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@nooch
nooch started a discussion

Has anyone here ever hosted a whisky tasting led by a brand ambassador? Curious as to how it went and what you learned. I’m thinking of hosting one/putting one together in the Niagara Region.

11 days ago

17 replies

@Victor
Victor replied

@nooch, I have not enlisted the services of a brand ambassador for any of the tastings which we have done. Would I? Yes, depending on who that brand ambassador is. Brand ambassadors are like people in other professions: some of them are very good for the purposes I would intend, some good, some not so good, some horrible. I would want to see and hear the brand ambassador in action before I would ask to bring that individual in to present for a group of my gathering. Even a distillery/brand which you like could have an ambassador whom you do not like. I think of this as I do of giving advice to a young university student on how to choose courses to take: if you have a choice, do not pick the course content as the first priority, pick the teacher.

11 days ago 2Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

There are benefits and drawbacks of going with a brand ambassador:

Advantages: Free booze, usually they know about the product

Disadvantages:

  • No control over what is poured

  • Likely mostly stuff you can get in store (rarely a special bottle)

  • Biased presentation

  • Limited range of flavours / styles unless it's Diageo or large group

Personally, I would prefer to get a group together and between us get the right combination of spirits. I know the people I taste with probably know more about the spirits than some brand ambassadors.

On the other hand, I've been toying with the idea of a fundraiser for a cause I support, and I think there might be legal issues about supplying my own spirits. For something like that, though the quality might be lower, I would probably want to enlist an ambassador.

An exception to all of the above:

Amrut's former ambassador Ashok Chokalingham - I am positive he would bring good stuff and have a lot of wisdom...

11 days ago 2Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

@Nozinan if you’re worried about providing your own spirits you obviously live in Ontario. Brutal, eh? Just stupid. I’m struggling with how to create an event that is interesting and isn’t hemmed in by the limited bottle options at the lcbo.

11 days ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@nooch, bring in a flight (or two) from Alberta. Is this a small quaint event or one where tickets will be sold?

11 days ago 1Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

@paddockjudge that was my plan. I might sell tix to people I know so it’s a “private” event. I would love to advertise. To be honest I feel like Niagara Falls is an ideal place to host a larger whisky show given the hotels and amenities. It lends itself to a weekend visit with a Saturday whisky show. I want to use this as a bit of a trial balloon for something slightly more involved (a guy can dream). The draconian laws in Ontario make it a challenge but I’ve seen selections at whisky shows in the province that I’ve never seen on offer from the kgbo. I’ve also seen IB offerings from private whisky clubs for their tastings, so there must be some wiggle room. Any insight there?

11 days ago 1Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@nooch, as far as wiggle room goes, there is very little. For a special occasion permit the alcohol must be purchased with the permit number, it appears on the receipt...inspectors will need to see this.

I secured a special occasion permit last year for a wedding at which I offered 30 top-flight whiskies, all of the whisky appeared on receipts along with the permit number (purchase liquor after purchasing the permit). In order to accomplish this I returned a multitude of bottles to the LCBO and repurchased them with the permit in hand...this allowed me to offer my guests whisky which was not readily available for retail purchse at LCBO outlets; in doing so I kept within the spirit of the law. As for bottles you have not seen at the LCBO yet wish to offer, they require paper work, a huge lead time for processing, and the obligatory 143% LCBO fee (on top of your cost) with all taxes included you will be getting close to triple the original cost of the bottle. @tfahey1298 has experience with large group tastings, perhaps you could contact him.

11 days ago 2Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

@paddockjudge So how does something like Spirit of Toronto happen?

11 days ago 1Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

@Nozinan that was my question. I’m going to figure it out - and you’re all invited!!

11 days ago 1Who liked this?

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge replied

@Nozinan, more paperwork than an outbreak of food poisoning, that is how SofT happens.

11 days ago 3Who liked this?

tfahey1298 replied

In Ontario, any time alcohol is offered for sale or served anywhere other than in a licensed establishment or a private place (a home or office), you must obtain a Special Occasion Permit (SOP) from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

Is your whisky tasting a "private" or a "public" event?

Will it be held in a "private" or "public" location?

Will it be open to the public, or only to invited guests?

Will you be selling tickets, or charging a fee of any kind?

Will alcoholic beverages be sold, or provided at not charge to guests?

The rules in Ontario are pretty restrictive... I am assuming you know where to find the information, guides and online applications at the iAGCO website, but here is the web URL for anyone else that is interested: agco.ca/alcohol/…

Note that you can only get an SOP for a public event for a charity, a non-profit organization or an event of some "cultural" significance (as designated by the AGCO).

