Service industry staff make our days and nights of fun possible. They pour our drinks, produce our food and look after our favourite venues. It seems fitting, therefore, that those who work in this unforgiving industry are rewarded. How would a totally free festival with complementary catering, world-class musicians, and a masseuse sound? Well, that is exactly what Glenfiddich has created.
Hosted in a field opposite their pristine distillery in Dufftown, Keith (adjacent to the source of the water that forms their famous spirits), the ‘Glenfiddich Festival Experiment #3’ was a little piece of magic that showed gratitude to those who serve Glenfiddich’s drinks, as well as those who create them. More than a mere publicity stunt, the festival highlighted the importance of those who are at the coalface of the service we regularly enjoy. Luckily, I had the pleasure of being a guest; and it was a whirlwind experience that will not be quickly forgotten.
The festival stretched from Sunday to Tuesday in early September: “bartender’s weekend”, notably avoiding the demands of service on Fridays and Saturdays. A goodie bag was gifted upon entry which included a collapsible whisky dram ( very niche), local food, and copious catering tokens. The tent was quickly pitched, and we began our exploration of this surreal festival landscape.
We were amazed at the sheer amount of effort the organisers had gone to in making this festival for hospitality workers the best it could be. Glitter artists adorned hundreds of faces with sparkles, while masseuses chilled out muddy-legged and fuzzy-headed festival-goers. Tents contained bars serving 12, 15 and 18-year-old whiskies and unique cocktail variations thereof (whisky piña colada is something to behold). There were sofas to relax on just yards away from the glorious, muddy quagmire which the site became after an overnight deluge.
On night one, as darkness rolled in, Scottish greats Fatherson performed, before the lucky audience was treated to a stellar set from Twin Atlantic.
Afterwards, the haze descended, and the crowd began to make its way to the hidden gem of this festival: the forest stage. Located in a clearing illuminated by eerie neon hues under a low-slung tent, the dance tunes reverberated into the forest. The daytime festival was transformed into a weird and wonderful night-time forest rave.
If that was day one, what would day two bring?
After breakfast from one of the many food outlets, and in contrast to the previous evening, we found ourselves on a specially-designed distillery tour. We found out about the company’s history and process, which alongside coopering demonstrations formed an interesting part of the educational element of the festival.
Fun fact: older whisky costs more not generally because of an increase in quality, but because of the amount that has evaporated from the cask over time!
With the tour over, we headed back to base, ready for the final night. And what a night it was.
Glasgow talent The Ninth Wave rocked the tent with their swaggering style before the final headliner, Franz Ferdinand, took to the stage. They electrified the audience with their set: the highlight of course being their performance of Take Me Out.
After an extended final song, out came the organisers who made this unusual event possible. Speeches conveyed gratitude to the clients and servers; this was for them and no one else. Then the cannons fired, showering the audience with a hail of technicolour confetti.
This really was a festival like no other: an example to the industry of how to embrace the hospitality workers who sell their wares and make great moments like this happen for everyone else. Hopefully this model will inspire other companies to create similar experiences. After all, hospitality fuels hospitality, and people notice when it is there.
Image: Till Britze