This Saturday (May 19) is World Whisky Day, a day in which we raise a dram and toast the wondeful spirit that is whisky. World Whisky Day has been celebrated every third Saturday of May since its conception in 2012 with events and promotions all over the world.
Looking at how far and wide it has has become, it’s hard to believe that World Whisky Day all started as a spur of the moment purchase of an Internet domain name which has since grown to become a global celebration of the water of life.
The founder of World Whisky Day is 28-year-old whisky writer and consultant Blair Bowman, who will be visiting Malaysia for the first time ever for The Whisky Bar KL’s World Whisky day events on May 21 and 22.
Through an e-mail interview, Bowman recalled how he came up with the idea for an international day for whisky.
You started World Whisky Day as a student. How exactly did you come up with the idea?
In 2011, I was living in Barcelona as part of a ‘year abroad’ for my languages degree. I saw one day that it was World Gin Day, and because I had a bigger interest in whisky than gin, I was curious to find out what the date of World Whisky Day was.
When I typed in the domain name 'www.worldwhiskyday.com' it was available to buy. I bought it instantly and I guess you could say that was the start of a very exciting journey.
What did you envision World Whisky Day to be? What messages were you trying to impart?
The vision for World Whisky Day was to get whisky in front of people and on people’s lips, people who would not normally drink whisky. For a lot of people, every day is whisky day; but for most people, they may never touch whisky. I’ve always loved sharing whisky with people and World Whisky Day is the perfect occasion to introduce people to whisky.
By having the whole world of whisky shouting about whisky at the same time, it will appear in TV, print, radio and of course social media. It’s a bit like on St Patrick’s Day, when people who normally never drink Guinness suddenly feel an urge to try a pint of Guinness. The same principle can apply for people needing an excuse or a tipping point to try whisky, and that is World Whisky Day.
The other main messages I have always been trying to impart is that whisky is no longer a stuffy old snobby drink. You can have a lot of fun with whisky and you can find lots of different ways to drink it depending on the occasion or even the climate. The final message was that World Whisky Day was about all types of whisky not just Scotch whisky, and is universally available for any whisky company, a large multi-national or a small craft distillery, to get involved with.
Did you ever dream that it would become such a big thing around the world?
I guess in a way I did. As soon as I purchased the domain name, I knew I was on to a big idea. I knew that in time it would reach a stage where hundreds of thousands of people would celebrate it all across the world. I just didn’t realise that that would happen so fast!
What was the first event you did, and what was the response like?
For the first three years, I made the decision not to host any events myself and just to focus on the website as being a hub for all activities related to World Whisky Day. It meant that I could help support bars, restaurants, hotels, distilleries and other venues promote their events to a wider audience.
The response to people simply getting involved from year one was bigger than I could have ever expected. I put this all down to social media. If I had been trying to do this 10 or 15 years earlier it wouldn’t have spread viral so quickly.
You sold the concept of World Whisky Day to Hot Rum Cow magazine in 2015, but still continue to work for it. How has your role changed since then?
I had been running World Whisky Day as a one-man-band (doing all the jobs needed) and had managed to juggle it with the final two years of my university degree too. After running World Whisky Day as a full-time job for one year, I decided that I had taken it as far as I could on my own. It needed a much bigger team, and I found the team at Hot Rum Cow to be a perfect fit for my baby.
I also wanted to see what others could bring to the concept so decided to take more of a back seat, I didn’t want to interfere with their creativity. I am still closely involved in the day and promotions related to the day but not involved in the day-to-day running of it. I get to do all the fun bits!
Blair Bowman will be in KL for The Whisky Bar KL’s annual World Whisky Day celebrations. Here are the events that will be held in conjunction with the celebration:
Drams In the Dark with Blair Bowman (May 21, 4pm)
A fully immersive multi-sensory whisky-tasting experience conducted by Bowman, who will lead you through a tasting of several drams with your senses heightened by complete darkness. A phenomenal whisky experience like no other. Blair’s Drams in the Dark tastings sold out at the National Whisky Festival of Scotland and Poznan Whisky Festival.
Venue: Dining In The Dark (50A, Changkat Bukit Bintang)
Hot Rum KL With Strathearn (May 21, 7pm)
Is rum is the new whisky? Bowman hosts a tasting of three rums by Strathearn, Scotland’s smallest distillery, which developed probably the first craft Scottish Rum for over 100 years.
Venue: The Rum Bar KL (47, Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL)
Futurism Of Whiskies (May 22, 3.30pm)
A unique whisky-tasting event in which your senses will be confused, your pre-conceptions will be challenged, your taste buds will be intrigued, and you will experience whiskies in new and memorable ways.
Venue: Forbidden City KL (50A Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL)
Whisky Dinner with Blair Bowman (May 22, 7pm)
Bowman hosts a delightful dinner at the top of Changkat, where you’ll be served the finest seafood, the best KL city skyline, and of course, great whiskies. Among the whiskies that will be tasted on the night are the Glenrothes VR 12YO, Macallan Fine Oak 12YO, Highland Park 12YO, Macallan 1824 Masters Series Rare Cask and Macallan Double Cask 12YO.
Venue: Cielo Kuala Lumpur (23-01, 1D, VIDA Bukit Ceylon, Jalan Ceylon, KL)
Whisky Gives Back Charity Auction 4.0 (May 23, 6.30pm)
Held for the fourth time, this year, a total of 31 whisky bottles will be up for auction on May 23, with all proceeds going to Persatuan Insan Istimewa Cheras, Selangor (PIICS) to help maintain the home as well as fund the children’s necessities and household needs. For further details about the event and how to register as a bidder, kindly visit the official website.
Venue: The Whisky Bar KL (46, Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL)
Special day passes are available for the events. The Day One pass costs RM299, and gives you access to Drams In The Dark and Hot Rum KL, while the Day Two Pass costs RM489 for access to Futurism of Whiskies and Whisky Dinner with Blair Bowman.
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the website, call 012-526 1335, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.