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Visit to Whisky Live London 2011, Part 1

14 March 2011 1,771 views Written by: Shai Gilboa

A few days ago I received an email from Whisky Magazine’s Adele Blake, on behalf of Whisky Magazine’s Editor Rob Allanson which was titled “SELL OUT SHOW” and said:

“More than 1,000 whisky enthusiasts flocked to the world’s premier whisky tasting show in London this weekend. Whisky Live came to London for the 11th time and sales boomed, in fact Saturday was sold out completely.

Held for the first time in a new exceptional and astonishing city venue, The Honourable Artillery Company, visitors were eager to learn about the secrets of the water of life at the only whisky show of its kind in the capital and to experience the fantastic new features at the show.

The historic 18th Century mansion, set in a six acre garden, was bursting with excitement as Whisky Live prides itself on bringing together the finest whiskies, great food and a range of education and entertainment to make learning about whisky both fun and stimulating. This year was one of the most exciting yet. The main areas included food and whisky combinations, art and of course some very special drams. A varied programme of tasting Masterclasses was running for those who wanted a more in-depth whisky experience and a chance to learn from acknowledged experts in the field.

To top the occasion, two striking very well behaved Huskies helped to promote the charity Walking with the Wounded and through the exhibitors collecting sample vouchers we raised a fantastic £1046 in addition to this bottles from the late Michael Jackson’s collection were auctioned off, raising more than £1,000 for the Parkinson’s disease charity.”

I call this a very nice and to-the-point short conclusion of the Whisky Live London 2011 held March 4th and 5th, and which I was lucky enough to attend. Regarding the comment about the ‘very well behaved Huskies’ – two beautiful seven year old dogs named “Yogi” and “Bear” – see below.

Bear and Yogi
Bear (left) and Yogi


I knew that Whisky Live London 2011 is going to take place for several months before I decided I wanted to go there myself (and pleaded my wife to come with to London). I finally decided I wanted to go about a month or so before the show when I learnt the three other Whisky friends (and Whisky Israel “Societiers”), Richard, Raviv and Ben (whom I mentioned in the SMWS Visit post) were going to the show.

When I told the news to Gal, he told me that Kfir, Whisky Israel’s co-founder got press invite to the show, and as he cannot go he’ll ask to transfer it to me; which he did. I did also purchase a VIP ticket as it seemed that VIP ticket offered more tasting vouchers, VIP lounge and dining and some other perks that press or regular ticket didn’t seem to offer.

One thing the press invite did allow for was one hour earlier entrance to the show and, to the photographers amongst us, a photo call to photograph a ‘Husky dog-sled team and Arctic explorers’ who are part of ‘Walking for the Wounded’ charity, and came to visit the show (and get acquainted with a special whisky – see just now below). the following was sent in the photo call mail and sheds more light about this:

“A team of soldiers and huskies, ready to brave Arctic conditions, are set to mark the final stages of their expedition in the heart of London on Friday March 4th.

The Walking with the Wounded mission will embark on an unaided journey to the Geographical North Pole in April.

To mark this epic achievement, and to help raise money for the charity, Whisky Live London is unveiling a special blend created by Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson.

Inspired by the find of a crate of 100 year old Mackinley whisky left in the South Pole by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, Paterson will send the Whisky Live charity blend up to the North Pole to reward the Walking with the Wounded soldiers on their arrival.

Richard adds: ‘Although very different from Shackleton’s whisky, this blend of the finest whiskies exhibited at Whisky Live London is very much in the spirit of the great explorer’s journey. The Whisky Live London blend is a fitting tribute and celebration to mark this daring undertaking.’

Among this group will be military servicemen who have been wounded in the line of duty and have subsequently lost limbs to amputation or have been equally incapacitated by their injuries.

This is a brave undertaking by people who have had their lives irreversibly changed whilst serving their country.

