Whisky Live LA was held Wednesday night in Century City. For me, it was more like Whiskey Rye, as that seemed to be my theme of the evening. With nearly 200 whiskies being poured, there was a significant measure of pick and choose, at least for me. The guy who kept shoving into my back at the end of the evening at the Purple Valley Imports table seemed to have plowed through the event to get, well, plowed. He kept mumbling to Purple Valley’s infinitely patient Raj Sabharwal about needing “just a little more” of the Glenglassaugh 26 yr. old. At least that’s what I think he was mumbling as his glass kept darting past my head in the direction of the bottle. He probably should have done more picking and choosing instead of chugging and probably eventual spewing.
The Glenglassaugh was one I’d particularly looked forward to savoring, as I’ve had a couple of independent bottling of about the same age. The whisky was quite good, with the salty, malty, fruity flavor I’d expected. Like that dram, the rest of the event was also very enjoyable, as there were few people who had indulged the way I’ve seen at other whisky events I’ve attended through the years.
With an event like this, it helps to plot a path of tasting, rather than bouncing from a big peaty blast to an American new make to a Tasmanian port-tinged whisky. You don’t want to whiplash your palate too much throughout the evening. Rye was my primary route in large part due to participating in a Whisky Cast tasting panel hosted by Mark Gillespie. I was joined by Andy from the LA Scotch Club and Marty, who was perhaps from the PLOWED Society, perhaps not…such is its secret. But, Marty was obviously someone who could hold up to the PLOWED standards without getting plowed. Wow. Four uses of plowed in three paragraphs. This is turning into a farming manual. Anyway…
We sampled the Temptation, Hudson, Bulleit and the soon-to-be released Dickel ryes. I am partial to ryes to begin with so I scored a touch higher than the other two distinguished drammers, but we all agreed the Bulleit was the clear winner for boldness with the other three coming in a virtual dead heat due to their subtle profiles. The three milder ryes seemed more introductory pours for someone who does not know rye than something I’d reach for in a rye mood. That being said, the Temptation, which was the first we sampled, seemed to shapeshift by the end of the tasting after it had been sitting out for a while. I don’t know where it was going, but it was going somewhere interesting.
I dabbled in some Knob Creek and High West ryes, which were nice. High West also had an ambitious blend of rye, bourbon and peated blended Scotch they call Campfire. There weren’t many particular notes I could pick out, but the overall mouth feel and flavor was very well balanced and intriguing. Another departure from rye that I took was the Great Lakes Distillery Pumpkin Seasonal Spirit – distilled from Milwaukee’s Lakefront brewery’s pumpkin lager. A whiskey? Nah. But, darn tasty this Halloween season with notes of cloves, cinnamon and, of course, pumpkin. Personally, I would pair it with apple cider donuts. Those of you who have been to a Wisconsin apple orchard or pumpkin patch in the fall know exactly what I’m talking about.
There were several big winners on the night for me, including the Elijah Craig 20 poured for me by Heaven Hill’s Andie Brokaw and Whiskey Professor Bernie Lubbers. You just can’t go wrong with that single barrel bourbon. I asked Bernie if there were any particular constants the powers that be look for in the Heaven Hill single barrel bottlings. After a moment of consideration he said, “Great whiskey!” The professor is always right, kids. Other whiskies that had me excited were the Breckenridge Distillery’s bourbon, which was lovely, and the Bulleit Rye. OK, I had it twice. I had to have a sip when chatting with Hollis Bulleit, being polite and all. But, as anyone who knows me knows, I’ve long-been a fan of Bulleit’s products, whether they’re made in Kentucky or Indiana.
For the most part, I didn’t partake of many Scotches, aside from two big bang, slam dunk, holy moly, yowzers drams poured surreptitiously by my fellow Whisky Cast panelists. I won’t go into details except to say both Scotches were older than the last girl I dated, much more complex and endlessly more enjoyable. If these two Scotches were combined into one lass she’d be called Ellen G. Nach. Whisky geeks can figure them out from there.
I didn’t sample too many whiskies at the event, but there were none that really missed. Sullivan’s Cove Tasmanian whisky, aged in a port cask, was raved about by the ambassadors who noted the praise it has recently received. I didn’t mind it, but can’t say I really had the chance to savor it. I believe it’s the type of dram that needs more thought and time than a quick sip while being jostled at a whisky event. I hope to try it again.
I suppose the biggest miss of the evening came not from a whisky, but from me when I chatted with the ambassador of Canadian whisky which I will not name. Boy, I pissed her off. I mentioned that I had given up on Canadian whiskies years ago when I struggled to find Canadian whiskies that I enjoyed. I asked what she could do to change my mind. I was honestly talking about the whiskies she had to offer. Maybe she thought I was talking about her short dress, but she quickly turned as cold as a January night in northern Alberta after I said that. Then again, it was the last pour of the evening, and I would imagine five hours of having increasingly inebriated men gawk at you would cut one’s patience short.
In fact, I’d say the biggest winners at these events are the people behind the tables. They have to stay kind and focused while having people pressing for bigger pours, challenging them about ridiculously obscure distillery information, cozying up to them like they’re an old friend, and taking a second and third glance because of the alluring outfits they’re wearing. I seriously don’t know how these pourers put up with me. I mean, with other people.