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Omnivore - Q&A with Whiskies of the World director Douglas Smith

Whiskies of the World expo coming to Grand Hyatt this Friday


? Color, nose, taste, finish, neat, a splash of water, or on the rocks — how do you prefer your dram? Whiskey (and whisky) aficionados and connoisseurs will descend on the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead Fri., Oct. 23 to indulge and appreciate the nuances that make up Scotch, American, and Canadian whiskies. 
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? Whiskies of the World returns to Atlanta for a third year with a broad range of whiskies to sample, food pairings, a variety of master classes, cigar pairings, and a take home tasting glass. We talked with director Douglas Smith about the exposition and his growing passion for whiskies. 
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? How long has WoW been around?
? It began in San Francisco in 1998. I took it over seven years ago. This is our third year in Atlanta. Recently we partnered with The International Wine and Spirits Competition to build our business. Our Atlanta experience benefits the North Atlanta Rotary Foundation.
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? Tell me your story as it pertains to WoW.
? I bought WoW after it had been running for about ten years. I enjoy promoting and educating people about whiskey. People think it's a before or after dinner thing but it's best with dinner. It's about how to combine these flavors to get a whole experience. Before this I was an electrical engineer and whiskey to me was something you mixed with Coke. When I discovered how to drink whiskey, to appreciate it for all it is worth, I realized I liked the idea of it (learning about how to drink whiskey). I like event planning. I looked into buying a bar. When this opportunity came along, I thought "this is ideal!" 
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? How does WoW Atlanta separate itself from recent expos held in Austin and Houston last month? 
? It has similarities. Atlanta is really a booming and growing whiskey city. It has been easy to grow the show in Atlanta. Although smaller, it is a great whiskey and foodie culture. I think the commonalities among the cities are the mix of different cultures, business, education, and foodie culture. All foodie cultures- Texas, with Austin and Houston, and of course San Francisco, go hand in hand with whiskey. Cities with people who have the palate and enjoy flavors in food tend to be the places that grasp the essence of whiskey.
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? For those who have attended the past two WoW Atlanta, what can they expect to see new this years?
? A few different brands have been added and a few local distilleries. We are always looking to improve the food and whiskey experience...to try to get people to combine the flavors. A few tables will be paired with whiskies. We are really trying to promote the nuance of hedonism and how these flavors combine with each other. 
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? Can you elaborate on the format of the event? 
? It's a whiskey experience event. Guests will receive a tasting glass and will have the chance to visit about 40 tables with different distilleries and brand representatives who represent products to connect consumers with what makes their product unique. They are there to forge relationships and give information on what goes into their product. 
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? So ticket holders may learn about single malt vs blended whisky, how to taste, and the five regions of Scotch?
? The more time you take to focus, the more you will learn. All the knowledge is there. When someone is guiding you through tasting, you pick up more. Master classes are the place to go for in depth information. 
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? How many people are expected to attend WoW?
? Somewhere between 700 and 800 guests. 
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? If you are still putting on this event in ten years, what do you hope is said about the early years?
? That I helped to bring knowledge to the people of the whole added dimension and perception of pairing the food element with the whiskey. 
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? So are you a "whiskey" drinker or a "whisky" drinker?
? My default is to write it without the "e". I don't drink a lot but what I do drink is good.
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? What is your favorite Whiskey? 
? Typically the one currently in my hand. Whiskies are all a little different and all will be different with the food you are eating. There are always new flavors to try. The fun is trying a food and picking whiskey that is best for it. That is what we want to demonstrate at WoW.
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? Are there any places in Atlanta that impress you with their whiskey selection?
? There are quite a few. Prohibition and The Optimist come to mind. Not giant selections, but carefully chosen.
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? Any parting words on whiskey?
? It is not how old it is or how much it costs; it's who you enjoy it with.
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? Whiskies of the World. Fri., Oct. 23, 7-10 p.m. Grand Hyatt Hotel, 3300 Peachtree Road. Buckhead. www.whiskiesoftheworld.com. Tickets are available at http://whiskiesoftheworld.com/buy-tickets/.