A world of whisky awaits at the FNB Whisky Live Festival @WhiskyLiveSA

The 2014 FNB Whisky Live Festival, opens to whisky fans, from 12 – 14 November 2014 and promises a twelfth consecutive year of celebrating the joys of aquae vitae – whisky, the water of life, according to the fifteenth century Scottish monks who fine-tuned this remarkable category for our twenty-first century tasting pleasure.

The Festival offers visitors a choice of more than 150 whiskies from all over the world, with three evenings of tastings and workshops giving Johannesburg’s whisky lovers abundant opportunity to sample their favourite, try something new, or to network with friends and business associates in a sophisticated, festive environment.

With so many whiskies to choose from, how should visitors plan their evening of celebrating the dram? Here are just a few things you can do at the event:

· Buy a VIP ticket, which will give you exclusive access to the Festival for the first 60 minutes (from 17h00 to 18h00), as well as the opportunity to sample special tasting treats reserved for guests during this hour. VIP ticketholders receive 10 additional tasting vouchers and have access to the VIP lounge area.

· Book now for one (or more!) of the specialist hour-long master classes on the FNB Whisky Live Festival website, which cost R120 per person per session. Presenters include, among others: Ian MacMillan, Master Distiller for Bunnahabhain and Scottish Leader, who will present 12, 18 and 25 year old expressions of Bunnahabhain; Thamsanqa Banda, national brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, who will present four expressions of the whisky, including the Glenfiddich 21 year old Caribbean Cask; and Andy Watts, master distiller at Three Ships, who will share a sneak preview of the Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt, due for release at the end of 2015.

· South Africa’s own Master of the Quaich, Pierre Meintjies, will also lead workshops. He is just one of 159 Masters of the Quaich in the world with this title having been bestowed on him by Keepers of the Quaich worldwide.

· Check in at the Festival Tasting Room in the main tasting hall, where different brands will host half-hour presentations about their offerings. These sessions are at no extra cost, but seats are limited and need to be booked on a first-come, first-serve basis each night.

· Forget all the serious stuff you’ve been told about whisky, and look out for the quirky Monkey Shoulder mobile bar with Dominic Walsh, the brand’s drummer-traveller-bartender-brand-ambassador. Monkey Shoulder is triple distilled, and a great brand to launch your whisky-tasting career.

· Visit the brandhouse Flavour Explorer to learn more about your particular taste in whisky. The team on the stand will use flavour profiles to help visitors choose the right whiskies, identifying Vibrant, Bold, Rich or Fresh profiles.

· Once you’ve established your flavour profile, visit the brandhouse connoisseur stand, where you can sample the first of six annual limited releases of unique small batches of remarkable John Walker & Sons Private Collection blends by Master Blender Jim Beverage. Only 8,888 bottles of this precious dram were distributed worldwide, one of which will be on display at the stand.

· Taste the limited edition ‘Tullamore D.E.W Phoenix’, recently launched to celebrate the opening of a new William Grant & Sons Irish whiskey distillery in Tullamore, Central Ireland. The distillery started production in September, bringing Tullamore D.E.W whiskey back to its roots in the historic town, for the first time since 1954.

· Visit the Bunnahabhain display and ‘meet’ newcomer Eirigh na Greine (pronounced Ae-ree ne gray-nyuh), a whisky aged in casks previously used to mature red wine. This aging process imparts rich aromas and flavours of fruit, with very attractive sweet and spicy notes.

· Other newcomers to keep a watch out for are Tomatin and Smokehead, which will be introduced by the ever-entertaining Steve Adams from Wild about Whisky in Dullstroom. These two contrasting drams are sure to offer a memorable tasting sensation.

· Visit The Americans (the whiskies, not the series), and become more closely acquainted with four expressions of Jack Daniel’s’ finest, including Gentleman Jack, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select, and Labrot & Graham Woodford Reserve.

· Head ‘east’ and visit the Kavalan stand to sample this ground-breaking Taiwanese whisky, which sees more than one million visitors to its distillery each year.

· Visitors to the Festival will be able to buy their own limited edition bottle of the FNB Whisky Live Festival cask strength expression of Balblair, with only 600 bottles being made available. This is an annual tradition at the Festival, with previous bottlings appreciating substantially in value after the event.

· If you’d like a break from the fine beverages on display, you could visit the Tsogo Sun Deli, curated by Peter Mabizela, the head chef of the Sandton Convention Centre. Foods on display will include a selection of cheeses, sushi, tapas and desserts.

· Don’t forget to stop by Tag Heuer and Chopard’s beautiful range of hand-crafted timepieces, and test out some fragrances of a different kind by Issey Miyaki, Bvlgari and Hermes. You could also admire luxury clothing by Brentwood and sample some handmade Belgian Chocolates or Chaloner Preserves.

More information about all the workshops and tasting events is on www.whiskylivefestival.co.za, to help Festival visitors plan their evening of celebrating the spirit!

Tasting Hall tickets are selling at 2013 rates: R195 on Wednesday 12 November and Thursday 13 November for tickets pre-purchased online and R220 at the door, while tickets for Friday 14 November night cost R220 at www.whiskylivefestival.co.za or www.ticketpros.co.za and R240 at the door. Guests can unlock additional value-adds at the event if they answer a few simple questions about their whisky choices at Reward Stations positioned around the venue.

Only 500 VIP tickets per night are available at a cost of R750 each, and should be booked on the website in advance. All VIPs will receive a R200 voucher for Uber taxis (valid for first-time users of the service only).

All ticket prices include a complimentary tasting glass, a 2015 SA Whisky Handbook (launched at the Festival), a 500ml bottle of Valpré Spring Water and 15 tasting vouchers.

Follow @WhiskyLiveSA on Twitter, ‘like’ the FNB Whisky Live Festival Facebook page, or subscribe to our newsletter at www.whiskylivefestival.co.za for updates about the event.

The FNB Whisky Live Festival promotes responsible drinking. No persons under the age of 18 years will be allowed into the Festival. Designated driver tickets are also available at R95 per ticket. Part of the ticket proceeds will be donated to The Foundation for Alcohol Related Research (FARR).

Editor's choice