First whisky fest at New Town Hall
Rare Czech Hammer Head whisky will be on display
Posted: September 18, 2013
Some 170 different labels will be available for sampling.
Wine tastings are quite common this time of year, and even beer tastings are becoming commonplace. But there is a new kid on the block - the whisky tasting. Prague is having its first whisky festival, and around 170 types from 20 vendors will be available. There will not only be Scotch whisky, but also whiskeys from Ireland, North America and the Czech Republic.
Whisky Live Prague, which takes place Sept. 20 and 21, is modeled on a similar one that has taken place for 10 years on The Hague, which sells out three months in advance, according to festival organizer Marta van Leeuwen. "We'd like to create a similar tradition in Prague and make people love the drink and the atmosphere of the world of whisky," van Leeuwen said.
There are are two four-hour sessions each day, as well as a one-hour session on Friday, Sept. 20, for industry professionals at the Prague festival. In The Hague, some 1,200 people attend each session. Such numbers aren't expected this year in Prague, as the space in the historical New Town Hall is a bit limited.
The event is not aimed only at men or only at connoisseurs. "We hope that it will be an enjoyable event where you can spend time with your friends in a pleasant atmosphere. It's both for people who already know a lot about whisky and who have never tasted whisky before," she said, adding that people can taste many kinds of whisky in small amounts. The 780 Kč admission fee allows you a five "drams," the unit of currency for the event. Various whiskies will be priced in drams. Additional drams can be purchased for 30 Kč each.Visitors also receive a special glass and a cigar.
When: Sept. 20 and 21 at 1 and 6 p.m. Professionals Sept. 20 at noon
Where: New Town Hall
Tickets: 780 Kč
"It is also a great opportunity to meet experts who will be eager to tell you more about the whiskies they like or have tasted, to explain how to correctly taste whisky and what the subtle differences between each of them are. Our aim is to show people that alcohol isn't only about getting drunk and just drinking shots or beer, but it can be a 'ritual' of enjoying the drink, where you notice the differences in taste, color and texture," she said.
There are a few stars at the show. "There is the Hammer Head whisky - a Czech whisky that was discovered some years ago in barrels. The distillery has been destroyed, but these barrels survived, so there is a limited amount of the whisky and it is rare. It is only for export, so although it is a Czech whisky, it will be unique to have it at the festival," she said. The whisky - and it is a Scotch-type whisky without the letter 'e' before the 'y' - was made during the communist era with peat imported by the trainload from Scotland. Then-Czechoslovakia could not afford to import the real Scotch whisky that the party elite wanted, so they imported the peat and distilled it with local ingredients. The surviving barrels were bought up by a hedge fund.
Some vendors will have bottles of whisky worth around 10,000 Kč each open for tasting. "This will be very interesting, especially for people who already know something about whisky and would like to taste something they have never tried before," she said. Experts will be in hand to tell people about the history of the beverages and how they are made. "Visitors can expect to get into a great, friendly atmosphere where they will have the opportunity to experience something new, to learn more about this great beverage and talk to experts," she said.
There will also be master classes available. "There will be plenty of opportunities to get to know whisky and learn more about it, for instance by going to master classes. Also, it´s easier for people who have never tried whisky before to try it this way because they won't be randomly picking the whiskies in a bar but will actually have someone to help them and recommend a whisky they might like most," she said.
"This is also one of the reasons why we try to target women; whisky is usually viewed as a man's drink, but we'd like to prove that whisky can also be delicate and smooth," she added. "The first master class … will be solely about how to correctly taste whisky and will enable people who attend it to learn hands-on how to taste and enjoy whisky," she said. Space is limited in the master classes and there is an additional fee.
The event will have more than just whisky and whiskey. Some entertainment will be provided by piano and, of course, bagpipe players. Pipes and cigars will also be on sale and there will be a chance to win some rare bottles.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at
Tags: whisky, whiskey, communist era, master class.