A few thoughts on VWF 2007:
Richard Paterson's presentation was very entertaining and informative--the man has an amazing head for dates!--but I was put off a bit by what seemed to me to be overtheatricality. Early on he said, "If I see you holding the glass like this [by the bowl]--I'll kill you!" If it had been a spontaneous joke, I'd have been more amused, but it's obviously a line he uses at every presentation, for effect, and as such I didn't think it was very funny. Several other calculated "jokes" fell a bit flat with me, and I really didn't think it was necessary to throw a bucketful of ice against the wall of a hotel ballroom to make the point that he thinks you shouldn't put ice in your dram.
The attendee seated to my left, who, for her protection, shall be referred to here only as "W", surreptitiously held her dram Murray-style below the table. Good for her. I gave Mr Paterson the benefit of the doubt and did it his way; after all, it was his tasting. (Paterson thinks you shouldn't warm the dram because you will change it. Murray thinks you should warm the dram because you will change it. What I get from this is that different people think different things, and one ought to be able to make up one's own mind without having one's life threatened, however frivolously.)
To be fair, I gathered that Mr Paterson had endured a rather gruelling travel schedule prior to his arrival, and he seemed to be a little off-form for the first five or ten minutes. That may have given the appearance of being somewhat forced to me, coloring my impression of the rest of the presentation. And I want to emphasize that on the whole, it was an excellent experience that I would not want to have missed.
I had not intended to attend any masterclasses this year, but Ron fell into a pair of tickets for the Inver House class (thanks, Lawrence), presented by Jim Murray. Again, it was overall an excellent presentation, but I do have a complaint. Based on this masterclass and last year's tasting, as well as comments from others who have attended similar events, Mr Murray seems to have a chronic problem managing his time. The masterclasses were tightly scheduled, and after an hour, the rooms had to be made ready for the next class. We did not touch a glass until twenty minutes in. Had Mr Murray not felt compelled to spend five minutes telling us how great he is (we know who you are...), and another five in ridiculing Mr Paterson (as good-natured as it was supposedly intended, and as much as I agreed with Murray on the points, it struck me as very unprofessional), we would not have had to give the last dram such short shrift. Stewards were at the door, urging us all to be on our way, before we even touched the glass.
Again, these are relatively minor annoyances, and on the whole I found both events worthwhile.
The Consumer Tasting (the general exhibition) was scheduled for 7:00, but Lawrence was kind enough to arrange for forum members to attend the press session from 5:30 to 6:30, and I'm very appreciative that he did. This was the best opportunity to talk to distillery reps; the general session is too busy and noisy for effective schmoozing, I think. (I should add that, with the action spread over two rooms, this festival was, I gather, quite a bit less densely packed than many similar events, and was not uncomfortably crowded at all.) And frankly, after a certain number of drams, I just can't taste anything any more, anyway. This was only my second event of this kind, and while I did much better than last year, I think further refinement of my strategy will be in order. I had my first-ever of a number of things, and tried to taste the sort of stuff I wouldn't normally, like bourbon, rye, blends, and Irish; but I really couldn't tell you much about any of them. The only one that stood out late in the evening was a SMWS Littlemill, and that isn't a compliment.
In fact, I hadn't intended to stay for much of the general session, thinking I would sneak off for a pint or two instead. But I stayed until the end, as it was a nice social occasion, and it was a chance to hang with forum members not seen in a year, or just met. The scene in Suite 952 was a convivial one, as well, and it was with regret that I made my exit earlier than most--don't need Dave making fun of me next year--not knowing when or if I will see many of you again. Whisky is a social drink, best shared with friends, as Len, with his bottle of Glenfarclas Quarter Cask, can attest. (At least I hope he still feels that way; it went awfully fast.) Fate may cross our paths again or not. Each dram holds fond memories.
À la prochaine!