Lifestyle Food And Drink

Kulani Nkuna
3 minute read
6 Nov 2013
6:00 am

From Soweto to Sandton

Kulani Nkuna

Anecdotes and yarns were trotted out with abandon at the inaugural Soweto Whisky Live Festival, held recently.

DISTRACTION. Promotional ladies added to the flavour of the festival. Picture: Supplied.

By definition, these events usually boast a strong educational element, but for the most part it was not the whisky that enticed the mostly male clientele to some of the brands that were on offer.

The venue where the festival was hosted (a hall on the University of Johannesburg campus) is relatively smaller than the Sandton Convention Centre, which also meant that there were fewer exhibitors, coupled with a generally average attendance. It was the first year of the Soweto edition and the attendance was decent enough to please the organisers.

However, walking around the venue it was the young ladies doing propmotional work while clad in revealing garments who persuaded visitors to sample the exhibitor’s goods.

One striking lass would point to the wares she was responsible for, and while you were considering that particular brand or blend, another would swoop, pointing in turn to the various Scots or Irish experts at their stands, waiting to dispense liquor and wisdom. The crowd varied from young male and female professionals to cool older cats dressed like they just stepped off a jazz performance stage.

It proved interesting to listen to the answers when the various masters asked patrons to describe how a particular whisky tastes. This whole exercise was somewhat silly, as the whisky connoisseur would lead a patron by saying that this whisky has “a smoky, wooden taste to it,” and the reveller would agree, nodding his head repeatedly.

INVASION: The Scotish and Irish descended on Soweto in large numbers. Picture: Supplied.

INVASION: The Scotish and Irish descended on Soweto in large numbers. Picture: Supplied.


The discerning however, would describe their own thoughts elsewhere, contrary to the opinions of the silver haired men behind the stands, and then they would in turn agree to what the whisky supposedly tastes like. Tata ma chance, I say. None of the stuff I sampled resonated with ‘leather’, ‘smoke’ or bold rich flavours designed to titillate the tongue. It is advisable to consult a thesaurus before setting foot in a festival because it is imperative to use the right language in trying to relay honestly your true feelings about the taste.

For Soweto resident, Dennis Zondi, whisky has its special uses. “I have heard that some of this strong whisky that they serve here can make you grow hair on your chest,” he joked. Zondi had appointed himself as a conveyer of tales about Soweto to the visiting brands. “The 21 year old whiskies are preferred by BEE characters,” he narrated.

“They buy it to impress the ladies even though the ladies may not be really clued up on whisky, so what happens is that they end up just getting their number but nothing beyond that, if you know what I mean.”

Other lessons would follow on the night after I pronounced Glenfiddich as ‘Glenfiddish’, before the company’s brand man Thami Banda corrected the blunder. “Remember to pronounce the last few letters as if it were Afrikaans.”

KEEN. Male and female patrons were keen to sample the goods at the Soweto Whisky Live Festival. Picture: Supplied.

KEEN. Male and female patrons were keen to sample the goods at the Soweto Whisky Live Festival. Picture: Supplied.

This week, the festival heads to Sandton, with this version heralded as the biggest whisky festival in the world. While Soweto has soul in droves, the Sandton edition has pulled out all the stops to make this edition a global spectacle. Nominated as one of the World’s Best Global Ambassadors, Highland Park’s Gerry Tosh returns to the country with an exciting range of the new Highland Park Warrior Series.

Master Blender of Kavalanand newcomer to South Africa, Ian Chang, will be showcasing his Kavalan range from Taiwan. South Africa’s star is shining in the world of whisky and accolades are now being bestowed on ex-Yorkshire cricketer turned Master Distiller Andy Watts of Three Ships & Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky.