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.
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 (Glendalough13yr 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.