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  

 

 

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

 

 

Craft Distillers Festival

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This past Saturday I attended the annual New York City Craft Distillers Festival. A pre-prohibition themed event of over 60 craft spirits with a live jazz style band.

A century ago New York States breweries and distilleries produced oceans of spirits made from local ingredients. The Volstead Act changed all that and Prohibition shut down most of those distilleries and breweries. The industry began to recover in the early 21st Century when the State laws regulating distilling were loosen which resulted in the explosion of local micro-distilleries and breweries. There are about 30 craft distillers and counting in New York State with some in Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx.

The event was held at the hip Bowery Hotel at 335 Bowery in Manhattan,  a castle-like venue. There were plenty of local whiskeys, gins, vodkas, tequilas, fruit-based eau di vie and even some absinthe.

With live music and people enjoying unlimited spirits, it was a party.

Some of the Distillers I sampled from:

Orange County Distillery

Cooperstown Distillery

Catskill Distilling Co.

Standard Spirit

Tres Papalote Mezcal

Black Button Distillery

Hillrock Distillery

Valentine Distilling Co.

Widow Jane

Tirado Distillery

 

 

Craft Spirits & A Wine Zoo

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Last Saturday I attended a couple of spirit oriented events in Manhattan, Wine Riot and the New York City Craft Distillers Festival.

I began the afternoon at Wine Riot which was held at the Lexington Avenue Armory on 68 Lexington Avenue. Wine Riot is a bi-annual, multi city event hosted by Second Glass and they promote it as “the most innovated wine event in the world to educate about wine in a fun way”. Ok. Aimed at newbie wine drinkers, it was more of a wine party than a serious wine tasting, not that anything’s wrong with that. About 250 wines served at booths with different themes and countries as well as interactive booths with “crash courses” in wine 101. As it was a consumer event, many of the wines were of mid-level quality served in a plastic wine glass. I did enjoy the Bubble Lounge with various sparkling wine served from driest to the least dry and I did have an outstanding grilled cheese and bacon sandwich. The event soon became extremely crowded with some booths four deep with people trying to get a splash of wine, it was time for me to leave.

Later that evening I made my way down to the Bowery Hotel at 335 Bowery for the New York City Craft Distillers Festival. This event showcased over 60 craft spirit distillers, many from New York State including New York City which is going through a booze Renaissance with new distilleries being opened. The theme of the night was Prohibition-era speakeasy with a couple of 1920’style jazz bands and a “fan” lady entertaining the crowd.

Some of the local spirits I sampled:

1911 Spirits Co. Vodka and Gin (Upstate NY)

Cooperstown Distillery Gin, Vodka, Whiskey and Bourbon (Upstate NY)

Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur (Brooklyn)

Astoria Distilling Co. Queens Courage NY Old Tom Gin (Upstate NY)

Tirado Distillery Moonshine, Double Gold Whiskey (Bronx)

Industry City Distillery Industry City Vodka, Technical Reserve Vodka 193°! (Brooklyn)

Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine (Upstate NY)

Hudson Bourbon Whiskey (New York)

Window Jane Bourbon (Brooklyn)

Manhattan Moonshine Prohibition-Style Whiskey (New York)

Long Island Spirits Sag Harbor Rum (Long Island)