NYC Autumn Whisky Fest 2019

 

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On November 16th I attended the New York Whisky Festival. This was one of the many spirit-centric festivals that are taking place around the New York area at this time of year.

The festival was held at The Tunnel at 269 11th Avenue on the West side of Manhattan. It’s a former indoor rail terminal that has been used as a nightclub, event venue and commercial space.

There are many such festivals held around this time of year and like most things some are better than others. Some of the festivals are geared toward the experienced drinker who are looking to experience some high end and esoteric spirits while other festivals are geared more to the novice drinkers that are looking for more of a party with some spirits thrown in. The latter tend to showcase 2nd tier or unknown labels for the spirits. This festival was more of the latter than the former. In my opinion, the most interesting whisky at the event were the single malt French whisky from Rozelieures, while solid stalwarts such as Taconic Distillery, Koval and Slaughter House were on hand to pour some quality spirits. I attended the afternoon session and the crowd on hand were enjoying themselves.

Some of what I sampled:

 

Rozelieures  Single Malt French Whiskey Springbrook Rye, Bourbon
Slaughter House, Straight Edge, Whipsaw Catoctin Creek Bourbon, Roundstone Rye
Glen Grant Single Malt Scotch 12yr, 15yr, 18yr Taconic Distillery Founders Rye, Cask Strength Rye, Barrel Strength Bourbon 
Koval  Oat, Millet, Bourbon, Single Barrel Duke Bourbon, Founders Reserve
Uncle Nearest 1856, 1884 Whisky Coppersea Rye, Straight Whisky
J. Riddle Peated Bourbon American Craft Distillers 1420 Bourbon
Town Branch Single Malt Whisky, Bourbon Black Button Distillery Bourbon
Catcher’s Rye Misunderstood Ginger Spiced Whisky

 

 

New York Irish Whiskey Festival

 

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On November 2nd I attended the first annual New York Irish Whiskey Festival. It’s America’s first Irish Whiskey Festival and promised 25+ brands to try plus live music and “Irish Grub”.

It’s was hosted by the team behind The Dead Rabbit which has been named the best bar in the world. They decided that Irish Whiskey should have its own festival to showcase what Irish Whiskey can be.

The history of Irish Whiskey sales have gone up and down and back up again. Before Prohibition it had been the largest selling type of whiskey in the U.S. which was its largest market but politics in Europe and the enactment of the Volstead Act caused the Irish Whiskey industry to fall off a cliff. It has seen a resurgence in popularity going from US sales of $74 million in 2003 to $1billion in 2018.

The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 states that Irish Whiskey must be triple distilled and aged exclusively on the island of Ireland at no higher than a ABV of 94.8% and must be aged a minimum of three years in wood. They are generally unpeated. The four types of whiskey are single malted, single pot still, single grain and blended whiskey.

I was looking forward to attending this tasting because most of my experience with Irish Whiskey has been with the Jameson and Bushmills that are available at every bar in town and I wanted to try new brands and whiskey styles.

There are no rules for what type of wood the whiskey is permitted to be aged in so to be globally competitive, the Irish Whiskey industry has been experimenting with aging in different types of barrels and wood. That includes casks that were used for Madeira, Sherry, Bourbon and Rum to name a few and types of oak such as American, French, Slovenian, Irish and even Japanese oak (Glendalough 13yr single malt). Many are aged in one type of barrel and finished in others. This in addition to the pot still whiskeys which are uniquely Irish.  

Many of the producers on hand make several whiskey, from a basic blend to the aged single malts to whiskeys aged in the different casks. I found most of those in the middle categories as the most interesting. In general many of the whiskey I sampled were very smooth with a lot of nuances going on in the glass, in other words, good sipping whiskey.

The event was held at Pier A Harbor House at 22 Battery Place in lower Manhattan. It’s a restaurant and event space inspired by the old oyster houses of New York with an expansive view of New York harbor.

 

Brands that I sampled:

Proper Twelve Egan’s
Lambray Glendalough
Tullamore Dew Pearse
Teeling Samual Gelstone’s
The Dead Rabbit Knappogue Castle
Sexton Bushmills
Roe & Co West Cork
Clonakilty The Pogues
Kinahan’s  

 

 

Rum Fest New York 2019

 

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Rum is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane juice or its byproduct molasses. Generally, there are three styles of rum based on nationality. Spanish style rums tend to be lighter, English style rums darker and richer and French style rums which are a controlled product governed by an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlle) and uses only free run sugar cane juice.

Rum Lab is a website that caters to all things, rum with rum themed articles, and interviews with people in the rum business. Their motto is “teaching the secrets and history of rum”.

They also host rum festivals in Miami, San Francisco, Chicago and Puerto Rico. On Saturday June 15th, they hosted the New York City rum fest which was part of rum week in the city.

The event which was held at Metropolitan West, an event space at 639 West 46th Street on the west side of Manhattan.

There was an extensive selection of rums from around the world with an diverse collection of white, aged, flavored rums and rum cocktails. Many of the Caribbean and South American countries were represented but there were rums from countries that are not usually associated with rum production such as the U.S., Sweden and Java.

