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Not the expo you thought it was


I can't say that "whiskey expo" and "kitt hodsden" are two phrases likely heard much together, but Kris and I went to a whiskey expo last night - our first.

I heard of the expo from a friend on Upcoming, asked Kris if he'd be interested and was surprised at his enthusiastic "YES!" Two tickets and four months later, we went up to the City, toothbrush, toothpaste and two tickets in hand.

We arrived at 6:30, checked into the hotel, wandered to the expo, checked in, and walked into the ballroom expo. I'm not sure what we were expecting, but a ballroom with tables all around the outside with people pouring whiskey to hordes of other people holding up their glasses was not it.

We went in, looked around, skipped the bourbon table and watched what other people were doing. As near as I could tell, they were walking up to a table, holding up their glass, waiting for it to be filled, drinking the drink poured into it and possibly conversing with the person who poured the glass in the first place. Okay, that's easy enough. I walked up to a table and waited for the person behind the table to recognize I was there, so that I could hold up my glass.

I waited.

He ignored me.

I waited.

He continued talking to the person to my right.

Next to him, a woman was pouring freely. I moved around the two guys to my right and tried to get close to the woman.

She left.

I waited.

Now, patience isn't exactly one of my virtues. Not even close. And being snubbed tends to anger me. So, here I was, completely outside of my element, attempting mimic everyone else around, failing, and becoming frustrating.

Kris tapped me on the shoulder, with a little "calm down" motion. I waited, and the guy looked at me. I held up my glass.

He gracefully poured me a small bit of scotch, and instructed me on how to drink it: rest it on the top middle of my tongue, then move it under my tongue, then bring it back up to the top of my tongue for the full experience. As I looked back to him puzzled, another guy enthusiastically confirmed that since he started tasting whiskey this way, he loves it.


They were right. Of course. It was fantastic scotch. I later found out it was from a $200 bottle of scotch. Kris also commented that the people were clamouring for autographs of the guy behind the table, waiting to talk to him, a minor celebrity.

Yeah, me and my impatience. I swear, it's going to get me into a LOT of trouble one of these days. A lot more trouble.

Kris and I continued around the room, clockwise, trying the whiskeys, skipping the bourbons and beers and ports and gins and vodkas. Some of the tables had wonderfully approachable people. One guy at the Compass Box Whisky table was great, explaining the different whiskies they had, the nuances of the flavors. I'm way more likely to purchase from an approachable salesman than an aloof one.

Unless he's a minor celebrity.

After we had tasted our way around the room, encountering only one drunk person who couldn't walk without stumbling, we went out of the expo hall and down to the banquet. Apparently, they want to feed you, so that you can keep drinking.

We had problems finding seats, frustrating to be sure, and resorted to hovering until a group left from a table. One of the wait staff, a large woman, told us to sit at the other side of the room, and seemed personally offended when we didn't immediately move, and even more offended when we sat down at the table next to her station. It was almost as if she was insulted that we dare give her more work to do. Eating was a little awkward with the woman standing over us, glaring at each bite.

Another group also had problems finding seats, and ended up sitting on both sides of us. I asked if they wanted us to move down a seat, so that they could sit next to each other, when one responded, "I don't know about you, but I can eat really fast when there's free whisky around."

Kris and I looked at each other. I muttered, "I don't know where he got his tickets from, but ours cost a lot of money." Kris laughed.

It got us to thinking about why people were attending the expo. Kris and I were there to find other whiskies that we liked: we're not willing to spend $200 a bottle to try all the really good whiskies. All of the ones I liked were over $150 a bottle. Kris was better, trying the 10 year old scotches, most around $40 a bottle.

Other people were at the expo to drink, that much was obvious. They were stumbling around, incoherent, unbalanced. I'm not sure the expo was really the cheapest way to get drunk.

Other people were there for social interaction with other people. They clearly knew a lot of people. I wonder if they tour the whiskey expo circuit.

I'm convinced that other people go just to look down their noses at scotch neophytes. One guy looked at us as if we were dirt because I suggested to Kris that we attend a session. Heaven forbid, we'd want to learn something about the drink we both seem to like.

When we were ready to leave, I had a huge craving for chocolate. I went to the chocolate table, intending to buy some chocolate, only to be told they were offering chocolate, but weren't selling any. When I asked if they knew of a place close by that was selling their chocolate, one of the guys behind the booth asked me which one I was interested in, then passed me a handful.

Needless to say, I'll be buying more of their chocolate.

The whole expo was over at 10 at night. Kris was drunk, I was barely buzzed. I was careful to have only a taste of each whiskey, so I had maybe a shot or two all evening, over the course of three hours, with a meal in the middle. Kris wasn't so careful, and we ended up in the room, a little too giggly.

We tried repeating our 1am event, but our shutter timing was more than a little off:

Ah, the beauty of the hotel bed.