review from the spirits reviews, breaking it up into two posts.)
As previously stated, I’ve been to a lot of events like this one. However, this is the first one I’ve tackled since moving back to Atlanta. All my basis for comparison comes from my eleven years in New York City. From larger events like WhiskyFest to smaller events like Whisky on the Hudson and the Bourbon and Bacon Festival, I managed to keep busy during the festival season. I watched as the scene changed, as the consumers became more knowledgeable, and the faces in the crowd began to take on more diversity.
I bring all this up, not to tout my experience level, but to point out a short fall in the local scene. While Atlanta is certainly behind New York, the crowd is closer to catching up than the exhibitors. I saw men and women of various ethic backgrounds all coming to the tables looking to be educated, and many who were already educated and hungry for more. Unfortunately, many of the ambassadors where not that knowledgeable about the products on the tables. I thought we had advanced past the concept of “pour bunnies” and hired guns dressed in a kilts. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with having pretty girls or roguishly charming dudes pouring me a dram. I do, however, expect them to know a little about what’s in the bottle. I’m not expecting everyone behind the table to have encyclopedic knowledge of whisky in general, but if you are going to hire an actor to pour for you, give them a script (and a good one!). There are some really great ambassadors out there. I’d like to see more of them make it to Atlanta.
There were also a number of exhibitors who clearly did not want to be there. If the brand ambassador can’t get excited about the brand, no one is going to get excited. As is to be expected (or at least hoped for), the craft distillers tended to know the most about their products and to be the most excited. It was an all out party at the Palmetto table. I’m hoping that next year the rest of the exhibitors up their game. Otherwise, people are going to lose interest.
Now, with all that grousing, you would think I didn’t have a good time. Well, I’m just a curmudgeon. I had a pretty good time. There were a good number of whiskies represented. I enjoyed the smoking porch. And I realize that, to the brand ambassadors, we live in a lower tier market. Some folks don’t have enough faith that Atlanta can be a whisk(e)y city like Chicago, New York, or San Francisco. Well, frankly, those folks are lazy and full of crap. We here at Whisk(e)y Apostle proselytize as a hobby, and we turn people on to whisky all the time. Imagine the ground we could cover if we got paid for it!
Honestly, I want to thank the organizers of Whiskies of the World for bringing an event of this size to Atlanta. If you look at the other cities on their list, the only first tier market is San Francisco. I don’t know if this is an attempt to capitalize on the under served markets or if there is a legitimate desire to bring markets like Atlanta into the top tier. Either way, I think it’s awesome.
Thanks to Whiskies of the World and Becca at 360 Media for hooking me up with a press pass. I’m forever grateful.
For more information and news about future Whiskies of the World events go to their website.