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Whisky Talks Unleashed: Behind the Drams in Edinburgh

 We rolled up to the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, a familiar haunt for Fraser and me. Normally, we'd kick back with a few drinks and groove to some killer bands. But today, it's all about our brainchild, Whisky Talks.

I can't quite pinpoint when we cooked up this crazy idea we eventually called Whisky Talks, but I'm pretty sure it was during one of our whisky-fueled sessions at my place in Speyside. My whisky snug is always a dangerous but inspirational place that overflows with about 80 open bottles, a collection curated over my two decades of whisky adventures. And let's not forget Fraser's infamous inability to say no to a dram—I swear, it's a blessing and a curse!

Fast forward to now, and we're hauling in 560 Glencairn glasses, prepping for the 85 guests who've RSVP'd to our shindig. Five panel talks are lined up, featuring twelve speakers and a lineup of eight incredible drams. It's going to be epic. Thanks to the fantastic staff at Voodoo Rooms, setup is a breeze. By 11 a.m., we're ready to rock and roll. Jo's at the door, armed with name badges and a killer smile, ready to greet our guests.

We kick things off with a deep dive into Edinburgh's whisky legacy, both past and present, and to do this, I am joined by a stellar lineup of our first whisky experts: Arthur Motley from Royal Mile Whiskies, Pete Allison, blender of Woven, and Ian Stirling, local entrepreneur, and owner of the newly established Port of Leith Distillery. Amidst sips of Port of Leith's new make spirit and Wovens Homegrown Blended Whisky, we spin yarns about Edinburgh's colourful past, including Arthurs's tales of prostitutes selling Edinburgh whisky in the 1900s and Pete's quirky hatred of specific yeast strains—very separate conversations, mind you!

The crowd at Whisky Talks Edinburgh
Whisky Talks

After a satisfying but punchy lunch break, Fraser takes the reins for a lively discussion titled ‘Scotland vs the World – Emerging Blends and Global Trends.’ He's joined by Stephanie Peck, Ardray's UK Ambassador, the dynamic Ali Reynolds from Stauning, and the ever-inspiring Charlotte Coyle of Brown Foreman Malts. Together, they dissect the ever-changing landscape of whisky trends, keeping the audience on their toes. 

Charlotte Coyle, Stephanie Peck and Ali Renyolds
Charlotte, Ali & Steph

Back in the spotlight, it's my turn to strut my stuff on the state of bars in Scotland—mind you, it's been a good 20 years since I've been behind one! Luckily, I'm in excellent company, joined by the legendary Kyle Jameson from Nauticus, Sian Buchan, the powerhouse behind Uno Mas, and Allan Moffat from Larkfire.

Between the four of us, we dive headfirst into the evolution of the Scottish whisky bar scene. From the cosy nooks of traditional pubs to the chic sophistication of modern cocktail joints, we leave no stone unturned. And when you thought things couldn't get wilder, we veer into the realm of imagination, pondering the possibility of tartan-clad robots pouring our favourite drams. This idea was not well received by the crowd, who were starting to get thirsty again.

AI bartender
Our Scottish robot bartender

Ah, the next session was a real treat as we delved into the world of brand ambassadors—three drams deep! Fraser takes the lead, again accompanied by the dynamic trio of Ali, Charlotte, and Steph. Together, they lift the curtain on the life of a brand ambassador while savouring some top-notch whiskies: Benriach 16, Stauning, and the newbie on the block—Ardray. As they regale the crowd with tales from the front lines of whisky advocacy, the audience hangs on their every word. From the glamorous events to the nitty-gritty of whisky marketing. And let's not forget the role those delicious drams play in sweetening the deal—after all, a good whisky makes every story a little more magical!

And now, it's time for the grand finale of Whisky Talks—a moment the crowd eagerly anticipates, akin to the final act of the Glastonbury festival! We're pulling out all the stops for our last hurrah, bringing in heavy hitters like Ronan Currie, the assistant blender for GlenAllachie, the legendary Mike Aikman of Bramble bar and Mothership fame, and a rock star of the whisky world, Dr. Rachel Barrie.

Dr Rachel Barrie, Brown Forman
Rachel Barrie & Mike Aikman

The stage is set for an unforgettable session. Mike takes the spotlight first, shedding light on the world of independent bottling and treating everyone to a sip of his phenomenal Strathclyde Single Grain, aged 29 years. Then, Ronan steps up to the plate, painting a vivid picture of the magic behind GlenAllachie whiskies and how that looks working with Billy Walker.  He then pulls out a tantalising GlenAllachie 15 that leaves everyone's taste buds tingling. And when you think it couldn't get any better, Rachel steals the show with tales from her illustrious 30-year career, whisking us away on a sensory journey through Glenglassaugh Sandend.

With thunderous applause ringing through the room, it's time for a well-deserved team photo with all the speakers, followed by a pilgrimage to the bar for some expertly crafted cocktails.

Fraser, Jo, and I share a triumphant crisp high five, basking in the success of what many have called one of the best whisky events of their lives—seriously, they told us themselves! Then, it's off into the Edinburgh night to celebrate in style.

Dr Rachel Barrie, Benriach
Our amazing speakers

A heartfelt thank you to all the speakers and sponsors who made this magic happen. Whisky Talks was born to celebrate whisky and its vibrant community, and boy, did it deliver just that in Edinburgh.

If you missed out on the action, we're taking the show on the road, with stops in Glasgow on May 14th, Aberdeen on November 12th, and Inverness on November 14th. Don't miss your chance to join in on the hottest whisky event in the UK right now—sign up on our Whisky Talks page today… it's free!

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