Last month Eddie and I attended the WhiskeyFest Las Vegas event at Resorts Word – for the first time! We had two VIP tickets, which allowed us entry one hour early and samples of rare and aged whiskies. My plan? As soon as I checked in and picked up my swag bag – and program – I scoured the slim booklet to see who was pouring what that first hour, made some quick notes, and then attacked the two conference rooms allocated for the event. Second to that plan was doing as much damage, err, getting as many tastes as I desired in that hour, before taking a break, enjoying the different buffet meals, and then heading into a sit down class with one of the brand ambassadors. After the class I did go back into the two main rooms, but didn’t do as much tasting as I had in that first hour and in the class. First I will share the pours Eddie and I enjoyed in bold and italics, and then I’ll share which class I took and my notes on that.
The Full List and VIP Pours:
Ardbeg: Wee Beastie, 10 yr., An Oa, 19 yr. Batch No. 4 (VIP hour only), Corryvreckan (VIP hour only)
Awayuki Japanese Strawberry Gin: A little on the sweet side for me but tasty.
Balcones Distilling: Lineage Single Malt, Baby Blue Corn Whisky, Texas 1 Single Malt, Pot Still Bourbon, Rye 100, Brimstone Smoked Corn Whisky, Mirador Single Malt (VIP hour only), Prohibida Rum (Finished in ex-Balcones—Peat Casks) (VIP hour only)
Basil Hayden:10 yr., Dark Rye, Subtle Smoke, Toast
Benromach: 10 yr., 15 yr., 21 yr., Heritage Single Cask 1978—(VIP hour only)
Bird Dog Whiskey: Salted Caramel, Apple, Gingerbread
Blackened American: Flagship, Rye the Lightning
Bomberger’s Declaration Bourbon: (VIP hour only)
Brenne: Estate Cask Single Malt, 10 yr. Single Malt
Bruichladdich: Classic Laddie, Islay Barley 2013
Calumet Bourbon: Farm Kentucky Straight Bourbon — Small Batch, 10 yr., 15 yr., 16 yr.
Cincoro Tequila: Blanco, Reposado, Cincoro Añejo, GOLD (VIP hour only), Extra Añejo (VIP hour only)
Crown Royal: Reserve 18 yr. (VIP hour only)
Dewar’s: Caribbean Smooth, Japanese (this was a Mizunara cask) Smooth, French Smooth, 12 yr., 15 yr., 18 yr. (VIP hour only), 25 yr. (VIP hour only), Double Double 21 (VIP hour only), 19 yr. (VIP hour only) I don’t do a lot of blends but I had a class on Dewar’s once and learned about the amazing single malts that go into their whiskey which made me a fan.
El Tequileño: Reposado Gran Reserva, The Sassenach Select Double—Wood Reposado, Añejo Gran Reserva
FEW Spirits: Straight Bourbon, Straight Rye, American Whiskey, Cold Cut, Immortal Rye, Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon—(VIP hour only)
Frey Ranch: Bourbon, Rye, Single Barrel Rye (VIP hour only)
Glen Moray: 25 yr., Classic, Port Cask, Chardonnay Cask, Cabernet Cask, Sherry Cask, 12 yr., 15 yr., 18 yr., Pauillac Single Cask, 21 yr. (VIP hour only)
Glenmorangie: Original 10 yr., X by Glenmorangie, Lasanta 12 yr., Quinta 14 yr., Cadboll Estate 15 yr., 18 yr. (VIP hour only), Signet (VIP hour only) If I only had one single malt brand to enjoy, a pal told me, it would be Glenmorangie. I had to agree.
Gordon & MacPhail: Connoisseurs Choice, This was my favorite table as there were so many incredible aged whiskies to try. —Glenlivet 2004, —Bunnahabhain 1989, —Caol Ila 1997 – Cask Strength, —Tormore 1994 – Cask Strength, Glentauchers 1979 – Private Collection 1—(VIP hour only)
Hibiki: Japanese Harmony
Jack Daniel’s: Tennessee Whiskey, Single Barrel Select, Bonded Tennessee Whiskey, Triple Mash Blended Straight—Whiskey (VIP hour only), Sinatra Select (VIP hour only)
Jefferson’s: Ocean Aged at Sea Rye, Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet—Cask Finished Bourbon
Knappogue Castle: 12 yr., 14 yr., 16 yr.
Knob Creek: 9 yr., Rye, 12 yr.
Maker’s Mark: 46, Cask, BRT-01, BRT-02
Michter’s: US*1—Bourbon, —Rye, —American Whiskey, —Sour Mash, Toasted Barrel Finish Sour Mash (VIP hour only), 10 yr. Rye (VIP hour only)
Middle West Spirits: Straight Wheat, Straight Rye, Straight Bourbon, Bourbon Cream, Sherry Finished Bourbon (VIP hour only), Oloroso Wheat Whiskey (VIP hour only), Ported Pumpernickel Rye (VIP hour only) I’m a Middle West fan, first for their Pumpernickel rye. I believe they are the only ones in the U.S. making a pumpernickel whiskey. And these three, including the ported pumpernickel, blew my socks off.
