EABL Love Whisky Festival 2014 and Diageo have brought the Whisky Picnic to Nairobi for the first time. On Saturday the 29th November, 2014, at Cedars Restaurant on Lenana Road, patrons were treated to an all-you-can-eat barbecue lunch, two complementary cocktails, an afternoon of funk music by The Beathogs and the live whisky blending experience.
Dubbed ‘The Love Whisky Picnic’, this event was conceptualized by New Zealand national Nick Ravenhall as an alternative for a younger demographic to enjoy whisky in a more youthful environment as opposed to tastings. “One of my closest friends and I were both working in distilleries. We were doing a lot of tastings and whisky tastings are quite serious. People even take notes! But what we were really passionate about was having a good time. So we wanted to have something similar to a tasting but fun. So we started this event with 50 or 60 people in 2008 and by 2011 we had nearly 700 people attending! And this was by word of mouth, we didn’t do any advertising.”
The whisky picnic was hosted and coordinated by the Diageo Luxury Brands Ambassador, Douglas Duncanson. Douglas has worked in the drinks industry for a decade. “Through university I worked in bars and after university, I didn’t want to get what is referred to as a proper job, so I ended up working in and eventually running bars and clubs in London, then I moved on to sales at Red Bull before moving to Diageo in the Reserve Brands which is the top luxury spirits.”
According to Douglas, a lot of people do not like whisky because they are drinking the wrong brands. If one is not experienced in drinking whisky and they start with something too sharp on the palate then it can put them off whisky. This is why the whisky picnic is important. It helps introduce the younger demographic to whisky in a way that is fun and without the pressures of “perfect whisky etiquette”.
The Whisky Picnic, as the name suggests, is a picnic. At Cedars, shukas and hay bales were neatly laid out around a main stage area where The Beathogs were performing live. Upon entry, guests are presented with a bottle of single malt whisky which they then empty into a blending barrel. The barrel in this case was previously used to blend wine, which was perfect for adding a fruity note to the whisky. At the end of the event, fresh branded bottles are filled with the whisky from the barrel. These bottles were then presented to the guests as keepsakes to drink or save as mementos.
Currently, the Whisky Picnic is a bit pricey. Tickets were sold at KSh. 5,000. However, the ticket comes with a value pack of a meal, complementary cocktails and a bottle of single malt whisky. EABL does plan to make this an annual event so we anxiously wait to see if it will be as successful as the original.