A Guide to the Best Whisky Festivals in the UK

by Matt Chambers
at Whisky for Everyone

A growing trend

During my years in the whisky industry, I have been lucky to visit and take part in whisky festivals all over the UK. This has been as an attendee, exhibitor, and guest speaker. The number of events has grown massively in recent years and now almost every corner of the country boasts a whisky festival.

Organised by individuals, groups or retailers, they all have the same goal – to share the love of whisky. Below are eight of my favourite events and some top tips on getting the most out of your visit.

Festival dos and don’ts

Visiting a whisky festival is a great way to discover new whiskies and meet the people behind the brands. You can discover ones you were previously unaware of and revisit old favourites. But while tasting whisky all day sounds like a lot of fun (and it is, trust me!), there are a few dos and don’ts that will help you to remain capable of safely walking out of the venue.

Stay hydrated

and pace yourself. The temptation to try everything is real, but unachievable and unsafe. Alcohol dehydrates you. You can easily get in trouble if you are consuming alcohol faster than your body can process it.

Drink water

at regular intervals to combat this. It’s common sense and cleanses your palate between samples. Also, take a break from time to time – go grab some lunch, sit outside, and do something other than consume whisky.

Spit it out

Every festival worth their salt will provide spittoons. Use them. You can sample a whisky and enjoy its flavour without having to swallow. Simply spit it out after holding it in your mouth for some time. Do not think of it as wasting whisky, rather as extending your day and enjoyment. Plus, you also look like you know what you are doing!

For further information, visit drinkaware.


Top 8 whisky tasting events

1. Croydon Whisky Festival | Croydon

This relatively new event is the smallest on my list. But one that brings drams to the whisky-starved masses of south London. The format is basic – a good selection of brands located in an old church hall with plenty of time to visit each one. There is particular emphasis on independent distillers and bottlers, which gives these whiskies vital exposure to a wider audience. Worth a visit for its relaxed and enjoyable vibe.


2. Glasgow’s Whisky Festival | Glasgow

Each Autumn, Scotland’s national drink visits its national stadium in the form of the Glasgow Whisky Festival. Hosted at Hampden Park, the event showcases the wonderful world of Scotch whisky. A vibrant mix of traditional single malt brands mingle with new craft distillers and innovative contemporary blenders. A huge selection of whiskies is on offer and makes this a busy and boisterous day out. A must visit on the festival calendar.


3. Midlands Whisky Festival | Birmingham

Each October Nickolls & Perks, the long-standing Midlands wine and spirits retailer, host this festival. Formerly held in Stourbridge close to their shop, it is now in the centre of Birmingham, but has not lost any of its regional charm. Many exhibitors, both new and old distilleries, give the attendee a great and diverse experience. Add in excellent master classes from industry legends, and you are on to a winner.


4. Whisky Birmingham | Birmingham

This festival is organised by Grain & Glass, the award-winning Birmingham whisky bar, and is held at The Bond on the banks of a canal in Digbeth. Over 100 different whisky brands attend annually, along with 500 whisky fans. Add in an interesting masterclass programme throughout the day, cheese and chocolate stands, outside chilling area, coffee roasters, street food market and a live DJ, and you are in for a great day.


5. The Whisky Event | London

Taking place this year on 2 June, this is one of the most lavish whisky events of the year. Hosted by The Whisky World, the north London-based whisky and spirits retailer, this festival takes place on a Sunday evening at a Mayfair hotel. This year sees the number of exhibitors double. What can be guaranteed is an excellent array of world whiskies, complimented by a fabulous buffet of Kosher food that is included in your ticket price.


6. Whisky Fringe | Edinburgh

The biggest and best whisky festival in Scotland’s capital and one that has been going for years. Tickets sell out almost the moment they go on sale. The event is hosted by Royal Mile Whiskies, the Edinburgh whisky retailer, and is held in the spectacular surroundings of the Mansfield Traquair, a converted church. Many Scotch whisky brands are in attendance annually. Look out for the ‘half time orange’ and the treats that brings!


7. Whisky Live | London

Whisky Live is a worldwide phenomenon and pops up in major cities around the globe each year. Every Spring it is London’s turn. A great blend of traditional brands, new craft and artisanal distillers and world whiskies are on show, alongside and extensive list of tutored masterclasses from brands and industry experts. Fancy a long weekend away? Well, there are Whisky Live events in Dublin and Paris if you want a change of scenery.


8. The Whisky Show | London

The biggest whisky festival in the UK and by some distance. Each Autumn, whisky brands and drinkers flock to the Old Billingsgate Market building on the banks of the River Thames for a three-day whisky extravaganza run by The Whisky Exchange. Thousands of whiskies are on offer, plus numerous masterclasses, and interactive Q&A sessions making this an event like no other. You will need all three days to cram everything in!



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