Octomore 13.2: VS, VSOP, XO (VIP hour only)
OMAGE: (VIP hour only)
OYO Vodka: Honey Vanilla Bean, Stonefruit, Barrel-Finished Honey Vanilla Bean
Port Charlotte: 10 yr., Islay Barley 2013
Powers Irish Whiskey: Gold Label, Three Swallows, John Power
Rabbit Hole: Dareringer Sherry Cask Bourbon, Bourbon – Limited Release
Saint Cloud Kentucky Straight Bourbon: 100 Proof Single Barrel, X-Series (Abstrākt2) Single Barrel 110 Proof, 13 yr. Single Barrel, Barrel Proof (VIP hour only) Loved this discovery!
Seven Seals: Sherry Wood Finish, Port Wood Finish, Peated Port Wood Finish, Age of Taurus (VIP hour only), Age of Leo (VIP hour only)
Shenk’s Homestead Sour Mash: (VIP hour only)
Shunka Shuto: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter
Skrewball: Neat, Espresso martini (Skrewball, Kahlua—Coffee Liquor, & Cold Brew), Skrewball with Salt Rim, Skrewball with mixers (Cranberry, Apple Cider—Pineapple Juice, & Soda Water)
Smooth Ambler: Contradiction Bourbon, Founders’ Cask Strength—Series Rye
St. George Spirits: Lot 22 Single Malt, Baller Single Malt, Breaking & Entering American, Terroir Gin, Botanivore Gin, Spiced Pear Liqueur, NOLA Coffee Liqueur, Green Chile Vodka, Absinthe, 40th Anniversary Single Malt—(VIP hour only)
Teitessa Single Grain Japanese Whisky: 15 yr., 20 yr. (VIP hour only), 25 yr. (VIP hour only) This was my second favorite table, and a new Japanese whisky discovery for many if not all of us at the event. The 15 and 25 year old were both made the same way, and delicious. All three were very smooth and no need to add water.
Templeton: 4 yr., 6 yr., Barrel Strength, Stout Cask Finish, 10 yr. (VIP hour only), Single Barrel (VIP hour only)
Toki (as a Highball)
Vim & Petal Dry Gin
WhistlePig: PiggyBack 100% Rye, PiggyBack 100 Proof Bourbon, FarmStock Rye,
Small Batch Rye, Aged 10 yr. (VIP hour only) Fabulous finish on this one.
Widow Jane:10 yr. Bourbon, Lucky 13 Bourbon, Oak & Apple Wood Rye, Decadence (VIP hour only)
Yamazaki: Puncheon Cask, Sherry Cask, Mizunara Cask
I don’t really know why I’m so enamored with Japanese whisky exactly, it may have been my exposure to Sake when I did my certification class, the books I was sent for review on Japanese drinks and Japanese whisky, the uniqueness of the Japanese Mizunara cask, the differences in how Japanese whisky tastes compared to Scotch whisky…or just fond memories of my high school boyfriend Jim Matsuo that still hasn’t come to a single reunion. LOL.
The Art of Blending: A Deconstruction of Hibiki Japanese Harmony
Jonathan Armstrong | BIO
West Coast Brand Ambassador | House of Suntory
Seminar description: Please join the House of Suntory for an extraordinary opportunity to discover and explore the depth of Japanese whisky. Tasting a selection of whiskies from Chita, Hakushu and Yamazaki distilleries, we will discuss the history, craftsmanship and terroir of the House of Suntory. Through the Art of Blending we will examine the influence of American oak, Spanish Sherry casks and Japanese Mizunara Oak barrels and share the subtle, refined and complex nature of Hibiki Japanese Harmony.
Back to me: The five we tried that led up to the final blend included 1. Chita clean (made from corn). 2. Yamazaki Puncheon cask was a bit harsh to me. 3. Yamazaki sherry cask (my personal “wow that’s good” favorite) 4. Yamazaki Mizunara oak (My second favorite but a bit tight. Hibiki is also the first known brand to make this.) 5. Hakushu heavily peated (not too peated in my opinion). And the final blend they all went into: 6. Hibiki Harmony (We have a bottle at home).
I had a similar class two years ago, and covered it here in this blog, but here are a couple of things that sounded new to me:
Yamazaki Distillery will be celebrating their centennial this year as they opened in 1923. I bet that will garner a nice celebration. Also single malt whisky lost in sales to a less alcoholic drink in Japan: the highball that is now the most popular drink in Japan.
Instagram for some of the distilleries:
@Glenmorangie @GlenmoDan @StGeorgeSpirits @Glen_Moray _Whisky @GordonAndMacPhail @Dewars @BalconesDistilling @WhistlePigWhiskey @MiddleWestSpirits @CrownRoyal @SaintCloudBourbon @TeitessaJapaneseWhiskey @SuntoryWhiskey @WhiskyAdvocate
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Proof Awards, LA Wine Competition, Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.