The Corn Exchange, Cupar, Fife, Saturday 10th March 2018
The inaugural Fife Whisky Festival was held over two sessions on Saturday 10th March 2018. I was first alerted to this upcoming festival by the fact that I know both the organisers involved. Karen from Angel’s Share Glass and Justine from Kask Whisky.
With the renaissance of whisky making firmly underway in Fife, I guess it was only a matter of time before a solid festival celebrating this was arranged within the region. The festival was held on Saturday 10th March at The Corn Exchange in Cupar, opened by Cyclist Mark Beaumont and split over two 4 hour sessions, with a Masterclass in each session.
Despite it being a damp and miserable day outside thanks to the Scottish weather, the outlook inside was really rather sunny. Each session had around 300 people capacity and was split over 2 floors, with nearly 30 exhibitors stalls to entertain them.
The bias was perhaps justifiably towards the new distillers in Fife including Eden Mill, Kingsbarns (& Wemyss Malts), Inchdairnie, Lindores Abbey and Strathearn (actually in Perthshire but near enough Fife). Bolstered by stalwarts such as Glen Moray, Deanston (Distell), Arran, Loch Lomond/Glen Scotia and Springbank as well as notable independent bottlers Adelphi, That Boutique-Y Whisky Co., Murray McDavid, etc.
We were really in good company in what was a fairly open and relaxed environment conducive to actually getting to talk to the vendors and ambassadors. Rather than the traditional thrusting through the sea of arms holding empty glasses as you jostle for position at each stall as can often be found at more crowded events. In fact the room to move freely and breathe allowed much more contemplation of the whiskies and the stories behind them, provided in an unhurried way for once.
Ambience was added to with live music by the Coaltown Daisies. In fact the whole event had a relaxed, welcoming and fun atmosphere that more than reflected the character of the organisers themselves (though probably not how they were feeling at the time!)
One of the highlights for me was getting to see a little more of the thinking and operation of Inchdairnie distillery, by their master distiller no less. Having a sample of their Rye whisky new make spirit was certainly educational too.
My whisky highlights for the evening included:
- Glen Moray 30 Year Old 1986 (cask 2307) Mission Gold from Murray McDavid
- Glen Moray 1994 Sherry Cask from Glen Moray
- Deanston Decennary from Deanston
- The Winter Queen from Fusion Whisky
In fact I am pretty sure this festival contained the most actual Distillers of any I have been too. So it wasn’t only the brand ambassadors peddling their usual marketing, but the real people behind the making of the whisky present on many of the stalls!
Having had a thoroughly good time and caught up with many friends both old and new, I would say the Fife whisky festival is firmly on the calendar and Fife whisky is firmly on the map! Once the dust had settled and the fried breakfasts a mere greasy memory I managed to fire a few questions to the organisers about the event.
What possessed you/madness drove you to setup the festival?
I have quite the collection of domain names – some may argue that it’s actually better than my whisky collection – including the various “Fife Whisky Festival” site addresses. So, one day, when Karen asked when it was going to happen, I explained that it wasn’t something that could be done by just one person and she suggested organising the festival together. Of course, I jumped at the chance to work with Karen. Fife is steeped in whisky history and, now, with new distilleries such as InchDairnie, Kingsbarns, Eden Mill and Lindores together with Daftmill, it makes sense that Fife should have its own whisky festival. Justine
We didn’t think it was a mad idea until the week before. Then I did question what we were doing. But the success of the festival has strongly erased those dark thoughts. Karen
How it went (for you)?
It was our first festival so we anticipated that some things might not go according to plan. We just didn’t know what they would be until they happened! However, we feel we got the most important things right. For me, it was important to have a good number of people to create an atmosphere without it being too ‘elbows out’ crowded. People and exhibitors had plenty of opportunities to chat to each other so we were pleased with that. Justine
I think we got it just right. We are both born organisers although Justine is certainly the pragmatic one where as I’m very much “try it and see”. Karen
How you feel about the renaissance of whisky making in Fife?
It’s exciting! These smaller, independent distilleries are able to focus more on creating whisky from the whisky maker’s point of view rather than an accountant’s. Obviously, they are still businesses and still need to make money but I think the quality of whisky from Fife’s distilleries will be the marketing in itself. Justine
Fife is becoming exciting as a destination in general, the more events and attractions the area has to offer the better. The new distilleries certainly are giving a reason to travel around Fife and take in the villages and coastal towns. Karen
Can we expect it back next year and is there anything you may do differently or want to retain from this year’s experience?
Yes, we’ll be back next year! In some respects, this year’s event was about testing the water. We have plenty of ideas for next year’s event… Justine
Next year is already in the planning. So watch this space! Karen
So keep your eyes peeled on Fife Whisky Festival.com
Thanks to Justine and Karen, co-organisers of Fife Whisky Festival.