One of the best things about having a birthday in late March is that it falls close to Whisky Live in NY.
I am very fortunate to have a person or two that still insists on getting me a birthday gift even at my advanced age. This year, I basically put it out there that I was hoping to pool together whatever I may get to help fund a night in the city for Whisky Live.
As luck would have it, the stars aligned, people were kind, and come April 9th I was on the Weehawken Ferry blazing a path to some whisky glory!
Last year, when I did my write up on WhiskyFest NYC 2013, I broke it down into three parts, The People, The Surprises, The Favorites.
For this Whisky Live NYC 2014 write up, I am going to squeeze it all together. That’s right folks, we are pulling this train into Consolidation Station, and making this a one stop shop.
Again, I have to start with the people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here for whisky too, but without people there would be no whisky. Besides, I’ve always been a social butterfly, so let’s flap those wings:
|I love this man.|
I first met Chip Tate of Balcones a couple of years ago on the Whisky on the Hudson cruise put on by the Whisky Guild. The moment I sampled his whiskies I knew they were something special. Furthermore, the more I spoke with him I knew that he was something special. Sometimes whiskies embody their creators, and that is no truer than with Balcones. Both the man and his juice are worth getting to know.
|The Whisky Woman & Whisky Joe|
The most charming accent in the room award goes to Stephen Teeling of The Teeling Whiskey Company. Having heard a bit about Teeling, I had yet to try it, so it was great to have him walk me through what he had. Pleasantly surprised at how nicely they tasted…borderline refreshing.
Proving my theory that the most unassuming booths are the best at these events, Joe Hyman from Bonham’s was there. This was the booth of the night for me. Nothing more than a man, a laptop, and a wide array of historical whiskies…yet this was worth the price of admission. He patiently answered all of my questions and had a way about him that I found magnetic. I was blown away & didn’t want to leave!
It was great to get a chance to pick the brain of Daric Schlesselman of Van Brunt Stillhouse. While his whiskies may not have been the oldest in the room, they had a charm all their own. Clearly knowledgeable and passionate, it was fun to watch his face light up as poured me a little bit of Lot #1 of his Rye.
Always nice to see such whisky greats like Dave Pickerell, few folks can wear a big hat and a big smile the way he can. Speaking of some cool people in the world of whisky, one of my favorites is Heather Greene. Currently at the Flatiron Room, I found her nestled in one of the most aesthetically appealing booths of the night. Housed inside walls of burgundy drapes, with an upright bassist playing, she was educating folks on various pours. Smart and cool, it was great to meet her in person.
Other Noteworthy People Moments:
Sampling The General (Compass Box) with Robin Robinson was easily one for the memory banks. Bernie Lubbers was as fantastic as the Heaven Hill items in front of him. Chris Riesbeck of Gordon & MacPhail had some highlight reel drams, and it is always great to see him. I had a great chat with John Foster of SmoothAmbler as well. There was more than one bottle on that Smooth Ambler table that was worth revisiting…good juice. There is an almost comforting feeling seeing Mark Gillespie circling the room for WhiskyCast. If you have never listened to his show, put it on your to-do list. The best part of the Ardbeg booth was meeting JenniferWren, she was up to the task when I playfully asked her to tell me more about wrens. (the birds) Victoria Cave & Gisela Dezillio had some interesting samples at the Brandy Library table as well.
Room For Improvement:
I need to start reading the nametags of people at these things! I am flat out embarrassed that I met and had a brief chat with both Raj Sabharwal & Susanna Skiver Barton, but I never got to shower them with praise. I’m big fans of both, but failed to realize who I was speaking with! Sometimes drawing the parallel between Twitter/Social Media friends and reality can be tricky waters to navigate. Shame on me.
Another spot to improve would have been spending more time with Josh Feldman of The Coopered Tot. We touched base briefly at both the beginning and end of the show, so in a way it was cool that he played the role of bookend for my night. In fact, it was great to meet Steve Zeller of the The Smoky Beast in person. While it was brief, I can tell by the way no one could wipe the smile off of either of our faces he has the potential to be a whisky friend.
