If you are a whiskey geek like me then you have probably attended whiskey shows like The Whiskey Extravaganza, Whiskies of the Worlds or numerous other events like these. Producers at these shows pour various small samples of their whiskies. As a consumer it’s a great way to try new whiskies and get to know the brands a little more. For whiskey companies it’s a great way to introduce new whiskies to consumers as well as explain what make their brand unique.
One of my pet peeves is the tater that decides to have a 30-minute conversation with the brand rep while trying every single whiskey in the portfolio with a long line that stands behind him. The proper etiquette is try 1 maybe 2 pours depending on the line and keep conversation reasonable but brief. Typically, the show’s lines tend to become shorter as the event progresses. So, if you want to have a longer more in-depth conversation stop back by later. This advice also applies to the brand reps. You don’t need to start with “Our distillery began distilling 230 years ago” and continue with the complete history. I know it’s your job to educate customers on your brand, but develop a concise discussion that will cover the essential facts. If a customer skips a table because the line is long both the consumer and vendor lose.
If you live in a major market like I do in Houston, these shows are frequent events. Some are good and some are just a money grab, one and done type of shows. I suggest searching reviews on past events as well as looking at what companies will be pouring. Respected shows will publish this list on their website. A danger sign that a show will not be very good is if the list is not made available to the public prior to the event.
I spoke with Kristopher Hart whose company runs a well-produced local whiskey event in Houston, Houston Whiskey Social, about managing lines. Kristopher said “My goal has always been to shape the event in a way to prevent any build ups at the table to allow conversation to happen. We encourage a 10-14 person per Vendor ratio. So, if we have 70 vendors then we have 700-1000 people”.
Also keep in my mind it’s not a race or a competition to try the most. Generally, if you tried every sample at one of these shows, you are not going to remember any of them. Please use the dump buckets. Good shows will place these on every table or have them conveniently located. Yes, that might be a great whiskey in your glass, but after you sampled it, it’s not being disrespectful to dump the rest.
Don’t be afraid to try new whiskies from producers you are not familiar with. Yes, I love that sample of The Balvenie 21 PortWood, but if it is a whiskey you are very familiar with perhaps skip it and find something new to try. I tend to try mostly new to me whiskies and from that I find a favorite that I will later purchase a bottle of.