Thursday, February 26, 2015

Planning for Whisky Live

I've got a VIP ticket to Whisky Live in Washington, DC, next weekend. (As far as I can tell, every ticket to Whiskey Live in Washington, DC, next weekend is a VIP ticket, so it's not really going to my head.)

I've been to a couple of  Scotch Malt Whisky Society Whisky Extravaganzas, so I know what it's like to pass up a free18 yo single malt because there are two people in front of you and the clock is ticking. Whisky Live's main difference seems to lie in having more than a token representation of non-Scotch. There will be plenty of bourbons and ryes, from the Beam boys and Four Roses as well as maybe a dozen microdistillers and NDPs. There should be more than a dozen Irish whiskeys, and I hope at least half a dozen Japanese whiskeys. The Canadians might even muster a respectable showing.

All this is in addition to expressions from ten or so single malt Scotch distilleries, plus some independent bottlers, and who knows what all unadvertised specials. The Whisky Live folks are promising 180+ whiskeys, a lot fewer than the 300+ they promised for Whisky Live New York this week but still quite a bit more than I can get through in a scant four hours.

Also, there will be beer, in case you get tired of pacing yourself with water.

I'm thinking I'll break the evening into different phases:
  1. Start with Irish whiskey, specifically Teeling. I've tried most of the Cooley and Bushmills expressions, though if I spot something I haven't had I'll give it a go.
  2. On to Suntory's Japanese whiskeys (Hakushu, Hibiki, Yamazaki). I've only had one Japanese whiskey ever, as I recall, and I don't recall anything about it, so this portion of the evening may take a while.
  3. Next I want to meet and greet the American microdistillers -- like Sons of Liberty and Barrel, plus the Redemption folks (boy I hope they're bringing some cask strength rye) --  most of whose whiskey I won't get a chance to try outside an event like this.
  4. I'll definitely be parking myself at the Compass Box table for a bit.
  5. After that (assuming it's not already past midnight), I'm not sure. Maybe the Speyside Scotch distilleries I haven't run into yet, but how do I not spend some time with Four Roses? And shouldn't I leave some slack in my plans for the specials, wonders, and single cask IBs that haven't yet been announced? Or even some Canadian; I can't swear to the soundness of all my decisions at this point in the evening.
  6. Finally, the Islay malts. If I time it just right, Simon Brooking will be pouring an exceptional Laphroaig into my glass just as the clock strikes Last Pour at 9:40.
In the 3 hours or so I'll spend in the thick of it (figuring 40 minutes to eat, rest, and replan), I should be able to try about two dozen new whiskeys; if I'm lucky I'll be able to taste the first six or eight before my palate goes completely kaput (I'm hoping the Irish and Japanese are easier on the senses than the American and Scottish). Half that many, with twice the attention and conversation, would make for a great evening too.

Re-reading the post I wrote about the Extravaganza I went to 2 years ago, I see I concluded:
I think I'm at the point in my whiskey travels where I'd prefer a smaller selection of rarer whiskies, or one or two "master class" type events where you go into detail on a single distillery.
I may yet wreck the above plan and do a master class; they haven't been announced yet. I will definitely pass up whiskey I'm already familiar with in favor of, maybe not rare, but new-to-me whiskeys, especially from new-to-me distilleries. I could probably spend the whole night drinking Beam Suntory and Diageo bourbon, but I kind of do that often enough as it is, and if I really want to learn something about Booker's, all I need to do is say something untrue about it on Twitter. (Although if they've got some Beam Bottled in Bond or Pre-Prohibition Rye, I could find room for that.)

And if you're there yourself and recognize me -- I'll be the nondescript middle-aged fellow -- I shall buy you a drink if you greet me with the Weekend Whiskey password for Whisky Live DC 2015: "Have you tried the Lagavulin Cinnamon?"

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