For some years now Munich has enjoyed a whisky festival,
sometimes even two, but that's another story which will go
untold by me although if it were, then "Whisky Wars" would be a
Anyway, in the halcyon days of the early Munich whisky festivals
they were held on a wee island called 'Praterinsel' in the
middle of the river Isar which divides the city. Although a
location more famed for esoteric musical concerts, this worked
quite well as it afforded various separate buildings and
enclosures for the stands, food, traditional music (with its own
bar) and masterclasses. All without the feeling of
year the festival moved up the river a short distance
into the forum area of
the famous Deutches Museum, which is now
being gutted for renovation, so this year required another
location. The one chosen was
the MVG Museum, home to an array of
trams through the ages of Munich's public transport system.
did the Drams & Trams ambience suit the occasion?
route to the fair, which was serviced by a free shuttle bus,
which in itself was an antique befitting the location, I met an
old whisky friend who was looking forward to the chance of
seeing and photographing this transport history as much as he
was the whisky.
Personally I felt that this was indeed a good location,
there was plenty of room to move around, the stands were all
accessible and the event never felt as crowded as it has in some
past years, however, on reflection I must ask myself if this was
really due to the location, the number of visitors or even the
number of stands? But more of this in a minute.
thing which I consider important at such an event is food,
oh how good it would have been to have some there. Well, there
were some apologies for pre-made sandwiches,
but none of the wholesome fayre that Bavaria is renowned for and
which would have gone down a treat here!
whisky fair also needs water, lots of it. There were indeed
bottles of water on every stand and they happily poured it to
help one clean the glass and also re-hydrate, but a separate
table or stand where one could help oneself, as in previous
years, would also have been most welcome.
Meanwhile, back to the stands and location; I have already
said that it didn't feel as crowded as in previous years and yes,
the location was good, but my over-riding feeling is that the
number of visitors has seriously declined this year, at least on
the Saturday that I attended. Frank, who runs the fair, offered
a very impressive list of whisky brands on offer, but as my
friend Oliver also mentioned; the number of brands or
distilleries does not reflect the number of individual stands as
many offer more than one brand!
years have seen the major 'players' with large and
impressive stands, by this I really refer to Diageo, Pernod
Ricard and Ardbeg / Glenmorangie (LVMH). Thankfully they were
all in attendance this year, but not as impressively so,
as they had much smaller stands with not so many choices. Apart
from the last dribbles of their Rollercoaster and SN2010, Ardbeg
were offering only the basic standard range of 10y, Uigeadail
Diageo had a small Classic Malts stand and of these three,
Pernod Ricard had the best presence with their ranges of
Aberlour, Glenlivet and a couple of others. Come on you
big guys, you represent a large majority of the Scotch whisky
industry, show your wares and delight the public!
Without a doubt leading the way this year were smaller
independent stands. I spent lots of time talking to Andy
O'Neill and Hans Feld on the Cooper's Choice stand where they
had various versions of their much renowned OA; a 5y undisclosed
Islay offering, of which the CS version was truly excellent!
Lothar Langar is an independent whisky seller specialising
in those rarities of years long gone by and even has a great
selection on offer 'by the dram' as well as full bottles,
brilliant and I was happy to leave some of my 'hard-earned' with
him in return for some fine samples!
there was fellow Malt Maniac Pit Krause wih the Munich
Spirits stand and representing his own 'SlowDrink' with some
fine bottles, it's just a shame some were never opened because 'not
enough people' asked for them, how I would have loved a sample
of that Caperdonich.
Having said this, many high profile past
attendees were conspicuous by their absence; where were
Bruichladdich? Jim McEwan himself has usually attended in past
years, certainly their importer has always been there, but
sadly no more it seems. Also Whyte &
Mackay with their Jura and Dalmore offerings fronted by the nose
himself. Sadly no more it seems. Suntory - Bowmore? Sadly no
more it seems .... and the list goes on.....
least last year's cloakroom problems did not recurr as all
coat racks managed to stay upright this year. No more
So, is the Munich whisky fair in decline?
Sadly I think it is although I can't quite put my finger on why.
Frank works hard to promote and run it and it is indeed well run,
but it is a greatly different beastie (or would that be Beistie?)
to the event of a few years ago at the Praterinsel. It is no
longer a 'whisky' fair, it is promoted as a whisky and bar
festival with almost as much emphasis
on other 'spirits' as on whisky. It is also aimed at those funny
neon-lit cocktail emporia that the 'in crowd' frequent in
Munich's fashionable quarters. Oh how I long for those halcyon
days at the praterinsel, but at least my sample bottles are
still overflowing with some gems!