The Whisky X

The Whisky X is a Whisky “experience” promoting “whisky, music, food and style”. It’s a traveling whiskey and concert event stopping in Chicago, Austin, Denver and Las Vegas.

On September 10th the tour stopped in Brooklyn. It was held at Industry City which is a huge arts and entertainment center near the waterfront in Sunset Park featuring “eats, drinks and play”.

There were 60+ whiskies and cocktails to sample at the outdoor courtyard and indoors with a good selection of American whiskies, Irish whiskies, Scotch whiskies and for some reason, a table of rum. If you were in the mood for haircut with your whisky, there were a couple of barbers on hand to give you one.

Unlike most of these events there was a live band performing later in the evening. That band that evening was “Guster” and while I didn’t stick around for the concert, they did have an impressive collection of musical instruments on stage.

Some whiskies (and an outlier rum) that I sampled:

Calumet: small batch blend, straight bourbon, 15yr bourbonHudson Whiskey NY: Do the rye thing, bright lights big bourbon
Blackened: Kentucky straight rye, whisky blendWoodinville: 100% Rye, straight bourbon
Roe & Co: Irish whiskeyThe Irishman: Single malt
Busker: Single grain Irish whiskeyTeeling: Single batch Irish whiskey
McConnel“s: Irish WhiskeyJim Beam: Kentucky straight bourbon
Basi Hayden’s: Kentucky straight bourbonKnob Creek: Kentucky straight bourbon
Whistle Pig: Piggy back 6yrClyde May’s: Straight rye, straight bourbon
Gosling’s: Old rum, papa sealLegent: Bourbon

Rum Fest 2021

RumLab is a website dedicate to rum and to the people involved with it. They sponsor a travelling Rum festival stopping in San Juan, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami Beach and after a year hiatus, in New York City on August 21st.

It was a tasting that featured 100+ rums from several countries in all styles. There were also several seminars throughout the afternoon.

The event was held at the popular event space, the Metropolitan Pavilion at 125 West 18th Street in Manhattan.

Rum is made from molasses or free run sugar cane juice which is then fermented and distilled in either a column still or a pot still. Not surprisingly, production is centered in the Caribbean countries though it’s made worldwide as well. The rum comes out of the still clear and aging (or adding additives like caramel color) adds color to the rum. The various styles of rum include light rum, gold rum, dark rum, black rum and spiced rum.

Personally, I save the white rums for the pina coladas and rum and Coke while I believe that aged rum is one of the most underrated spirits in the world. It’s something you sip neat while watching the sun go down with bonus points if you are smoking a good cigar.

I particularly enjoy the Rum Agricole that are produced in the French West Indies. They generally have more character with earthy and grassy notes and a lighter texture than rums made from molasses.

Last years tour was another victim of the pandemic so a good crowd showed to the event to sample what was offered, though I did notice that there were fewer producers on hand this time around than in previous years.

Some rums I sampled:

El Dorado 15yr, 21yrClement 10yr, 15yr
Chairman’s Reserve Legacy, 1931Bounty Officer’s Release, Dark Rum
Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Ron Abuelo 7yr, 12yr
Maggie’s Farm Single BarrelRhum JM 2002, VSOP
Montanya Oro, ExclusivaBarcelo Imperial
Long Pond 15yr Single MaltClement Canne Bleue, XO
Holme’s Cay Guyana 2005, Belize 2006, Barbados 2005Plantation Jamaica, Australia, Trinidad
Don Q Anejo, XO

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Fest 2021

On July 31st and August 1st, the 11th annual Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival was held in Brooklyn at the Expo Center, a venue space located at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint.

It’s a year long traveling BBQ festival with tour dates in Virginia, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and of course, Brooklyn, New York.

It’s a big party with pitmasters cooking up their specialties with an abundance of whiskey, beer, cider and a lot of hard seltzer which seems to be the new spirit trend in the country this year.

The even was held on Saturday afternoon and evening and on Sunday afternoon. I attended the Saturday afternoon session because the afternoon sessions are usually less crowded and more manageable than the evening sessions and at that time they haven’t run out of any particular spirit.

