April 1st, 2009
Whiskey Fest, hosted by the Hyatt Regency, is an annual whiskey throwdown of the best traditional and innovative distillers in the world. A few brewmasters join in on the fun with intense barrel aged brews, and a collection of local distillers are on display, as well.
One gigantic conference hall. 400 distillers. Oodles of whiskey. 4 hours. Go!
This year, the Lushes were thrilled with the new layout…much easier to walk around…and a few new players and amazing bottlings. Ms. Erin and Ms. Jane accompanied me this year, helping to keep the pace and provide a feedback loop and interactive discussion about particular bottlings, barrel programs, and our favorite British accent. We planned a tactical strategy of progression from specific booths and producers to the next, making sure to save the North Shore Red Absinthe for last. Whew. We ran into lots of Lush friends and distributors, distillers, and brewers, and of course, tried to spread the love of Lush to everyone else!
Koval: This brand spanking new LOCAL distillery is playing with the local Metropolitan brewers to create a whiskey based upon the ‘Dynamo’ lager, as well as distilling a lovely rye whiskey, some vodka, and intensely aromatic ginger and a rosehip liqueur. These bottlings were lovely, but also bit back. Yum.
High West: Mr. Dave of High West in Utah was at the pre-party at the Twisted Spoke on Tuesday night, so we were able to sample a few of his bottlings prior to the fest, but he did have a few more crazy good editions up his sleeve. High West loves rye, as do I. However, they are distilling more rye that most other producers AND are using older wood. The 16 year, 80% rye, was particularly delicious. At his wife’s request, Dave also distilled vodka…from oats. The oat base makes the vodka incredibly viscous and textured. But, he also infused this oat vodka with local Utah peaches. Hmm, this was a lovely infusion…with the great texture, but also aromatics of fresh, really ripe peaches and a palate of high acid, a balancing tartness, and a touch of bitter peach pit flavor. This was a fun excursion in taste!
North Shore Distillery: Well, we headed here first to check out the NEW limited release. Chris at UrbanDaddy had spilled the beans just an hour prior to the fest, and we were just itching to put the newest spirit in our mouths. Mrs. Sonja K had upped the anticipation by a run up to the release with little hints about the concoction…20 ingredients, savory but with a sweet finish, not a gin…and, since this release is super tiny, we wanted to make sure and at least get one sip! Alright, I’ll share…NSD created a ‘Mole Poblano’ grain based spirit with, I believe, 74 various chiles, cocao bean, and more secret delicious ingredients. Get your ONE bottle at either LUSH next week (I think April 8th is the expected release date, as the feds have to officially approve the label). You’ll want it, promise. We visited NSD first AND last…Sonja and Derek whipped up some red absinthe for the event, which we tried straight, undiluted as our final drink of the evening. Spicy, full, textured, sweet and very crazy anise. Wee.
Bruichladdich: This distillery is on Islay. Actually, they are the only distillery on the island that uses LOCAL barley grown on the island AND ages the whisky ON the island. [Edit, so I have been informed by Mr. Armin of the Islay blog that, ‘Kilchoman also uses local Islay grown barley and they age it on the island.’ I apologize for the mistake, and advise Mr. Pourer Guy at Whiskey Fest to listen up buddy and stop spreading evil lies. Lies.] So, Bruladdich is quintessentially Islay. The whisky has distinctive salty, smoky notes…with some verions peated. Bruladdich had an extreme makeover in packaging recently, and renamed a number of releases…so you’ll now find pretty tins with ‘Rocks’ or ‘The Links’. BUT, the most exciting bottlings from Bruladdich are the ‘First Growth’ series, with barrel aging in Bordeaux casks…Lafite and Latour were at the fest. We loved Lafite, it was dynamic and layered and complex.
Springbank: I only tasted one whisky from Springbank, but it was aged in Madiera cask. Super super delicious. Ah.
Glenrothes: Perhaps my favorite pourer here…he was adorned in a lovely kilt with browns and oranges, and a really nice tie, and he was all alone trying to cope with an absolute onslaught. Could be that he had some whisky from 1975! So, he managed the crowd by taking a number of drinkers through the entire line of Scotches…the lowest tier was actually very nice with notes of smoke, stones, and salt, but also a touch of fruit and nuts that was very well balanced. The 1991 edition was not my style. The 1975 was delicious and nuanced, but probably crazy spendy. You may see this at Lush soon.
Connemara: This is the only PEATED Irish Whiskey. It has notes of Scotch whiskyish flavors, but has the distinctive soft, sweet character of the Irish. Ironically, we missed the more spicy finish…thus, we preferred the ‘cask strength’ bottling. But, super fun.
Compass Box: Gorgeous packaging. Crazy names such as ‘Hedonism’ and ‘Peat Monster’. But, very expensive and good, but not mindblowing.
Gordon and MacPhail: These guys have some very interesting small projects…I really like the Pulteney…and island that has similar salty characteristics to other islands, but is a bit softer and more approachable. Very cool Scotch whisky.
Pappy Van Winkel: Well, you know.
Goose Island Brewing: Greg and PJ were gracious enough to share some ‘Juliet’, a NEW barrel aged release, a brown sour, and ‘Sophie’, a new barrel aged release, a belgian style saison. Tasty. And, available and Lush. FREE tastings this Saturday, April 4th, 6-8pm. Mr. Greg Hall, brewmaster, will be pouring at Roscoe!
So…we didn’t mention every bottle we tasted or every booth we visited, but these were the highlights and the notes I took. Perhaps I will update as I recall and recover from the week of whiskey. And, if you were there and tried something phenomenal…just holler at us with a comment or email Rachel for specific requests!
April 2, 2009
Ms. Jane, or internationally acclaimed mixologist, created a selection of classic whiskey cocktails, with a Lush twist, to pour for FREE at each Lush location Thursday evening. She really rocked it out, kids. Very, extremely yummy drinks that were rich, complex, and very well balanced. Loved it! I will post the exact recipe eventually, check back, but she poured this…
Manhattan (Templeton Rye, sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters)
Sazerac (Sazerac Rye, North Shore Distillers Absinthe, lemon, and Peychaud)
Roscoe Street Bourbon Punch (Ancient Ancient Age, lemon, bitters, other stuff)
Again, we poured FREE cocktails. So many lovely customers dropped by to sip, swirl, and chat about whiskey. Good times! Thanks for playing.