Only in its second year, Whiskybase The Gathering, has already become the best festival in the Netherlands. It is different from all other whisky festivals and that is exactly what we needed in the Netherlands. This festival does not focus on the big brands, but has in addition to a few independent bottlers also a large number of collectors, of which some are (almost) never seen before on a festival.
Compared to last year, there were some changes. There was a whisky dinner and a ‘bring your own bottle’ event (BYOB) on Friday and an afterparty on Saturday night after the festival. A great opportunity to talk to other enthusiasts for a bit longer and to share a dram in a more intimate setting. And there was a shop on the site of the Maassilo, where the festival was held again this year.
The whisky dinner, held at the Kaapse Maria, had the theme ‘closed distilleries’. A very relaxed dinner with small bites and beautiful whiskies including a Brora 1981 and Glenury Royal 1973. All of them from Signatory Vintage. The BYOB, held at the same location, was a great succes. It was quite busy and everyone seemed to enjoy the company of fellow enthusiasts and the whiskies being shared. A nice start to the weekend and also ideal for the foreign guests who arrived on Friday. It had the community vibe what Whiskybase is all about.
The festival itself was completely sold out. A little bit more crowded than last year, but you were still able to talk to the exhibitors and sit at one of the many tables to relax and enjoy a dram. Like last year, there were 3 areas; with 2 areas dedicated to whisky and the one in the middle was the food court, where you could buy some great food from local companies or simply enjoy a nice beer.
They moved the Whiskybase stall from the corner to the center of the last area, a smart move since it was quite busy last year in that corner. With a vast array of their Archives bottlings they now had a prominent place in the middle of that area. With Archives fishes swimming above our heads – projected on screens at the ceiling – it looked quite stunning. There were no less than 5 festival bottlings this year, but the Clynelish 1997 was my absolute favourite.
From the Whiskybase stall I walked to the other side, where the Whisky Nerds stood. Their collection of whiskies was quite impressive, including the Tormore 1966 from Samaroli. Too much to choose from, but I was actually there to taste their latest release, the Inchmurrin 2003 ‘Executive’. Which is a vatting of both their bourbon and sherry matured Inchmurrins, that had been released earlier this year. And just like the other two, it was pretty good!
There were also 3 tastings that day, the first one was an Old & Rare tasting hosted by Angus MacRaild, followed by an ‘Inverness closed distilleries’ tasting by Phil Thompson, and the last one was a van Wees tasting hosted by Werner Bos. All 3 were also exhibitors on the festival itself.
I went to the tasting hosted by Phil Thompson from Dornoch Castle, the Inverness Closed Distilleries tasting. A great tasting with some wonderful drams, including an Glen Mhor 1975 and Millburn 1974 both from Cadenhead. But more about these drams later this month. Also interesting was the fact that Phil brought some new make from their distillery. Which was quite enjoyable and fruity. Someone said it tasted somewhat like grappa! 🙂
Time to move on and explore the first area. There was the Maltstock stall, aka the fruit corner. Good for your healthy dose of fruity whiskies! What a relaxed idea of the guys. A lot of Lochside whiskies could be found here, like an Lochside 1981 from The Whisky Agency. After the short visit of this area it was already time to leave.
There was so much more to be found at the festival, like In2Whisky with their massive range of Islay whiskies or Enrico Gaddoni with all this fantastic rare whiskies from his own collection. And I did not even pay a visit to one of the independent bottlers, such as Maltbarn, Whisky-Fässle and Murray McDavid. I simply did not have the time. With more than 1500 whiskies and all the great people I’ve met during the day it was almost impossible to see it all.
In the evening there was another gettogether at the Kaapse Brouwers, where we enjoyed the good company and the beautiful drams everybody brought. It was a perfect ending to a fantastic weekend.
In my opinion it was again a great success, the extra events were a nice addition to the festival and so was the shop. Although there are some improvements to be achieved over there. But hey, who’s complaining. Keep up the good work guys! See you next year.
Note: Next year the festival will take place in October instead of November. The date: 20 October 2018.