Whisky for Guinness
World's tallest man, largest Easter egg hunt, most people dressed as Smurfs. There are countless ways to stake a claim in Guinness World Records. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creative inspiration, such as when eight years ago a Swede had the idea to set a new record by organising the largest ever whisky tasting. What ensued was a gathering of no less than 1,221 people in Stockholm, with each participant imbibing five kinds of whisky.
Flanders takes on Stockholm's world record for whisky tasting
Fast forward to present day, and we are getting ready to break this record right here in Flanders. On 31 January, whisky lovers from all over the world will come to Ghent to taste six, all in the name of record breaking - and fine malt whisky, of course.
The idea for the record attempt came easily to Wouter Wapenaar of Whisky Unlimited, a company that specialises in whisky-related events. When I found out about the existing record, it occurred to me that we could put together something similar and blow that record out of the water, he asserts.
The choice of Ghent was obvious, not only due to its strong reputation as a festive city, he explains, but also because of all the great contacts here, particularly the Flemish Caledonian Society (FCS).
The Ghent-based FCS has been actively promoting and celebrating all things Scottish for more 30 years. Chairman Reggie Picavet tells about their humble beginnings. The society started out as a joke, as a matter of fact, he laughs, with a few Flemish guys getting together for drinks. By the end of the evening, they'd organised a whole symposium around the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, and a week later, they had 100 followers.
Today, there are about 750 members who share a passion for, next to the monster, the whole of Scotland. Their main goal is to maintain strong cultural bonds between the country and Flanders, two places so historically and culturally intertwined that, according to Picavet, it would require more than a little in-depth reading to begin to understand it.
When most people think of Scots, their thoughts typically turn to Scotch, but the FCS is also involved in music and dance. Coincidentally, all these aspects of Scottish culture whisky, music, dancing blend quite nicely. Performances by pipe bands and dance groups, therefore, will liven up the upcoming tasting.
The city of Ghent was characteristically accommodating for the large-scale event, offering its best possible site. Emile Braunplein is perfectly located in the heart of the city, nestled between the historic Belfry tower and Saint Nicholas Church. The temporary ice rink that has graced the space throughout the holiday season will soon be replaced by a covered hall big enough to hold the planned crowd of 2,009 whisky enthusiasts.
For €10, each participant receives a souvenir tasting glass, a certificate of attendance, loads of information, vouchers for extra drams and six samples of whisky from the following leading brands: Singleton, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Bushmills and Talisker. Proper time will be taken to appreciate each whisky, starting with a look at colour and consistency, followed by a nosing for individual aromas and finally, small sips for flavour.
Wapenaar assures that the selected whiskies are all very different from one another. Some are rather peaty, others have more vanilla undertones, he explains. Everyone will find something to like in the assortment.
Those who register ahead via the website could win some lovely prizes, not the least of which is a trip for two to visit the Guinness Book of World Records Museum in London. And there's more good news. If the tasting makes you hanker for more, the International Malt Whisky Festival and Scottish Fair are coming up just two weeks later. Yes, these will also take place in Ghent.
As whisky becomes increasingly popular worldwide, there's never been a better time to turn up, break a world record and put Ghent firmly on the whisky world map. A kilt, while encouraged, is optional.