Category Archives: Events

Whisky Jewbilee 2014 Recap

Whisky Jewbilee 2014You may have noticed I disappeared from the blog for three months. I hate when that happens. Blog silence is like nails on chalkboard to me. It seems like this just happened, too.

Truth is, when I saw this year’s new venue for the Whisky Jewbilee, I was so excited that I funded a time travel experiment to get there faster… and it worked! I didn’t have to wait to go to the show!

So you may see the large gaps between postings here and begin to think that I don’t take whisky blogging very seriously, but I assure you, on the contrary, I take everything I do, very, very seriously.

(1658). Beaver. Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents Woodcuts. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Like my blog, this beaver is completely fucking serious.

But the real reason I haven’t posted in so long is cool enough that it doesn’t actually need a sarcastic cover story. I passed clumsily through allergy season and then joyfully into a mild barbecue season. So, in the beginning, it was pollen and delicious pecan smoke taking up all the free smelling-abilities which I usually allot to whisky. Then, there was a quick vacation to Vermont. My wife and I did some hiking. I built a chicken coop for fun and we bought some chickens. I did a lot of stuff, and most importantly, I recharged.

We all hope to return from our sabbaticals with new inspiration and the ability to become better than we were when we left, so it’s fitting that donning the press pass for the 2014 Whisky Jewbilee would serve as my reintroduction; admirably, the Jewish Whisky Company’s show just gets better and better every time it comes back.

blending class view from the penthouse

View of WTC 1 from the penthouse

This time we trekked out to the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, first, for a pre-show hands-on blending demonstration by High West’s David Perkins. The Jewish Whisky Company also collaborated with Perkins for this year’s festival bottling, a blended whisky assembled from punchy, 6 year old rye; stony, 8 year old Bourbon; and buttery, 11 year old light whisky. Attendees to the blending class were given samples of the three components and got to play with measured beakers, pipettes and water, attempting to create their own blend.

blending kitI wished I had 50 more beakers, as once I started to play with the ingredients, it became clear that, even with only three whiskies, there were far too many variables for me to approach it, methodically. I settled on a cask strength 8:7:1 blend of rye, Bourbon, light whisky.

While I walked away feeling like I knew even less about blending than I did when we started, the wisdom Perkins shared was actually very enlightening. Attendees left with the knowledge, all of the equipment, and the leftover whisky, so it was also possible to play around with blending at home. I was especially excited to take home the sample of cask strength light whisky, a spirit that almost never sees the market undiluted and unblended… though I should mention, you can plan to see a cask strength light whisky from the Single Cask Nation very soon, and membership costs just went down to a very affordable $36.

The tasting portion of the show started a few hours later. Some of the spiritual event goers were wearing sparkly, branded yarmulkes they picked up at Highland Park’s table, but my wife noticed that many people in the crowd were also wearing tassels around the bottoms of their shirts. At one point in the night, she leaned over to a complete stranger and asked about them. The man she asked happened to be a rabbi and explained that they were called Tzitzit and that it was commanded in the Torah to wear them. He then went on to explain that Judaism is steeped in ritual, and that to him, the tassels formed a frame. This gesture was just one of the ways he remained mindful, every morning; preparing a frame for himself, a spiritual mindset through which he would choose to view the world. It didn’t matter if there was a reason, it was the act of reverently acting out the intention. That put a surprisingly Buddhist spin on what was already shaping up to be a very zen experience.

Elijah Craig 23 yearLike the conversation, the hypnotic, white-everything decor of the venue framed the whisky brilliantly. The space was comfortable and inviting. This was one of the most relaxing shows I’ve ever been to, and while I would guess a lot of the mellow vibe had to do with the visual environment, it would be criminal to neglect the smartly capped attendance and the neighborly crowd.

Back to the spirits, the night was a whirlwind of delicious whiskies. The Hibiki 21 was a divine meeting with the buxom goddess, Asherah, eating a plum. The port-finished blend of ryes titled A Midwinter Night’s Dram, was a prophetic glimpse of a product you can only buy at High West’s Utah distillery. A single barrel Bourbon bottler from Connecticut offered the crowd a few bottles of their first batch of unfiltered, cask-strength, Barrell [sic] Bourbon. Highland Park’s 15 year old, buttery, ex-Bourbon release, the falcon-cloaked goddess Freya, made an appearance. A celestial, Bowmore 25 year, Purple Valley Imports’ Blackadder Raw Cask 23 year Strathmill, and the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel made it hard to choose which whiskies to taste then dump, and which to enjoy. The Heaven Hill table had my favorite American whiskies at the last show and kept the tradition alive this year with an Elijah Craig 23 year old.

Le Nez Du Whisky

There was also a really cool nosing kit set up, called Le Nez du Whisky, with four different aromas set out to try and guess. These kinds of kits are great (if you can afford them) to test your abilities. Even if you don’t drink whisky, nosing things is a fun way to learn to be more mindful and sharpen your perceptions. Of course, nothing beats smelling real world examples of things, but making it easy to test yourself by consolidating the aromas like this is really cool.

Mark Gillespie and I

Enjoying a quick conversation with Mark Gillespie

Of course, for the die-hard whisky fans, the show didn’t stop at the whisky. There are always loads of industry people to chat with. Among the local and itinerant whisky nobility this year, I met WhiskyCast’s resident Malt Maniac, Mark Gillespie. G-Lo, Limpd and WCO from It’s Just the Booze Dancing; Joshua Gershon Feldman, from The Coopered Tot; and Stephen from The Malt Imposter, all made appearances, too.

As I said before, the Whisky Jewbilee gets better each year, but still, it’s hard to imagine getting much better than this. I’m already excited for next June. Cheers!

Whisky Jewbilee 2013 Recap

Whisky Jewbilee Logo

We came in a few minutes early to get our press passes, and before we knew it we were surrounded by hundreds of ambassadors and aficionados alike, caught up in whirlwind of whisky, kippahs, food and cigars. It was a three hour jaunt through some of the best offerings the market had to offer, and before I knew it, it was over. People poured out into the streets beneath a purple-lit Empire State Building and a cool mist that held off until the very end, dizzy from the sheer volume of new experiences they left with. Time flies when you’re having fun and this was an amazing event. Kudos to the Jewish Whisky Company on a job well-done!

BenRiach Dark Rum Finish       Arran Devils Punchbowl II

The hard work and affable personalities of the company’s founders, Joshua, Jason and Seth, guaranteed a good show. These guys are very easy to talk to and clearly love the work they’re doing here. Though, the other half of their success was timing and opportunity.

Last year, the nationwide goliath, WhiskyFest, moved their event from a Tuesday to Friday. This year they followed suit by expanding the show to Saturday, as well. The move prevented a large population of Jewish locals from attending, leaving an opportunity for the three to throw their own event for those observing Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which commits observers to rest from sunset Friday to Saturday night. This was their second year throwing the event, and it looks like they have the momentum to keep going strong for a third.

Four Roses LE 2012       Laphroaig QA Cask

So Thursday morning, my wife and I drove to the city, met up with the bloggers from The Coopered Tot, It’s Just the Booze Dancing, SmokyBeast, What Tastes Good, and Whisky Lassie for Elevenses, Luncheon and Afternoon Tea. We loaded up at Keen’s Steak House and shared a few laughs under the pipe strewn ceiling before hurrying off into the night. Those are all great blogs you should check out, by the way.

Parkers Heritage Promise of Hope       Compass Box Delilah

At the show, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch took their Virgin Oak releases for a test ride. Heaven Hill had a great line-up that included their highly sought after Elijah Craig 21 year and Barrel Proof releases along with the Parker’s Heritage Promise of Hope. Four Roses had a few hidden goodies, including their much lauded 2012 Limited Edition. Wemyss brought a beeeautiful 30 yr Coal Ila titled Heathery Smoke. Highland Park brought some Loki to share. Glengoyne’s heavily sherried 21 year, Tomintoul’s sweet and malty Reserve 31 year, Canadian distiller Still Waters’ Stalk and Barrel, the not-yet-here-in-the-US Miyagikyo, there were so many noteworthy spirits in attendance it’s unreasonable to list them all.

