The Fresser

The Whisky Event returns to Park Lane

Founder Abe Lubelsky launched the show to offer some ‘luxury’ to fans of the grain-based drink


The over 1,000 whisky drinkers present included 'aficionados and people learning' about the aromatic liquor for the first time (Photo: The Whisky Event)

The first thing that hit me was the aroma. Standing on a balcony above the ballroom at Grosvenor House on Park Lane where over 60 distributors were passing out 600 different whiskies, the scent rising aloft was rich and deep.

The Whisky Event, an annual London gathering for drinkers of the dark spirit, returned this year for its biggest and most comprehensive show yet. Visiting as a thoroughly amateur appreciator of the grain-based drink, I was eager to learn more.

The initial idea for the function, founder Abe Lubelsky told me over the phone, was to bring some sophistication to the trade show scene.

“My brother and I were looking around and seeing other whisky events that didn’t do justice in terms of luxury,” he said.

“Whisky is something connected with luxury. All the other shows were in exhibition centres. We decided to create an event that was an event – not a show or an exhibition.”

Located in a Marriot hotel in Mayfair, schlepping to Lubelsky’s event is certainly an improvement on the ExCel Centre.

The show was launched in 2018 with just 17 different stands, representing a handful of whisky brands, before expanding each year before disaster struck with Covid-19.

Now, after a pandemic induced hiatus, the Whisky Event is bigger than ever. This year Lubelsky booked the largest ballroom in Park Lane and brought in over 1,000 guests.

Not content with just offering whisky, the show featured a kosher buffet, vodka cocktails, and – for the first time – a guest spirit: tequila.

Stopping by at one of the tequila touting booths, I met Campbell Rankine of Spirit Cartel, an importer twice named spirits distributor of the year.

At the Whisky Event for the first time, he told me was happy to have met both, “aficionados and people learning.”

In a room full of whisky, Rankine added, people were intrigued to try his tequilas. “Our bottles going down fast.”

Alongside more traditional tequilas was 818, a brand recently launched by Kendall Jenner. Stored in a bottle shaped like the number eight, its popularity is reportedly down to the Kardashian scion’s pioneering use of non-bourbon casks.

Heading back to the classics, I sampled a compellingly smoky Murray McDavid whisky, before visiting the stall manned by representatives of alcohol conglomerate Pernod Ricard.

Irish whisky, rep Hannah told me as I tasted first their Black Barrel and then Jameson 18, is still only on the rise in Britain.

“People are always surprised at the range of whiskeys we have,” she said. “And they’re surprised that all our bottles are from the same distillery.”

In need of a break from the booze, I headed next to the lavish kosher buffet, where five separate stalls, including salt beef, roasted beef, fried chicken, poke, bao buns, and a spread of desserts catered for all tastes. 

Anyone arranging a frum wedding, I reflected midway through my third plate, could certainly do a lot worse than this.

The vodka cocktails, by contrast, were not for me. Extremely sweet, they left me craving more whisky to clear my palate.

The kosher buffet, Lubelsky told me afterwards, was pitched to meet a gap in the market. Most whisky shows, in addition from being hosted around the High Holy Days in September, offer no food for observant Jews.

Jonathan Cohen, at the Whisky Fair representing DS Tayman (“We’re not a kosher whisky company, we’re a whisky company that happens to be kosher”) told me he was glad to see the diverse crowd in attendance.

“It’s lovely to meet whisky lovers of all backgrounds,” he said. “Lots of Jews but lots of non-Jews also.”

And so, I staggered out into the evening. Full of whisky, full of food, and desperate for a place to lie down.

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