There was an outdoor seating area with vendors, games and a DJ that quickly filled up with people relaxing with their whisky and cigars.

I did attend a seminar for Garrison Brothers whiskey from Texas. At the event there was a nice selection of American whiskey and local beers and as I mentioned, a larger than usual selection of hard seltzer.

If one thing stood out for me at the event was that I was a little disappointed in the food served compare to the last time I went to this event in January of 2020. Maybe some of the pitmasters were still jittery about traveling

Some of the Whiskey I sampled:

George Dickel: 8yr sour mash, 12yr sour mash

Four Roses: Small Batch, Single Barrell

Virginia Distilling Co.: Single Malt Whisky

Balcone’s: Texas 100°, True Blue 100°, Lineage

Evan Williams: 1783

Markers Mark: Cask Strength, 46, 101 Limited Release

Basil Hayden’s: Straight Bourbon

Knob Creek: 15yr Bourbon, Kentucky Straight Rye

Excelsior: NY Straight Rye

Coppersea: NY Straight Rye Malt Whisky

A Couple of Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer is an exotic grape varietal with an equally exotic aroma with the distinctive smells of grapefruit, lychee, peaches, and ginger rising up from the glass.

The grape makes a big presence in the Alsatian wine region of France but it’s grown throughout the wine producing world including the North Fork of Long Island wine region.

One afternoon I took a drive to the North Fork wine country and revisited a couple of the wineries where I had sampled Gewürztraminer before.

I stopped by One Women Winery, a small winery producing estate bottled wines, and Lenz Winery, one of the oldest wineries on the North Fork.

One Women Winery 5195 Old North Road, Southold

2018 Gewürztraminer

Dark gold in color with an oily nose of ripe peaches and lychee, dry with melon notes on the finish, moderate to low acids.

Lenz Winery 38355 Route 25, Peconic

2016 Gewürztraminer

Dark gold in color, closed nose of toasty ripe peaches, tight with moderate apple fruit notes and firm tannins.

Bice Cucina Restaurant Opening

Bice is a family run restaurant group that began with the first restaurant in Milan, Italy in 1926. They are now a worldwide business with restaurants in several countries.

They have a restaurant in New York City, Bice Cucina at 62 West 55th Street in midtown Manhattan. They decided to open another branch at 15 Watts Street in the trendy Soho district of lower Manhattan.

On July 7th they held a preopening party at their new Soho restaurant, Bice Cucina.

Coming off of over a year of lockdowns and restrictions, people are hungry for a good time and for the people who were lucky enough to get an invite to the opening, they were treated to a party with flowing spirits, food, and a few model types strolling around the venue.

I wish them luck at their new venue.

Bourbon, Brew & BBQ 2021

Back in June, Route 66 Smokehouse restaurant located at 46 Stone Street in the Financial District of lower Manhattan threw its annual Bourbon, Brew & BBQ event .

Not surprisingly, last years event was cancelled. Normally it was held indoors but this year they decided to hold the event outdoors on the cobblestone streets which are lined with many restaurants and taverns. It made for a festive atmosphere.

Stone Street is in an historic district just down the block from the historic Fraunces Tavern which itself is one of the oldest restaurants in New York City and the site of George Washington’s farewell address to his officers. Stone Street is also one of the oldest streets in New York and in 1658 it became the first cobbled stone street in New Amsterdam.

The event featured several whiskeys, beer, cider, small bites and games. It had a good crowd of people out to socialize and enjoy in pre pandemic conditions.

Whiskey & Barrel Nite 2021

The Covid restrictions in New York were finally lifted on June 16th which meant the return of in-person wine and spirit events.

The Whiskey & Barrel Nite tasting event was held on June 17th. It was a night to sample from a choice of dozens of worldwide whiskey though most were American Whiskey which included Rye, Bourbon and blended whiskey. The countries of Scotland, Ireland, France, Australia, Japan and India were represented as well and a handful of brandy, rum, gin and vodka were on hand for those who got tired of whiskey.

The event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion, a well known event space located at 125 West 18th Street in Manhattan.

