On Sunday the 21st of February I took the long travel to Munich for the Finest Spirits Festival 2016 at the MVG Museum. The trip to Munich alone was quite interesting. After a short -not unexpected- passport check at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, I got into Munich around 10:30. At the platform I was awaited by like 100 Cops some even with Heckler & Koch machine guns. I wasn’t expecting such a nice greeting committee from me, but I guess they weren’t waiting for me but for the ICE, which arrived on the next platform a few minutes later. On Monday I heard from other sources, that there may have been a terroristic threat and that this could be the reason for the high amount of cops there. Nevertheless I never felt unsafe, everything seemed normal and peacefully in Munich. After buying a pre-paid SIM card for my phone, I got my first coffee of the day at -go figure- Starbucks. After managing to get the SIM card working, I decided to take the tram (No.17) to the venue. As I arrive at the right platform the tram pulls up and I could swear it was tram No.17. Guess what, it was No.16. Of course I didn’t notice, I was sure I saw a red “17” on the front of that tram. So after I got my ticket (with the last coins in my wallet) I enjoyed the ride trough Munich. Until I realised the ride took too long. But there was something else. On the tram station they show you when the next tram will arrive. And it showed only the tram No.16. So I got off that tram and started consulting my phone. Well, not only I took the wrong tram, it went in the complete wrong direction. Kind of, because it went not south to the venue but east to change then to the north-east. But I got off the tram just in time to be precisely about 6 kilometres north of the venue. Time wasn’t a factor, so I took my time and decided what my options were. 

Option A
I get back on the tram to the train station I departed and get on the right tram. Problem: I had not enough coins to get another ticket. Anything else isn’t accepted at the ticket machine. Crap, I should have bought some tickets at the train station…

Option B
Take the next tram back anyway and hope for no ticket check on the way. No, that wouldn’t be me. 

Option C
Walk back to the train station. No, walk to the venue. Would have taken maybe half to a quarter to an hour. The weather was fine, a little windy but not too cold. 

Option D
Try Uber. I remembered that I had a 10€ bonus in my account when I created it some time ago. The price check showed 11 to 15€ for the trip and the next Uber cab was like 10 minutes out.

I choose option D and ordered my Uber cab. It arrived like 7 minutes later and I was greeted by a very nice driver from Hungary as I discovered while being driven to the venue. Also it was a BMW (series 5), as you might know I like BMW. I paid in the end around 13€ and with the bonus in my account it was nearly the prize of a normal tram ticket. I was a little bit early and the security wouldn’t let me in. But they showed me a nice little bakery shop around the corner. When I came back around 45 minutes before the officially opening some people were already waiting. So I joined them and started writing these lines. Some of them had some luggage with them and when I met them again in the venue I discovered that one of them was actually from Vienna. We may have seen us probably at the „Whiskymesse 2015“ at the Acrotel in Vienna last year. And I thought I’d be the only one that „crazy“ for Whisky to come from Vienna. He and his buddies even arrived on Saturday and stayed overnight. But I digress, well not really but back to the right order of events (as I try to recall them, there was lots of Whisky involved that day).

Dr.Rothe and Helmut Knöpfle from Campari taking to eachother
Dr.Rothe and Helmut Knöpfle from Campari taking to eachother

A few minutes later the „Whisky-Vicar“ Dr.Dr. Wolfgang F. Rothe arrived, greeted me on his way in and started preparing the Masterclass I wanted to attend upon arrival. Because the Masterclass – it was a beneficial one (later more) – started at 1 p.m. sharp, he came back out with some tickets for everybody who wanted to attend his Masterclass. So I got in early, got my press accreditation and started roaming the venue before everybody else could. I just had like 15 minutes before the Masterclass started but I managed to say „Hello“ to Andreas Scholz from „Woody’s – Edles aus Holz“ and get a „Whisky-Glass-Neck-Strap“ from the guys of the „Single Cask Collection“. I wanted to come back to those two booths later that day, but I wasn’t able to. From „Woody’s“ you can buy pens (and other stuff) made from old Whisky barrels. I’m thinking about ordering one for quite a long time and I’d loved to interview the maker of such fine things. Well, maybe the next time. Or at the „Pen Show“ in Vienna. I just recall, that the last „Pen Shows“ were held on October, 26th, which is a national holyday. So no excuse to go then. I’ll try as I come back from my London trip on that day. But I should be able to get to the venue in time, at least for a short interview. But I already digress again. Precisely at 1 p.m. my first Masterclass with the „Whisky-Vicar“ started. I’ll write about all three Masterclasses I attended that day (the other two being Glenmorangie and Bruichladdich) in separate articles.

