Whiskey Live is the annual pinnacle of the whiskey industry. This year it’s on in the RDS, a mighty change from its days at The Printworks in Dublin Castle. After a two-year hiatus, there are a lot of new drams to taste, and taste we shall.
If this is your first go at Whiskey Live, or you failed miserably at the last one, here are some quick tips to help you survive and thrive on it.
You do not need a full 25ml of every whiskey. No matter your constitution, you can not drink sixty shots of whiskey. Those are just the laws of the liver. I don’t write them, but my god, do I live by them. If you want to taste as much as possible, and if you’ve paid for a ticket, I’m assuming you do, then stick with the tiny pours. A little bit of everything will still get you buzzed, but you’ll get to remember everything, and it’s statistically less likely you’ll fall over. Bonus!
The human mouth can only taste so much. Even after years of sounding like a wanker refining my pallet, it gives out on me, and things just start to taste good or less good. Honestly, things taste better and better the more whiskey you have, even if the quality worsens. So head straight for the producers you’ve never gotten to try or the Very Rare’s you’ll never get your hands on. Starting high means, you’ll remember the once-in-a-lifetime drams. That way, you’ll get to wax lyrical about them forever. I still talk about the Dair Ghaelach I got to try in 2018.
You will not be able to try everything. Try as you might; it is fundamentally impossible. So make a list of what you want most. Personally, I like to pick a theme and lean into it. If you’re a #CaskStrengthCrusade-r then make a list of all the cask strength options and zip zap boing from one to the other. When you have your list ticked off, you’ll be flooded with a sense of relief and can just cruise around tasting specials. Maybe even treat yourself to an Irish Coffee. Paddy usually fires out good ones to the willing.
Though traditionally held in November, Whiskey Live has historically been the week a lot of distilleries launch new stuff. Whether it’s Poitin’s, gins, or limited edition whiskeys, there is likely to be something you’ve never heard of. Even if you’ve done as diligent research as I have. So always ask, especially at the smaller, less well-known distilleries, what’s ‘under the table’. Something these are reserved for industry or ‘heads’. Heads are mostly made up of very active whiskey twitterers. So you may be one yourself and not even know it.
This sounds obvious, but there is someone falling over and stumbling into the tables every Whiskey Live. Some louts have even been known to pull the fire alarm or try to steal whole bottles of whiskey. Don’t be that guy. Drink your water. A bottle before you arrive will prevent you from getting too drunk too quickly, and then a glass after every ten or so whiskeys will help. Sounds basic, but if you forget, you probably won’t remember the rest of the day, and sure then, what’s the point.
And on that wavelength, be sure to eat. Eating is not cheating. It’s clever gameplay. You wouldn’t wade into Warzone unarmed, so why would you dive into the breach of Whiskey Live without the protection of a well-lined stomach? If you’re in the early slot, get a good carvery, and you’ll be flying. A pizza beforehand won’t go amiss if you’re in the evening.
You learn more about whiskey by chatting to and listening to people who are also into it. Meeting people who have only been user names is one of the great joys of Whiskey Live. It’s how I met some of my favourite whiskey people and formed solid bonds. So don’t be afraid to reach out to one another, shoot the shit and exchange favourites. Don’t get caught up in taking photos for the gram or making tiktoks; enjoy the event itself. It might be about the whiskey, but whiskey is nothing without the people that make it, sling it, and taste it. There is nothing like this kind of festival for communing together and celebrating “the frisky spirit”. After all, we’re just a shower of nerds at the end of the day.
This one is for the exhibitors. Every year exhibitors have to talk to hundred of us knowledge-hungry patrons for hours on end. It’s pretty exhausting in any line of work, but it’s particularly hard on your voice if you’re also consuming alcohol. Alcohol dries out your mouth and throat, which in turn tires your vocal cords. You’re left shouting in a loud room, competing for attention which only trains your voice more. If you keep a cup of honey and lemon in hot water behind the stand and sip it during the day, it should keep you lubricated and stop you from losing your voice.
There are a few tickets left if you haven’t gone and paid the price yet. Go forth, whiskey lovers and prosper at the most live whiskey event of the season.
Elsewhere on Char: The Rise and Rebellion of Irish Whiskey