Category Archives: Whisky Events

2010 Willow Park Whisky Festival

Now in its tenth year and going stronger than ever, the Willow Park Whisky Festival is set to once again enlighten and entertain the lucky 800 who manage to get their hands on a ticket.  Wednesday, November 3rd will see no less than sixteen leading industry figures, each with as many as four tables of different product lines, take over Willow Park Wines & Spirits for an evening of tasting, teaching and socializing. 

Last year’s festival saw an astounding 125 whiskies open and available for sampling.  This year promises no less.  Guests will receive a booklet of information upon arrival, listing whiskies and vendors, in order to plan their tour of the event.  A wise approach which will  help to ensure your tastebuds aren’t singed before you reach the gem or two you’ve been dying to sample.

The Calgary Police Service Pipe Band will provide the soundtrack to an evening highlighted by the presence of Andrew Gray (Sales Director of Bruichladdich), Ronnie Cox (Director of Glenrothes and BBR) and Alex Bruce (Sales and Marketing Director of Adelphi), sharing their many years of experience and insight…not to mention whisky.  Many other ambassadors will be circulating and available to answer questions.

Past years at the festival have given us stunning and rare exclusive casks of Glenfiddich, from 1974 through 1977.  All of which carry unique stories and histories, but share a couple of common attributes.  First..all were limited to about 300 bottles.   And second…each time the customer who came the furthest to claim his prize was from South Africa.  This should help provide a  little insight into the elite nature of such an event and such products.

This years’s Willow Park exclusive barrel is a 1985 Glendronach.  All assurances are that this is indeed a stunning cask.  Certainly you’ll be able to form an opinion on the night of the festival.

When it comes to getting the most out of the festival, Willow Park’s Whisky Buyer, afficionado and resident ambassador, David Michiels offers this bit of advice…”take it slow and do not rush the tasting”.  Solid advice.  6:30 to 9:00 can make for a long evening when trying a few of the wares on display. 

One final note…please be safe.  Taxis will be available.  Please do not drink and drive.

See you there.

For tickets contact Willow Park:



Calgary Whisky Club – Update #3

Greetings, Members, Malters and soon-to-be-members!

The Willow Park Whisky Club (not an official title) had its first official meeting on the 5th of September, 2010.  Though the Labor Day long weekend prevented several individuals from attending, a large handful came out to break a bottle on the proverbial maiden voyage.  Thanks to all of those (like myself) who lacked the foresight to book an extended vacation at this time and were able to attend.  😉

What happens in Whisky Club stays in Whisky Club.  Well…not really, but…suffice it to say…details will not be shared here for the masses.  The long and short of it was this…

We met, laughed and lingered.  A few glasses were shared from a selection of bottles while we discussed the direction that we would like to go from here.  The decision was made to have one more session as a ‘meet-n’-greet’ as so many were away this time.  Next meeting is Sunday, October 3rd at 7:00pm.  This is when we will sort out a few more details.

A few who came out were surprised that this was an open membership deal.  I think the assumption was that it was an invite only club.  Apologies if anything said here has led to that belief.  In clarifying…

Next meeting is Sunday, October 3rd at 7:00pm.

Anyone reading here…feel free to join us, and if you have others interested…bring ’em along! 

We will cap membership at a specified number, but until that number is reached, it is open to all.  The only criteria…you have to enjoy whisky and want to meet people.

Finally…October 3rd will be something of an Islay night, based on early vote.  I (Curt) will have returned from this land of peat and smoke only days prior.  I’ve been asked to spill a little bit about the trip upon return.  Should have some pics and maybe video to share.  (Anyone care to do the powerpoint work?)

So…spread the word and round up your colleagues.  What is whisky without friends?

Until next update…Slainte!

