The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is making a charitable donation after being forced to withdraw from this weekend’s Victoria Whisky Festival following a prohibition-style raid by the province a day earlier.
Due to this week’s raid, the festival has decided to cancel the classes prepared by the Society, said Rob Carpenter, owner of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Canada. Tickets to those events are being refunded, resulting in less money going towards the two charitable beneficiaries of the event: Crime Stoppers and the T.L.C. Fund which supports various children’s charities and initiatives in the Capital Region.
In light of this, the Society has committed to making a donation to cover the difference.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Carpenter. “We love this festival. It is one of the best in the world. We would never do anything to risk their license or success.”
The Society has been attending the festival for four or five years “with no indication of any concerns,” according to Carpenter.
Yesterday, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch confirmed to Black Press Media that raids occurred simultaneously Thursday at Union Club and Little Jumbo in Victoria, The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo, and Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver. The alcohol was confiscated because it was not acquired through the Liquor Control Branch, according to B.C. Ministry of Attorney General.
“Our partner bars have had liquor inspectors come through in the past and said everything looks good. If there were issues, why didn’t they bring them up? Why now with this heavy-handed approach?”
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a private club whose website states Canadians can access the largest selection of single cask, single malt whiskies available in the world through a membership.
At the Victoria Whiskey Festival this weekend, the Society had a tasting planned for Friday night, two master classes on Saturday and a table at the consumer tasting session, but Carpenter said they must sit this one out.
“We brought a UK brand ambassador over for this and now he has nothing to do.”
Carpenter re-iterated that if the province took issue with the Society, they should have brought it up first before initiating a raid.
“It would have been great to have a more civilized conversation than this kind of thing which has just intimidated the festival into saying ‘well, we love having you involved but we can’t run the risk of impacting the rest of the festival,'” he said.
There has been an outpouring of support online for the establishments that got raided as well as for Scotch Malt Whisky Society with most calling for the government to revisit its legislation around private liquor sellers to modernize the system in light of specialty products.
Black Press has reached out to the Victoria Whiskey Festival.