Showing posts with label events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label events. Show all posts

Saturday, September 17, 2022

The First Ever Wisconsin Whiskey Fest Recap and Review

 


Everything has to start somewhere, and last night was the inaugural year of Wisconsin Whiskey Fest in Milwaukee. In full disclosure, I was comped a VIP ticket.

 

When founder Zack Farrar first announced the festival, I was publicly skeptical. Tickets were sold when it was still just an idea in Zack’s head, and no venue had been secured. As far as I knew, there weren’t any distilleries lined up. Finally, there was less than a year between that announcement and the actual event.

 

Some doubters felt Wisconsin Whiskey Fest would be a duplication of Distill America, which has been held in Madison for the last 14 years. Distill America is a wildly successful event that fans look forward to again and again. Yet, Distill America is not a whiskey event; it is a celebration of the American distilling industry that includes whiskey as a significant component. On the other hand, Wisconsin Whiskey Fest was centered solely around whiskey, both American and otherwise.

 

The Hilton City Center was eventually selected as the venue. Many Wisconsin distilleries, including Dancing Goat, J. Henry & Sons, Driftless Glen, and Great Lakes Distilling, supported the event. Heaven Hill, Bardstown Bourbon Company, Buffalo Trace, Luxco, and other big names also poured their whiskeys.







I went to the Wisconsin Whiskey Fest with an open mind and an almost #DrinkCurious mood. I was willing to give Zack the benefit of the doubt and take a look-and-see attitude.

 

I drank hardly anything, but I planned my evening that way. Aside from having a long drive home afterward, I wanted to keep a clear head during the festival.

 

I spent my evening talking to distillers, friends, and reps I knew. I met new-to-me distillers and reps (even at least two brands I'd never heard of before) and talked to random folks in the crowd. I did four Facebook Live sessions. People were smiling, laughing, drinking, and seemed to be having a good time.  I ran into many guests I knew (including a trio from the Janesville Bottle Club), and they told me they were enjoying themselves.




 

Plenty of food was available between the appetizers, carving station, and desserts. I didn’t engage in much eating because I hate standing in lines. But, I did sample some of the tasty appetizers.




Mistakes were certainly made, the biggest being the event’s timing. Wisconsin Whiskey Fest competed against the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and Bourbon and Beyond. Several brands did not put on their A-game as resources were likely directed to those events. But, it showed. The brands might have approached things differently if the festival had been scheduled differently in either direction for a few weeks. Zack must be more mindful of long-standing, competing events to limit the cannibalization of distillery resources.

 

In visiting with some of the reps there, I learned a few things that should be changed. I won't go into details because they were said to me in confidence. But I'm sure they'll give their bosses or Zack feedback.

 

Another issue was the VIP access. Special bottles were supposed to be poured for those who purchased VIP tickets. What was poured wasn’t what many expected or hoped for. If you were looking for Blanton’s, that was there. Other near-impossible-to-find whiskeys were missing, and that’s something that people who pay for VIP access to whiskey events not only expect but demand.

 

The Wisconsin Whiskey Fest must grow into something bigger for 2023 than last night to justify the price of admission at $150 for general admission and $200 for VIP access. In Wisconsin, we’re a little spoiled by what Distill America has to offer for half the price (to be fair, Distill America is a not-for-profit event).

 

The Wisconsin Whiskey Fest also needs a different venue for 2023, even if it does not grow in size. Once the general admission guests came in, there was hardly room to walk around. I felt bad for the brands blocked from view by the line of people getting food. I also don’t believe The Hilton City Center’s ballroom was set up for as many people that were there. I’m not talking about fire code issues; instead, it was uncomfortably warm inside.

 

Wisconsin Whiskey Fest was not a bad event. I had fun and I enjoyed myself. It just needs further work per my suggestions above. And, especially considering the fact that for whatever reason, people in Milwaukee will not travel to Madison, a big whiskey event (this or something else), Wisconsin Whiskey Fest is something whiskey fans in Milwaukee desperately need.

 

Cheers!









Saturday, June 25, 2022

5280 Whiskey Society American Single Malt Whiskey Event

 


When I came out to Denver, I wasn’t expecting to do much that was whiskey-related. However, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I were unexpectedly invited by Ryan Negley of Boulder Spirits and the 5280 Whiskey Society to attend an American Single Malt Whiskey tasting event. It was held at Bacon Social House of Littleton (a south Denver suburb). This was a true #DrinkCurious event!

