By Kurt Maitland
Actually Dave’s full and proper list of titles are: David Sweet, President USA and Canada Whisky Live USA, Whiskies & Spirits Conference USA, and Senior Vice President North America Whisky Magazine.
With both the Whiskies & Spirits Conference (February 23rd) and Whisky Live NYC (February 24th) hitting New York City this week, I reached out to Dave, who graciously took time from his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about the upcoming events as well as the whisk(e)y industry.
KM: What do you think whisky festivals in general and Whisky Live in particular, offer to the whisky fan?
DS: The beauty of Whisky Live is that it is truly a perfect night out for whisky lovers, and it doesn’t matter if you’re at the beginning stages of embarking on your whisky journey or at a point where you’re seeking out whiskies bottled when you were born (or older). Of course, there’s also the obvious opportunity to sample a wide range of whiskies at a reasonable cost, but there’s also a convenience factor to it as getting an opportunity to taste this many whiskies would mean a lot of traveling from bar to bar, store to store. And, especially as there are select bottles at Whisky Live that won’t be opened again in the United States because we have the exclusive. An event like Whisky Live is your one chance to taste some once in a lifetime whiskies. Lastly, Whisky Live allows you to experience all these wonderful whiskies under the expert tutelage of some of the world’s most knowledgeable whisky producers.
KM: How much has the festival and industry changed from when you started the Whisky Live event to now?
DS: There are definitely more events, and of a larger variance as to the nature and structure and format of the events. There is also a much larger participation from the craft segment of the industry.
KM: I’ve seen that you’ve expanded the number of cities that host Whisky Live? What is driving the expansion and what are your biggest challenges in having more events?
DS: The demand by the market on a national level and the whisky producers being interested in the secondary markets. This is a double edged sword, as it is stretching the ability of the brand ambassadors and brands to be in too many places at one time due to overlapping events. It is harder to maintain a “BIG” show format.
KM: Having been involved and having observed the industry for a good amount of years, what trends are you most happy to see in the whisky industry?
DS: Younger professionals being interested, and willing to be open-minded in exploring new flavors and different types of whiskies. The craft segment helps to support this with such a wide range of products. The large producers are also supporting this, with different finishes and line extensions.
KM: Finally what can you tell me about the Whiskies and Spirits Conference North America that you host every year?
DS: The annual Whiskies and Spirits Conference is a highly anticipated event throughout the industry. That’s because the conversations that take place at it are unvarnished and no-holds barred. Topics that might be sensitive elsewhere are welcomed here as the conference is designed to encourage shared experience and industry growth. This philosophy of enlightenment and truth permeates the structure of a full-day event that addresses trends in the spirits markets and the new and innovative marketing directions from packaging to labels to outreach to what will be the hot products of tomorrow.
Also, we have participation from the major producers, to the supporting agencies such as DISCUS and the KDA and ACSA, and we don’t stop there. We additionally shine a spotlight on the design and marketing firms involved in the spirits industry as their work impacts industry growth and success as well.
The one other thing that is a really nice touch is the networking that takes place both during the morning coffee hour and midday throughout the cocktail reception where the World Whiskies Awards winners are poured and during the luncheon itself where Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame USA winners are inducted. Absolutely a day everyone wants to take off from work so as not to miss.