If you’re scratching your head wondering why you’ve never heard of the New Orleans Bourbon Festival before, don’t worry, you’re not alone because 2017 is the inaugural year. If you’re wondering how good it could be for its initial year, again, don’t worry, it is going to be fantastic. By the time it is over, I believe you’ll be convinced this is a long-established event. So, block off Friday, March 24th through Sunday, March 26th on your calendar now, because you don’t want to miss this.
WHY SHOULD YOU GO?
The New Orleans Bourbon Festival provides an incredible opportunity for visitors to experience amazing whiskeys and local cuisine, plus an opportunity to meet some of the biggest names in the Bourbon world, including master distillers, brand ambassadors, authors, and bloggers. There will be Bourbon judging, seminars, and to cap it off, the Awards Ceremony. Oh, yeah, did I mention there’s Bourbon?
HOW DO I ATTEND?
The first thing you’ll need is a ticket. Depending on what activities interest you, tickets run between $59 and $490.
- Food Only tickets for either Friday or Saturday run $59.00.
- Grand Tasting tickets for either Friday or Saturday run $130.00. The Grand Tasting gets you samples of Bourbon and some of the best food New Orleans has to offer in a 1920s speakeasy scene.
- Connoisseur tickets for either Friday or Saturday run $230.00. You get everything in the Grand Tasting plus access to the entire Seminar Series.
- VIP tickets run $350.00 and include early admission to both Grand Tastings, the entire Seminar Series, and an invitation to the Bourbon Awards Brunch on Sunday where the Bourbon Drinkers Awards will be presented.
- Ultimate VIP Judge tickets run $490.00. This gets you the whole shebang. Not only do you get everything in the VIP package, but you’re also one of only 40 folks to judge the Bourbon Drinkers Awards.
Tickets are available from the EventBrite website. The Festival takes place across two locations: The Sugar Mill Plantation in the historic Warehouse District is where the main event, including the tastings, will take place. The New Orleans Marriott Convention Center will house the Seminar Series, judging event, and the Bourbon Awards Brunch.
THE BOURBON… TELL ME ABOUT THE BOURBON!
What would a Bourbon Festival be without Bourbon?
If you’re wondering what’s available to sample and enjoy, while certainly not a comprehensive list, some of the featured Bourbons and Ryes are:
- Blade & Bow
- IW Harper
- Virgil Kaine
- Buffalo Trace
- Coopers Craft
- Eagle Rare
- Old Forester
- Russell’s Reserve
- Wild Turkey
- Woodford Reserve
- Elijah Craig
- Evan Williams
- Henry McKenna
The list keeps growing, and some you’ll learn about at the Festival itself.
I NEED TO EAT WHILE I DRINK. YOU SAID THERE’S FOOD, DIDN’T YOU?
Absolutely (and, hence, a food-only option). Some of the restaurants taking part include The Foundation Room at the House of Blues, The Bourbon House, Salon by Sucre, Morton’s Steakhouse, Primitivo, and Kenton’s just to name a few.
WHAT’S THE SEMINAR SERIES ALL ABOUT?
Aside from eating great food and sipping that liquid sunshine, there’s learning to be done!
You’re going to want to sit down and visit with two huge Bourbon Legends: Fred Booker Noe III of Jim Beam and Jimmy Russell of Wild Turkey. They’re putting together an open-format discussion on what’s going on in the Bourbon industry. In reality, the list of seminars could end right then and there, and I’d be a happy camper.
The Whiskey Professor, Bernie Lubbers, will present a hands-on history of Bourbon through Bluegrass music and actual tastings of whiskeys from the 1700s, 1800s and today. Personally, I think this is a fascinating idea, and it sounds like a blast.
Be sure to catch the Why Does Bourbon Taste So Awesome? A Close Look into Yeast and Other Determinants of Flavor Development seminar. The name should give it away, but this is an excellent opportunity to learn the science behind the Bourbon, taught by none other than Dr. Pat Heist, the co-founder, and co-owner of Wilderness Trail Distillery and Ferm Solutions.
Bourbon Historian and author Michael Veach will share with you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, Bourbon’s New Orleans Connection, and the Bourbon’s Six Sources of Flavor. As a huge fan of Bonded whiskeys, I’d love to know the some of the better details you just can’t pick up off the Internet alone.
The fastest growing demographic in Bourbon is women, and the New Orleans Bourbon Festival celebrates that with a Women in Bourbon panel discussion, featuring writer Carla Carlton (aka “The Bourbon Babe”), award-winning author Susan Reigler, and Master Taster/Author/Brand Strategist Peggy Noe Stevens.
And that’s just the beginning. There are several other seminars featuring author Chuck Cowdery, Beam-Suntory National American Whiskey Ambassador Adam Harris, writer and cigar aficionado Maggie Kimberl, Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Mixologist Joy Perrine, Whiskey Chicks founder Linda Ruffenach, Jefferson’s Bourbon founder Trey Zoeller and the folks from Mint Julep Tours.
Experience, of course, will be the final judge as to whether or not the New Orleans Bourbon Festival is a success. But, just looking at everything mentioned above, I don’t know how it would possibly be anything but. Buy your tickets, make a hotel reservation, get your flight booked… but don’t miss out! Cheers!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the New Orleans Bourbon Festival.