Birmingham is to host its first whisky festival with more than 100 bottles from around the world, including rare and vintage labels.
The independent one-day event, has been organised by 35-year-old Moseley resident, Amy Seton, who launched the Birmingham Whisky Club just over a year ago.
Up to 350 visitors are expected at canalside venue The Bond in Fazeley Street, Digbeth on Saturday, March 2 for Whisky Birmingham, where they will be able to sample a huge range of the drink.
Ms Seton, whose background is in marketing, claims the Whisky Club’s monthly tutored tastings have proved so popular since its launch that a festival was the obvious next step.
She said: “Birmingham has great places for drinking whisky and a lot of enthusiasm.
“The tastings sell out so we thought ‘ok, what else can we bring?’.
“Five years ago there were only six or seven whisky festivals in the UK, but today there are up to 30.
“Looking at other cities, we saw Manchester has a massive whisky festival, so why doesn’t Birmingham?”
She added: “For me it’s not just about whisky, it’s also about Birmingham. It always has been.
“Birmingham has been so maligned over the years and people are just really bored of that.
“We are here to show that we can do things differently. We’re not just copying what’s been done in London, we are exploiting local niches and bringing together local experts to make the most of the city’s food and drink scene.”
The focus of the festival will be on the whiskies, with stands from scores of brands as well as a special Bloggers’ Choice stand with unusual tipples, manned by Selly Oak bloggers Living Room Whisky.
But the event will have added dimensions including a master class with Kings Heath deli Capeling & Co pairing cheeses with whiskies, a workshop with Hollingsworth Cigars of Great Western Arcade, discussing different smokes and pairing them with whiskies, and a tutored tasting from renowned whisky consultant Dominic Roskrow.
Birmingham’s pop-up restaurant specialists Soul Food Project will be running a barbecue outdoors, while The Victoria pub in John Bright Street will host an after-hours “speakeasy” – a post festival chill-out zone with long drinks, cocktails, food and music.
Ms Seton launched the Whisky Club in December 2011 with connoisseur Craig Mills of The Whisky Shop in Great Western Arcade.
She said: “I was traipsing round Birmingham looking for something I wanted to do in my spare time and there just wasn’t anything. So I thought, I can bring this.
“And when you meet someone whose expertise is unmatched in the city – and I’m pretty sure Craig’s is – it really opens your eyes to the possibilities.
“We started with these monthly tastings and now we’re getting enquiries all the time so the natural progression is for us to start looking at other areas, expanding first to the suburbs and then to other large towns, like Leamington.”
The Whisky Club is already in talks with venues in Harborne, Moseley, Kings Heath and Sutton about hosting new tutored tasting events.
Ms Seton added: “We’re bringing brands into the city. We have the relationship with the brands where they are confident we can put good people in front of them who connect with them and their products.
“They see Birmingham as somewhere they want to tap into.
“The city is definitely on people’s radars now. The tide is turning and all the work on food and drink scene in the past is now paying dividends.
“People are excited about the city and they have money to spend here.”
* The festival starts at midday and tickets cost £25. For more information visit www.whiskybirmingham.co.uk