After attending Hanse Spirit with the Douglas Laing team, our Fellow Tobias Piwek reflects on his experience…
Over the past couple of years, I have attended quite a few whisky events – exhibitions, tastings, distillery tours, get-togethers and the like. Usually, I went there as a visitor and drammer. But on the 2nd of February, I switched sides and experienced the busy Saturday of Hanse Spirit in Hamburg as an exhibitor. Together with Douglas Laing’s brand ambassador Claire as well as my other partners-in-crime Detlef, Timo and Arthur. When I went home that night, I not only brought with me a set of aching feet and a bottle of Big Peat 26YO Platinum, but also a wealth of new learnings and impressions.
One simple but essential take-away was this: Working a whisky fair ain’t no walk in the park.
-Tobias Piwek, Douglas Laing Fellow
The day is long, loud, busy and exhausting. But, it is also great fun! With new people targeting the booth by the minute, time really flew. I found it super interesting to learn by which criteria the visitors picked their drams of choice. A lot of passers-by stopped because the colourful labels of the Remarkable Malts – all six of which we had on offer – caught their eye. Many others were looking for single casks from specific distilleries, some of which we had indeed available in the form of Old Particular or XOP releases. One guy choked on a sip of Big Peat 26yo Platinum, coughing non-stop for almost a minute. Upon the third or fourth cough, a group of young men came up to me and said: “We have no idea what he just drank but give us the same, please!”
Another thing I really enjoyed was the atmosphere at the booth. My colleagues and I chatted and joked aplenty, helped each other wherever we could and shared quite a few drams together (after all, I had to know what I was serving the guys at the other side of the counter). Whenever I needed some assistance with a Douglas Laing product, Claire flew to my side without hesitation. Normally, I know the main distilleries in each of the Remarkable Malts, for example. But, in the heat of the moment, I could not always recite them all. So, when I poured a customer a glass of Timorous Beastie and told her that this was a blended malt from the Highlands with Glengoyne, Dalmore, Blair Athol and… ah… in the recipe, all I needed to do was turn towards Claire to learn that Glen Garioch was the one I was missing.
As for the drams I got to sip at the booth, they were quite exceptional. The “holy grails” of the line-up were an Ardbeg 1992 (25YO) and a Port Dundas 1978 (40YO) from the XOP Platinum series. These were especially delightful. On the one hand, they were both extremely rich and rewarding in smell and taste. On the other hand, they constituted the kinds of drams that I do not get to sip all too often. I was really happy for the opportunity to drink them at Hanse Spirit. This being said, the more affordable drams were just as delightful. I especially enjoyed refreshing my memory of the Scallywag 13YO, making the acquaintance of the latest batch of The Gauldrons and getting smoked out by an uber-peated Caol Ila 6YO from the Provenance range.
All in all, I had a splendid time working the booth at Hanse Spirit and I really hope this was not the last time I “switched sides” at a whisky fair.
The next time you attend such an event, I wholeheartedly recommend you to visit the stand of either Douglas Laing themselves or their regional partner. You will be welcomed with a smile and you will leave with remarkable whisky in your belly.
-Tobias Piwek, Douglas Laing Fellow
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