For Just $25, You Too Can Become a Whisky Expert

The masterclasses at the Whisky & Words festival are woefully underpriced—and you should take advantage of that.

February 20, 2019

By Neal McLennan

I sometimes think about people whose parents didn’t send them to the liquor store at 16 to pick up bottles of Scotch for them and wonder: How the heck were they supposed to learn about whisky? The answer is the masterclass—the intimate seminar in which a whisky expert leads a small group of tasters (novice or nerd) through a series of tastes with some time to discuss, contemplate and educate themselves about this fine drink.

The main problem with masterclasses is that they’re often pricey—some easily surpass $100 thanks in part to the sheer expense of sourcing some very expensive bottles and then pouring them for the attendees. And all too often they’re geared towards whisky aficionados. But along comes Vancouver Writers Fest and its Whisky & Words event—of which VanMag is an enthusiastic sponsor—figuring out a way to make something previously earmarked as exclusive now available to anyone.

The key is charity: the VWF is a non-profit that not only brings world-class writers (Margaret Atwood! David Sedaris!) to Vancouver to present immersive conversations, but also curates year-round programming in support of youth education outreach programs, classroom events at non-traditional locations like BC Children’s Hospital and the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. As a result, when you hand over your $65 for a ticket (which is already well-priced) for the masterclass of your choosing, you get a $40 tax receipt back. And bingo, you’ve now spent only $25 and you get to try some crackerjack whiskies like Glenmorangie’s $250 Signet or Glenfiddich’s $300 Winter Stormnot to mention hard-to-find cult bottles like Oppidan’s 4 Grain or 2019 award-winning Shelter Point’s Single Malt Whisky from Vancouver Island.

The question is which of the six masterclasses should you choose? They all take place at various cool locales on Granville Island like Edible Canada, Sandbar, Granville Island Hotel, the Pacific Culinary Institute and even the Origins Coffee Lab.

The full list of options is here, but it comes down to what you’re looking for. If you want to jump into the big guns, you have options from Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich or The Balvenie. If you want cult American whiskies, the Writers Fest has you covered here. Meanwhile, those with a hankering for B.C. whiskies should look here. And if you want to geek out on the effect of wood on whisky, then bam! At a net $25, the masterclasses’ only rivals in terms of value are each other, so you best drop the hammer.

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