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Some of what I sampled:

English Harbour (Antigua): 5yr, 10yr

The Real McCoy (Barbados): 3yr, 5yr, 12yr

Mount Gay (Barbados): Black Barrel, XO

Four Square (Barbados): Empery, 2007

Montaya (Colorado): Exclusiva, Aniversaria

Dictador (Columbia): 12yr, 20yr, XO, Perpetual

Centenario (Costa Rica): 12yr, 18yr, 20yr

Karukera (Guadeloupe): Gold, Rhum Vieux Agricole, Rhum Blanc Agricole

Smith & Cross (Jamaica): Traditional Rum

The Funk (Jamaica): Heavy Pot Still Rum

Wray & Nephew (Jamaica): White Overproof Rum

Worthy Park (Jamaica): Single Estate Reserve

Rhum J.M. (Martinique): V.O., V.S.O.P.

Maggie’s Farm (Pittsburgh): Queen’s Share

Don Q (Puerto Rico): Vermouth Cask Finished, Single Barrell 2007

Havana Club (Puerto Rico): Anejo

Admiral Rodney (Saint Lucia): Princessa, Royal Oak, Formidable

Kronan (Sweden): Swedish Punsch

The Scarlet Ibis (Trinidad)

Plantation Rum: Guyana 1998, Trinidad 2009

Diplomatico (Venezuela): Single Vintage 2002, Ambassador

Santa Teresa (Venezuela): 1769 Solera Rum

Pusser’s Rum: Original Admiralty Rum

 

 

 

Bourbon at Belmont

 

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On Saturday May 4th I attended the Bourbon at Belmont whiskey festival.

The event was held at Belmont Park which is located at 2150 Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont, just over the New York City border in Nassau County. Belmont Park is one of the remaining thoroughbred horse racing facilities in the New York City area that at one time had several. The raceway was opened in 1905 and hosts the Belmont Stakes which is the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown. The first leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby was held on this Saturday.

The festival was held in the Grand Stand overlooking the racetrack and featured over 30 whiskey.  Though advertised as a Bourbon event, it was an all-American (with one outlier, a Mexican distiller) whiskey event that featured many Rye and whiskey blends as well as Bourbon whiskey. In addition to whiskey, Bourbon barrel aged craft beer was served.

It was a “live” racing day with horseracing throughout the afternoon and a live simulcast of the Kentucky Derby later that afternoon. Of course while sipping on whiskey, you had the option to place a bet on any of the races.

There was a good selection of high end whiskey with a couple of new producers that I had never tried before.

Some of what I sampled:

 

Clyde May’s: Straight Rye, Straight Bourbon

Elijah Craig: Small Batch Bourbon

Finger Lakes Distilling: McKenzie Bourbon, McKenzie Bottled in Bond, McKenzie Wheated Bourbon

Hudson Whiskey: Baby Bourbon, Manhattan Rye, Maple Cask Rye

Hillrock Estate Distilling: Estate Single Malt, Solera Aged Bourbon

High West Distilling: American Prairie Bourbon, Double Rye, Campfire

Jefferson’s: Ocean Aged, Very Small Batch, Very Old Small Batch

Kings County Distilling: Straight Bourbon, Bottled in Bond

Larceny: Very Special Small Batch Bourbon

Montauk Hard Label: Original Whiskey

Russel’s Reserve: 10yr Straight Bourbon, Single Barrel Bourbon

Splinter Spirits: Slaughter House American Whiskey

Sierra Note Mexican Whiskey: Yellow, Black

Taconic Distilling: Dutchess Private Reserve, Barrel Strength Bourbon

Widow Jane Distilling: 10yr Bourbon, American Oak and Applewood Aged Rye

Whistle Pig Distilling: 10yr Straight Rye, 12yr Old World Cask Finish

Wild Turkey: Longbranch

 

 

Brooklyn Whiskey Fest Spring Edition 2019

 

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On Saturday March 30th I attended the Brooklyn Whiskey Festival which was held at an event space at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at 141 Flushing Avenue.

This was my first event at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an historical industrial zone that has been transformed into an industrial park with many commercial business that include a movie studio and a distillery.

The festival had an afternoon session and an evening session of which I attended. They served 100+ spirits, with a very nice selection of brown spirits such as Bourbon, Rye, American Whisky, Scotch and Irish whiskeys with some gin and vodka thrown in. Some of the usual big name and artisanal brands were in attendance pouring but I was also able to try some new brands as well. I enjoy a good Rye so I focused my attention on available Rye whiskey for the most part but sampled others as well.

Food vendors were on hand and a DJ provided the musical entertainment.

Some of what I sampled:

 

Black Button Distillery: Straight Bourbon, Citrus Forward Gin.

Brockmans: Gin.

Catoctin Creek: Single Barrel Rye.

Evan Williams: Single Barrel Vintage, 1783.

Endless West: Glyph Molecular Whiskey.

Four Roses: Small Batch Bourbon, Single Barrel Bourbon.

