Bartender! A dram of Snowflake, please…


snowflake-3
Photo Courtesy of The NYC Office aka @SarahMaxPix

It’s a pretty simple story: a droplet of water vapor condenses and freezes, then nearby droplets evaporate which is kind of strange since it is a wee bit cold out, and that vapor sticks, freezing to our little friend making it “grow” into what we call a snowflake. Maybe it’s slightly more complicated than that. But the end result is a unique object of natural beauty if not a fairly cold and delicate one. The saying goes that no two are the same. It’s pretty hard to test that but it’s a wonderful thought to hold to: the specialness of a single entity in nature.

Chemistry is a funny thing. On paper it’s just a bunch of numbers and letters and funny lines that don’t make a whole lot of sense to many (read: me). Ah, but those results do amaze! And as we well know, whisky is the best chemistry experiment out there, making many of us damn our own sleeping habits during high school chem class. Unique chemistry experiments abound in the world of distilled spirits. One of those mad chemists is the master distiller at Denver’s Stranahan’s. Rob Dietrich oversees the process at the south of downtown distillery that crafts their 100% malted barley whiskey. They make one thing and they make it very well. It’s a scotch style whiskey that would actually be called Scotch if they plunked the distillery right into downtown Scotland at the corner of Mash Tun Ave. and Wort Blvd. in some weird international corporate location move.

Stranahan 01

Stranahan’s is a funky little place in a nondescript part of town with the imposing Rockies to the far west and I-25 to the nearer west. The building could’ve been a home to a widget maker, baby furniture outlet, injection molding company pumping out faux Legos or a tortilla maker for all we know. But now it’s the home of a well-organized whiskey powerhouse a mile-ish or so above sea level (no tape measure was evident, so we’ll just have take their word for it). It feels like a neighborhood distillery that isn’t in a neighborhood. There’s a very inviting front room that’s happy to sell Stranahan’s gear and even a lounge where they mix up cocktails on the weekends. On this particularly chilly winter afternoon, while waiting for our tour to start, two local, scruffy 30-something gents walked into the neighborhoody-y lobby and bellied up to the counter for a tasting. Yes, it’s that easy. The bearded “bartender” tending the cash register behind the oak-staved counter happily poured and filled the boys in on the whiskey.  Simple and casual; two pours. Two happy Stranahanians. The uniqueness of the place was as evident as the numb fingers and red noses on the eagerly awaiting small crowd from the 20° degree late afternoon air.

It was tour time and bubbly guide, Lisa Graziano led our group (that leaned toward the scruffy 30-something side; at the least the males) through a detailed tour of the distillery. It was hard to tell if the crowd was just biding time until the tour’s end and tasting time or were genuinely enthused to learn about Stranahan’s barley which is sourced from nearby beer megalith Coors and the pot/column stills that came from Kentucky. No matter. All were happy taking in the high ceilings, large fermenting vats, racks of barrels, and well kept facility. For those uninitiated, this had to be a bit of a wow whether they were from the area or on vacation.

This was the rocket scientist/chemical engineer missus’ first visit to a distillery and I could see the equations, and cause and effect relationships were exploding gleefully under that wool hat. For every puzzled face in the group, of which there were many, the Engineer had a pertinent, intelligent question that probably made dear Ms. Graziano pleased as punch after more than her share of the basics on many previous trips through the place. It made me really happy to have some brains close by for a change instead of the mush in my noggin. The chemistry facts came hard and fast from our guide such as water boiling at 204° F at this elevation; the lack of fungus in the facility due to the low humidity; and an 8% angel’s share due to a temperature control system that prevents losing twice as much to evaporation. I may have to order the Cliff Notes.  I can barely spell bunsen burner correctly. Not even sure if I just did.

Stranahan’s only makes one animal and it comes in a bottle admittedly oversized in height so it has to be placed on the top shelf. Two Thursdays a month the distillery bottles using a public “crew” picked by lottery. The list is usually 18,000 to 24,000 names long, all hoping for the two 4 hour shifts, free lunch and a bottle of Stranahan’s. Each golden yellow label with its Rocky Mountain cowboy font in black is handwritten with date, batch and even comment from the distiller’s which seems to be a free pass to comment on just about anything in a few words – the product Labeling version Twitter, as it were.

The tour did indeed end with a dram of whiskey. This day’s Batch 145 from May 2012 was full of vanilla and butterscotch, with citrusy and zesty notes; a very tasty and smooth whiskey at 47% ABV. The spirited group was far more spirited after that. One can only hope there’s a cask strength, single-barrel, or smokey Stranahan’s in the future to really see what else can be brought out from the whiskey.

Tour Guide Lisa closed the door of the barrel adorned tasting room once the crowd exited and proceeded to kibitz while pouring the Engineer and your reporter two more drams, both unique. On the walk through the distillery, it was hard not to ask about their New Make spirit and if it was available for sale in the future or a taste. The new make in Scotland in various distilleries is a sweet, delicious experience that masks its 60-70% high octane ABV, and it was easy to be curious about this Colorado single malt pre-barrel spirit. Happily and surprisingly, we were offered a wee taste of the new make while the rest of the group was busy buying up t-shirts and bottles. This new make did not disappoint bringing back memories of the clear liquid right out of the spirit safes in Scotland. Though it was room temperature, it filled the mouth with a very warm and lovely, sugary richness. Maybe the cold air outside made anything feel warmer than it really was but this was like being covered by a down blanket from the inside out.

Remember our little frozen water droplet? Though built by nature and a fair amount of randomness, we always come back to the snowflake’s unique form. A computer program with inherent infinite randomness could build snowflakes with a kind of uniqueness over and over and over again, with no two “snowflakes” ever being duplicated. But it wouldn’t be the same as Mother Nature’s design and her pushing the buttons, banging out the 1’s and 0’s into a model of natural elegance. Stranahan’s has it’s own version.

Stranahan 03

From the kitchen table of Rob Dietrich comes something very special annually, sometimes semi-annually. Named appropriately “Snowflake“, it’s the head distiller’s chance to make a disaster of his kitchen with all kinds of experimental casks, flasks, glasses and probably a beaker or two, and offer a very different expression in a very limited offering. 2014’s Snowflake called Mount Bierstadt is 3 to 4 year old Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey aged fully in American white oak then finished in a plethora of barrels. Ready? A Sherry Oloroso cask from Spain, several French oak Cognac casks from France, and another that had Cherry wine from Balistreri Winery in Denver. That’s a mouth and barrel full to chew on. One wonders what is going on in Mr. Dietrich’s brain to go hog wild with that cask shopping list. But uniqueness begets uniqueness. And Snowflake is no exception.

Mount Bierstadt is a complicated dram with sweetness, chocolate, vanilla, licorice and wood. Saying it’s an explosion of rich flavors doesn’t do it justice. Sold only at the distillery one day of the year with only a few hundred bottles or so available, it quickly sells out with fanboys and fangirls waiting in line overnight in the below freezing air. Ms. Graziano poured our samples generously and sadly no amount of bribing allowed her to sell the remains of the bottle. Ethics and rules be damned! One would think a teenager or two would have more value as a bartering chip. Luckily Snowflake is available until all gone in a few local Denver restaurants, and Round 2 was savored an hour later at The Buckhorn Exchange surrounded by many antique firearms and a zoo’s worth of “taxidermied” trophies.  Welcome to The West.

Though this Snowflake falls but once or twice a year, its hand-crafted uniqueness is very apparent. It comes from a place rooted in creativity and ingenuity and not afraid to experiment with tastes like a good chef does. It comes from wanting to create something different building upon a little droplet of Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey.

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Special thanks to Jason Horn of Hanna Lee Communications for the unique opportunity to taste and to visit Stranahan’s.