To keep people busy while they were sipping on spirits a live Jazz Band was in hand and a buffet to feed the hungry. There was also a separate “VIP Experience” room for VIP ticket holders that poured some extra special spirits.

It was a great night to finally experience a pre pandemic event and the event space was so large that the room never became overcrowded though I have to think that the organizers might have limited thicket sales to keep the crowd down or that many people were still skittish about attending a public event. Probably a little of both.

There was an excellent selection of spirits to try, I’m not a fan of Scotch so I didn’t sample very many of those but I am a fan of Rye so I did sample quite a few of those.

I was able to sample a couple of wheated Bourbon from the cult status Weller, their Full Proof and their Special Reserve which I thought was quite smooth.

Another interesting whisky was a trio of single farm origin Irish whisky from Waterford, Dunmore, Rathclogh and Organic Gaia. They all had uncharacteristic notes of the terroir of where they were produced.

There was a nice limited release Bourbon from Booker’s, some interesting Rye’s from Dad’s Hat, the nice Private Select from Maker’s Mark, and Whistle Pig’s 18 year which were just a few of the whiskey I sampled this evening.

Finally Brunello 2021

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino is hosting Brunello week June 14-20. The theme is “Finally Brunello, The destiny of every bottle of Brunello di Montalcino is to wait for years”.

That refers to the fact that for Brunello’s according to the DOCG laws, the wines cannot be released for a minimum of 4 years for the regular bottling and 5 years for the Riserva. That means the wines from the outstanding 2016 vintage have recently been coming to the US market. And I suppose the “finally” was for the fact that they can begin having live tastings again.

For the Brunello week that means 40 restaurants and 2 clubs will be featuring special menus paired with wines from any of the 56 wineries that are participating in the Brunello week.

Prior to that week they hosted several webinars and events. On June 9th I was able to attend the Brunello Week Press Release Luncheon where we were served six wines from Montalcino paired with a three course lunch.

That lunch was held at Il Fiorista restaurant at 17 West 26th Street in Manhattan. This has to be one of the most unique restaurants in the City. Il Fiorista which means “The Florist” in English has a Florist theme with many plants and plant products that are on sale in the restaurant. They also use various locally sourced edible plants in their cooking. The lunch was excellent and went well with the wines that were served with them.

Four Rosso di Montalcino and two Brunello’s were served.

The Menu

Tagliatelli

Sun-gold tomatoes, tarragon, flowering arugula

Pork Belly

Cherry, farro, basil blosssoms

Sorbet

Blackberry, lap sang su chang (smoke-dried black tea)

The Wines

2016 Poggio Antica Brunello di Montalcino: Opaque dark red, closed nose at first then opened up with floral wood, petroleum and dark fruit notes, silky and juicy black leather fruit with bitter cherry on the finish.

2016 Cortenesi “La Mannella” Brunello di Montalcino: Opaque dark brick with floral green herbs and black leather on the nose, silky dark fruit and red licorice ending with silky tannins with excellent balance.

2019 Argiano Rosso di Montalcino: Dark purple with dusty, crushed red fruit on the nose, dusty tannins, black licorice and bitter cherry on the finish.

2019 Talenti Rosso di Montalcino: Opaque dark red, dusty crushed black fruit, green herbs on the nose, juicy red leather fruit, bitter cherry with a silky finish.

2019 Cortenesi “La Mannella” Rosso di Montalcino: Dark purple in color, tar, damp earth and floral violets on the nose with juicy red leather fruit and black licorice notes on the finish.

2019 Patrizia Cencioni Rosso di Montalcino: Clear medium red with tar and dried herbs on the nose, tight with crisp acids, a little unbalanced.

I.E.E.M. Chianti Classico Collection

On May 20 & 21st the I.E.E.M. (International Event & Exhibition Management) held another of its series of tastings where they showcase a particular wine to wine professionals and look for importers/distributor for the wines. This time around it was the Chianti Classico Collection. They were wines from the Black Rooster (gallo nero) Chianti Classico DOCG in Tuscany.

There are seven subzones in the Chianti DOCG, Colli Arentini, Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colli Pisane, Rufina, Montespertoli and Montalano. Classico was a subzone but became its own DOCG in 1996.

