(I know I’m a little late getting this posted)
I have mixed emotions about this year’s WhiskyFest NYC. Mostly, my mixed feelings come from personal issues (although I found the new floor plan disorienting). Usually, I go in with a plan and a wingman (or woman). This year, my work schedule kept my planning to a minimum and my wing folk were not there. I noted the change in the layout on the map before entering, yet I felt lost with my first step. I had a small plan, but that quickly unraveled as I was lost in the crowds. My intention was to try all the microdistilleries (of which there where many this year) and some of the newer drams on my list of desirables. Somehow, I tried fewer drams than ever, chatted with folks more than ever, but still came out drunker than I’ve been in many a year. Long time readers will know that I abhor drunkenness, both in others and myself. For those of you who may have seen me in such a state, I apologize. For those who reached out and a hand and helped guide me home, I am deeply grateful.
Now that we’ve got the maudlin crap out of the way, let’s talk about the parts of the night that remind me why I return to WhiskyFest year after year.
When everyone is in the same room together like this, you can feel the heartbeat of the industry. It’s electric. This year, even more than years past, the heartbeat is driven by adventure and experimentation. I’m not talking about a Wellesley girl’s curious dalliances. I’m talking about mad scientist meets religious zealot. And its not just for the kids anymore.
There were whiskies made from bottle ready beer and unusual grains, trusty standards bringing something new to the table and old timers drawn out of retirement to destroy what you thought you knew about whisk(e)y.
Before arriving, one thing high on my list to try was WhistlePig Rye. After all, rye whiskey has not received this much press since Sazarac blew up the category some years ago. Believe the hype (no matter what Chuck D and Flava Flav try to tell you). Smooth, complex, spicy and hardy, WhistlePig is a muscular wrestler of a dram that will choke you out in a way that is close to auto-erotic asphyxiation. To borrow an idiom from our friends in Edinburgh, this is a dram for David Carradine or Michael Hutchence.
I’ve been on a bit of a blended Scotch kick lately, so I thought I’d give Black Grouse a try. It was so good, I decided to give the rest of the Famous Grouse line a go. No dice. For me (and the consensus I heard), the Black Grouse is the best of the line. It is also quite affordable. Score.
The next real stunner was Lombard Whiskies’ Dailluaine 1973. File this under “dram I will never taste again.” Rare and old, this is a Sherry bomb of immense complexity.
Charbay was there with a whole line of whiskeys made from bottle ready beers (none ready for store shelves). All were interesting. I was in love. There was on made from stout that was particularly good. The bad news is that the last Charbay whiskey retailed for $300, so be prepared to give your left nut for one of these. But, hey, if Lance Armstrong can get by with one, so can I. The market for Neuticals just went up. I know that the folks at Charbay are loyal Whisk(e)y Apostle readers so maybe they can send us more information on these enchanting drams.
The last whiskey to really get me going was Stranahan’s Snowflake. Stranahan’s is a whiskey that keeps improving and the Snowflake bottlings really live up to the hype. This could definitely keep me warm on a cold winter’s night.
Wemyss Vintage Malts should get an honorable mention here. Nothing too stunning, but a solid line at a good price point. My favorite of the bunch was the 15yo called “The Hive.” More honeysuckle than honey, this would be an excellent summertime dram.
Now we come to the drams that I thought I would love but was unimpressed. Of course, I assume this to be situational and would like to try them all again.
I’ve grown to expect a lot from Amrut and Yamazaki (Suntory) over the years, but I found both the Amrut “Intermediate Sherry” and the Yamazaki 1984 a little light on the palate. This may be a timing issue. I hit the Yamazaki table after WhistlePig and Amrut after Lombard. Anything would taste bland after WhistlePig and Dailluaine 1973. The Glenmorangie Finealta needs another chance as well.
Most of the oat, millet, and wheat offerings didn’t do much for me. Too smooth and one-dimensional. As these smaller distilleries grow, I’m sure they will find their legs and (hopefully) the right market.
There were a great deal of whiskies that I missed out on while I chatted with brand ambassadors, distillers, and other acquaintances. I was glad to see that the U.S. Bartender’s Guild seems to be growing to be accepted at an event that caters mostly to the hard line “whisky should only be served neat” crowd.
Since Richard was not with me, I accosted Kris Comstock of Buffalo Trace for him. I asked him to expand Atlanta’s allocation for the Antique Collection (I got your back buddy). Fingers crossed on that one.
Well, that covers most of my night. If you were there, let me know what you thought.
Remember: Do as I say, not as I do.
Drink well, drink responsibly.