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Posted on: Friday, 7 August 2009

FNB Whisky Live Festival – put it in the diary!

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Whisky Live Festival

Whisky Live Festival

I’m not a whisky fan. I’s sad, but true. However, I can understand how the FNB Whisky Live Festival, now in its seventh year and held in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, might be something everyone attends. I didn’t know this, but South Africa is the fifth largest Scotch market by volume in the world. And last year’s event had close to 17 000 visitor attend.

So, I obviously need a bit of an education in whisky, it seems, if I’m to join the tipplers, and in particular because I have a rather beautiful bottle of Three Ships sitting on a shelf gathering dust!

A quick wizz around the internet reveals that whisky is distilled from fermented grain mash, and that different grains, or cereals, are used for different varieties. So, barley, malted barley, rye, wheat and maize give rise to a different type of whisky, which is then aged in wooden casks, normally oak.

After a couple of years of maturing in oak, the liquid is then bottled and sent off to Scotland for maturing Scotch whisky. Scotch whisky (generally distilled twice, some even three times) can only be called ‘Scotch’ if its gone to Scotland for maturing, and this happens for a minimum of three years and one day in oak casks (I like the bit about ‘one day’…).

But not everyone sends their matured liquid to Scotland. In South Africa, Three ships for instance, is matured here and then blended with Scottish whiskies that are shipped in bulk to South Africa for this purpose.

Whisky Live Festival

Whisky Live Festival

According to news on the Whisky Live Festival website, South Africa is one of the markets the Scots focus on as the demand here for premium whisky has escalated.

And further news is that the whisky I have on my shelf is the only 100% South African blended whisky and won gold and Best In Class at the 2008 International Wine and Spirit Competition, announced last year in London.

Obviously whisky is something I know very little about. But the Whisky Live Festival holds whisky workshops, which, word has it, are voted the best learning experience / best value for money at the show. So, perhaps I should end my attempt at self-education and head off to learn all the whisky related jargon first-hand. There is a combo package that gives one entrance to the Tasting Hall and a workshop of one’s choice – the way to go, for whisky idiots like me!

Other festival favourites are: an interactive cocktail making experience, the Back to Basics Zone (speaks for itself), live demonstrations of the distillation process by whisky experts, and, since 36% of last year’s attendees were women, there will be more attractions aimed at the fairer sex such as whisky cocktails and liqueurs, foods, jewellery and a chance to win a trip to Ireland.

Sounds like a great way to spend an evening. The festival will run from 18h00 to 22h00 daily in Cape Town at the Cape Town ICC from 4-6 November 2009, and in Johannesburg at the Sandton Convention Centre from 11-14 November 2009. Johannesburg gets an extra day this time around.

For additional info see the Whisky Live Festival website at: www.whiskylivefestival.co.za

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