Raising a glass for the day of the drams

From masterclasses to cocktails, there’s a range of ways to toast World Whisky Day

Take flight: masterclasses and whisky flights can all help spark interest in the category

Whisky masterclasses, tastings, flights, cocktails – those are just some of the ways in which pubs and bars can get involved in this year’s World Whisky Day on Saturday May 18.

And those that do, stand to benefit – not just on the day itself, but by attracting new consumers to the category longer term.

That’s the message from the firms behind some of the biggest Scotch whisky brands, who say marking the occasion with special events or drinks can help make whisky more accessible to a broader range of consumers.

“It’s all about encouraging people into the bar in a fun and inviting way,” said Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory, whose whisky portfolio includes Islay’s Bowmore and Laphroaig, Orkney’s Highland Park and Speyside’s The Macallan.

“Hosting different events enables consumers to try a variety of serves and find one which suits them, whether neat, with a dash of water or with a mixer in a cocktail; while a special menu can help outlets encourage new consumers into the category by providing them with the opportunity to try a wide range of different whiskies and experience the versatility of the liquid for themselves.”

Creating cocktails to celebrate World Whisky Day was also advocated by the team at Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire, which has joined forces with bartender Joe Cobbe from the Register Club in Edinburgh to compile a series of both simple and more adventurous whisky serves (see recipes below) featuring its core malt, Tullibardine Sovereign.

“Sovereign’s creamy, delicate flavour makes it a great choice for a cocktail base as it complements but doesn’t overpower the other ingredients in the serve,” said Tullibardine master blender Keith Geddes.

“World Whisky Day is a great opportunity to intrigue customers using various serves to showcase the versatility of Scotland’s spirit. As core to our distillery’s values, we’d recommend that you embrace experimentation – the beauty of working with whisky is that there are so many ways to enjoy it.”

Experimentation was also highlighted by Amy Burns, global marketing manager for whisky at Distell – parent company of whiskies like Tobermory and Islay’s Bunnahabhain, who said exploration is becoming a “long-term driver of growth” in the category.

With the consumer trend for drinking ‘less but better’ continuing, Burns said pubs and bars are responding with increasingly extensive ranges; but she warned that “the breadth of the offering can be daunting” for some.

“Bar staff play a key role in helping consumers successfully navigate the category,” she said.

“By explaining the flavour profile of whiskies rather than the production methods, consumers can make informed choices; by using a common language, new drinkers can discover what they like and learn about each liquid’s point of difference, flavour and provenance story.

“A carefully-curated whisky menu which features and highlights a wide range of varieties, regions, styles and price points, will allow consumers to make an informed choice. A key thing for display on the back-bar is ‘eye level is buy level’; ensure your range of whiskies is visible to maximise sales. Alternatively, the cocktail is a great practical way of giving consumers more confidence about trying a whisky for the first time.”

Whisky mixes

• Stiùireadair Fizz

50ml Bunnahabhain Stiùireadair

20ml rhubarb and rosehip syrup

Dash of bitters


Top with soda


• Highland Citrus

60ml Tullibardine Sovereign

2 dashes pepper bitters

15ml acidified grapefruit

15ml grilled citrus

10ml gomme syrup

10ml lemon juice

Glass: cocktail.

Method: stir in a mixing glass, then pour into cocktail glass over ice.

Garnish: mint sprig and lemon twist.