Experts hope to educate Czechs on whisky
It's about quality and not quantity, according to those in the know
Posted: October 2, 2013
In a country well known for the consumption of beer and cheap - sometimes deadly - spirits, a movement is afoot to introduce Czechs to the finer points of good whisky.
And the people behind the push to popularize whisky in the Czech Republic say it really comes down to education.
That was one of the main themes of Prague's first whisky festival, which took place at New Town Hall Sept. 20 and 21where more than 160 different types of whisky were available for tasting and local whisky experts were on hand to teach classes on how to properly enjoy whisky.
Václav Rout, the founder of Whisky & Kilt, a local club that offers classes, said understanding and appreciating whisky was the same as learning how to enjoy wine.
"The objective is to get people to drink good whisky. It is not to be drank [to get drunk]," Rout said. "What I teach is to have a nice shot, with nice color and aroma, for 10 or 15 minutes."
Rout, who found his love for good whisky 20 years ago, said a true love for whisky doesn't happen overnight and that interested drinkers will find what they like. Many of the experts at Whisky Live, including Rout, were clear that good whisky was about quality and not price. Rout said many people in this country try cheap whisky and don't like it instead of trying a quality single malt.
He is attempting to help Czechs discover good whisky by holding classes for beginners each Monday at his club focused on production, history and how to properly taste whisky.
Festival organizer Marta van Leeuwen, sipping on a 30-year-old Tomatin from Scotland, echoed his sentiments and said Czech people are not used to good whisky. "It's not about just drink, drink, drink. It s about taste," she said.
Stiuvhard Kerr-Liddell, who once ran one of the most famous whisky bars in Scotland in the town of Kintyre and is now a partner in Foust Spirits, which has a Prague location, said there was "a lot of nonsense talked about whisky."
"Everyone has their own taste buds and nose buds," he said.
For example, he said people often think that of a whisky is darker it is stronger, which is not true. And just because it is expensive, he said, doesn't mean it is good. "And just because it is blended doesn't mean it is rubbish," he added.
Prague's first whisky festival was billed as a unique opportunity especially for inexperienced 'newbies' and curious whisky lovers in Prague.
There was not only be Scotch whisky, but also whiskeys from Ireland, North America and the Czech Republic on hand to try and the festival, which expects to be back next year, 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 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.
The festival was also a needed boost for New Town Hall, which has suffered from is location and is trying to attract more events and concerts, according to director Albert Kubista. "It's like a test," he said. "This could be an annual event. I like it and it's important for New Town Hall, which has had a problem with visitors. We have to organize events people come to," he said.
Kevin Livingston can be reached at