Whirlwind Weekend

I could probably type up about three long articles worth of information concerning the events I participated in the this weekend, but I don't think they'd be all that interesting - mostly data about tasting notes and geeked-out explanations of what made certain spirits great.  At this point, I'm totally sapped and I just want to post a few pictures and give you a brief synopsis. Then I'm going to lay down on the couch, eat pizza, drink beer, and not move a finger until Tuesday morning when I go back to work.

On Friday, David OG, Kyle K (RWC's spirits expert-in-training), and I headed over to the Boothby Center to meet John Glaser for a whisky blending seminar, similar to the one we sponsored on Thursday night.  It was a complete blast.  John is one of those guys who knows how to make specs dynamic.  Shop talk seems like small talk when he's speaking.  It's not intimidating or scary, it's very human.

We all gathered at tables and constructed our own "Compass Box style" blend with the component whiskies that John provided.  Glaser is a very elegant, eloquent man, almost like the whisky world's version of Tim Gunn.  I kinda felt like I was on Project Runway (Project Whisky?) with Tim/John coming around to check on our progress and provide encouragement.

Our grain whisky was a 1994 Cameronbridge, I believe, and BOY did I truly resist adding anything to it!  It was so amazing on its own - rich and aromatic on the nose, but wacky and wild on the palate - much like our 1965 Caledonian we have coming soon.  Also included in the whisky kit were a 14 year old Laphroaig, some Spice Tree, and some Clynelish among others.

In the end, I opted for 50% Grain, 20% Laphroaig, 20% Spice Tree, 10% Clynelish.  John said to let it marry for a few weeks, so I'll see how it tastes then.

I'll spare you the breakdown on WhiskyFest (which was fun).  I will say, however, that the only thing there I had really yet to taste were the new 2011 BTAC whiskies and the super-hyped Samaroli single malts and rums. 

Samaroli is an Italian independent bottler who is known for great booze, but insanely high price tags.  The exorbitant cost, however, is due to their re-casking purchased barrels into new oak for further maturation.  The results are good, but not $400 good.  The rums were also quite interesting and the packaging exquisite.  Someone will buy them, but not me.

Today I met up with the usual cast of Bay Area booze characters for the Good Food Awards judging.  It felt like that scene in Rounders where Matt Damon goes into the poker game and he knows every player in the room even though it's likely been a while.  Jennifer Colliau from Slanted Door lead the way, followed by Thad, Eric, and Craig from Bar Agricole, jet-setting journalist Camper English from Alcademics.com, Martin Cate from Smuggler's Cove and many other familiar faces.  Even Carl Sutton was there to judge beer!  It was fun to reunite with these people and talk booze.

We broke off into groups to start tasting spirits by category and choose finalists which we would then taste as a panel.

I tasted the vodka category with Bourbon and Branch founder Jon Santer and Rich Brandenburg, a restauranteur who flew in from D.C.  We had a great energy going and I think we did a commendable job communicating and breaking down the winners.

Alice was in the house judging preserves.  Even Michael Pollan was there to taste beer!  I didn't speak to them, however.  What was I going to say, "Hey Mike, I like your books?"  I wasn't going to be the 50th person that day to say such a thing.  "Alice, Chez Panisse is like totally awesome!"

After a bite to eat, and a visit around the corner to a local Irish bar where Carl, Martin, Camper and I pounded some pints, we gathered at the round table to make our final decisions. I'm excited to see who will win and will post the results here later.

I'm pooped.  It's been fun liquorland, but I need some rest.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll