An Evening of Fluid Delights: Whisky Live Toronto

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It is a rare day in a year when one can make use of their ability to appreciate a fine dram and parlay that into an evening of glorious whiskies, intriguing personalities, enlightening interviews, and an all around memorable time. For the intrepid staff of that day was October 23, 2009. Better known as Whisky Live Toronto

Taking place on an almost fittingly dreary Friday, we set out in search of fresh knowledge, old whisky, and great conversation. Three objectives that were most certainly attained at Canada's largest whisky tasting event. 

Upon arrival in advance of the rest of the crowd, we collected our press credentials and set off to arrange our interview times with our selected targets. After solidifying our in-event schedule there was time to begin perusing the wares of the 30 or so exhibitors in attendance. Beginning at The Glenfiddich Experience, we opened the event with a favourite here at the blog, the well-rounded and always enjoyable Glenfiddich 15. This was followed by chats with the incomparable and delightfully blunt Willie Tate (Master Distiller, The Isle of Jura) and James Robertson of Tullibardine, who graciously invited myself and Robin to attend Tullibardine's Master Class at 6:30, and we accepted of course. For those who did not know, a Master Class at Whisky Live is without question the most comprehensive way to learn about the finer points of a distiller and is therefore a must attend.

After further filling our agendas it was time to convene with the fine folks back at Glenfiddich for a blind taste test (yes, we folks nailed all three with ease) in advance of our interview with their brilliantly candid and equally insightful Global Brand Ambassador, Ian Millar. The contents of this, and indeed all interviews, will most certainly emerge in later articles, but for now let us stay focused on the event itself. 

Following on from here it was time to head over to The Isle of Arran Distillers exhibit for an interview with Managing Director, Euan Mitchell and to taste the St. Emillion Grand Cru Cask finish which will see a mere 600 bottles released to the Ontario market in about 4 weeks or so, which is not nearly soon enough in my opinion as this was a truly delightful dram which I can't wait to have on my shelf. Upon completion of this block in the agenda it was time for the Tullibardine Master Class.

Let it be said that for a while now I have been espousing the virtues of Tullibardine as likely the best distiller of single malt that most have never heard of. After the conclusion of the Master Class in which Robin and I were treated to sampling the full flight of the Tullibardine line, I can certainly say without hesitation that there are huge things looming for this little distillery situated on the dividing line between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. After a thorough history lesson, the aforementioned Mr. Robertson skillfully led the group of about 30 through a full flight of whiskies ranging from the Oak Aged to the unquestioned star of the night, the Tullibardine Vintage 1966. Upon finishing detailed tasting notes of all the whiskies involved in this class, it was time to head back out into the throngs that amassed since the 7pm open admission time, but not before concluding our final interview with none other than Mr. Robertson himself over that truly remarkable 1966. 

Returning to the main hall of Whisky Live there was a sense that the event had swayed somewhat from a tasting event of the educated into the hands of those who came solely for the purpose of mass consumption. During this period it was time to reconvene with those at Glenfiddich to sample the 1977 with Mr. Millar, followed by notes comparison with the other writers. It was at this point that the largest failing of the event manifested itself -- the closure of the buffet. An appalling error on the part of the planners as by 8:30 all of the food had been swept away; clearly a failing as anyone attending more than one Master Class would attest to. It was in this somewhat tainted circumstance that we returned to the tasting exhibits, enjoying the Robbie Burns 250th Anniversary edition and the Macallan Cask Strength among others, before returning to Tullibardine to finish the event in style with one last sampling of the 1966. 

All in all, this is indeed Canada's premier whisky tasting event, yet there is without question a considerable way to go before it can be considered a world class one. The cross section of whiskies provided is the perfect way to expand the knowledge base of the uninitiated without breaking the bank since the miniatures market in Ontario is grossly underserviced. It is the opinion of this writer, however, that if one is considering attending Whisky Live 2010, the additional expenditure on the VIP tickets to ensure early entry is a must, as it provides the time to converse with those behind the whiskies on hand while at the same time enabling one to make the rounds with unhurried ease to ensure an appropriate and varied tasting of what the event has to offer. Should the price be too steep for the VIP tickets, be sure to attend regardless, as it is truly a rare occurrence when one is afforded the opportunity to sample single malts that are typically unavailable due to the LCBO's excessively stringent policies. I for one will almost certainly be back next year. 

In the end, as with all large scale events, the success of Whisky Live is the result of those in attendance. It is with that in mind that the staff of would like to extend our warmest thanks to:

Ian Millar, Global Brand Ambassador & Master Distiller, Glenfiddich 
James Robertson, International Sales Manager, Tullibardine
Euan Mitchell, Managing Director, Isle of Arran Distillers 
Susan Mohammad, Communications Consultant, Jesson + Company Communications Inc.

It was truly our pleasure to enjoy your company throughout the night.

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