 

First, there was a buffet dinner, including Kobe beef hotdogs, pulled pork sliders, potato and chili bar, and tater tots. That was, of course, to get everyone’s body prepped for the whiskey. Not just a pour or two, but eleven different selections from six distilleries! Each gave some background of their distillery and what makes them unique in the market.

 

From Stranahan’s, we tasted Diamond Peak, a 90° limited-edition whiskey partially aged in former Bushmill’s casks, and a 10-year Mountain Angel, packaged at 94.6°. Then, to surprise everyone, the 2021 edition of Snowflake, a nearly impossible-to-obtain whiskey, was poured. Snowflake is 94° and aged two years before finishing in wine, sherry, tequila, rum, and cognac casks.




From Cedar Ridge Distillery, we had The QuintEssential, which was my runner-up for the Best American Whiskey of 2021. It is a 92° non-age-stated whiskey.




Boulder Spirits offered its flagship Single Malt, then a pour of its Sherry Cask Finish.  I had my fingers crossed the Peated version (the whiskey that beat out The QuintEssential) would be poured, but that didn’t happen. The flagship is aged at least three years and weighed in at 92°, while the Sherry Cask added a nine-month finishing process.




Next up was Deerhammer Distillery, which was likely the most unusual of the bunch. There was a Single Barrel Single Malt, packaged at 86°, and a Port Cask Finish at 100°. The Port added a definitive chocolate note to the expresso flavor of the flagship Single Malt. Neither were age-stated.




Westland Whiskey presented its flagship Single Malt, followed by Colere Edition 2 from its Outpost Range, made from two-row Talisman barley. The flagship was 92° and carried a 40-month age statement, while the Colere, a very limited edition whiskey, has a minimum maturation of four years and 357 days. It weighed in at 100°.




Finally, Old Line Spirits served up its flagship Single Malt and a cask-strength version of that whiskey. The flagship rested in oak for two years and was bottled at 86°, while the cask strength was 124.4°.  




The Bacon Social House was an eclectic, fun atmosphere, and the food was delicious. The panel made things fun and even interacted with the Stanley Cup game broadcasted on various televisions. The whiskeys were tasty, and no two were alike, even the ones from the same distilleries. Did I have a favorite? Duh! Will I say what it was? Nope. But I’ll say this was an enjoyable evening, and I am grateful for being invited. Thank you again, 5280 Whiskey Society and Boulder Spirits.

 

Cheers!




Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Twenty Different Whiskeys in One Night? You Bet!



Last night I joined forces with Kenneth Boll of Cask & Ale as we made our way to Milwaukee to host a charity tasting event... with twenty whiskeys.  This wasn't a choice of twenty, it was twenty pours for each attendee!


That sounds like a lot and it was, but we did it safely. Anyone who drove to the event required a designated driver, and those who didn't drive walked in from their nearby homes. There was also plenty of food and water. Most folks were good about using dump buckets.


The venue was a lot of fun. Dave, the organizer, held the event at his home - but we were on top of his garage - he converted the rooftop to a deck!  Thankfully, the weather mostly cooperated, no rain, not overly hot, but it was very humid. As such, no photos of me melting in my shirt will be posted.




This was a worldwide whiskey tour, giving folks a chance to taste a little of everything. There were a few selections I would have liked to have added in, but we had a few requests which included not to serve anything peated, and for a majority of the pours to be American. Here's what was served:


    • Russell's Reserve 10 Bourbon
    • Michter's 10 Bourbon
    • Jos. A. Magnus Triple Cask Bourbon
    • Remus Repeal Reserve Bourbon
    • Redemption High Rye Cask Strength Bourbon
    • Jefferson's Ocean Voyage 10 Cask Strength Bourbon
    • Old Forester 1920 Bourbon
    • Booker's Country Ham Bourbon
    • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A119 Bourbon
    • Thomas S. Moore Extended Port Cask Finished Bourbon
    • Whistlepig 12 Rye
    • High West A Midwinter Night's Dram Rye
    • Angel's Envy Rye Finished in Rum Casks
    • Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky
    • Midleton Very Rare Irish Whisky
    • Redbreast 12 Cask Strength Irish Whisky
    • Brenne 10 French Single Malt
    • Auchentoshan Three Wood Single Malt Scotch
    • The Glendronach 12 Single Malt Scotch
    • Paul John Classic Single Malt Indian Whisky



The crowd favorites seemed to be equally split between the Remus Repeal Reserve, A Midwinter Night's Dram, Michter's 10, and Paul John Classic. 


When all was said and done, everyone said they learned a lot and had a great time. They asked about conducting a future whiskey event, and I even had Dave agree that the next one could include some peated whiskies!




