As a writer I really have to be in the right frame of mind to tap away on the keyboard but also have something to write about. For 2018 - I apparently had neither. Don't get me wrong, I like writing but at one point as more and more of my friends who started blogging at the same time as me were pulling the plug and so many more people were/are blogging I literally developed this "What's the use attitude" because A: I don't write for the masses, B: I don't review every single bottle of whisky I own or drank somewhere and C: I didn't feel like my entries were really contributing or adding value anymore. So let's get to it: I sort of feel like I'm supposed to say something like: "Bless me father for I have sinned, it's been one year, 4 months and 3 weeks and 4 days since my last full blog post" -> Hangs one's head in shame. But please, let me digress... CORNWALL.
In November of 2016 I was presenting at the New Brunswick Spirits Festival when a jovial tall man approached me afterward and introduced himself: Ian Bentley. "I want to put on a whisky show in Cornwall in March of 2017", he said matter of factly.
My immediate thought was
However after the 3rd very successful wrap up on March 23rd 2019, I'm going to say he and his team are absolute geniuses and here is why:
a. Sell out three years running.
b. People travel from all over Canada to attend.
c. Some of the best and brightest names in the industry are there.
d. Master classes for every walk of whisky enthusiast taking place.
e. Innovative ideas, dinners, classes and very interesting opportunities at this show.
Now, if you've never been to the Wonderful World of Whisky you are clearly missing out because it isn't like most of the other whisky trade shows or festival from across Canada. I personally feel, that at this point the Cornwall event is the second best one happening in Canada and here is why: Many of the shows that run across Canada are a 1-2 day event. Nice if you live in that city, but for those of us that are a come from away - it can be an expensive 2-3 trip to drink whisky for a few hours.
Cornwall is situated 1 hour from Ottawa and also Montreal (give or take a few km) which makes it an easy drive with two airports to pick from.
The Nav Center has large spacious rooms, gym, pool, spa, a restaurant, pub, café, several open common spaces for meeting people, fireplace, free parking, walking trails along the St. Laurent river, do I need to go on? Park your car for 4 days and worry about nothing!
The Master classes (some in French) take place in large, comfortable break out rooms. Too many to list (see bottom schedule, but I will thank Gordon Bruce and Gordon Stephenson - one of my favourite classes this year).
"OK Lassie, bla bla bla... and?" I know that's what you are thinking as you read this. So here is the kicker for this particular show:
Unlike most whisky festivals in Canada, the Wonderful World of Whisky creates a full experience where the whisky is not the star, it is merely the backdrop. Now this is a concept that is really difficult to explain if you've never been to the show. The show is small enough that newbies won't feel intimidated but large enough that the hard core geeks, diehards and mentors also get what they need out of the festival. The after parties are attended by all - not just the "chosen" few. The jet set is full of people from all walks of life talking, sharing and enjoying each other's company (not to mention fantastic beers) and the food...
The highlight for me this year was the Distell Whisky Dinner with Mike Brisebois, Stephen Woodcock (yes that Stephen Woodcock) and Chef Lucas on Thursday night. Please have a napkin ready before you read the following:
|RED DEER & WILD BOAR TERRINE|
Course 2: A5 Wagyu Beef Rib Cap with/black currant & Bunnahabhain 12 glaze, fungi croquette with Bunnahhabhain 12 fondue fresh truffle.
Course 3: Smoked Bunnahabhain Toiteach a dha salt cured salmon duel sorrel pumpkin pesto with chive yogurt cream (this was stunning for me).
Course 4: 100 day aged Niman ranch rib roasts bathed in Deanston 2008 Bordeaux Cask served with horseradish Yorkshire pudding, smoked tri-coloured carrots, white asparagus and baby red rustic mash with charred goat cheese (SWEET BABY JESUS!)
Course 5: Smoked Black Bottle Chocolate cheesecake with white truffle and candied ginger lemon black bottle sauce (and that's where I died and went to heaven for about 10 minutes)..
When I came to, Mike was walking around checking to ensure we were all still alive, that we had ate enough and I think I saw him passing out a few bottles of Pepto Bismol just in case some of us "over-indulged)... I know somewhere in my delirium we also received a beautiful dram of Bunnahabhain 25 to toast the chef and his wonderful staff...
AND speaking of chef... I will quote my friend Benoit Bailey when I say this: "This is the only festival in Canada where people stand in line to eat before they go into the main event" and, my friends, with good reason.
You see, Ian Bentley is not the only madman/genius at this show. This festival also has Chef Lucas McCabe. There is nothing "pedestrian" about any of the food you get to eat while at the Main event or dinners.
Preparation for the main event starts weeks if not months beforehand and in the wee hours of the Saturday morning when some of us are crawling out of bed to get to the gym (and yes I did...), Lucas and his helpers are outside getting smokers, racks and tons of different meats ready for our very appreciative bellies! It is not only a feast for the palate but for the eyes as you watch the meats cook all day on outside spits and open flames!
I for one, can say, that I have made this one of my "go to's" for Canada and will continue to do so for as long as I can.
This was the schedule for 2019:
So mark your calendar for 2020: Saturday March 28th, you truly can't afford to miss this great show!
One happy lassie, yet again this year - Thanks Ian Bentley and the huge team at the Nav Center for pulling off a fabulous whisky festival.