Holly Bright, Crimson Coast Dance Society artistic director, sneaks in a preview of the offerings at the 18th annual Wee Tipple Party. Fine whiskies, cigars, food and entertainment make up the evening fundraiser, which includes auctions for items such as an original painting by KT Pain. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Wee Tipple Party whiskies and fine foods nourish Nanaimo’s performing arts

Crimson Coast Dance fundraiser happens Friday, March 6, at the Grand Hotel

An evening of good whisky, fine cigars, food and conversation will be a good time for folks supporting Nanaimo’s performing arts.

The Grand Hotel will host Crimson Coast Dance’s Wee Tipple Party – Nanaimo’s premier whisky festival – Friday, March 6.

“It’s the 18th year, which is remarkable, and every year it’s extraordinary. It’s elegant. I would say that the hors d’oeuvres are paired with whisky and so a lot of that will be part of the menu to have those flavours combine,” said Holly Bright, artistic director of Crimson Coast Dance Society.

The event, a major Crimson Coast annual fundraiser, has been hosted at the Grand Hotel since 2012. The hotel lays claim to being Nanaimo’s first official whisky bar and offers about 80 varieties of whiskies from around the world.

Goodfellas Cigar Shop from Victoria, Fanny Bay Oysters and Paradise Island Cheese find themselves among the list of vendors again this year and live jazz music will augment the flavours of the evening.

“Steven Jones and David Baird will be playing live jazz,” Bright said. “Matt Carter is our emcee, so he’ll pick up the sax once in a while, between his humour.”

Where there’s sipping there must be grazing in equal measure. This year’s Wee Tipple features a live shucked oyster station and the hotel chef is preparing two versions of panko-crusted whisky oysters and whisky pulled-pork cones.

“We have culinary staff walking around handing out the beautiful cones with whisky pulled pork,” said Jeffrey Renville, the Grand Hotel’s food and beverage manager. “We’ll be doing a tequila tuna tataki because there’s a core of our guests who are just crazy about tequila. That booth is always swarmed, so chef’s working that into his menu … this will be the third year that chef has had the pulled-pork cone wandering around, butler-served, by all of our lovely whisky elves that evening.”

Featured whiskies this year are Canadian and include the Dalmore and Bearface. Renville describes Bearface as a “beautiful Canadian whisky that has deep pedigree cask influence.”

Bearface Triple Oak whisky derives its unique qualities from aging in a series of ex-bourbon American Oak barrels, ex-Bordeaux tight grain French oak casks and virgin Hungarian oak casks, according to the brand’s website. The whisky is purchased from Canadian distilleries and then aged in barrels at Mission Hill, B.C. Bearface won the gold medal for excellence and the Best New Whisky award at the 2019 Canadian Whisky Awards in Victoria.

“It’s an expression of whisky that has seven different cask involvements … it’s a segue for a lot of our guests,” Renville said. “For wine people, when they see Mission Hill, Bearface and they see the array of casks and then they taste and sip and swirl and they experience, ‘Oh, wow. I do sense some wine influence there,’ it opens up a whole layer of appreciation.”

Those looking to sip selections with a slightly longer heritage can sample from a flight of the Dalmore single malt Scotch whiskies that trace their origins back to 1263. Flight samples include the 18, Cigar Malt and King Alexander III.

“Only at the Grand, this flight, at the moment,” Renville said.

Those who believe there can never be too much of a good thing when it comes to whisky, early ticket purchases can join in the Whisky Makers Master Class at this year’s Wee Tipple and experience an enriching education with Scotch specialists Joel Viginillo, of Peter Mielzynski Agencies, or Lee Baker of Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery. Master classes start at 4 p.m.

Wee Tipple tickets are available in advance only by calling 250-716-3230 or by visiting www.crimsoncoastdance.org or by visiting the Grand Hotel lobby. To for more information about event times and details, visit www.crimsoncoastdance.org/weetippleparty/.

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