This was a live tasting but modified for current conditions. You sat at a table and via smartphone would order 4 wines from their 200+ bottle list on hand and a Sommelier would come over and pour the wines.

It was a vertical tasting of the 2015-2019 vintages and all of the three quality tiers were represented including Gran Selezione, Riserva and the basic Classico. The formula for Chianti has changed in recent years and they are no longer required to use a small percentage of white grapes and they can now use foreign varietals such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In general, of the five vintages I would say that the 2016’s were showing well with the strongest concentration of fruit from the vintages. The 2019’s were for the most part still young and unbalanced, these are some of my highlights.

2015 Cantina Castelvecchi “Madonnino della Pieve” Gran Selezione: Opaque dark red, pretty perfume of sweet violets, tar and dried sage, silky fruit with firm tannins on the medium to long finish.

2015 Castello di Radda “Vigna il Corno”Gran Selezione: Clear medium brick, closed nose of toasted nuts with red cherry fruit and gritty, mouth coating tannins at the end.

2015 Piemaggio “Le Fioraie”: Riserva: Clear light red, red licorice, mint and violets on the nose, earth notes on the bright fruit, firm finish.

2015 Castello di Raddo Riserva: Light brick, closed nose of cooked vegetables, juicy black licorice fruit ending with a firm and balanced long finish.

2015 Istine “Levigne” Riserva: Clear light red, closed nose of dried herbs, bright red fruit with slate and toast notes, ending with firm tannins.

2016 Agricoltori del Chianti “Contessa di Radda” Riserva: Opaque dark red with a purple rim with crushed red fruit on the nose, juicy with toasty notes on the fruit.

2016 Castello di Verrazzano Riserva: Clear dark brick in color, sweet violets and dried herbs on the nose, dusty earth on the fruit with firm tannins.

2016 Canoica a Cerreto Riserva: Clear medium red with dried leaf on the nose, tight with mouth coating tannins.

2016 Agricoltori del Chianti “Montegiachi” Riserva: Clear dark red, perfume of violets and roasted meat, concentrate dark fruit with slate notes, nice balance with dried herbs on the long finish.

2016 Castello di Radda Riserva: Clear medium red, tar, roasted nuts and camphor on the nose, juicy fruit with silky tannins, nice balance.

2017 Banfi Riserva: Opaque medium brick, pretty sweet nose, starts out with juicy fruit that drops at the end with black licorice notes.

2017 Brancaia Riserva: Clear medium red with roasted nuts on the nose, firm red fruit and a balanced finish.

2018 Badia & Coltibuono Classico: Clear light brick, pencil shavings and forest floor on the nose, delicate and light bodied.

2018 Pasolini dall’Onda “Sicelle” Classico: Clear medium red with toasted notes on the nose with silky fruit and a nice a nice balance.

2018 Castello di Radda Classico: Clear medium red, pretty nose of violets, tar, graphite with moderate to light fruit and light tannins at the end.

2019 Marchese Antinori “Peppoli” Classico: Clear light red with dried herbs on the nose, bright fruit.

2019 Felsina “Beradenga” Chianti Classico: Clear light red, bacon fat and roasted nuts on the nose, bright fruit with silky tannins.

2017 Y. Rousseau Single Vineyard Tannat

This wine is not something you see coming out of California very often, a wine from the Tannat grape varietal. The grape is native to the French Basque region in the southwest part of the country and grown in Gascony in the Madiran AOC.

It’s been grown in California for over a hundred year used primarily as a blending grape to beef up wines. It’s gotten a foot hold in Paso Robles but this version is grown in the tiny Clarksburg AVA which is West of Napa Valley and about an hours drive North of Lodi.

Yannick Rousseau, a French native born in Gascony is the owner/winemaker.

2017 Y. Rousseau Tannat, Clarksburg, California

A blend of 90% Tannat and 10% Syrah. Opaque dark purple to black with crushed blueberries, menthol and sage on the nose, juicy black fruit finishing with dark citrus notes, mouth coating tannins and moderate acidity.