Firstly, let me introduce myself. My name is Vicky but I am also known as the ‘Mad Hatter’ behind the blog Brumderland… Now that’s out the way, I will give you my thoughts on Nicholl’s & Perk’s second annual ‘Midlands Whisky Festival’, at thestudio Birmingham
The ‘Midlands Whisky Festival’ was originally just held in Stourbridge but made it’s way to Birmingham in 2016. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Stourbridge festival this year and had a particularly jolly time (so jolly, in fact, that I don’t remember the journey home – but that’s a whole other story) but hadn’t been to their Birmingham edition as yet. Now, I’m going to have a little gripe… The marketing and press calls the festival ‘the biggest of its type outside London’ (source: The Birmingham Mail), which is a bit of a bone of contention for me.
Whilst I certainly don’t say it’s a small festival, having attended events in Birmingham and indeed Scotland which are bigger in the number of stands and attendees, I find it a bit cheeky for them to put it into their press. Indeed, even in Birmingham, Whisky Birmingham (going into it’s 6 year next year) definitely has more stands (40+), more whiskies and potentially more attendees… But that might not bother you as it bothers me, so I will brush over that and carry on.
The first introduction to the festival for attendees was a bagpipe player ‘welcoming’ people in on Cannon Street. Now, I know a lot of people might dig it but Cannon Street seemed to work as a bit of a speaker, amplifying the sound of the bagpipes. This meant my slowly forming headache wasn’t getting any better in the 20 minutes we waited for the doors to open. The people next to me in the queue were equally unimpressed, although this was a quirk, it wasn’t welcome by all attendees at 11:45am in the centre of the city. Now… Honestly, moan over and onto the good stuff… The festival itself.
The doors were opened promptly at midday and checking in was pretty smooth. We were handed a guidebook as we were waiting, so could peruse the dram selection and plot a route before we got into the venue. It’s not a huge venue (The Studio venue actually has rooms over several floors but the festival just occupies two of these) and is accessible through lifts, etc, so it’s quite easy to navigate. It offers plenty of toilet facilities and water points, making it a great spot for a festival of this nature.
Being experienced whisky festival attendees, we headed straight to the topmost floor of the event (knowing that most newbies will head for the most easily accessible floor first) to say hello to some friends in the whisky industry and try our first drams of the day. After attending a delicious whisky matched dinner at The Plough just a week earlier, our first stop had to be Douglas Laing. We had spoken to David (their UK Ambassador) about their limited edition releases of Rock Oyster and Scallywag, so had to give these a try. Loving both peated and coastal whiskies – the Cask Strength edition of their Rock Oyster was an immediate winner with both me and Mr Brumderland. Their Scallywag is more of a sherry bomb (which isn’t necessarily my favourite variety of whisky) but was very pleasant. After trying those drams, we were set up for the day and ready to discover the rest of the treats instore!
The top floor was full of delights… From the delicious fruity and smoky Bunnahabhain, to the outright peated deliciousness of Elements Of Islay (with their AR8 being a highlight of the day) and the mellow tones of Irish whiskies from Jameson and Redbreast… We enjoyed old favourites and brand new releases whilst enjoying a lovely chat to the friendly reps, who are full of useful and insightful information.
On the first floor of the event there was more fun to be had… As well as the base for the retailer (Nickolls & Perks), who were selling many of the whiskies on taste at the event, there was more stands to be sampled. This was also where the outdoor balcony was located for the cigar masterclass/smokers and the food offering (which was a choice of baps, chips and a couple of other carbalicious bits and bobs). We didn’t try the food on this occasion (having had a massive breakfast to set us up for the day) but it looked like good stodge for ‘ booze soaking up’ purposes.
The stands on the first floor ranged from the deviously easy drinking Benromach, to American classic Wild Turkey and peated legends Ardbeg. Ardbeg were actually releasing their newest member of the family, the An Oa, on the day of the event – so it felt like a really special treat talking to their rep (the lovely Max) and getting to be one of the first consumers to sample this delightful dram. We’ve termed it the ‘fun aunt’ of the Ardbeg collection, due to it being far less ‘full on’ than something like the Corryvreckan and more chocolatey, smooth and gentle.
I didn’t get to attend any of the masterclasses on the day but the line up looked pretty comprehensive with some great brands in the mix. Whether you’re a whisky newbie or a bit of an expert, festivals are a great way to try a range of brands and styles without breaking the bank. I snagged Brummie Gourmand’s press invitation to this event but tickets are priced very reasonably at £40 (which include all whiskies on taste and a ‘Dream Dram’ token – which is the chance to try something rarer or a little more expensive). If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of whisky or just try something new, I would definitely recommend attending an event like this.
Midlands Whisky Festival boasts a great variety of brands, a venue offering everything an event like this would need and a laid back atmosphere. The next event will be in Stourbridge in 2018. Maybe I’ll see you there?
About Brumderland / Vicky Osgood
George has been writing Brumderland since 2015, and is a well respected events, PR and marketing manager with a passion for everything Birmingham .You can find her work at brumderland.co.uk.
Disclaimer: For this visit, Vicky was a guest of the team at East Village PR, and Vicky was gracious to attend on my behalf. As with all posts on this site, this blog was Vicky’s personal, unaltered, opinion. Brummie Gourmand strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.