Throughout 2020, the pandemic claimed many businesses and jobs, and although the distilling industry has struggled, most distillers were able to maintain their businesses on a skeletal basis.  Although a newly discovered $14,000 FDA fee being assessed on distilleries that pivoted to making much-needed hand sanitizer adds insult to injury. Tourism has been down across the board, which has hurt many distilleries and whiskey festivals, which give enthusiasts an opportunity to learn more about their favorite spirits, took a major hit in 2020. Some festivals were canceled within days of happening, while others switched to virtual or online offerings. Whiskey festivals are crucial for distilleries to get their products in front of consumers and for consumers to deepen their knowledge of their favorite brown water. So what will the recovery process look like for whiskey festivals?

The Bourbon Women were an early adopter of the virtual model. Their virtual festival featured pre-taped segments that were made in a studio, so the production quality was very high. “Doing and hosting virtual events at the start of the shutdown was daunting and awkward, but time (and equipment to help run technology) has now brought a better ease to doing tastings and social events,” says Founder Peggy Noe Stevens. “I believe that heading into 2021 you will continue to see virtual adaptations to conferences until well into Spring. My hope is that as businesses and travel open up along with consumer confidence that there will be a hybrid offering of in-person events with a virtual offering, as well. The events may appear smaller in-person but grow in reach with the virtual component. NOTHING in my mind will ever replace the energy of a live audience but being the social creatures we are, virtual sure fits the bill for now.”

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