A specialist whisky bar in Amsterdam will make history next week when it holds the Netherlands’ first ever judging session of a prestigious Scotch whisky awards contest. JD William’s Whisky Bar will invite customers to cast their votes in the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards on Friday, March 17 – the first time that votes have been cast outside Scotland in a brand new series of international judging sessions.
Whisky fans in the city will be invited to sample eight different single malt Speyside whiskies and place a vote for their favourite dram in four different age categories. But they will have to cast their vote on taste and aroma alone.
‘They will not know which whisky is in their glass until after all the votes have been counted’
The votes cast at JD William’s Whisky Bar will be added to those recorded during judging sessions in Germany and Canada as well as the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which takes place from April 27 to May 1. The organisers also hope to stage similar events in New York and Stockholm .
The Festival is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world and has been taking place for nearly 20 years. It comprises almost 500 events over five days, in the Speyside region in the north east of Scotland – an area of Scotland that is home to dozens of internationally renowned Scotch whisky brands.
The awards are a very important part of the Festival. It is one of very few awards in the world where the votes are cast by whisky drinkers and not a panel of experts, so to win one of the titles is considered a huge honour.
Organisers wanted to take the awards judging sessions overseas to raise awareness of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival outside Scotland. Dutch visitors have increased in recent years and it is hoped that after meeting the organisers and learning more about the event, the customers from JD William’s Whisky Bar will also want to pay a visit.
The bar is owned by Daniel Watts and is based at Prinsenstraat 5 in the Jordaan district. Daniel’s father was a huge fan of Scotch whisky and he inherited that passion. He also spent three years in Japan learning about that country’s fast-growing whisky industry.
He says, “I came up with the idea to open a whisky bar in Amsterdam because I felt it lacked a whisky bar that catered to the new whisky drinkers and also whisky cocktail drinkers. I wanted to focus on educating my new audience as well as appealing to more seasoned whisky drinkers.
“Scotch whisky is growing in popularity in the Netherlands – I’ve heard statistics that one in six people have tried it. They are beginners for the most part, but what makes Amsterdam quite appealing is that the locals want quality and want to learn about new things.
“That’s why I was so pleased when I was approached by the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival to hold this judging event. I’ve never visited the Festival myself, but it is on my bucket list. I have heard so much about it from friends who have visited.
“I think there will be a lot of interest from customers who want to come along and take part in the judging. It will be very exciting to be part of the process and to know that our customers will be helping to influence the final results.
“From my experience, Speyside whisky is probably the number one sales category for us. I think most new whisky drinkers will try a Speyside the first time they drink whisky, with brands like The Glenlivet, Macallan and Glenfiddich well-known.”
Customers who take part in the judging will get to sample eight malts of exceptional quality in four different age categories. The finalists have already been shortlisted following first round judging by a panel of industry experts earlier this year.
In the non-age statement category Aberlour a’bunadh is up against Tamdhu Batch Strength 002; while in the category for malt 12-year-old and under, the Aberlour 12-year-old will battle it out with Cragganmore 2004 Distiller’s Edition.
In the 13-20-year-old section it is a head to head between The Glenlivet 18-year-old and Glenfiddich 15-year-old. The two shortlisted whiskies in the 20 years and over category are Mannochmore 25-year-old Special Release and The Macallan 30-year-old Sherry Cask.
Linda Mellis, one of the directors of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, will be attending the event at JD William’s Whisky Bar with a colleague. She is looking forward to meeting whisky fans from the Netherlands and telling them more about the Festival.
She says, “Over the years we have seen more and more visitors from the Netherlands at the Festival and we love having them there. Our Dutch visitors are always full of fun – just like the Scots they are passionate about whisky but equally passionate about enjoying the event, making new friends and returning home with wonderful memories.
“Whisky is growing in popularity all over the world, but it is really starting to take off in the Netherlands with very popular festivals of its own such as Maltstock. The organisers of Maltstock have been regular visitors to our event, and they are doing a great job in spreading the word about the first class whisky that is made on Speyside.
“JD William’s Whisky Bar was an obvious choice for us to hold one of our international judging sessions – it has built up an impressive reputation and is held in very high regard by whisky drinkers. I hope customers old and new will join us for the judging and, as well as the chance to sample some truly heavenly malts, enjoy hearing more about what the Festival has to offer.”
The judging session for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Whisky Awards takes place on Friday, March 17 at 15:00 – 17:00. Tickets cost €25 and are available at www.eventbrite.com or at the bar.
The international awards sessions have been supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
Stuart Turner, head of EventScotland, says, “The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is a fantastic event and we are delighted to be supporting to take the Festival to the world. It is constantly finding innovative ways to engage with whisky enthusiasts. The global judging sessions are a great addition to the Festival and are the perfect stage for people to connect with this unique event while enjoying a wee dram of Scotland’s national drink.”
Based in the heart of Scotland’s malt whisky country, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place over five fun-filled days from April 27 to May 1, 2017. It comprises almost 500 events, taking place from Kingussie in the south to Forres in the west and Buckie in the east.
More information about the event is available at www.spiritofspeyside.com and tickets are also available to buy on the website. The Festival is active on social media – facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #dram17
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