Compass Box Tasting – Jan 27 2010

I’ve said it before…John Glaser is an alchemist.  In 2000 he founded Compass Box, a boutique whisky making company dedicated to craft presentation of beautifully blended whiskies.  Note the distinction…Compass Box does not distill whiskies.  Under Glaser’s direction, they purchase and marry whiskies from other distilleries.  I hesitate to say blend, lest you get the idea that we are speaking to the standard blended fair.  This couldn’t be further from the way Glaser approaches his craft.  Compass Box differs from the big blenders (though Glaser’s lineage does include a tenure with Johnnie Walker) in that Glaser approaches the art from a ‘less is more’ standpoint.  Much more, in fact.  His marriage of casks often revolves around only a couple (or a small handful) of truly exceptional whiskies, as opposed to the dozens in many of the big blends.

Glaser is profoundly passionate about his whisky.  I love that.  He is intense and deliberate.  His knowledge and tastes are unquestionable after having sampled the whiskies he has created.  Though not all were exactly to my taste, they were undoubtedly well-crafted, excellent expressions.  

This tasting event was another Willow Park coup, but this should come as less and less of a surprise, as I have yet to attend an event there I did not enjoy.  As usual, Willow Park’s whisky buyer, David Michiels, was on hand to entertain, warm the crowd and…of course…lead you to your next purchase.  Normally Dave would take you to some of his favorites, but tonight was all about Compass Box.

An enlightening eve it was too.  My ignorance to Compass Box’s lineup was rewarded with wide-eyed wonder at such a unique approach to blending. 

The whiskies laid out for education and enjoyment?

Asyla – Blended whisky.  A smooth, light easy sipper composed of grains and malts.  Pleasant, if a little delicate.  40% abv.

Oak Cross – Blended malt.  Components are all Highland malts and you can tell.  Still fairly light.  Fruity and soft.  43% abv.

The Peat Monster – Blended malt.  Not nearly so monstrous as the name would imply.  Nice flavors but could use a boost.  46% **

Hedonism – Blended Grain Whisky.  Grains between 12 and 25 year old.  Full of character and unique.  Big vanilla and coconut.  Quite exceptional.  43% abv.

Eleuthera – Blended malt.  Sadly retired, due to malt availability issues.  Exceptional.  Malty, smoky, fruity.  Gorgeous long finish.  46%

The Spice Tree – Blended malt.  Best of the night and wonderfully deep.  As the name suggests, full of spice.  46% 

I should also note…all whiskies above are non-chill-filtered and natural color.

If the opportunity presents itself for you to sample the Compass Box line I highly recommend it.  Of course…you could always drop by my place for a wee nip at the Spice Tree…

Great night…great host…great whisky.

One final note…you’ll find reviews for several of these here on ATW.

**Latest bottlings are infinitely peatier with the addition of Laphroaig to round out the Caol Ila and Ardmore.

Willow Park Upcoming Events – Calgary

The vast majority of what we at ATW purchase comes from Willow Park Wines And Spirits.  Great selection…helpful staff…and close to home.  Not only do they bring in the best whiskies (and all else), they also put on the best damn events as well.  If you’re local, and care to come out, you won’t regret it.

See ya at some of these:

15 September 2010 “Last Chance Whiskies” (with Andy Dunn)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Come and join Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing for a whisky event like no other!  Taste some limited edition last chance whiskies from – Springbank, Gordon & MacPhail, Cooley Distillery, Bruichladdich and other top whisky producers.  These are rarified whiskies that you don’t want to miss.

30 September 2010 “Bourbon Night”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Willow Park’s first bourbon tasting was a great success.  Join us again as we explore more of the interesting history and depth of flavor that made this Kentucky spirit famous!  A carefully chosen line up of only small batch and single barrel editions will be tasted to experience the diverse flavors that bourbon has to offer.  Hosted by Willow Park Wines & Spirits whisky expert Brice Coates, our guests will enjoy paired appetizers and sample a fantastic selection of rarified bourbons.

6 October 2010 “Murray McDavid & Bruichladdich”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Selected by Jim McEwan, Murray McDavid bottlings come from some of the oldest distilleries around and are considered to be a new take on the world’s best spirits!  They are chosen for their individuality and diversity and we welcome you to come and join us for a memorable and informative evening.

20 October 2010 “Wild Turkey”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

With 28 years of experience, Edward Freeman Russell knows a thing or two about bourbon.  As the son of renowned Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell, and the fourth generation Russell to work at the Austin Nichols Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Eddie is of unmatched pedigree in the bourbon industry.  This class is one of a kind and you don’t want to miss it!

27 October 2010 “GlenDronach” (with Alistair Walker)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

In 1826, the GlenDronach Distillery became one of the first licensed distilleries in Scotland.  Since then, GlenDronach has been producing some of the most revered scotch whiskies in the world.  They earned a reputation for producing richly sherried single malt scotch whiskies.  Please join us as Alistair Walker from the GlenDronach and BenRiach Distillery launches a rare 25YO single cask, exclusive to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, and walks us through a number of extraordinary scotch whiskies from the two distilleries.

2 November 2010“Glenrothes at the Rimrock” (with Ronnie Cox)

          Tickets:  $125          Doors:  5:30pm

Join Ronnie Cox of Glenrothes fame in the Rimrock Room of the Palliser Hotel for an evening of sublime whisky and gourmet food.  The four course meal will begin with cocktails at 6:00 and feature Select Glenrothes expressions to accompany the chef’s creations.  Tickets are extremely limited and include valet service.  A night not to be missed or soon forgotten.

3 November 2010 “Whisky Festival”

          Tickets:  $85

Join us for Alberta’s premier scotch event!  A spectacular evening featuring a dazzling array of 100 plus single malts and premium spirits, live Bagpipers, and gourmet catering.  There will be many distillery masters present from all regions of Scotland, including:

Andrew Calder – Sales Director Burns Stewart Distillers

Katherine Crisp – Brand Manager Burns Stewart Distillers

Andrew Gray – Sales Director & Proprietor Bruichladdich

Alistair Walker – Regional Sales Director GlenDronach

John Glaser – Compass Box Founder & Whiskymaker

Mike Harrison – Glenrothes Commercial Manager

Ronnie Cox – Director Glenrothes

Ross EJ Hendry – Brand Manager NA Berry Bros

Alex Bruce – Owner of Adelphi Single Malts

Enjoy the Calgary Highlander Band and Scottish Dancers.  Fabulous hors d’oeuvres from Buzzards, Nicole Gourmet, Wildwood and Willow Park Golf & Country Club are guaranteed to enhance these flavourful whiskies!

10 November 2010 “Winter Warmth – Cask Strength” (with Andy Dunn)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Come taste some whiskies from top producers with Andy Dunn from Gold Medal Marketing.  These are sure to warm your toes on those cold – cold – cold winter nights on the prairies…. Wear your woolies!!!!

19 November 2010 “Exclusive Scotch Seminar”

          Tickets:  $50          Doors:  7:00pm

Willow Park Wines & Spirits invites you to join us for a very special evening of unique, truly superior Scotch Whiskies.  This single malt lovers event will feature single casks exclusive to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, as well as other sought after rarities.  Our guests will enjoy specially paired appetizers while discovering the interesting history and character of these malts.  Our star of the evening will be the Tullibardine 1966, a superior forty-two year old single barrel that Willow Park Wines & Spirits is proud to call our exclusive.  Come join us…

1 December 2010 “Macallan Scotch”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

The Macallan is the most respected and revered whisky in the world.  This legendary single malt has more awards and accolades than any other.  Join Brand Ambassador J. Wheelock to unlock the secrets of what makes this iconic luxury brand “the single malt against which all other must be judged”.  Guests will explore a selection of the two principal line-ups from The Macallan and learn more about what being a Master really means.

8 December 2010 “Christmas Whiskies Mini Festival”

          Tickets:  $25          Doors:  7:00pm

Please join Andy Dunn from Gold Medal Marketing, Rob White from Saverio Schiralli Agencies and Jonathan Bray from Purple Valley Imports – three of the most notorious whisky importers!  Check out their whisky recommendations for Christmas gift giving.

