I have to be honest, the prospect of a 4 hour presentation on vodka and gin did not fill me with enthusiasm.
Over the years, I’ve been to more ‘masterclasses’ on these spirits than any other, and thought the World Class White Spirits Forum might be a bit, well, samey.
I was wrong, however.
The forum, which is essential viewing for anyone wanting to enter the white spirits section of the World Class competition, was kicked-off by Ketel One ambassador Justin Smyth.
His session wasn’t really about vodka at all. Aside from the obligatory tasting and comparison to other brands, Justin concentrated on the history of the Nolet distillery in Holland.
The Nolet family traces its history back to the Dutch East India Company and, of course, Genever. It was an interesting presentation that left me with a new-found appreciation for the windmill and its part in the evolution of the spirits industry.
Next came Tom Nichol, master distiller of Tanqueray and Tanqueray No 10.
Tom is a charismatic chap with a wealth of knowledge, passion and a humorous frankness that kept Diageo top brass’ palms a little damp as he had the crowd of 50 or so bartenders in stitches at times.
There isn’t much Tom doesn’t know about creating spirits, and his presentations are as far from boring as it is possible to get. I would recommend you make the effort to see him if the chance arises.
The forum was wrapped up by Dave Wondrich, who spoke about the evolution of the cocktail.
As ever, Dave was a pleasure to listen to, even more so as Kensington Roof Gardens staff brought out cocktails for the audience that featured in his presentation.
Having just written a book about punch (BarLifeUK review here), the flowing bowl featured heavily in his talk, which was no bad thing at all.
In short, the White Spirits Forum was a very enjoyable session, and it left me with the impression that regardless of your intention to enter the competition, the supporting forums are well worth a few hours of your time.