Outside there was a cigar lounge. There was food, too, but I was too busy looking for top-shelf whisky to really notice. Judging by the mob of hungry festival goers attacking the tables I’d say it must have been really good. I think I even saw friend chicken skin at one point. How awesome is that?!

Highland Park Loki       St-George English Single Malt

Among my favorite whiskies for the night were Arran’s The Devil’s Punchbowl Chapter II. Like the movie Alien, I’m not sure it needed a sequel, but it definitely got one worth the franchise.

Of course the Single Cask Nation’s festival bottling of a 15 year Heaven Hill was amazing, too, though I had been privy to a sampling before the show so my readers already knew my opinion on that one. You’ll be glad to know, I didn’t nunchuck one single person in the face to get to the table to sign up for a bottle. I walked, very patiently, over to the sign-up list without incident. Yay, self control! I’m not a terrible human after all!!!

Laphroaig’s travel retail exclusive QA Cask was also mighty delicious. I think not being able to find a bottle anywhere definitely makes a spirit more covetable, but Laphroaig’s effort here is definitely a worthy one whether it was easy to find or not. This one was hiding in “the welly”.

BenRiach’s dark rum finish was also on the top of my list. BenRiach finished this one in Jamaican ex-rum casks for around 3-4 years. The spirit actually came out of the cask lighter in color than it went in, and though my camera didn’t really capture it, the spirit took on a strange, light-green tinged hue.

Stalk and Barrel       Allison Patel Brenne

Finally, I’d be remiss to not mention Allison Patel’s label Brenne: French single malt matured in virgin oak and finished in ex-cognac casks. This whisky tastes like Nerds-crusted candy corn in a box of Luden’s cherry cough drops. Amazing!!! This is gateway whisky, dangerously delicious stuff, and I’m excited to see where this brand ends up in a few years. At the moment, Brenne is poised to be on shelves in over 30 states by December, so keep your eyes peeled!

I’d like to thank the Jewish Whisky Company for inviting me and all the brand ambassadors for giving me an opportunity to try so many awesome spirits. Cheers!

Heaven Hill Line Up

Whisky Live – Boston 2013

Park Plaza CastleYesterday brought us Boston’s 2013 Whisky Live event. I was lucky enough to win a set of last minute VIP tickets so I dragged one of my good friends out with me to see what the industry had to offer.

The Park Plaza Castle hosted the event, a whopping 5 hour tour de whisky. On one hand, five hours is a long time to spend wandering around a show. On the other hand, once I visited all the tables it was nice to grab another sample of one of the better whiskies I found and then catch up with some friends.

The buffet was on the small side, the live music was a perplexing mix of bagpipes playing traditional Scottish folk music and bagpipes playing Hava Nagila, but really, I came for the whisky. There were so many, too many to recount here, that I chose a few more esoteric things to judge while I explored the tables. So without ado, the official HTDW winners for Whisky Live 2013 are…


Bourbon Assault VehicleBest Way to Arrive:
Julio’s Bourbon Assault Vehicle

Okay, I may be a bit biased: I freaking LOVE Julio’s whisky selection. I also won tickets and a ride to the event from their whisky club, The Loch and K(e)y Society. If you live near Westbourough MA or anywhere outside of Boston city limits, you can park at the store, peruse their awesome selection of whisky, and then hop on the Bourbon Assault Vehicle for any of the whisky events they attend. Let someone else do the driving for you for a measly $10?! Yes, please! Boston can be painful to navigate for visitors, and the modest cost of a ticket covers what you would pay for parking and gas alone.


Breuckelen CharlieBest Table Decoration:
Breuckelen Distilling Co. Inc.