Calgary Whisky Club – Update #2

September 5th is fast approaching.  Almost as quickly as summer seems to be slipping away.  No worries though, it simply means I’ll be able to break out a few more of those massive Islay whiskies we all adore.

Put your thinking caps on, ladies and gents.  This inaugural session will be where we define what the Calgary Whisky Club is to become.  Your ideas, thoughts and input are important.

This first session will be a meet n’ greet.  We’ll have a dram, make some friends and bang out some structure.  It won’t cost you anything more than your time to show up for this first meeting.


Be forewarned…there will be a cost associated with this club.  Every effort will be made to ensure the dent to our pocketbooks is as minimal as possible.  In speaking with David, the initial thought is that this contribution will be small indeed.  We’ll discuss further on the 5th, but rest easy…it will be next to nil.

Guest speakers are being debated and lined up already.  Interest is strong among those in the industry with whom I’ve spoken.

For those attending…hey…this club will hopefully become part of your new circle of friends.  That doesn’t have to mean that your old circle is excluded.  If you know of anyone who is passionate about whisky and comeraderie…bring ’em along.  This whole enterprise is about having fun and bringing something to Calgary that is sadly amiss right now.

Many of you know me.  My name is Curt.  Those that I have not yet met face to face…I look forward to it.

My counterpart, and the other kindhearted soul responsible for making this a reality, is David Michiels.  David is the whisky buyer for Willow Park.  If you’ve ever wandered around navigating the whisky wall at WP, chances are you were warmly greeted by David and led to something exceptional to take home.  If you don’t know him already…you will soon enough.

…and yes…those discount cards mentioned before are also in the works.  Let’s not forget…Willow Park is supporting us, so let’s support Willow Park in return.

Please send any questions to


7:00pm Sunday, September 5th 2010


Willow Park Wines and Spirits

Until next Sunday…


Distillery Tour – Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL)

ADL Cask

On Friday, September 10th, the gang from All Things Whisky (as well as a few mates from Liquorature and random tag-alongs) will be off to visit the fine folks at Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) for a tour of the distillery and facility.  ADL, and a fantastic lady by the name of Kathy in particular, has been spectacularly accommodating in arranging our visit and tour.  Needless to say, the gang is ecstatic about this opportunity.

ADL is responsible for producing the brilliant Alberta Premium Canadian Rye Whisky right here in our own backyard, Calgary.  This is the self-same rye that whisky guru Jim Murray awarded a 94.5 rating, and yours truly at ATW awarded a 93.  This review is featured here on ATW for those who may be interested.

With ADL’s blessing we will be following up our tour with a featured article on ATW. 

Stay tuned…

Calgary Whisky Club

Lads and Lassies,

After a final discussion with our friend, David Michiels, at Willow Park…

The Calgary Whisky Club is finally a reality!

To any who do not know me yet…my name is Curt.  I, along with David, will be spearheading this adventure.

The inaugural meeting of this exclusive little enclave will be:

7:00pm    Sunday, September 5th, 2010

This rather informal gathering will be at Willow Park Wines and Spirits in Calgary South.

If you are interested, please confirm with me, Curt, at in order to ensure a spot is held.

Membership will be limited to 40 people.  When our maximum is met, we will have a wait list.  Annual dues are yet to be determined.  Your input at the first meeting will help decide many details about this club, including (but not limited to):

  • Member costs
  • Dates and times
  • Format
  • Products
  • What you want to put in/get out of this club

While there will be a nominal fee associated, the benefits will far outweigh anything you put in.  Exposure to many new products, access to industry persons and their knowledge, discounts and exclusive opportunities at products…and most importantly…a social circle of like-minded individuals out to have fun.

To all involved thus far, thanks for your help.  To those I have yet to recruit into supporting roles…uh, sorry…and again…thanks for your help.

To any reps and industry persons…if you are interested in being involved in hosting tastings, providing samples for review or simply sitting in…please do not hesitate to contact me.  Once a month you will have a captive audience of 40 whisky drinkers just itching to sample and purchase your product from Willow Park.

Please hang tight for more information.

Until we meet in September…Slainte!