Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WhiskyFest Weekend – Day 1



This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending WhiskyFest Weekend in New York City.  The event was a pleasure for two reasons:  for one thing, because this was the first time WhiskyFest had ever been held over a weekend; usually, it is just one night and as a result, you don’t get the opportunity to visit as many whisky manufacturers – there are so many present that trying to obtain a sample from each and every one is a daunting task, to say the least.  Therefore, holding the event over two nights gave you the chance to visit more companies and in general, move at a slightly slower pace. 

WhiskyFest Weekend NYC 2012

For another thing, this provided an excellent occasion to get your party on before all hell broke loose – by the time the weekend concluded (and WhiskyFest was long over), Hurricane Sandy decided to pay us a visit and wreak all kinds of havoc.  The 2012 report on WhiskyFest Weekend New York will be in two parts, each one covering a single night.  This blog post is part one, which describes my experience on the first night of WhiskyFest Weekend in New York City, which took place on Friday, October 26, 2012.


This year, I started off my WhiskyFest tasting by visiting the Jack Daniel’s table.  As I began with sampling the utterly luxurious Gentleman Jack, I did something very dangerous, although I didn’t know it at the time:  I asked one of the company representatives what I thought was a rather simple and straightforward question:  “What’s new?”  What followed was a most devilish glint in his eye as he smiled, proudly giving an answer for which my unsuspecting ears were totally unprepared.  “In January of 2013”, he began, “we’ll be introducing an unaged rye to the market”.  I almost did a spit-take.  While I was still choking after his announcement, he continued:  “It’s made up of 70% rye, 15% corn and 15% malted barley”.  Being the naturally curious type, I asked if they were pouring some – which it turned out they were – you can see it in the clear bottles from the photo above, which were clearly marked “NOT FOR SALE”.  As you might expect, it had a most pungent moonshine aroma, with a distinct spiciness that hit you immediately.  This might be interesting to experiment with to start the new year.

 Chivas Maple25Next, I proceeded to the Crown Royal booth, where they also surprised me with something new – Crown Royal Maple!  Having just arrived on the market this week, it’s an 80 proof Canadian Whisky – definitely NOT a liqueur, as you can tell by its alcohol content.  Please don’t be fooled by the appellation “Maple” on its label – it is absolutely not sweet.  You might understandably assume that it’s made from maple syrup, but that’s not the case; that would add a good deal of sugar and make it considerably sweeter (as well as lowering its alcohol content).  The way it is made is by taking their Crown Royal Deluxe and finishing it in barrels that have a level 4 char; these barrels have been laced with sap from maple trees.  Its aroma has a most distinct maple smell to it but there is an unmistakable whisky taste.  It was served shaken on ice, then poured into a small cup neat – it was great!  If you can ever find this, I highly recommend trying it this way. 



Lastly, I stumbled upon a booth setup by a company called Single Cask Nation.  I had never heard of this company before, or its product, so I chatted with one of the company representatives for a while and learned that they have an interesting business model.  As much as you might like their whiskies having sampled them at WhiskyFest, you cannot buy them in any liquor store because they are only sold on their own Web site.  And even then, not just anyone can make a purchase because in order to buy a whisky from their site, you first have to be a member.  They have a multi-tiered annual membership ranging from $180 to $960 that has increasing levels of privileges with the greater cost; once your membership is up for renewal, you only pay $36 for the next year.  Also, there are no minimum purchase requirements each year – if you don’t find anything that suits your needs, you don’t have to buy anything and there is no penalty.

In part two of my WhiskyFest Weekend report, I’ll provide a summary of my activities on Day 2.

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