#BloggerFest14 Recap and a Review of Nocino Caselli


Nocino Caselli

Back stories. Love em! Can’t get enough of em! So before I get to my review of the Italian liqueur that you see in the above photo, let me tell you a bit about how I got my grubby mitts on this sample… 

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Way back in late October (October 28th, 2014 or NYC WhiskyFest Eve), our dear friend The Coopered Tot (aka Josh Feldman aka Coop) hosted an intimate #WhiskyFabric gathering at The Morgan Library in Midtown Manhattan. In addition to Josh and yours truly, the following people traveled great, and not so great distances to join us:

As is usually the case when a group of whisky aficionados get together, the conversation flowed as freely as the whisky being poured. Here is just a brief sample of what went down during this epically epic tasting session that we called #BloggerFest14

WhiskyFabric 2

Miracle Max setting up for the tasting.

Max perplexed us with sporadic bird calls while discussing his love of Inchgower and the scent of “French Whore Perfume” with Josh.

WhiskyFabric 4

Sarah, Alwynne, and Allison

 A lovely Canadian woman was teased about her ever changing accent. One minute she sounds English, the next minute, she sounds Canadian! Pretty weird, Eh?

WhiskyFabric 3

Josh walked us through a few “dusty” whiskies from the 1950s and 1960s, and Alwyne dazzled us with her Canadian generosity by sharing her itty bitty samples of the most recent Diageo Distiller’s Edition releases. She even published our comments on her blog!

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While the majority of the night was spent tasting whisky, Allison was kind enough to change things up a bit by sharing her sample of an Italian liqueur called Nocino Caselli. Since I really enjoyed the change of pace after trying so many whiskies, Allison let me take the sample home with me for an eventual review. Here goes nothing…

Before we get to my review, here’s what Distilleria Caselli has to say about their Nocino Classico:

È un liquore ottenuto, secondo l’antica tradizione, mettendo in infusione in alcool puro le noci ancora acerbe raccolte alla fine di giugno con l’aggiunta di spezie ed erbe il cui tipo e dosaggio vengono tenute gelosamente segrete dal liquorista. Questo Nocino Classico viene prodotto con infuso invecchiato 2 anni.

Did you get all that? No? Guess there’s always Google Translate.

Let’s get on with the review…

  • Appearance: Deep, dark, walnut brown color. Completely opaque. Looks really thick because after giving my glass a swirl, thick legs form, and they take a really long time to slide down the inside of the glass.
  • Aroma: Incredibly aromatic with the slightest bit of alcohol vapors coming through. Really rich smelling with a healthy dose of caramelized sugar, bittersweet chocolate, balsamic vinegar reduction, a boatload of herbs that I’ll never be able to pick apart, and finally, some menthol and eucalyptus.
  • Taste: Yowza! This stuff really coats your entire mouth with flavor. A touch of alcohol burn at the onset, but that quickly subsides. The mouthfeel is very thick and syrupy with an unusual texture. It almost has a melted chocolate quality to it because it feels a bit grainy. It’s nutty, chocolatey, and herbally all at the same time. Dare I call this a bit chewy? There’s a touch of bitterness at the very end, but the majority of the time, it’s the nutty/chocolatey/herbally notes that dominate.
  • ABV: 42%

Growing up in a Sicilian household, I’m no stranger to this type of liqueur. Averna, Cynar, and Fernet Branca were constant staples, so intense flavors like the ones in Nocino Caselli don’t frighten me. Overall, I really enjoyed it and found it to be a bit more approachable when compared to something like Fernet Branca. My only complaint is that I found it to be a bit too sweet, so it wouldn’t be my first choice whenever I’m in the mood for this type of liqueur, but as a change of pace, this stuff is fantastic!

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Many thanks to The Whisky Woman for sharing her liqueur sample, and to The Coopered Tot for hosting yet another unforgettable whisky gathering!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s Four Roses!


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If the usage of the singular verb tense with a plural subject bothered you…good! I like you already. But guess what? It’s not incorrect because we’re talking about Four Roses Bourbon. And cheese. Not grammar. Clearly. Because as you’ll see, I’m fond of sentence fragments. But back to the Bourbon and cheese.