My favorite part of whiskey, even beyond sipping it, is sharing the knowledge and watching folks expand their horizons.  If you're interested in an event of your own, let's talk. Learn, Laugh, and Enjoy Great Whiskey! 


Cheers!


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Ardbeg #MonstersOfSmoke Tour Recap

 


Last week I told you about the #MonstersOfSmoke Tour that Ardbeg is putting on to celebrate Ardbeg Day, and highlight Wee Beastie and An Oa Single Malts. Well, on Saturday, I had a chance to check things out at its Menomonee Falls at Otto's Wine & Spirits venue.


First things first, you want to take part in this tour. To find a stop near you, head on over to the tour's official page. Tour dates on the north side of the Mason-Dixon line feature the Wee Beastie mega-truck and the south side has its twin An Oa truck. Tours run through mid-November, so there's plenty of time to get out and visit.


The Wee Beastie truck is above. I did get a peek inside, they had an amazing display of some lovelies...




As I wandered inside the store, I was greeted by these two nice Ardbeg ladies. They poured samples and handled the bottle engraving.



They also gave out some pretty cool Ardbeg swag. All you had to do was ask!




Once you decided which bottle of Ardbeg you wanted to bring home, that's when the engraving comes into play. Due to an amazing sale that Otto's ran during the event, I picked up a bottle of Ardbeg 10 for the stupid-low price of $42.88!  These sales are very common at Ardbeg events, so if nothing else, you have an opportunity to grab some amazing whiskies at a great price.


The engraving was quick and easy. The bottle is placed in a RayJet engraver. You can see my bottle on the left, the rest of the chamber is empty. But, they can do multiple engravings at once.




And then, voila!  It is done. As you can readily imagine, I had Whiskeyfellow engraved in mine.




Basically, they can do whatever you want as far as engraving goes. The only limitation is the number of characters... just look at these bottles just waiting to go home with someone (oh, yeah, that's Uigeadail on the left!).




In all, I had a great time. Social distancing is no longer required in Wisconsin, but the team is prepared if your area hasn't lifted restrictions. I put together some Facebook Live videos while I was there that you can feel free to peruse:


Let me know if you've been to one near you. I'd love to hear if your experience was similar. Cheers!




Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

Ardbeg Monsters of Smoke Tour is Coming to Greater Milwaukee

 



Today is Ardbeg Day! It is a day to celebrate all things Ardbeg. But, more exciting is what's happening this coming week in the greater Milwaukee area... Ardbeg's Monsters of Smoke Tour!


If you've never been to an Ardberg Day event, you have no idea what you're missing. Ardbeg puts on one hell of a show and everything is first-class. In the past, when I lived in Florida and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow worked at one of its premier liquor stores, I worked a few Ardbeg Day celebrations. The last for me was the release of Auriverdes in 2014. Since relocating to Wisconsin, these events have been unavailable.


And then, Ardbeg told me they were coming to Wisconsin!


The Monsters of Smoke Tour highlights Wee Beastie and An Oa. I reviewed Wee Beastie back in April. I'm a fan of An Oa (and am shocked that I've not reviewed it, I'll have to fix that). These are both excellent, affordable expressions out of this storied distillery. There are plenty of swag giveaways, bottle engravings, tastings, games, and augmented reality photo opportunities for visitors. You'll know you're at the right place when you see the two oversized all-terrain tactical vehicles named after the two whiskies.


The events last three hours, and you have to be at least 21 to participate. Best of all, they're free!


I'm slated to attend the event at Otto's Wine & Spirits in Menomonie Falls on Saturday, June 12th from 11am to 2pm. The address is N88 W15413 Main Street. Hit me up, I'd love to see you there!


If you can't make that event, here's the entire Milwaukee-land tour schedule:

  • June 10th, 11am to 2pm, Olsen's Piggly Wiggly, 6111 W Mequon Rd, Mequon
  • June 10th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 919 N Barstow St, Waukesha
  • June 11th, 11am to 2pm, Otto's, W63 N157 Washington Ave, Cedarberg
  • June 11th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 5031 W Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee
  • June 12th, 11am to 2pm at Otto's in Menomonee Falls
  • June 12th, 4pm to 7pm, Aman's Beer & Wine, 262110 W Loomis Rd, Wind Lake
  • June 13th, 11am to 2pm, Total Wine, 8700 W Sura Ave, Greenfield
  • June 13th, 4pm to 7pm, Total Wine, 17330 W Bluemound Rd, Brookfield

If you live elsewhere and want to see the entire Monsters of Smoke Tour, you can visit the tour's website. Cheers!





Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.





Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Distill America XII was awesome, what did you miss?




Distill America XII is history. This is the fifth time I've attended Distill America and, without a doubt, it gets better and more interesting year after year. As usual, it was held at The Edgewater in downtown Madison and hosted by the Madison Malt Society.


For me, whiskey tasting events are less about drinking and more about knowledge and meeting with friends. 





My imbibing at an event is so secondary that, by the time the evening is over, I've maybe had four ounces of whiskey total. And, if you think that's crazy, let's talk this through. Your palate can only handle so much alcohol before any semblance of notes from anything is lost. Proof of this is seated in the fact that over the years, I've tasted whiskeys I thought were truly delicious at an event only to discover at a later date that it was some of the worst stuff to ever pass my lips. Or, conversely, I taste something, I get nothing from it that night (because my palate is dead) and I write it off, only to discover how great it is down the road.



Distill America celebrates exactly what its name implies:  American distilled spirits. You won't find anything being poured at the main event that wasn't distilled in the United States. But, it isn't limited to whiskey - there's gin, vodka, rum and a host of other spirits - all 100% American.


One of the major aspects of Distill America is knowledge. As such, my goals and theirs are cohesive. The knowledge aspect begins with the ticket level you purchase. If you choose VIP+, it includes a special educational tasting event before the floor is even open. This was the third year of the VIP+ program and the first where whiskey was not in the spotlight. Instead, this year's special topic was tequila and was presented by Jorge Raptis, Diageo's National Latin Spirits Educator.



It was an intimate class, giving everyone a chance to ask questions without being overwhelmed or feeling rushed.





I found the discussion fascinating, and as many of you know already, I hate tequila. Jorge not only gave a history of tequila and explained how it was made but also detailed how Don Julio, a then 17-year old kid who, in 1942, convinced a businessman to lend him the money to start the La Primavera Distillery (later to be renamed after its founder). We also discovered how Don Julio changed the way agave was planted and harvested. We also learned about agave itself, and how it is much closer to hemp in its many uses than I would have ever imagined. 



The tasting portion included samples of Don Julio Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, 1942, 70th, and finally, Reposado Double Cask Finished in Lagavulin Casks.





From there, VIP+ guests went down to the main floor for the festivities and were joined by those holding VIP tickets. The benefit of the VIP ticket was to get through the doors an hour early before General Admission, as well as taking advantage of some VIP-only special pours, such as Four Roses 2019 Small Batch Limited Edition, Twisted Path's Barrel Proof Bourbon, J. Henry & Sons 10th Anniversary Bourbon, MGP's Volstead Reserve, Michter's 10-Year Bourbon, and others. 





Sampling some of these limited-release whiskeys was a real treat and an opportunity not many people are exposed to. However, there was still learning to be done! Once the doors were open for everyone and folks had a chance to mosey around, a Blending Whiskey seminar hosted by David Carpenter, the Master Blender of Redemption commenced. 





I have never been on a distillery tour or in a whiskey seminar where I didn't walk away with some new knowledge, and I've been keen on this industry for many years. To say that I learned something would be an understatement. I found the class fascinating and I gleaned several things I never knew (or if I did, I forgot). And then, to cap it off, we were able to try two different Redemption Barrel Selects that are not yet available in Wisconsin. 





Another learning opportunity was Gin Deconstruction, hosted by Lindy Wyss of Aviation, Jamie Duffy of St. GeorgeChris Byles of Death's Door (now part of Dancing Goat Distillery), John Mlezica of State Line, and Guy Rehorst of Great Lakes. While I didn't attend this seminar, they took the opportunity to share what makes gins different from one another, from the botanicals to how they're used in cocktails and everything in between. 


In all, there were 90 different booths featuring hundreds of different spirits, including my 2019 Whiskey of the Year: Blaum Bros. Straight Rye.




Each year, there are "rookies" that are new to the event, this year included BalconesBlue Ice Vodka of Idaho, Carbliss Hard Seltzer of Wisconsin, Doundrins Distilling of Wisconsin, Drink Wisconsinbly, Joseph A. Magnus & Co., Kentucky Owl, Ledge Rock Distillery of Wisconsin, Old Elk Distillery of Colorado, Rockhouse Beverage of New York, The Dampfwerk Distillery of Minnesota, and Uncle Nearest





In all, it was an amazing evening. I thank all the vendors and ambassadors that came to share their spirits, skills, and expertise. 


If you missed out on Distill America, make it a point to attend Distill America 13 in February 2021. Tickets normally go on sale in October.  Cheers!