If you read my write up about my dog, David-Blackmore-kicks-ass, then you already know I have a Boston Terrier, myself. I have a soft spot for the breed, so when I saw this guy I had a good chuckle. Breuckelen Distlling’s Brad Estabrook used to bring his rescued Boston Terrier, Charlie, to work with him. Having the little guy around to keep him company was nice… that is, until the day Charlie found a puddle of some mash on the floor and gave himself a heroic case of the runs. We’ve all been there, Brad. They can be a very gassy breed. Sorry, Charlie!


y u no sound goodMost Painful Contribution:

I swear, if bagpipes weren’t invented to keep the British away from the Scots’ whisky then they were invented by Satan himself to enviously spite the Scots for creating something so dastardly delicious. There’s nothing like having a few drams of whisky and being forced to listen to the shrill cries of three ducks slowly being murdered in harmony. I can’t think of a more relaxing way to terrorize someone. Need a spiteful Christmas gift? Here you go!


High West CardBest Business Card:
High West

Cards are important. A sexy business card says a lot about the person wielding it. Many people go cheap and see them as more of a utility, and it’s true that a nice card doesn’t make your product taste good, but High West knocked it out of the park with this sharp-looking wood veneer. The whisky wasn’t too shabby, either! In this case, the ambassadors and the delicious drinks went hand in hand.


St George PeatedBest Whisky(s):
English Whisky Company St George Peated Single Malt and BenRiach 1996 PX Finish

I hate using the words best and favorite. It’s so hard to place two great whiskies in a linear hierarchy. Mood, style and price can all affect one another and make it extremely complicated to say one awesome whisky is invariably greater than another awesome one. There were two at the event that really caught me, though. The English Whisky Co’s Peated St.George brought by Raj Sabharwal’s chapter of Purple Valley Imports and the BenRiach 1995 Pedro Ximenez finish brought by Federal Wine and Spirits. Sadly, the BenRiach was sold out a while ago, so Joe was just teasing us with one of the many fine whiskies his shop sees pass through it’s door. I’m not sure where to find the English Whisky Company stuff either, though the brand itself is certainly making ripples in the whisky community.


Thanks to the Loch and K(e)y Society for the tickets and free ride!

Whisky Jewbilee 2013:
now with discount codes!!!

It’s coming… Whisky Jewbilee 2013 is coming and you should definitely go. Screw your day job, call in sick and get your ass to Mt.Kisco, New York on October 9th or New York City on October 10th. Have you ever tried to taste 200 whiskies in 3 hours?!? It’s much more difficult than you think but twice as exciting. For $110 this is a stupid-awesome deal. Seriously, the last time I accidentally spent that at the bar it wasn’t nearly this gratifying and the quality of drinks barely qualified as drinkable. At the Jewbilee you could totally snob-out and only drink 20 year old whiskies you find, and you would still get your money’s worth while experiencing a wide array of delicious whiskies.

Whisky Jewbilee NYC

The number is growing all the time but, at the moment, almost 50 different brands have committed to sharing their wares, including one of my favorites, The Creative Whisky Company (Exclusive Malts). There will be over 200 bottles of Scotch, Japanese, American, cask strength, standard line-ups, limited editions and more! For those of you who have never been to an event like this, now is your chance. Also, for any of you I’ve managed to alienate here on my blog, now’s the perfect chance to tell me what a douche I am in person. Huzzah!

Best yet, the Jewish Whisky Company was kind enough to give me a discount code for my readers. Just enter H2DW13 (all caps) in the promo code box and get 10% off your ticket. That’s $11 off!!! I can’t stress just how awesome a deal this is. Even beyond the whisky itself, this is a great opportunity to meet a host of local area bloggers, brand ambassadors, and lots of other whisky royalty. If you don’t make it, you can be sure I’m going to rub it in with lots of pictures of all the cask-aged debauchery here on the blog.

Get your ticket for the Mount Kisco event here or New York City here, and be sure to stay abreast of all the details on their website.

See you there!