I am very excited to be attending my first WhiskyFest Chicago this coming weekend, April 10th. Over 350 whiskeys, nine seminars, a chance to talk with the distillers and blenders who make your favorite whiskeys, and only four hours to do it all. With those kinds of opportunities and that little time I am going to need a plan. After all, I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of my first whiskey festival. Here is my list of whiskeys not to miss trying. I have only included things that will be available for the whole night, not just VIP hour.
These kinds of festivals, with an amazing selection scotch and Japanese whisky, not to mention a spattering of harder to find Canadian, rum, and even beer, are a great opportunity for a bourbon lover to expand their horizons, and this list reflects my goal to do just that.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: This is the only bourbon on my list for the year, not because it is the only bourbon worth tasting, far from it, but because it is a harder to find a release that I have not had the opportunity to try yet. I love barrel proof bourbons and Elijah Craig hasn’t let me down yet.
Forty Creek Barrel: Canadian Whisky has a pretty poor reputation but from what I hear not all of them deserve to be lumped in with Canadian Mists of the world. Forty Creek won the Whisky Advocate’s Canadian Whisky of the year for their Confederation Oak and from what I have read they are putting out some good stuff. I look forward to trying a small batch whisky from north of the border.
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout: I love a good barrel-aged beer and Goose Island’s Bourbon County line is one of the best. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a bottle this year before they sold out so you know I will make sure to stop by this table. And a beer halfway through the night should help me keep my stamina going right?
High West Campfire: This is one isn’t too hard to find, and it is a whiskey that I have had before. But to my knowledge, it is the only bourbon, rye, scotch blend on the market and it is my fiancée’s favorite so I had to give it a mention. If you aren’t sure about this combination, a whiskey festival is a perfect place to try before you buy. And if you can’t decide between the sweetness of bourbon, spiciness of rye or the smokiness of scotch Campfire proves you don’t have to choose.
Rum Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva: I have heard from rum lovers that a well-aged rum can rival whiskeys for sip-ability. This 2000 single vintage rum has fantastic reviews online and promises to make me a believer. We shall see. I look forward to being convinced.
Hakushu: You can’t avoid the excitement of whisky lovers about the increasing availability of Japanese whiskys in the United States. Hakushu is owned by Suntory and continually ranks highly. I look forward to trying this well-balanced expression of Japanese whisky making. The 12 and 18 year will both be available for tasting.
Yamazaki: This is the oldest and best-known distillery in Japan, and is Suntory’s flagship brand. The Whisky Bible named their 2013 Single Malt Sherry Cask the world’s best whisky, and while I won’t be able to try that one, I look forward to tasting both the 12 and 18-year-old at this festival.
Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt: Taketsuru Pure Malt is a blend of the two malt whisky distilleries Taketsuru built, Yoichi and Miyagikyo and is named in his honor. There is no age statement but that hasn’t put off the reviewers. Make sure not to miss trying this Japanese blend that is making waves in America.
Glenfiddich 18: The Glenfiddich 18 is consistently near the top of the list of best scotch. This Speyside scotch is produced in pot stills and aged in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Of all scotch available to try, this one seems to set the standard, and I believe that I need to have greater familiarity with Glenfiddich in order to understand more about scotch. And if I get a chance to try the 21 year, 1963 replica during VIP hour, I won’t say no.
Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength: The last on my list of must-try whisky is a cask strength scotch. I’ve never had one of these before. It is also a Speyside scotch and I can’t wait to see how it compares to the Glenfiddich. I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed.
Of course this isn’t a complete list of what I will be trying on Friday but hopefully, this bit of planning will mean that I am coming away from WhiskyFest Chicago with a greater knowledge of whiskey to go with my hangover. If you haven’t got tickets they are unfortunately sold out but Longman & Eagle are doing a Hide & Seek Dinner for whiskey week on Friday that sounds well worth the ticket price and features (among many others) one scotch I know I love that isn’t going to be at WhiskyFest: Syndicate 58/6. And of course, WhiskyFest San Francisco and New York are still coming up later this year.