The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion

By: Wayne Abrahamse
Posted: 9 October 2012
Category: Features Comments View Comments


In this guest post whisky aficionado Wayne Abrahamse summarises the benefits that this year's Whisky Live Festival offered both local consumers and whisky and allied brands, as well as the marketing opportunities that many brands missed.

2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the annual Whisky Live Festival and quite a festival it has been. This year it opened with a Scottish pipe band playing Scotland The Brave and Sarie Marais and offered a selection of food to enjoy along with a variety of the best whiskies in the world, all in one room where members of the public could compare and discuss their favourite brands with industry experts from around the world.

This festival presents much opportunity to connect consumers and whisky brands but, instead of growing, it's getting smaller every year, which is very disappointing.

Growing Opportunities
South Africa has a fast growing middle class thirsting to find a new social drinking culture. Social drinking patterns are evolving rather quickly. More and more young people are trying the allure of whisky and aspiring to the lifestyle associated with it. However, it is expensive to experiment with a range of whiskies in the hope that one will appeal to you. The Whisky Live Festival is the ideal opportunity for distillers to win over new supporters to the dram through direct education of the public via tasting sessions and friendly one-on-one conversations that are inviting instead of intimidating.

The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion - Compass Box

Exploited Opportunities
Every year a handful of companies exploit the marketing opportunities the festival offers using positive methods that helped the public feel it was getting value for money:

• The Jameson Irish Whiskey stand appeared to be more like a party than a whisky tasting adventure.

• Johnnie Walker had a permanent queue, around the stand, of people lining up to get in. It is shows such as this festival where newcomers to the whisky scene are exposed to the brand and talk about Johnnie Walker Blue Label for the rest of the year.

Other allied companies also used the opportunity to connect whisky with their brands:

• Pick 'n' Pay had a stand at which you could learn how to make and pair canapés and whisky.

• Schweppes had a stand where tasters danced with cocktail shakers and learned to make whisky cocktails.

• Consumer-electronics brand Samsung showcased two of its high-end devices.

The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion - Samsung

Potential Opportunities
There is a niche market opportunity for crystal glass retailers to sell whisky glasses and crystal decanters, yet we saw only a handful of retailers offering their wares.

The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion - Glencairn

Scotland's biggest export to South Africa is whisky. Logically, a festival of this nature should be sponsored by the Scottish Chambers Of Commerce. It's a tailor-made opportunity to make a big impact and promote international trade with South Africa.

Last month I saw Jack Daniel's had a large stand that showcased all its products and offered free tasting sessions. When consumers go shopping for bourbon, which brand is more likely to be on their minds?

The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion - Jack Daniel's

Missed Opportunities
Where were the whiskies that are advertised so extensively on TV, such as Bell's, and The Famous Grouse (both of which were represented at the festival last year)? When the big, recognisable names are absent from an event such as this it gives the impression that the event is dying and that the companies don't think it's worth investing in it to interact with the very consumers who are spending so much on their products that they can afford expensive television-advertising campaigns.

Where was J&B? The company sponsors the J&B Met, one of the biggest social events on the South African calendar, but was absent at a festival where its rare whisky could be compared to thoroughbreds from other stables.

Then there was a host of less expensive whiskies that were not seen at all, such as:

• White Horse Blended Scotch Whisky

• VAT 69

• Black & White

• 100 Pipers Blended Scotch Whisky

Conspicuous by its absence from this year's festival was the oldest of the whisky distillers: Chivas Regal (although this might be a contentious point as other distillers claim to be older).

The Opportunity To Sample And Compare Whiskies
The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion - Glenfiddich 15 Year Old

Nevertheless, this festival is a wonderful, cost-effective opportunity to sample and compare whiskies from around the world and, for those members of the public who attended and the brands that supported the festival, it was a great event whose success is likely to repeat itself next month in Durban and Johannesburg. However, by the end of the evening, your grading process is likely to become quite subjective. On the up side, it's extremely difficult to get to the end of the evening without having your spirits lifted.

The 2012 Whisky Live Festival: A Second Opinion - Knights Whisky

Additional reporting by Mandy J Watson. Read's coverage of the 2012 Whisky Live Festival for tasting notes and more photographs. Highlights of the 2009, 2010, and 2011 festivals are also useful references for this year's festival.

Tags: #arts_and_culture, #whisky

Key Facts: 2012 Whisky Live Festival
Cape Town: 3 October 2012 to 5 October 2012, 18:00 to 22:00, Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC)
Durban: 1 November 2012 to 2 November 2012, 18:00 to 22:00, Durban International Convention Centre
Johannesburg: 7 November 20120 to 9 Novmeber 2012, 18:00 to 22:00, Sandton Convention Centre
Ticket Prices: Prices vary depending on city and day of the week. Tasting Hall tickets start at R185 [?], Designated Driver ticket is R90 [?]. There are also discount tickets for groups, multi-day passes, the Whisky Lifestyle Lounge VIP ticket, and The Connoisseur's Experience tour tickets.

On The Internet
Whisky Life Festival: Official Site | Twitter

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