World Whisky Day: How it started and how to celebrate with a dram at home

Drink consultant, author and founder of World Whisky Day Blair Bowman discusses raising a dram this Saturday.

Published 14th May 2020
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

World Whisky Day falls on 16 May this year, but instead of being celebrated with events and group tastings, we will have to raise a dram at home. Founder Blair Bowman discusses how and why he founded the day and how it can still be enjoyed during lockdown.

How World Whisky Day began

On Scotsman Food & Drink podcast Scran, Blair talks about coming up with the idea for World Whisky Day while living abroad. “In 2011 I was living in Barcelona and I was very into whisky and had set up a whisky club at Aberdeen University where I was studying,” he said.

“Whisky was in a very different place in 2008/2009 when I set up the club but by 2011 I was deeply embedded with being involved in this club and had connected with lots of brands because of this.

“When I was in Barcelona it was World Gin Day and I saw it was a global trending topic on Twitter, which I think was still fairly new back then.

"I thought it was an interesting concept that was obviously popular so I wanted to find out when World Whisky Day was. I Googled it and couldn’t find anything about it. World Gin Day had a great website with ideas of things to do on the day and places that were celebrating it.

"I typed in ‘world whisky day dot com’ and the domain was available, so I bought it straight away, and then made a very similar kind of simple landing page with a Google map with pins to tell people what we were doing. It then just grew very quickly and very organically from there.”

World Whisky Day falls on the third Saturday in May, a decision which was easy to make with the help of the Scottish Government. “2012 was to be the year of Scottish food and drink, and May was designated as whisky month, which is still is,” Blair says.

“The Spirit of Speyside Festival is the first weekend and the Islay festival is at the end of the month so it made sense to have World Whisky Day bang in the middle.”

This year marks the ninth year of World Whisky Day, which in the past has been toasted with whisky-fuelled events and tastings.

In 2017 Blair undertook a record breaking “distillery dash” to raise money for charity.

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In 17 hours, he and a team of supporters visited 60 distilleries, beginning at sunrise at the Balblair distillery in Ross-shire and ending at sunset at the Aberfeldy distillery in Perthshire. Along the way, 56 bottles were collected and auctioned for the Just a Drop charity.

World Whisky Day at home

But due to the current lockdown restrictions, World Whisky Day will be celebrated in homes across the country.

To keep the buzz going and to bring people together, Blair is hosting his popular Big Fat Whisky Quiz online – with proceeds raised going to the Drinks Trust. Whisky fans can sign up online and join in this Saturday.

Or if you'd rather join a tasting, Talisker Whisky will be hosting a virtual fireside tasting via Instagram Live at 8.30pm - taking viewers through a selection of drams whilst discussing the brands adventurous history and heritage.

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You can listen to this episode of Scran on Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

To sign up to Blair’s whisky quiz, visit the World Whisky Day Facebook page.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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