They now seek to rebuild their lives, to inspire and to help others follow their lead as they set out to prove that injuries and amputations need not be a barrier to endeavour and achievement. The four-week expedition will see these amazing adventurers covering up to 200 miles of the frozen Arctic Ocean by foot. They will journey through some of the most hostile conditions on Earth, enduring temperatures as low as -50C.

Prince Harry, the charity’s patron said: ‘This polar adventure will exemplify the tenacity and courage of those who serve in uniform.’ “

I think it is a worthy cause for a special whisky to be made.


On Friday March 4th, I made sure to arrive a little earlier that the set time of the photo call at The Honourable Artillery Company, Armoury House, where the show was to take place. I went inside in order to get my tickets which were to wait for me at the entrance and happened to run into Adele, who has been extremely helpful with tickets organizing for the show via emails. Adele was quite the busy bee working on the final arrangements that were left to be done just before the show was opened. Adele was kind to assist me and told me that the photo shoot of the team would be just outside, so outside I went, camera ready in hand.

As I was waiting on the entrance grounds with other few, whom I later found to be whisky industry persons (and all of surprised by sunshine in London), Richard Paterson entered the HAC grounds holding a very smart looking decanter filled with amber coloured liquid, and also a smaller 10cl bottle that seemed to contain the same. I approached to say hello and was happy Richard remembered my face, and so did Whyte&Mackay’s Head of Global PR, Rob Bruce, whom I also met during my visit to Jura during Feis Ile last year; however, the two didn’t appreciate much of the fact I was wearing a Laphroaig jacket. Go figure…

I managed to take some photos of Richard posing the decanter which held the special blend he made for the ‘Walking for the Wounded’ arctic team and then we were asked to make way for the team itself, sled and Huskies. Together with only two other photographers (was expecting more), I took some shots of the dogs pulling the sled towards us, and moved to photograph the complete expedition with Richard next to an old canon that stood by. For this part, some Whisky Live Glencairn glasses were brought and the whisky from that 10cl bottle I mentioned before was poured. Each team member was to hold a glass and all together with Richard posed for us.

Richard and the Walking for the Wounded blend
Richard presenting the ‘Walking for the Wounded’ blend

While everyone were thinking what else would made a good setup, the special blend containing glasses changed hands and were nosed and tasted, and thus I was lucky enough to be offered a taste by Rob of this fine unique and rare blend. I was told by someone there (I fail to recall) that this blend had within all the whiskies (or at least brands) that were presenting in the show. Whether the case or not, this was an excellent whisky, filled with dry fruits, hint of wine and some herbs  – I didn’t have a lot of time to try it, nor did I take notes, but as it was the first whisky of the day for me, it left a mark. I do recall it had a nice round body and felt smooth on the palate.

Walking for the Wounded
Members of the ‘Walking for the Wounded’ team, with the Huskies’ trainer (kneeling)

Another photo session, this times mainly portraits of the dogs during which I was happy to assist Tom Elms, the official photographer of Whisky Live, to get the dogs attention as they kept seeking for their trainer. I also made myself acquainted with the other photographer, Sir Colin Hampden-White, with whom I later conducted a short interview as I found out during the evening that on top of taking pictures, he is a very serious whisky enthusiast – look for that in the next part(s).

Richard and the 'Walking for the Wounded' team
Richard and the ‘Walking for the Wounded’ team

Once the photography was completed, I went in to queue with the rest of the press who were just showing up. I checked my jacket and bag at the cloaks room, received my lanyard indicating I was VIP and press (ooh-la-la), collected my Glencairn with vouchers and ceremoniously marched into the main hall.

All around whisky was presented at various stands by various exhibitors and some sort of happiness was in the air; though maybe it was just me.

In the next part(s) – more details about the stands visited, some info about the whiskies tasted and introduction to the whisky loving persons met and interviewed (including video features – not trying to imitate Ralfy, was actually video recording just as it is easier than writing all the answers. However, there is so much material, that some just must come as video bits).

Getting ready for the photo-shoot
Getting ready for the photo-shoot

Thanks for reading, and see you in the next part(s).

Sláinte,

Shai

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