husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Whisky Fest NYC 2013 - Part Two - The Surprises

Some people love surprises, others loathe them.

For me, it depends on the situation…Surprise traffic on the Highway? (BAD surprise) Surprise Gift? (GOOD surprise)

It’s like the love/hate relationship I had as a kid with my school bus driver.  I hated her on the way to school, and loved her on the way home.

In Phase Two of my 2013 Whisky Fest NYC summary I’m going to take a quick look at a few of the good surprises that popped up.

One was the quality of the people there, from the famous to the not-so-famous, everyone was pleasant and kind, which is a moderate surprise. (well, at least out here on the East Coast where we are all rushed & ragged and generally impatient)

The remainder came from the booths.  Anyone that has ever been to a tasting of this size knows that occasionally there may be something special tucked away.  Something that is not poured for everyone, and certainly something that did not make it to the formal ‘pour list’.

There were some cool and exciting ones, like the Laphroaig 25 YR getting pulled out of a boot.  Or, the way the Four Roses booth volunteered to ‘get that scotch flavor’ out of your glass by rinsing glasses with carafes full of bourbon!  So much fun!

There were also some disappointments…some items that were on the pour list that never made it to the show.  (I'm looking at you BenRiach 1976 Port Pipe...heart broken here...)

But let’s take a look at the whisky related surprises and expressions that were not on the pour list that you could find if you looked hard enough around the Grand Ballroom:

A yummy little bugga...
High West:  Bug Juice

High West had a pretty cool table, with a wide array of options to choose from.  The staff was helpful and fun, and one of the nifty surprises was a simply labeled bottle called ‘Bug Juice’.  Technically, this beauty is their Rendezvous Rye aged for an additional 5 months in Port Barrels…boy it turned out nicely.  One of my unexpected favorites of the evening.

Breckenridge Distillery:  Single Malt     

Already being a fan of Breckenridge Distillery Bourbon, I was eager to try this one out.  It was actually a bit creamier and tastier than I thought it would be.  Frankly, I think it may need a tiny bit more time in the cask, but overall it is hard not to be impressed by its potential.  I can’t wait to try the official release in the future.

Blue Hanger:  7th Release

While I had not tried previous releases, when I noticed this puppy sitting so discreetly at the end of a table I felt compelled to try it out.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed.  The gentleman there was not only helpful, he actually had the recipe written out on scrap paper to remember it!  His secret is safe with me, but whatever he is putting in here is good!

 Samaroli:  Tomintoul Distilled 1967

This had to be the most perfumed whisky I had the whole evening, despite being roughly 44 years old.  That nose just towered over many others.  It could literally be a scent worn by women across the globe.  The palate didn’t disappoint either, rich spices balanced out the light and delicate freshness of fruit, complex and bursting with flavors.  The fruit notes were pear-like, but think older pear (stewed), similar to some older Glenfiddich expressions.  May have been top 5 of the night!  Outstanding. 

Widow Jane:  High Rye, Wapsie Valley Corn, Bloody Butcher Bourbon

This one is a three-fer.  I met with Distiller Matt of Widow Jane to discuss a few things they have been working on at the distillery.  Three tiny bottles were the surprise for this booth!  The High Rye was spicy and tasty, while the Wapsie whiskey reminded me quite a bit of Hudson.  But, the Bloody Butcher may have been the best of the three as it just had that special something to edge the other two out.
Single CaskNation:  Whisky Jewbilee 15 YR Bourbon (Heaven Hill)

Seth and Josh were rocking their booth with their fine array of core expressions.  The key surprise here was a bourbon made especially for their absolutely fantastic WhiskyJewbilee event held earlier in the week.  This special festival bottling is of a single barrel from Heaven Hill distilleries and is a 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon from a high-rye mash bill, bottled at 122.6 proof (61.3% ABV). The barrel rendered fewer than 100 bottles, so I am humbled to have been able to enjoy it.  This one was a great selection as there was a layer of delicate char that appeared mid-palate that really took this one to the next level for me.  A lovely surprise indeed.

Next, I'm excited to tackle my favorite drams of the night post...coming soon...
All in all, these selections were pleasant surprises in what was already an incredible evening.  Any chance you get to seek out something unique or special like this, it is worth a try…especially at Whisky Fest!

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