Whisky gets frisky

The nation's newest festival aims to ditch the tartan

and celebrate the true spirit of Scotland. Raise your glass to the International Scotch Whisky Festival.

Words: Stephen Naysmith

Visitors to Scotland come to sample the culture, to see the Highlands and the castles. They come for a flavour of all things Scottish and there is one taste unavoidably associated with this country whisky.

It is Scotland's most famous export, and one of which Scots are justifiably proud. But until now, with the birth of the International Scotch Whisky Festival in Edinburgh and Speyside, there hasn't been a celebration of its virtues.

That surprised Alan Kotz, managing director of Aspect International. The London-based travel promoter seized the opportunity and found there was plenty of enthusiasm for a whisky festival both at home and abroad. 'I didn't realise just how wide the appeal extends,’ he says. 'There are whisky lovers in every corner of the globe and this festival is a forum for them to meet and share their thirst for "the water of life”.'

The whisky industry has recently started to recognise its failure to build

The spirit of Scotland: whisky is to be celebrated in a new festival

new markets. With many brand names having an international reputation for their excellence, it has perhaps been guilty of resting on its laurels.

Brands such as Bells and Whyte And Mackay have pitched directly for the youth market, using television advertising and stars such as Phil Kay. But some have still to make the leap, according to Pete Irvine, managing

Celebrity chefs John Webber, Philippe Wagenfuhrer and Iain McMasters will cook a dram fine dinner

director of Unique Events who produced the festival's Edinburgh programme.

'Whisky is not obviously a young person’s thing here, whereas elsewhere in Europe it is more hip,’ he says. ‘I think the reason is that drinks like whisky and coke are anathema here, but some blended whisky companies are trying to change that and make it more accessible.’

Much of the programme for the whisky festival deals with tastings and nosing, and traditional dinners and ceilidhs. But the festival is also aiming for a younger punter. You can sample music, comedy and DJs at The Scotch Club in Edinburgh’s Palladium, and a blend of ceilidh and club sounds at a Hallowe’en Party in the Assembly Rooms.

There are no obvious precedents for such a festival, says Irvine. This IS not like a beer festival. 'lvlunich beer festival is just a huge piss-up really, whereas this is based around a particular drink, made in a particular place.

’Whisky is one thing that everybody associates with Scotland and it has never been celebrated in this way.’

The organisers hope there is plenty on offer to appeal to young and old, novices and connoisseurs alike. If it is successful, the event will become an annual addition to Edinburgh's thriving festival calendar.

The International Scotch Whisky Festival is in Edinburgh and Speyside, Thu 30 Oct-Sun 2 Nov. See listings and information box for details.

Whisky festival listings

Information The International Scotch ' Whisky Festival begins ' I across Speyside fromeop; 27-Wed 29 Oct. and to Edinburgh from Oct. For credit card 5.57? g bookings, contact Ticketline. 0131 220 4349,. For further tickets and}. ‘7 7 .5 information, contact._the.-. I i International Scotch, Whiskyjs‘ Festival Office on 0131556“ ' 7441.


The Scotch Club The Palladium. Broughton Place. 0131 220 4349. Thu 30 Oct—Sat I Nov. 8.30pm—late. £10. The McCluskey Brothers headline a programme of music. cabaret and comedy to accompany a wee swallie. The Bells Experience The Palladium. Broughton Place. 0131 556 744I.Thu 30 Oct~Sat 1 Nov. 5—7pm; Sat I Nov I—3pm. Free but ticketed. Hosted by the Scotch Club. this is a free introduction to whisky for novices. The emphasis is on fun. with video and quizzes.

Drambuie Whisky Festival Films The Filmhouse. 88 Lothian Road. 0131 228 2688. 8.30pm. £4.70 (£3.50 Thu only). ll’liiskv Galore kicks off this three-night season of Scottish film classics. each preceded by a short compilation of whisky advertising through the ages. See Fri 31. Sat I and film listings.

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Whisky Galore: the classic movie which puts Scotland's national drink up in lights. is showing at the festival

24 Oct—6 Nov 1997 THEUST 105