Last week was insane.
There really is no other way to describe it. I work exclusively on whisky clients so you better believe when the FNB Whisky Live Festival hits, all there is to do is batten down the fucking hatches, grit your teeth and plough through it.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I worked between 14 and 15 hours straight. If I saw J-Rab for longer than an hour on each one of those days, it was a long time.
Thing is, in the evenings I was working one of the stands at the festival, pouring fine Irish whiskey and trying my best to teach people a thing or two about what I strongly believe is the most magnificent spirit ever distilled.
After three nights of doing so, I became and expert at reading the people at the stand and was able to divide your average festival goer into one of the following categories:
1. The Guys Who Go There To Get Hammered
The worst of the lot. These fuckers don’t give a rat’s ass about whether your whisky is triple distilled, peat smoked or distilled by God himself, all they want to do is get wrecked and then boast to their friends about how they went to the festival, learned nothing, staggered drunk in the streets and spent the night in jail.
Here’s how a typical conversation went with these fuckers:
“How much to taste the 16 year old?”
“Three tickets?! Fucken ‘ell!”
I smile warily.
“Tell you what. I’ll give you ONE ticket,” the Guy Who’s There To Get Wasted replies.
“No, you’ll give me three.”
“Ag, c’mon man! No one’s looking!”
“That’s not the point. The point is the festival promotes responsible drinking. If I give you free whisky, you get drunk and make us look bad.”
“Ja, but the other stand didn’t take tickets.”
“Yes, well that’s because their whisky is shit.”
“Hahahahahahhahah! Ok, well how much is THAT one to taste?”
“That’s one ticket.”
“Do it! And make it a double!”
They then hang around, stinking up your stand for at least another 20 minutes talking loudly to one another and waiting for an opportunity to top up their glasses when you’re not looking.
Filthy vagrants. How they ever afforded the R180 tickets is beyond me.
2. The Wine Drinkers
The Wine Drinkers have got it down. They swirl the whisky in the glass just right, check the colour, check the legs, nose it whilst holding the stem of the glass delicately between thumb and forefinger and then, FINALLY, actually taste the stuff and recoil instantly like a snake just bit them in the face.
Wine drinkers aren’t used the the high level of alcohol in whisky, so they make this cute little face after they take a sip like someone just fed them a handful of sour worms and then try and say something polite about it like, “Mmm, very smooth.”
Fuck me. If I had R10 for every time I heard someone describe whisky as ‘smooth’ I would have walked out straight out of there and into early retirement.
Guys, work on your fucking adjectives, seriously. I think you can do better.
3. The “Experts”
I love these little jerkwads more than you can imagine. The “experts” are a dime a dozen at festivals like this, they arrive in their fancy 3-piece suits with their work colleagues, honing of Aramis while they saunter up to the stands with the hottest promo girls and proceed to wow them with how little they know about whisky.
One such expert and his three cronies walk up to my stand and before he’s even said one fucking word to me, starts helping himself to my ice bucket, loading about five blocks into his glass before addressing me like I’m a piece of turd he’s stood in and saying, “So. What’s good here?”
“For a discerning whisky-drinker like yourself sir, I’d recommend the 16 year-old”.
“Ahh. Yes. And how much is that?”
Tear, tear, tear. I take his glass and immediately dump all his ice in the spitoon.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“If you’re going to taste a fine whiskey, I would recommend first doing so neat and only then adding ice or water.”
“But the ice mellows the whisky!”
“No. The ice locks the flavours of the whisky in, thus limiting what you’re actually going to taste.”
“Oh. Well. I’ve heard differently.”
At which point crony No. 3 jumps in with the classic, “I see you don’t have your 12 year-old available tonight.”
“There is no 12 year-old in the family sir.”
“The 12 year-old? Yes there is! Comes with a blue label, I drank some the other night at a mates place. 12 year-old. Look it up.”
“Really? And how late was it when you drank this 12 year-old because, to put it simply, it doesn’t exist.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
“Probably. I mean what do I know? I’ve just worked on this brand for the last year of my life, dedicating countless hours to studying every facet of its history, heritage and intrinsic brand benefits, but yeah, you’re probably right.”
“Good. Now make sure you have some for tomorrow night, people are going to want to taste the 12 year-old. In my opinion it’s the best one.”
4. The Students
Sometimes these guys are actually pretty cool. They’re interested in learning more about whisky and don’t mind admitting the fact that they don’t know much to begin with. As a general rule, I prefer chatting with them than I do most other festival goers.
But once in awhile you get The Student who is an expert in the art of faking and comes up to the stand all eager to broaden his knowledge and literally pogoing on the spot with enthusiasm.
“So the whisky, it comes from barrels?”
“Yes, all whisky has to be matured for a minimum of three years in wooden casks (mostly oak) to be legally classified as whisky.”
“WOW! And While it’s in there, that’s where it gets the flavours?”
“Yes. Whisky gets all its colour and at least 70% of its flavour from the cask.”
“FLIPPIN AWESOME MAN!”
“Um, yeah. It is pretty amazing…”
“And the different spellings of whisky, one with the ‘e’ and one without, which one is which again?”
“Irish gets the ‘e’.”
“IRISH GETS THE ‘E’! Hahahaha! I flippin’ KNEW IT! How’s that hey!”
“So ja… how much to taste the 16 year old?”
“It’s three tickets.”
“Tell you what. I’ll give you ONE ticket.”
“Tell you what, I’ll call security and get your wasted ass thrown out.”
“One ticket it is! Hahaha! Irish with the ‘e’, I flippin’ KNEW it…”
5. The Suicidally Bored Housewives
Their husbands drag them there. They’re hating every minute of it. They wish they were at home putting a fine bottle of Pinotage to bed. Don’t try and converse with them. They are suicidal.
“Hi there ma’am, would you like to taste some of our fine whisky?”
“Oh, no thanks, I’m here with my husband” (Translation: Do you have any prescription-strength tranqs? I’m about to die of boredom).
“Well, you might as well taste a little whisky while you’re here.”
“Yes. I suppose I should” (Translation: Bring a glass of that vile-smelling stuff within three feet of me and I’ll eviscerate you with these uncomfortable fucking high heels my husband insisted I wear.)
“Here you go, give it a nose and tell me what you’re getting”.
“Mmm… smooth…” (Translation: Mmm… godawful…)
“Ok, now take a sip. You should pick up some softer honey notes at first and then a bit of spice around the sides of your tongue and some light, citrus notes on the finish.”
“Yes. Very nice.” (Translation: Are we done here? Because you know as much as I do I’d rather be at home right now banging the pool-boy).
So yeah, as you can imagine, last week was a lot of insanity followed by more insanity. Of course there are those who go to the festival and are lovely people and want to taste new whiskies and learn about them, in fact most of the people there are like that.
They just aren’t as interesting to write about as the others
So wish me luck this week and apologies if the content gets a little thin. I’m flying up to Joburg tomorrow so come stop by the festival if you wanna say hi. I can’t say the stand I’m manning, but here’s a clue:
It’s Irish, and it’s 402 years old.
Peace out party people, have a killer week.