Have you ever fancied going to a drinks festival? They are a fantastic way to sample a range of spirits with the guidance of the people who make and distribute them. A small shop in the South West of Scotland had such passion for the brands that they were selling in their shop, that they decided to set up their own Whisky Festival back in 2011. I spoke to the people behind the festival to find out more.
What made you start the Drambusters festival?
Jim McEwan, The face behind Bruichladdich at the time, pushed us to do it because he knew from doing tastings for us that we had a brilliant customer base and loyalty.
Can you introduce everyone on your team briefly and what parts they play?
Too many to mention individually but the main ones are myself – Karen Gibson, I do all things administrative, brochure design etc etc.
Brian Gibson, purchasing, organising the event, building the ‘shop’ on site and generally running the whole show.
Christine Oliver, Shop manageress, helping us to organise the stock movement for the event, moving the stock, managing the main shop on the day and organising the stock on its return.
All the guys that help us on the day and there are many, helping load, unload, man tills, stands, people, doors, security, first aid … the list goes on!
Is it important to you to support local and especially Scottish distributors?
Of course it is. Particularly local producers whose range of products are fantastic.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
The time frame for organising the event, particularly in the weeks leading up to the event and in the last few days before it takes place when we all seem to do 13 hour days with no weekends.
Do you have plans to add extra dates?
That’ll be a no. One day a year is quite sufficient thank you. We also wouldn’t ask our suppliers to commit to any more as they are also busy throughout the year.
Do you plan to run another gin/rum festival?
Not at the present time.
Do you find that people enjoy an variety of spirits being available or do the whisky lovers prefer it to be more inclusive to the malts?
The feedback that we have is that all like to have a variety of products for sampling, particularly at this point in the lead up to Christmas.
Thanks so much to Karen at TB Watsons for taking time out to talk to me this week when I can imagine they are in the midst of last minute preparations!
My husband has been an avid Whisky drinker for many years and regularly visits some of the bigger Whisky festivals in Scotland, yet Drambusters is still a big pull for him. Three years ago I decided to head to one myself and I was truly impressed.
I am a gin and rum drinker and came away pleasantly surprised to discover the range of other spirits they had available to sample. Because many of the big Whisky distilleries also run a line of Gin and many of the big distributers have other brands under their belts there was a good range of drinks. From cocktail mixers to liqueurs the choice was endless. And even me, someone who would have hands down said I hated Whisky, came away with a new appreciation. There really is a Whisky out there for most palates. I was also pleased to see the split of men and women at the festival, Whisky is still seen as a mans drink but that image is slowly changing.
In todays climate it is nice to see a small business succeeding. A lot of the other festivals are run by big business and a few are sponsored by distillers so I feel they are slightly biased. I attended a gin festival recently where the cost of your ticket got you one thing – admission! In order to taste any of the spirits you had to shell out £5 a pop there were no testers! Drambusters is refreshingly honest. They charge a ticket fee (this year £36) and this entitles you to entry, a branded snifter glass, and samples from all the suppliers onsite. They include a voucher for £5 off any bottle purchased that day and have their own shop running on site. They also run masterclasses which you can buy tickets separately for, to taste a select few of their suppliers higher end malts along with a talk about them. They run a shuttle bus from the venue at Easterbrooke hall back into town afterwards and also have food served at the venue throughout the day.
I am always delighted to see them championing local business by giving their products a place alongside some of the big hitters. It must be a huge boost for them and means that customers sometimes get a first look at up and coming brands before they have become mainstream! I was delighted to discover some tasty rums amongst last years selections – rum is where it’s going to be at over the next few years, mark my words!
I find the whole festival incredibly well run, by people enthusiastic about their business and the products. For the volume of alcohol onsite I was amazed over the last three years to have never come across any hassle – security is high but the mood is more jovial than leary. Responsible drinking is a message clearly given and received. People go to Drambusters because of their own love of Whisky and other spirits, but also for the atmosphere and to share in others passion and gain insight and knowledge.
Have you been to a drinks festival? You can find out more about Drambuster here – Drambusters Whisky Festival. Tickets for this year were sold out shortly after going in sale in March. Follow them on Facebook to be kept in the loop about next years sales or even be lucky enough to pick up any last minute tickets.
Roll on tomorrow!