I never intended (and still don’t) for this blog to be specific to one particular place. It doesn’t matter where you’re located as a whisky enthusiast; the best writing about whisky is done all over the world – Scotland, England, Israel, the USA, Canada – and is relevant anywhere it’s read. That said, I hope you’ll indulge me this one local-interest piece!
Vancouver is a great place to be a whisky lover. I can see some people choking on their Laphroaigs at that statement. How can that be true with our high liquor taxes, strict import laws and limited selection? Well OK, we do have those challenges here, I wish we didn’t but they exist and we have to deal with them. However the whisky culture here is vibrant, well-developed and still growing, and because of that we’re rewarded with some great opportunities and events.
Fall is when the event season really kicks off, and this year has even more in store than usual. So without any further ado, let’s see what the upcoming calendar looks like for the lower mainland whisky enthusiast!
Scotch Malt Whisky Society BC Launch – Edgemont Fine Wines, Spirits and Ales
The SMWS finally launched in Canada last October. However from a more realistic point of view it actually launched in Alberta, as it’s illegal to transport beer or spirits across provincial borders here. So most of us could only sit and watch enviously for a whole twelve months as the Albertans got to try all those delicious single-cask bottlings with the funny names. However BC now gets its turn, as we’re the second province to get a branch all of our own. In Vancouver the society has partnered with Edgemont Fine Wines, Spirits and Ales and I for one can’t wait. SMWSCA @ EFWSA/BC, OMG!
BC Liquor Stores Whisky Release
I haven’t heard any hard news on this, but the BC Liquor board has had a release of notable whiskies around the end of October for at least the last three years, so I’m going to be optimistic and assume it’s happening again this year. Last year had some great stuff like the Ardbeg Alligator, Laphroaig Cairdeas and Triplewood, George T Stagg and Pappy Van Winkle’s and so on, as well as some silly bottles like a $14,000 Dalmore and the Highland Park 50.
Hopscotch Festival – Events all over the city
This is Vancouver’s principal whisky festival. It’s not perfect – whisky is crammed in alongside beer, tequila, vodka and who knows what else, selection isn’t as wide as some other festivals, attendees pay by the dram, tickets sell out in minutes. But the event itself is a lot of fun with a chance to talk to other whisky folks and the masterclasses are excellent. They also host some great dinners which I’d recommend trying out. The city buzzes with whisky events for a week and it’s quite marvelous! Tickets usually go on sale at the end of September. If you’re planning to go, you really need to sign up for their email newsletter to get in on the presale – by the time the general release rolls around almost everything will be sold out. The dinners especially sell out within minutes of sales opening.
Victoria Whisky Festival – Hotel Grand Pacific, Victoria
If Hopscotch is Vancouver’s big festival, the Victoria Whisky Festival is BC’s. Epic in scale, it’s run as a non-profit which encourages more participation from the whisky industry. You can read my writeups of this year’s festival starting here – the long and the short of it is that it’s an amazing event, packed to the gills with rare spirit and incredible sessions. The only real issue I have is that again, it’s difficult to get tickets, especially to events you really want to attend – you can’t choose all of your masterclasses as tickets are sold in packages, and even though we called right as the lines opened last year we had to go with our sixth package choice when we finally got the call back! Still, that’s because the event is unbelievably popular – it’s THE festival to go to in BC and everyone who is anyone is there. Tickets go on sale early November – don’t miss out!
I’ll sneak this into my Fall lineup as it’s a worthy cause and should be fun too -a whisky tasting event run as a fundraiser to help fight cancer. I missed it this year but hope to attend in 2013. The cause is very important to me personally; I lost an old friend very suddenly to cancer recently and my dad is in remission right now. It’s early days so no details yet but in 2012 they had some great whiskies and special guests, I’m sure next year will top it!
So there we go! In addition to all of the above events there’ll be tastings at local independent stores like Edgemont, Legacy and Viti, so it should be a fun time in Vancouver this year. Get in touch if I’ve left out an event you’re involved with or just think I should know about – I’d appreciate the info so I don’t miss out on anything!
I’d also love to know if there are any events in Whistler over the winter – tasting whiskies while seated by a blazing fire, snow falling outside, would be pretty amazing… anybody want to help me organize something? 🙂