When I tallied up the whiskies I tried at the tasting last weekend, I expected 20, maybe 25.
I hit 39.
The Galena Whiskey Weekend was a blast. As soon as I’d heard the guys behind Blaum Bros Distilling were putting it together, I grabbed two tickets for access to the 15-year-old Pappy Van Winkle for a friend and I. It made a good excuse to revisit Galena and see a little more of the historic town, as well as a good time to get away for a weekend with the wife and some friends. The ladies were able to attend the tasting with designated driver tickets.
The doors opened early for the Pappy tasting, so we knocked that out pretty quick and got the lay of the land. There were almost 30 tables laden with some variety of whiskey, but I spotted a tequila and a couple rums hidden here and there. We were able to chat with vendors about their offerings for a bit before the bottles were opened up for tasting.
The Blaum Bros had a table set up, of course, but I was happy to see one of my go-to labels, Four Roses, had one as well.
I generally have one of the Four Roses selections on hand at any given time, but I circled back to their table near the end of the event to try the hot apple cider they’d mixed with one of their bourbons. That’s when I bumped into an older douch—er, gentleman—in a blue blazer and bowtie who chatted me up and called their yellow label “piss.”
I’ll admit it’s better for cocktails and mixing than drinking straight, but piss? Come on. I pointed him to the Four Roses Small Batch, told him it runs a little sweeter and is much better. He tried it, talked about notes of fruit and vanilla, called it “pretty good” and generally made nice. So hey, I didn’t have to punch him.
Another fun part of the show was spotting the spendy bottles. The program book listed the retail and event prices of everything in the room. While the Pappy bourbons were the stars of the show, we enjoyed hunting down expensive bottles we’d probably never taste otherwise.
The Woodford Reserve hid at the Jack Daniel’s table, and they had both the Double Oaked (a favorite of mine) and the Cherry Wood Smoked Barley for tasting. The Cherry Wood runs about $100 a bottle, so yeah, not something I’ll be owning anytime soon. It was quite good.
In contrast, we also tried a sample from a $150 bottle of Midleton Irish whiskey. Meh. The bottle sitting right next to it, The Green Spot, clocked in at less than half the price and had a lot more flavor and character.
Lesson learned: try before you buy.
Another lesson learned: Scotch just isn’t for me. I kinda liked the Monkey Shoulder I’d had in the past, and I remember liking an aged Glenlivet. The peat smoke that permeates most Scotches just isn’t for me, though. I even tried High West’s Campfire, a blend of bourbon, rye, and Scotch, but the peat overpowered it all.
One of the highlights of the show, however, was High West’s A Midwinter Night’s Dram, a rye finished in port barrels. Oh my. Right up there with it? Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye, which is straight-up mixed with port. Fantastic.
I stopped by the Window Jane table, too. The woman behind the table assured me the applewood aging for one of their whiskeys really did make a difference, and she wasn’t wrong. Gave it a nice flavor profile.
The same vendor was hawking Brenne, a single malt out of France. I don’t usually think of France when I think of whiskey, so I gave it a shot. It has enough of a fruit taste that I wonder if it might be a whiskey even my wife could enjoy.
All in all, a great event I would definitely do again. There were a few bourbons I’m glad I hadn’t purchased in the past, and a few more that I wouldn’t turn down but probably wouldn’t go out of the way to pick up. The ryes really impressed, though, and my friend left with a bottle of A Midwinter Night’s Dram and confidence that he’s a rye guy.
I brought home a bottle of rye, too.
The Blaum Bros home-grown bourbon isn’t ready yet, but I like their Knotter Bourbon and Knotter Rye so I was looking forward to trying their new Fever River Rye release. I had a sample at the table and liked it well enough that we hit the distillery afterward for a bottle.
My next step will be to dump all my notes into Evernote so I remember what else I liked and didn’t like. After all, things tended to get a bit fuzzy after that 39th sip.