It was a busy night in the city. I waited 45 minutes for an Uber taxi downtown and was almost tempted to take an UberX. But of all the amazing places you could be in Chicago on March 18th, WhiskyFest 2016 at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker was the grandaddy of them all.
Because of my Uber-fueled tardiness, by the time I arrived, the VIP event was well under way and the chances of getting sips of some of the more exclusive whiskies dwindled, but I did manage to squeeze in a few tasty drams.
While photos of the whiskies themselves were often difficult (compounded by the fact my camera wasn’t cooperating), I was able to document many of the whiskies on display at the event.
Click NEXT to see some of the highlights of Whisky Advocate’s WhiskyFest Chicago 2016.
(All photos copyright of Bourbon.com)
Beam Suntory had a really great looking set of booths where they showed off their Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Maker’s Mark brands.
It’s interesting to watch the growth of rye unfold. Beam provided its rye whiskies with their own display. I enjoyed the Knob Creek rye.
Suntory still makes one of the best whiskies around and the WhiskyFest crowd knew this, taking plenty of opportunities to try out the spirit.
Old Rip Van Winkle
Preston and father Julian Van Winkle manned the Pappy booth and shared their very limited spirit with admirers. The Pappy line was 30-40 people deep all night long, just as Julian had predicted in an email to us earlier in the week.
My friend Sreek is about to be poured some of the little remaining 23yr vintage in this photo.
Yes, those two very serious-looking gentlemen flanking the table are security guards. In case you haven’t heard, Pappy is kind of a big deal.
Dickel had a great looking display, made out of pallets. The gents manning the booth were cheery and accommodating and offered their No. 12, No. 8, White Whiskey, Rye, and Barrel Select.
Dickel was also one of the only spirit makers to offer a mixed drink option. Call it whatever you want, but after tasting 30-40 straight whiskies, for me it was a welcome and delicious reprieve!
Coppersea was one of the newer and smaller distillers at the show. Their booth was busy most of the evening. I spent some time speaking with CEO Michael Kinstlick who brought me up to speed on the history of Coppersea. My friends meanwhile spent some time speaking with Chief Distiller, Christopher Briar Williams, who took a great deal of time explaining the whiskies of which he’s so proud.
Coppersea offered Raw Rye, Corn Whisky, Excelsior Bourbon, Green Malt Barley, Green Malt Rye, and Pear Eau de Vie. The green malt rye whiskey takes the cake for the most unique tasting whiskey at the show, with hints of spice and grass.
Western Spirits showed off their Calumet Farm Bourbon, Sam Houston Straight Whiskey, Lexington Bourbon, and Bird Dog Whiskey
Bird Dog Whiskey offers a variety of flavored whiskies. While I usually tend to stay away from flavored whiskies, I was feeling adventurous and tried the Peach version. It was tasty, but I think I’ll stick with more traditional whiskey for now.
Blanton’s is one of my favorite bourbons. I couldn’t help but try a few sips.
Caribou Crossing is a great Canadian Whisky that surprisingly did not have much traffic during the show, despite its proximity to the Pappy.
Buffalo Trace Distillery, which is responsible for some of the greatest bourbons today, was well represented at the show.
Finally, Barton Distillery’s 1792 had a nice little display with plenty of traffic throughout the show.
When the world’s longest tenured active master distiller Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey pours you a dram of whiskey named after him while glowing with pride at the fact that he is here with the next two generations of Russells, you know you’re going to remember that sip for a long time. And, it was delicious.
The Jack Daniel’s folks had a lot to talk about at WhiskyFest this year. They recently released their Jack Daniel’s Rye whiskey, and I have to say that it was one of the more memorable whiskies of the evening.
Jack Daniel’s assistant master distiller, Chris Fletcher, proudly tended to and presented this impressive at-scale model of the Jack Daniel’s Lynchburg, TN distillery. Chris was very engaging and spared no detail explaining exactly how the whole system worked.
Master Bourbon Specialist Jackie Zykan was on tap to talk about Old Forester’s bourbon brands, which included 86 Proof, Signature, 100 Proof, 1870, 1897, and their Birthday Bourbon.
Woodford Reserve’s booth was busy all evening, and for good reason. Master Distiller Chris Morris has helped keep the brand front and center with his variations and small batch “experiments.” We can’t wait to see what’s next.
And that’s a wrap! To make sure you don’t miss next year’s Chicago, D.C., New York, or San Francisco events, follow WhiskyFest on Facebook, and visit their site to stay updated.