The first Tennessee Whiskey Festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 6-11 p.m.
You should start your mental and physical preparations now.
Since the festival was announced in August, organizers have lined up 11 different participating vendors, including Chattanooga Whiskey, Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel and Ole Smoky Moonshine, among others.
But that doesn’t mean there are only 11 different whiskeys to sample. Most companies are bringing multiple samples, which means a person could potentially try close to 30 different varieties, according to festival organizers.
Because it’s the first festival of its kind in Chattanooga, we thought it might be a good idea to provide some practical tips on how to survive the festival without losing your mind/dignity.
Her columns are all about the world of bartending and alcoholic beverages.
In other words, she knows how to drink responsibly. Kelton started bartending before she could legally drink at Easy Bistro. Since then, she has been promoted to bar manager and regularly attends weeklong drinking events—she just returned from a seven-day-long bourbon camp.
She provided us some tips on how to approach the five-hour festival without going overboard.
The night before
The only preparation you need is a little relaxation and maybe some vitamins.
"Don’t be like, ‘I have to get ready for this’ and binge drink the night before," Kelton said. "Get a good night’s sleep."
Kelton also encourages you to stay out of the heat the day before you drink.
What’s your modus operandi?
Don’t just show up to the event. The best MO involves careful planning to make sure your tongue stays sharp.
"You should spend the first hour tasting what you want to taste, especially if there are tents that have cask-strength whiskey ... You will burn out your palate," she said. "That’s just how it is."
Kelton advises pinpointing a few varieties that you are really interested in and seeking those out first.
"After a while, you’re probably going to forget what different things taste like, anyway," she said.
Kelton said it’s completely possible to taste everything in five hours.
"If it were a bigger festival, I might tell you differently," she said. "... But pick ahead of time the places you want to and hit those first."
Water, water, water
"Water is the most important thing, period," she said.
Kelton encourages you to always have a bottle of water in your hand.
"Double-fisting is absolutely appropriate as long as it’s whiskey in one hand and water in the other," she said.
She advises drinking water hours beforehand, right before you go, while you’re there and immediately afterward.
"If you stay hydrated, you can easily make it," she said. "It’s not a problem. You have to take care of your body while drinking. I’m not going to say, ‘Drinking is bad for you,' but obviously an excessive amount of it is not good for your body, so you have to compensate."
Don’t be an ass
Keeping your composure and not making a fool of yourself are ambitious goals at a whiskey festival.
"You have to gauge yourself," Kelton said. "Be realistic. You can’t go into a whiskey tasting saying, ‘We’re going to get super-hammered.’ That is not the point."
Don’t be that guy or girl.
"Sometimes, people think these festivals are supposed to be drunk fests, that you’re supposed to get howling drunk," she said. "But that’s not really what it’s about."
Kelton said the point of the festival is for fans to enjoy the products responsibly. Organizers and vendors want you to have a good time, but they also want you to keep your composure.
"There’s no such thing as too polite," according to Kelton.
Chances are that if you realize you’re drunk, you probably are. Intoxication leads to rudeness. Kelton said that she’s seen this behavior become problematic at many festivals she’s attended.
"Sometimes, people can just be rude," she said. "You have to keep in mind the amount of people they collected for this event is awesome. So just remember to be nice and gracious to the vendors."
Kelton added that people sometimes feel a false sense of entitlement.
"People get drunk and think, ‘I paid my way into this, and you owe me as much whiskey as I want,’ but that’s not correct," she said. "What you really need to be is grateful that we’re having a festival like this at all. That’s how you get your way. Be nice!"
Don’t be afraid to say no
"Spitting is perfectly acceptable," Kelton said. "This is not a place for taking a shot. When they pour you a sample, you shouldn’t just throw it back."
Kelton said she takes just a few sips of each sample and can gauge how she feels about it.
"Look, nobody wants to waste delicious whiskey," she said. "But you shouldn’t feel bad about not finishing your sample. The sponsors are grateful when you are engaging them, enjoying their product and learning about what they’re serving. You’re no use to them if you’re drunk."
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