4rosescheese-1Yep. Bourbon and cheese.  Way back in September, when Juno and Linus were but a twinkle in our beloved meteorologists’ eyes, I went to an event which paired Four Roses Bourbon and cheese at the French Cheese Board in Manhattan. Max McCalman, Maitre Fromagier (expert cheese guy) hosted the event and created the pairings with three Four Roses bourbons.  Max was out to dispel the notion that you can only pair wine and cheese, and in my book, he succeeded.

bourboncheese-1The first cheese was Mimolette. This is a bright orange, crystalline cheese that’s almost like a parmesan and was paired with Four Roses Yellow Label. Max referred to it as “an introductory cheese with an introductory bourbon”. The saltiness of the cheese was a beautiful match for the fruit forward flavors in the bourbon. Picture a cheese plate accompanied by pears and apples – that’s what it was like.

bourboncheese-4The second pairing (which was my favorite) was Comte and Four Roses Small Batch. Comte is a semi-hard cheese with a creamy texture and nutty aroma. This cheese has a long finish and held up great to the 45% ABV of Four Roses Small Batch. Max said he paired them because he felt they brought out the vanillin in each other. I did too. For me this pairing exemplified what pairings are all about; each elevated the other creating an entirely new flavor – a really delicious one.

bourboncheese-7Lincoln Log inspired cheese display. Or Jenga. You choose. Play nice!

 

bourboncheese-6The last pairing was Four Roses Single Barrel and Epoisse. Epoisse is a super soft, stinky cheese that is so gooey it almost needs to be eaten with a spoon. Max called bourbon “America’s Cognac” and the plum and spiciness of Four Roses Single Barrel make a good case for that. This was a really rich, salty cheese that needed a powerhouse of a bourbon like Four Roses Single Barrel to stand up to it. Forget dessert, I’ll take this (and a glass of water).

bourboncheese-8So next time you’re enjoying a cheese plate, why not try it with bourbon?

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Many thanks to the Booze Dancing crew for letting me cover this event and to The Baddish Group for the invitation!

Beer Review – Innis & Gunn Rum Aged


Innis & Gunn Rum Aged

This review of the Innis & Gunn Rum Aged is Beer Review #2 of the three Innis & Gunn beers we received in the mail a few weeks back. At first I thought that Limpd had already reviewed this one, but upon closer inspection, it appears that he reviewed the Innis & Gunn Rum Cask. What’s the difference between the Rum Aged and the Rum Cask? I’m glad you asked! Here are two big differences:

  • ABV: Rum Aged = 6.8%; Rum Cask = 7.4%
  • Barrel Aging: Rum Aged = Aged in oak barrels with rum infused oak chips; Rum Cask = 30 days in American oak + 30 days in Navy rum barrels

Now that you know how they differ, let’s get to my impressions of the Innis & Gunn Rum Aged…

When compared to the Innis & Gunn Original, I thought that the Rum Aged was lacking in oomph. The nose is all dried fruit with maybe a hint of dark rum, but other than that, I didn’t get much else. The flavor is more or less the same, i.e. there’s a good bit of sweet malt. Period. End of story. This wasn’t a bad beer, it just wasn’t very inspiring. I will say this though, it was a really pretty pour…

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Many thanks to Savona Communications for sending us this sample bottle!

 

Booze Review – Crown Royal Regal Apple


Crown Royal Regal Apple

Back in June of 2013, the New York Times reported that “flavored whisky” was one of the fastest growing segments of the spirits industry. Cherry, cinnamon, maple syrup, ginger, honey, and apple are just a few of the flavors that are being added to a spirit that we feel is great just the way it is (we rarely even add ice or water to OUR whisky!). That being said, if you’re a regular reader, then you already know that we’ve reviewed a few of these whisky concoctions. Some we kinda liked (I’m looking at you Berentzen Bushel and Barrel and Crown Royal Maple!), and some we absolutely hated (I’m trying to forget you The Knot and Fireball!). This post is all about the latest and greatest from our dear friends in The Great White North: Crown Royal Regal Apple.

Before we get to our review, here is what Crown Royal has to say about their Regal Apple:

An extraordinary addition to the Crown Royal® portfolio, Crown Royal® Regal Apple™ is a blend of our hand-selected smooth whiskies infused with natural apple flavors.