After completing my Masterclass marathon I was scheduled to met with the „Whisky-Vicar“, Dr.Dr. Wolfgang F. Rothe. In fact we both attended the Bruichladdich Masterclass, so it was easier than we thought for a meet up. First we got to the booth of Finest Spirits as he had to do a short reading from his book about the „Spirituality of Whisky“ there. You can read here a short review on that book. There he introduced me to Denis, the guy behind the social media accounts of „Finest Spirits“. After some autographs we left the booth and decided to have a nice cigar and a Whisky at the cigar lounge. Thanks again Wolfgang for the nice hand rolled Macandu, it was very delightful and good. As was the St.Georges Whisky he brought to the venue. It was a pre-release cask sample, nowhere else to get except from the Whisky-Vicar (Wait for my article about his Masterclass, as we tasted this nice Whisky there)! Although we „know“ each other from Facebook, this was our first personal meeting. We talked literally about –as you say in German- „God and the World“. We talked for like an hour but it felt like several hours. Not because it was boring but because it was that relaxing and packed with very interesting topics. We talked about his upcoming Whisky pilgrimage (Sorry folks, already fully booked) to Scotland, about the (Whisky and Church) situation in Germany, about personal stuff (Whisky and non-Whisky related). About the discussions and encounters he had with various people. Religious as well as non-religious. Everybody seems to like him. Even people who’s stance on „the church“ isn’t that good. But it’s easily understood why. He is authentic. He is straight forward. He is open for everyone but still follows his principles. I’m very proud and honoured that I was able to meet him and talk for that long period of time with him.

But back to the venue. The atmosphere was great, despite the fact that there were lots of people. It was crowded but not packed. Everybody behaved very well, even later in the day. Frank Böer from Finest Spirits even shared on Facebook that there was NOT A SINGLE PERSON who had to be told to leave because of too much alcohol! I thinks this speaks for itself, with over 10.000 people attending this venue! My time was running out, so I wasn’t able to visit all booths I wanted or planned to. But Wolfgang introduced me to Helmut Knöpfle, Brand Ambassador Whisk(e)y & Specialities of Campari while sipping a „The Balvenie“ – I forgot to take a note which one it was, but I think it was the 17yo Sherry Wood. And it was delicious. Of course we had to pay a visit to Frederick Wolff from the „Single Malt Connoisseur’s Club München“, who is a good friend of Wolfgang. His club and even his shank were featured in the current issue of „Der Whiskybotschafter“. You don’t believe me? Take issue No.1-2016 and go to page 6! It’s incredible how fast time flies while talking to nice and interesting people. And it flies even faster with Whisky (and chocolate – thanks Frederick, it was delicious) involved.

My resume: Although the Finest Spirits Festival is not –only- about Whisky, the lead spirit this year was Vodka, the main audience are Whisky fans. I consider myself a Whisky fan too, but I also like other spirits. I guess lots of people here are very alike. As I mentioned several times, there was just too little time and too much space to cover for me. But I managed to attend Wolfgang’s Masterclass – which was a beneficial one, for the „Hospizverein Rammersdorf/Perlach“, and 330€ were collected!- and get to know him. At least I managed to do that. And I met new and interesting people from the Whisky world. Oh, on our way out –I had to catch my train back to Vienna- Wolfgang introduced me to Frank Böer –managing director of Finest Spirits- and he told me, they are thinking about a Finest Spirits Festival in Vienna. I’m very excited about that, despite the fact that we have a great Whisky venue here in Vienna. But only every second year. I hope they manage to get the great festival to Vienna in 2016. I’ll post updates on that matter on my blog and my Facebook site!

In the end I’d like to name some brands and products I used on my trip. I have no affiliations with them nor are they sponsors of mine or the blog. All brands used here may be copyrighted by the corresponding company. But despite the fact that I had to buy every single piece of gear I’m going to mention, I have no problem with telling people about gear that makes my life easier. Maybe I can help someone to make their life easier or even get a sponsor from my blog 😉

First item are my Bose QC15 Headphones. They were (and the successor ones, the QC25 still are) quite expensive but the active noise cancelling is excellent and well worth it. I used them on my flight to London last year and now on the train ride to Munich. Of course you’ll get used to the background noise in an airplane or train. But the difference with and without active noise cancelling is tremendous. They can’t block out every noise but they reduce it very well.

The Second item is my (camera) bag. A few months ago I bought the ThinkTank Retrospective 7 as I reduced my photographic gear from a DSLR to the Fuji X-Series. My bags where way too big for the very small and light mirror less system, so I decided to buy a smaller bag. Furthermore the Retrospective series doesn’t look or feel like a camera bag. It’s quite stealthy and reduces the „I’m a tourist/guy/photographer with a camera and expensive gear“ look very much. I only took the Fujifilm X100T with me, so I had lots of spare room in that bag. Just check out the picture on Facebook with all the gear I too with me in that bag.

Third –and last item- I want to mention was my clothing. I wore a cargo short and a shirt by the „COP GmbH“, an German company specialised in „Cop gear“ and stuff. I love cargo shorts. I don’t know if they are „in“ at the moment but I love having lots of pockets for random stuff and I never cared about clothing trends. The shirt was also a special cargo shirt with extra inner pouches – great for the passport or spare money. And it has a special mesh fabric with ventilation openings on the back. I’m kind of a sweaty person, so this comes in handy too. 

That’s it for this time. If you have any questions, email me at LDA@thatwhiskyguy.com or leave a comment here. Also, if you want me to use some gear or send me a specific Whisky for tasting, just drop me some lines!

Slàinte, Lukas

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