Glen Moray: Speyside Malt Scotch.

Hepple: Gin.

James F.C. Hyde: Sorgho Whiskey.

J.J. Corry: Irish Whiskey.

Pikesville: Straight Rye.

Red Saw: Rye, Bourbon.

Rittenhouse: Straight Rye.

Sagamore Spirit Distillery: Signature Rye, Double Oak Rye, Port Finish Rye.

Tommy Rotter Distillery: American Whisky, Gin.

Taconic Distillery: Founder’s Rye, Dutchess Private Reserve, Double Barrel Bourbon.

The Dubliner Irish Whiskey: Bourbon Cask Aged, Signature Reserve.

The Ambassador: Barrel Proof 12 year Rye.

The Senator: Barrel Proof 6 year Rye.

The Splinter Group: Whip Saw Rye, Straight Edge Bourbon, Slaughter House American Whisky.

Westland Single Malt Whiskey: American Oak, Sherry Wood, Peated Malt.

 

Brooklyn Whiskey Fest

 

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On Saturday evening, December 1st I attended the Brooklyn Whiskey Festival. The event featured over 100 styles of whiskey and craft spirits that included All-American Ryes and Bourbon and locally produced whiskey from New York State in addition to Japanese Whiskey, Irish Whisky, Scotch Whisky, Tequila, Gin and Vodka. There were also some specialty spirits that were flavored with ginger, lemon and in one case, root beer.

There were many spirits both brown and clear from New York State and New York City because of the explosion of new distilleries to open in both the state and city. That’s because in the early part of the 21st century the state of New York loosened the post Prohibition rules which made it difficult to open a new distillery. The distilleries are able to take advantage of the agricultural bounty of the state to use those local products to make the various craft spirits.

There were plenty of big name labels at the event as well as small, artisanal producers pouring. To focus my efforts I avoided clear spirits and concentrated on the whiskeys, stopping for an occasional Negroni for a change of pace.

The Festival was held at the Brooklyn Expo Center located at 72 Noble Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Lately, this venue has become increasingly popular for wine and spirit events.  

Some of what I sampled:

 

American Whiskey

Bulleit: 95 rye, bourbon

Bernheim: small batch wheat whiskey

Catoctin Creek: organic rye

Copper & Kings: reserve cask brandy, bourbon

Elijah Craig: small batch bourbon

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel: select, rye, barrel proof

Journey Man Bourbon

Jefferson’s: very small batch, ocean

Michter’s: straight rye, sour mash, American whiskey

Misunderstood: ginger spiced whiskey

Old Forester: old fine whiskey, original batch

Pine Barrens Single malt

Rough Rider: the big stick rye, bullmoose rye, straight bourbon

Rocktown Bourbon

Ragtime Rye

Taconic Distillery: straight bourbon, founders rye

Van Brunt Stillhouse: rye, bourbon

 

Others

IWAI: Japanese Mars Whisky

J. J. Corry Irish Whisky

Sexton Irish Whisky: single malt

Root Out: root beer whiskey

The Real McCoy Rum: 3yr, 5yr, 12yr

The Funk: Jamaican Pot Still Rum

Chief Gowanus Gin

 

 

Rum Fest New York 2018

 

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On September 29th, the Rum Lab.com held their 2nd annual rum festival in New York City. They have produced similar festivals in Puerto Rico, California, the Midwest and Seattle. The Rum Lab is “focused on becoming the official rum expo throughout the northern east coast.”

Rum is made around the world but most associated with the Caribbean. Generally, there are three principle styles of rum in the Caribbean that reflect the terroir, climate and who colonized the country. There is the Spanish style ron which is molasses based and are generally lighter in body, the English style rum which are also molasses based and tend to be bolder, and the French style rhum agricole which are based on sugar cane juice and have many of the place of origin rules that wine have, they tend to taste of herbs and the earth.

The event was held at Sounds of Brazil, a music venue located at 204 Varick Street in lower Manhattan. There were a good selection of rum from around the world and since I enjoy aged rum, I began the tasting by trying whatever was the oldest rum at the table.

Some of what I sampled:

Montanya (Colorado): Oro, Exclusiva, Anniversaria.

Owney’s (New York City) Distiller’s Reserve, Superior Quality.

English Harbor Reserve (Antigua): 5yr, 10yr, port cask finish, sherry cask finish.

Chairmans’ Reserve (St. Lucia): The forgotten cask, 1931.

Ron Barcelo (Dominican Republic): 30yr Anniversary Reserve, Imperial.

J Bally (Martinique): 2002.

Clairin (Haiti): Sajous, Vaval, Casimir.

Diplomatico  (Venezuela): Single vineyard 2002, Ambassador.

Plantation Rum (Barbados): XO 20th Anniversary.

Clement Rhum (Martinique) VSOP, XO.

Flor de Cana (Nicaragua): 18yr, 25yr.

Rhum JM (Martinique): 1999 Reserve.

Denizen (Jamaica): 3yr, 8yr.

Barcardi (Puerto Rico): Limitada.

Boukman (Haiti): Botanical Rhum.