The blend opens with a nose of bright apples balanced with our signature Crown Royal whisky and hints of spice. Crown Royal® Regal Apple™ offers a flavorful palate of slightly tart, crisp apple with notes of caramel and light spice that culminates in a full-bodied smooth finish of refined apple notes.

Enjoy as a shot, on the rocks or in your favorite cocktail.

And now for our impressions of this flavored whisky…

  • ABV: 35%
  • Appearance: Burnt sienna color. Give the whisky a whirl and lots of clingy, thick, slow moving legs form.
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: An all-consuming smell of Granny Smith apples that gives way to hints of coconut and vanilla. Not much in the way of whisky or alcohol for that matter. The nose might as well be a whiff of a freshly baked apple pie.
    • G-LO: Not much in the way of alcohol vapors on this one. When I first stick my nose in the glass, what comes immediately to mind are Jolly Rancher Green Apple hard candies. Seriously! Regal Apple smells EXACTLY like one of those things, right down to the sugary artificiality of it all (just so you know, I used to love those things as a kid). Once you get past the Jolly Rancherishness of it all (not an easy feat!), there’s a very light hint of whiskey coming through.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: A lot of sweetness upfront; it is almost like a cordial (given the relative low ABV, it may be exactly like a cordial). There are faint hints of whisky in there around mid-palate with the more familiar flavor of cinnamon and finally the expected heat of the alcohol. Maybe a bit like following up a slice of apple pie with Listerine.
    • G-LO: The Crown Royal Regal Apple has a bit of viscosity to it. I wouldn’t say it’s thick, but it is a wee bit syrupy. Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as Jolly Rancherish as I was expecting. Starts off on the sweet side with a lightly spiced simple syrup quality to it. Some of the apple flavors kick in at mid-palate, reminding me of a baked apple with cinnamon and brown sugar. The baking spices intensify a bit at the end. The full frontal Jolly Rancher Green Apple flavors finally show up in the finish and leave you with an odd combination of sweet and slightly tart flavors.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: I was not a fan of the CR Regal Apple. I think in the end we took a good Canadian Whiskey and watered it down with a thick and syrupy apple cider to make what is in essence an apple cordial. Not a Sour Apple Pucker from De Kuyper Royal Distillers but rather an almost too sweet and too apple-ish amalgam. This might make for an after dinner drink but is certainly not an everyday experience.
  • G-LO: I’m not quite sure how I feel about the Crown Royal Regal Apple. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t very good either. I would have probably liked it better if the whisky flavors were more dominant with the apple flavors playing back up. I think the fact that Crown Royal recommends having this as “a shot, on the rocks or in your favorite cocktail” pretty much says it all. If a spirit can’t stand on its own two feet, what’s the point?

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Many thanks to Taylor Strategy for sending us the sample!

Re-repost: ‘Twas the Booze After Christmas…


Since today is Christmas, I thought that in addition to sharing a bit of food and drinktography, I would once again repost a bit of booze infused poetry by The Wookie.

The Boozedancing Crew wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! May your glass and plate never be empty, and may you be surrounded with family and friends, because everything tastes better when you have excellent company. Cheers!

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A Holiday Booze Poem by the Wookie
(inspired by Crazy Eye)

‘Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the ‘hood
No one was drinking; we all wished that we could;
The Whiskys were poured by the firepit with care,
In hopes that LimpD soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of backyard ice skating danced in their heads;
And me in my parka, and G-lo in his cap,
Had just sent two texts to give LimpD some crap,
When out in the backyard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the back gate I flew like a fox,
Tripped over the swings and fell in the sandbox.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But my the single malt whisky I had wished for all year,
He had a bum leg but was still lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Limp Dick.
More rapid than eagles his Whiskys they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Ardmore! Now, Dalwhinnie! Now, Bruichladdich and Macallen!
On, Balvenie! On Glenlivet! On, Glenkinchie and Port Ellen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now drink away! Drink away! Drink away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to our lips the single malts flew,
Chased by salty snacks, and some Belgium beer too.
And then, for a moment, our senses were jarred
As were heard more Booze Dancers creep through the backyard
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the gate came Crazy Eye and the ROK with a bound.
They were dressed in warm gear, each from foot to head,
And we knew that this meant their wives must be in bed:
A bundle of booze each had strapped to his back,
And they looked like peddlers just opening their packs.
Crazy’s eye – how it twinkled! His dimples how merry!
The ROK’s cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
The booze that they brought was adorned with a bow,
And the vodka we kept cold right in the snow;
The fire was warm, preventing the chattering of teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled our heads like a wreath;
LimpD rested his booze on his little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, far removed from slim,
And I laughed when I saw him, and said “Get to the gym!”;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had insults to dread;
He spoke some harsh words, and made fun of my work,
Filled up his glass; then called me a “Jerk”,
And raising one finger in front of my nose,
And flipping the bird, from his lounge chair he rose;
He sprang to his feet, to his dog gave a whistle,
And away they both flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he stumbled from sight,
“Happy Boozing to all, and to all a good-night.”

45 Hours in LA, Part I: The LA Whisky Extravaganza


LA Athletic Club Pic 01

Back in mid-September, opportunity knocked via an invitation from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) for two Boozedancers to attend one of their Fall Whisky Extravaganza events. Unfortunately, unlike the past 6 or 7 years, there would be no Philadelphia Whisky Extravaganza. At first I was majorly bummed, but then I had an idea…

Instead of letting these media passes go to waste, I immediately contacted the West Coast Office (WCO) and asked if he’d be interested in attending and covering the Los Angeles Whisky Extravaganza for our little corner of the blogosphere. His response:

“I’m in! So are you gonna fly out and join me?”

My response:

“Hell yes!”

As is usually the case for a 47 year old, married, father of two, my “Hell yes!” was contingent upon spousal approval and finding reasonably priced airfare that didn’t involve making 15 stops in various airports across the country before landing in LA. Luckily, the wife greenlit the trip and I was able to book direct, roundtrip flights between EWR and LAX (this was to be a very brief visit to the West Coast Office, i.e. flying out on the Thursday and flying back on the Saturday, so spending most of it waiting for flights would have been a deal breaker). While the thought of spending 6 hours on an airplane isn’t exactly thrilling, as soon as I boarded my 1PM flight to LA, I spotted the following music playlist while browsing the Virgin America in-flight entertainment options:

Songs About Whisky

Now that’s what I call an omen of good things to come!

Let’s fast forward to the actual event…

As I told you at the beginning of this post, having attended six or seven SMWSA in Philly and one in Manhattan, I am no stranger to The Extravaganza, and had a pretty good idea of what to expect in LA, i.e. a classy venue, good food, and a wide assortment of whiskies. The LA Whisky Extravaganza, which started at 7PM and ended at 9:30PM, was held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, a Downtown LA institution that was founded in 1880. Once again, the SMWSA picked a great room to hold the event. While the space wasn’t as wide open as the rooms at The Union League or Roosevelt Hotel, the atmosphere was perfect for a night of eating, drinking, and socializing. And there was plenty of that going on thanks to the WCO!

Whisky Guy Rob

Our first stop of the night was the SIA table where our friend Whisky Guy Rob would be pouring. While I have been going back and forth with Rob on various Social Media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) over the past few years, this is the first time that we’ve met face to face. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, meeting all of these super duper, like-minded people is what really keeps me going with the blog. Since we had plans to spend more time with Rob later in the evening, and also on Friday night, we gave Rob some space so that he could properly work the crowd, and took a walk around the room to see if there was anything new or interesting to try.

We made a brief stop at The Classic Casks table to see what they’d be pouring, since at past events they’ve always had some interesting whiskies on hand. I know for a fact that I tried an outstanding Bunnahabhain and Glenlossie, but the rest is just a delightful blur of Amberlita colored deliciousness! We then stopped by the SMWSA table for a brief perusal of their offerings and were greeted by the always gracious and entertaining Ricky Crawford. After a brief taste of one of their single barrel, cask strength whiskies, we continued working our way around the room. This is where we paused for a bit of nourishment.

In addition to the usual carving stations and pasta dishes, there was a small table in the corner labeled “Kosher”. This immediately caught the attention of the WCO (he tries his best to be a good Jew. Hanging out with me isn’t helping his cause), so we grabbed a plate and loaded up on some sustenance. A piece of Salmon, a bit of salad, a hand carved Roast Beef sandwich, and a healthy portion of pasta were a delicious base for the evening’s whisky consumption. Did I mention that we went to Seven Grand for cocktails and more whisky with Rob and a few other people after The Extravaganza was over? No? I’ll get to that in Part II of my 45 Hours in LA. For now, let’s continue with the event recap…

Once our bellies were somewhat full (we left room for second helpings, dessert, whisky, and post drinking snacks!), we went back to working our way around the room. Rob mentioned that they were pouring a 23 year old Craigellachie (pronounced Craig-al-eh-key) that was well worth trying on the opposite side of the room, so we headed straight for it! I wish I could share some tasting notes with you, but since my noggin is a bit fuzzy with regards to fine details about everything that we sampled throughout the night, all I can say is that Rob didn’t steer us wrong. That stuff was tasty!

Nikka Coffey Grain

Our next stop was the Anchor Distilling Company’s tables where they were pouring several interesting whiskies from their vast portfolio. I tried two from Nikka (Coffey Grain and Taketsuru), one from Anchor Distilling (Old Potrero 18th Century Whiskey), and one from Kavalan (no clue which one). The Taketsuru was my favorite while the Old Potrero left me disappointed. Luckily, my disappointment lasted for just a millisecond because there was way more on the way that would keep me smiling for the rest of the night.

Joy was found in the offerings from Talisker, Mortlach, Knob Creek Rye, Few Bourbon, Westland, and several other distilleries, but if I had to pick one particular spirit that piqued my curiosity during this event, it had to be that wee taste of Auchentoshan “new make”. WCO was lucky enough to try “new make” at several different distilleries during his tour of Scotland with the Jewish Whisky Company back in early Fall, but for me, this would be my first experience with the stuff. It was so light, yet packed with flavor, and my first thought was that it reminded me of a really good gin thanks to all of the herbal notes that came through in the nose and palate. Auchentoshan’s “new make” left both of us asking the same question: Why don’t distilleries bottle and sell this stuff??? Inquiring minds want to know!

The West Coast Office

The West Coast Office (he’s the guy on the left) relives a WhiskyLIVE moment with a friend. Apparently, the big guy on the right made the WCO recite a Robert Burns poem for a dram at the last LA WhiskyLIVE.

While 2.5 hours at a whisky tasting might seem like a long time, when you factor in the time spent talking to people and just wandering around to see what you’d want to try next, the time goes by really quickly. WCO ran into several people that he’s met at events like WhiskyLive and the LA Scotch Club’s Peatin Meetin, so in addition to all of the eating and drinking, there was a healthy dose of banter thrown into the mix which always adds to the enjoyment factor at events like this.

Once 9PM rolled around, we headed back to the SIA table to meet up with Rob since he planned to join us at Seven Grand for some post event drinks. When we got to that part of the venue, we noticed that dessert was being served, and we also noticed that we almost missed the opportunity to have some lamb lollipops, i.e. grilled lamb chops. Since Rob still had a bit of cleaning up to do, we decided to partake of those last minute snacks.

By the time we finished our second round of eating, Rob was finished working, so we quickly made a break for the exit and walked around the corner to meet several other people at Seven Grand. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the place, Seven Grand is a whisky-centric bar in Downtown LA that is located on West 7th Street, between Olive Street and Grand Avenue…

This is where we end Part I of my 45 Hour Drink-A-Palooza in LA. Stay tuned for Part II!

Here are my final thoughts about the LA Whisky Extravaganza… 

Overall, the LA Whisky Extravaganza was well worth my time and effort. The actual venue was on par with The Union League and the Roosevelt Hotel, but when you factor in the wider variety of whiskies on hand and the quality of the food being served, I think the LA Extravaganza was marginally better than the Philly and NYC events. Should opportunity once again come knocking on my door, you can rest assured that I’ll answer!

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Many thank to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America for providing the West Coast Office and yours truly with media passes to this outstanding event!