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【Interview】Fife Whisky Festival Organiser: Justine Hazlehurst

2023.04.24 / 最終更新日:2024.02.08

From March 3rd to 5th, Fife Whisky Festival took place in the Kingdom of Fife, located in east-central Scotland, with 44 distilleries and independent bottlers from all over Scotland. After being postponed for one year due to the pandemic, the festival finally came back, welcoming whisky fans from all over the world.

The founders and co-directors of this annual event are two passionate women in whisky: Karen Somerville and Justine Hazlehurst. During our interview, Justine shared her whisky journey and insights into the festival with us.

About the Fife Whisky Festival 2023

About the Event

Event’s Name Fife Whisky Festival 2023
Date Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th March 2023
Location Lindores Abbey Distillery (Friday)
The Corn Exchange, Cupar (Saturday)
InchDairnie Distillery, Glenrothes (Sunday)
Event Organiser Fife Whisky Festival Ltd.

About Karen Somerville and Justine Hazlehurst

Organisers’ of the Fife Whisky Festival: Justine Hazlehurst and Karen Somerville


Karen Somerville Karen is the co-founder and Managing Director of Angels’ Share Glass.She has been awarded Entrepreneur of the Year and is a (WES) Women’s Enterprise Scotland ambassador, holding a committee position for The British Association of Women Entrepreneurs Scotland. Karen is also a business judge for The Scottish Whisky Awards.
Justine Hazlehurst Justine is the founder of Kask Whisky, a whisky events company based in Edinburgh. She is a judge on tasting panels for the Scottish Whisky Awards, World Whiskies Awards and the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards. Justine’s written work has been published in The Keeper and Whisky Magazine.

Cited from https://www.fifewhiskyfestival.com/team

List of Exhibitors

List of Exhibitors

Overview of the Fife Whisky Festival 2023

Fife Whisky Festival Saturday 4th March 2023

Could you give us an overview of the festival?

The festival featured a total of 44 distillers and bottlers, offering participants a three-day whisky experience including dinner, tastings, and distillery tours.

The first day kicked off with an opening dinner, where guests enjoyed fresh and locally sourced cuisine paired with whiskies. On the second day, there were rich interactions between attendees and exhibitors, where people had the chance to chat with distillers and bottlers while enjoying a variety of whisky tastings. This Saturday’s event occurs in Cupar. The third and final day featured an exclusive tour of the InchDairnie Distillery in Glenrothes.

Do you keep your programme the same every year?

Not exactly. Our plan is to gradually make the event a little bit bigger every year.

In 2018, when the first festival took place, it was in one day with two sessions and had 33 exhibitors. The next year, in 2019, we added another event on Friday night – the opening dinner, which was held in Lindores Abbey distillery. Lindores Abbey is recognised with the earliest written reference to Scotch whisky and has been seen as a spiritual home of Scotch. While this place used to be a farm, today, it has been turned into a distillery with a cloister that features a beautiful long table. The dinner in 2019 was attended by 50 people, and this year’s event had 90 guests.

An opening dinner at a distillery sounds like a fantastic experience!
What are unique features or aspects of this dinner?

Each dinner course is paired with whisky. We ask distilleries to bring a particular whisky that works well with the food, while also a little bit unusual in flavour. They then bring their whiskies and introduce them to the attendees. Aside from selling tickets, we also invite our festival supporters to show our appreciation. This year, we had the biggest table with 45 people on each side of the long table. As a guest of honour, we welcomed a Scottish crime writer Val McDermid.

From Teacher to Whisky Festival Organiser

What motivated you to start this annual event?

First of all, it’s important to note that the Fife Whisky Festival is run by two people: myself and Karen.

Although my background is in education – having worked as a French teacher in secondary school – in 2015, I made the decision to pursue my passion and interest in Scotch whisky, particularly its deep history. In 2016, I set up a company that specialises in organising whisky tours and tastings, and in 2015, I served as a judge of a tasting panel for 85 whiskies where I met Karen. She comes from a business background and runs a highly successful company named Angels’ Share Glass that creates wonderful whisky accessories here in Scotland.

Can you tell us more about how you and Karen got involved in the process together?

Following our initial meeting, we stayed in touch. One day in 2017, during our lunch, she asked me when I am going to hold a Fife Whisky Festival. I told her “I can’t do it by myself. It’s too much work for one person.” And to my delight and surprise, she responded with an enthusiastic “So let’s do it together!” – a memorable moment that everything began. We set up a company and started contacting exhibitors. Then in 2018, the first Fife Whisky Festival took place.

Let’s back to the big career shift you experienced.
How did you feel making such a significant change?

I feel very fortunate to have a supportive group of people around me. Also, I found that my skills as a teacher, such as managing difficult situations with limited resources and handling people effectively, were transferable to event planning. Furthermore, when you are talking about whisky in front of 20 – 30 people, you are teaching them. Karen also brought transferable experience, creating company events she worked for. Two of us bring our skills learned from previous jobs together to organise the festival.

Behind the Scenes of the Fife Whisky Festival: Preparation and Creating the Relaxed Environment

The Atmosphere of the Fife Whisky Festival

What was the preparation process like?