I’m going to again pull this train into Consolidation Station. I have the tendency to be too verbose, and I feel the need to rein it in a bit. Let’s get to it:
The Entire Bonhams Table
Joe Hyman had such stunners as a 1962 Jim Beam Cleopatra decanter (1956-1962 BIB stamps), Cutty Sark circa 1970’s, a 1980’s Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur’s Choice Linkwood 15YR, a very old Johnnie Walker, and more.
In addition to that, I was able to think back to the CanadianTwitter Tasting I did late last year & Davin's Fantastic Book. I immediately thought of Davin & Johanne when I noticed a purple cap on the Crown Royal…must be old. Plus a couple other Canadian beauties such as a Seagram’s VO from 1942, and my favorite Canadian pour of the night…1943 Corby’s Little Touch, now that is some really-really good Rye.
|Purple cap = Cool!|
|Joe had the whole world in his hand|
The greatest craft distiller in America right now is Chip Tate.
Period. I am willing to have a lengthy argument with
anyone that says otherwise. (actually,
it wouldn’t even be an argument, I’d simply pour any Balcones expression &
smile in victory) Down to Earth, and
always willing to bring something special to the show, I hit this booth early
& often. Lots of great whiskies to
pick from here, but I will focus on three finishes of their outstanding Single
Malt expression…I was honored to try their Single Malt Rumble Cask Finish,
Single Malt Resurrection Cask, and the Single Malt French Oak finish. All three just left me breathless.
|Chip's bag of tricks is actually a steel case|
Bernie Lubbers had a cool bottling of the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof that was 66.6% ABV. Whether you find that devilishly creepy or super cool, there is no denying how outstanding it was. Bing Cherry Vanilla & an Oaky BBQ festival in the mouth. There were a few others at the table that were yummy but that one stood out.
This table was a pleasant surprise. Most people that know me are aware that I hold the Elijah Craig 18YR in high regard, so when I saw a Private Barrel pick that they had, I was all over it. (Back label stats: Barreled 3-13-91, Barrel # 3646 ) They also had a very nice, though unnamed, Islay expression (tasted a bit like Bowmore to me), and a nice Mackillop’s Choice Imperial 1990 19YR Old that was tasty.
Gordon & MacPhail
The Glen Scotia 21YR Sherry Cask was just beautiful. Really left an impression on me, and had excellent balance. They also had this year’s Caol Ila Cask Strength. It was spotless and heathered, without losing that sticky sweet note that marries so well with the peat.
In addition to some of the Amrut selections, I was drawn to the English Whisky Company expressions which were much better than I expected. To be frank, I wasn’t expecting much, so when the Classic Malt tickled my tastebuds, and the Chapter 11 Heavily Peated had a backbone, I was impressed.
On top of that, Raj (of Purple Valley Imports) had Sullivan’s Cove. I had been jonesing to try this. I had heard about Tasmanian whisky for a while but never got to try it. Now I understand what the fuss is about. Both the Double Cask and the American Oak expressions had complexities that were garnering much attention all night.
-2014 Michter’s 10 Year Rye was GREAT! ‘Nuff said.
-2014 Four Roses Limted Edition Single Barrel (60% ABV, 11YR, OESF Recipe), big time Corn & Nutmeg
|Best smile of the night|
-The Black Dirt Distillery in nearby Hudson Valley is underrated. While they only poured their unique and tasty Apple Jack tonight, their Bourbon is solid & hard to come by. I’ve toured their facility (they have a super cool & super tall still) and plan on doing a blog post soon.
While there may have been some grumblings amongst the crowd about various things, I had a great time. There were some mentions about the lack of extremely obscure or high end whiskies. But there was still plenty to enjoy if you looked hard enough. (They must have missed Joe’s table) Some were also disappointed that the food was wrapped up fairly early and that there wasn’t a lot of swag. Frankly, if you are there for the swag, you may be there for the wrong reason.
Quality people & quality whisky are what drew me, and plenty of both were on display at Whisky Live 2014.
-Thank you to Brandon for being my partner in crime for the night, taking the photos of me with some friends, and being patient with me while I was behind the camera & asking super whisky geek questions to anyone willing to answer
-To my wife, you said I can’t seem to do an event summary post under 1,500 words…you were right. (what else is new)