If you do qualify to obtain an SOP, there are two classes: a "sale" event and a "no-sale" event. The fee, per day, is $150 for a sale event and $35 for a no-sale event. You need to apply at least 30 days in advance for a sale event, and at least 10 days for a no-sale event.

The online registration is fairly straight forward, and the AGCO is quick to approve and send back the permit, delivered as a PDF email attachment.

If your event will have tiered (stadium style) seating or is to be held outdoors, additional information will need to be submitted.

I have obtained SOPs for the our local community theatre (a registered charity) in order to serve alcohol on production show nights (three shows per year, with each show running Thursday-Sunday for three weekends).

I have also been involved for the last five years with a charitable fundraising gala whisky dinner for 180 guests, but the event was held at a local hotel, and alcohol served under the hotel's liquor licence. One year we had the participation of the Macallan / Highland Park brand ambassador. I will post a follow up on this separately.

11 days ago 2Who liked this?

tfahey1298 replied

The event I am involved with is "A Wee Toast" - www.aweetoast.ca

It is a five course Robbie Burns night style dinner, with a different single malt whisky paired with each course.

The first two years of the event (2014, 2015), the hotel allowed us to source and purchase the whiskies being served, and to use our own Smart Serve certified volunteers to pour the whiskies served with each course. We took the heels back after the dinner. I was able to solicit volunteers from my friends and fellow members of my whisky dinner club to act as whisky masters to introduce the whiskies.

We changed venues in 2016 (original hotel changed ownership and was closed), and the new hotel would not allow us to purchase the whiskies - we provided them with the list of whiskies, and they purchased them under their license. The hotel invoiced for opened bottles - and they kept the heels! The hotel also provided (at a cost) the whisky servers from their wait staff. The hotel required the list of whiskies by Jan 31 (the event was held on April 10).

I had tried to elicit support from a whisky company / brand ambassador for the first two events, and I was successful on getting support from Beam Suntory (Macallan / Highland Park) in the third year. They provided one of the whiskies being served (HP 12), covered the cost of some marketing materials, and also donated a bottle of HP Odin as a live auction item. The brand ambassador, Nicolas Villalon, was our MC for the evening, and introduced the whiskies at each course. Beam Suntory originally wanted only Macallan whiskies to be served, but we negotiated and the final list of whiskies served, in order, were:

Highland Park 12 Years Old

Highland Park 18 Year Old

Bowmore Darkest 15 Years Old

Macallan Amber

Macallan Sienna

Nicolas did an excellent job as MC and whisky master.

For the fourth and fifth years (2017, 2018) we were unable to get any sponsorship support from a whisky company. We had a volunteer who was versed in whisky to introduce the whiskies in 2017, and in 2018 my wife and I introduced the whiskies. This last year I also performed the "Address to a Haggis".

One of my roles on the organizing committee was to select the whiskies to be paired with the courses. Having to select whiskies from what was available at the LCBO in January, and stay within budget, for an April dinner was challenging.

.

10 days ago 2Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

@tfahey1298 this is fantastic info. I really appreciate your insight and thoughtful responses. As I delve deeper into the process I may ask some follow ups if that’s ok. Cheers!!!

Here’s another question: does Spirit of Toronto run as an event of cultural significance? Pretty sure that’s not run as a not for profit event.

10 days ago 0

tfahey1298 replied

I would say its run under an Industry Promotional Event...

“Industry Promotional Event permits are intended for promoting a manufacturer’s product through sampling.”

  • samples can be provided for tasting free of charge or on cost-recovery basis, no intent for profit
  • samples must be provided by manufacturers, or their agents
  • product orders can be taken, but no retailing during event.

agco.ca/alcohol/…

10 days ago 1Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

Niagara runs an ice wine festival. It’s likely for profit as they must argue that it is representative of the regions identity. This must be part of the reason so many scotch nights take place around Robbie Burns night - so it can be deemed culturally significant.

10 days ago 0

@nooch
nooch replied

Maybe they argue that they are making a profit on food sales, not liquor sales.

10 days ago 0

tfahey1298 replied

The ice wine festival is probably classified as an event with municipal or provincial significance. The Robbie Burns dinners are typically in support of a charity, or are put on by a private club for its members. The no intent for profit or fundraising for a charity are important distinctions.

10 days ago 1Who liked this?

@nooch
nooch replied

There’s a local night here wherein the whisky tasting and dinner have separate costs and tickets even though people are likely to opt in to both - that must be how they are getting around the for profit aspect of the deal. They aren’t making profit on the whisky but are on the dinner. I’m not looking to do a for profit event per se, just wondering how others seem to be operating that way.

10 days ago 0

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