People often surprise how extraordinarily we plan, we are both natural-born planners. Every year, we make a few very small changes, such as adding a dinner event and new sessions to bring a bigger overall impact and better experiences to everyone.

After planning, I take care of social media, ticket sales, and organising the dinner event. Karen, on the other hand, is in charge of finances and communicating with exhibitors. So we split the tasks between us. But it would be impossible to hold the event without the huge help of our team, distillers, bottlers, volunteers and everyone involved. We receive great support from them, which we appreciate very much.

There are many whisky events held in the world.
What makes the Fife Whisky Festival unique and attractive?

We receive a lot of feedback from participants that the friendly and relaxed atmosphere is their favourite part of the event. I believe that’s what makes our event unique. We want to provide opportunities for whisky makers to have conversations with people about their products and educate them with their passion. Such experiences are also precious for our guests, as they get to learn more about the products and have the opportunity to be the first to try new whiskies.

The Fife Whisky Festival is dedicated to people who make and enjoy whisky. That’s why we aim to make it inclusive and provide an environment where everyone can talk and have a good time together.

This is also the reason for a limited number of tickets. We want to avoid making the venue extremely busy or changing our format and venue. But we very much appreciate a high demand for more tickets, and we are working to find the best balance.

Diversity in Attendance: Local Roots to Global Reach

Visitors from All Over Europe

Where do most of your guests typically come from?

Our guests come from all over the UK and Europe.

Back to the first event, 90% of the participants were local because it was only a one-day event. Since our venue is located far from other major cities of the UK, we added events on Friday evening and Sunday in the following years to enable participants to spend their entire weekend in Fife.

This turned out quite successful. We now see people from the whole area of the UK and other European countries such as Austria, Norway, and Germany. Also, it contributes to local tourism, restaurants, and hotel business hosting festival visitors.

Do they have any particular characteristics?

In terms of gender balance, we see more women attending compared to other whisky events. We make ourselves quite visible on the website and social media as an event organiser, and this might be a part of the reasons attracting relatively more female whisky enthusiasts.

In my experience at other whisky events, oftentimes there were only a handful of women. In such a situation, you may feel you shouldn’t go just because you are a woman. I think this kind of perception still exists. This is why we promote in a way that highlights it as being hosted by women so that you expect that you won’t be the only female there.

Starting from Zero: Overcoming Challenges to Bring People Together

Participant Enjoying Whisky Tastings

What challenges did you face while organising the event and how did you overcome them?

When we started the event in 2018, selling tickets and convincing exhibitors to join were quite challenging. We did not have any pictures of the event, which made it difficult to demonstrate what we offered to our guests. We approached members of whisky clubs and succeeded in showing our passions.

Same for the first dinner event. At that time, we invited a lot of people from the industry, even though it led to a financial loss. But then we could use photos and images on social media in the following year. This showcases that attendees have the opportunity to sit next to a distiller or an opposite of the master blender and try pre-released whisky. This helped to promote the value of our events as the place where whisky producers and fans connect and enjoy their whisky together.

What’s Next?: Fife Whisky Festival 2024

Interaction between Participants and Exhibitors

Do you have any comments on the next event?

The next event will be held from March 1st to 3rd 2024.

We just wrapped up the previous one, so we still have a lot to discuss for the next. While we won’t be changing the format and venue, we’ll be making some small changes based on the feedback and data we collected this year, to make the festival even more exciting. As always, we want to ensure everyone wins – exhibitors, participants, shops, local community, and all others. Keep an eye out for further announcements!

Company’s Information

Company Name Fife Whisky Festival Ltd
Location 4 Steuart Road, Bridge of Allan. FK9 4JQ, United Kingdom
Website https://www.fifewhiskyfestival.com/
Social Media Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FifeWhiskyFestival
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fifewhiskyfest
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fifewhiskyfestival/
Contact Website: https://www.fifewhiskyfestival.com/contact-us
Email: karen@fifewhiskyfestival.com / justine@fifewhiskyfestival.com


Company Name Kask Whisky
Location Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Website https://www.kaskwhisky.com/?fbclid=IwAR2JvnZ72clu0NQDKWi0LBuKFJWJmrtzJS0MVdNiTwmc3cItIKDIdeZ9cso
Social Media Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KaskWhisky
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kaskwhisky
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kaskwhisky/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaskwhisky/
Contact Website: https://www.kaskwhisky.com/contact
Email: justine@kaskwhisky.com


Company Name Angels’ Share Glass
Location Ground Floor (Castle View Group Building), 4 Steuart Road, Bridge of Allan, FK9 4JX, United Kingdom
Website https://www.angelsshareglass.com/
Social Media Facebook: https://facebook.com/angelsshareglass
Twitter: https://twitter.com/angelshareglass
Instagram: https://linkedin.com/angelsshareglass
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_v_vfl03oil2qALWa1jCkA
Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/whiskyangels
TikTok: https://tiktok.com/@angelsshareglass
Contact Website: https://www.angelsshareglass.com/pages/contact-us
Tel: 01786 835005 /835004
Mobile : 07990067000
Email: info@angelsshareglass.co.uk