Fine whiskies and cigars, hors d’oeuvres and stimulating conversations are all part of a scintillating evening itinerary when the Grand Hotel hosts Crimson Coast Dance Society’s 17th annual Wee Tipple Party.
The event, held at the Grand Hotel since 2012, is a major annual fundraiser for the dance society that includes live jazz music, gourmet food prepared by the hotel’s executive chef Ian Ter Veer, silent auction and, of course, whiskies from across the world.
“The event has grown miles in terms of elegance, in terms of whisky awareness and knowledge,” said Holly Bright, Crimson Coast Dance Society founder.
Whiskies and scotches from traditional distillers will be offered along with blends from almost every continent. The Grand Hotel lays claim to opening Nanaimo’s first official whisky bar and offers more than 79 varieties of whiskies from around the world, including India and Japan.
Highly-regarded whiskies aren’t just bottled by old time distilleries steeped in tradition. Sometimes they arrive unexpectedly, such as Two Brewers Yukon Whisky.
“Yukon Brewing. Two, young charming fellows,” said Jeffrey Renville, the Grand Hotel’s food and beverage manager. “He just drove by on a cold call a couple years ago with the Yukon beer and he said, ‘We’re just delving into whisky. What do you think?’ and I said, ‘yeah, we’ll take it.’”
The company produces whiskies in small batches, so that no two releases are alike, and has earned Canadian Whiskey Awards 2018 Gold Award and Micro Distillery of the Year award.
“They use the smoked barley from Scotland and then blend it into their whiskey so it has a familiar Laphroaig-esque smokiness, but you’re tasting Yukon … it’s my favourite Canadian whisky story,” Renville said.
Two Brewers will be showcased at this year’s event.
Renville said consumers are educating themselves to the nuances of different blends and how they are aged.
“For them, when they look at this lineup of beautiful whiskies, it’s all about cask expression and how does each whisky differ from the other? Well, it differs because it has a different cask expression,” he said. “Was it aged in sherry? Was it aged in bourbon? … So all of these clients and guests, they’re all enjoying that from booth to booth.”
Chef Ter Veer’s smoked salmon and First Nation-style candied salmon, plus smoked oysters and other “seafood surprises” will be arrayed to encourage sipping and grazing.
Paradise Island Cheese, Fanny Bay Oysters, and Goodfellas Cigar Shop from Victoria are among the participating vendors, Casino Nanaimo is bringing a blackjack table and there will be a pop-up shop so participants can purchase whiskies they’ve sampled and would like to take home. Art works from Joel Prevost, Valerie Capewell and Artzi Stuff will be featured in the silent auction.
There will be plenty of food, but Bright advises people to have something to eat before they arrive and to make use of the spittoon because guests who become too inebriated will be shown the door and getting tipsy will dull the senses and ability to fully experience the nuances of the whiskies. People should also arrange for a ride home or plan to stay over at the hotel by pre-booking a room.
Last year’s event raised about $14,000, which support the society’s operations and programs expansion – this year the society will be able to bring in artists from Europe and is also expanding its youth program to encourage participation from indigenous teens – but event ticket sales also demonstrate community support that helps the society tap additional funding sources. About 150 people attended in 2018. There is capacity for about 200 people this year.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Bright said. “It has been for years.”
The Wee Tipple Party happens 7-10 p.m. Friday, March 8.
Tickets are available in advance only by calling 250-716-3230, online at www.crimsoncoastdance.org or by visiting the Grand Hotel lobby.