WhiskyFest San Francisco Brought Amazing Drams

WhiskyFest’s fall season kicked off in San Francisco on November 2nd with a night of exciting conversations, fascinating seminars, and hundreds of amazing whiskies from the farthest reaches of the globe to the city’s own backyard.

Of course, Pappy Van Winkle was on hand. (Photo by Peter Wagner)

WhiskyFest offered hundreds of options for eager whisky lovers. (Photo by Peter Wagner)

The crowd at San Francisco’s Marriott Marquis was greeted by hundreds of whiskies from Scotland and Kentucky to Tennessee, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and beyond. Among many rare pours, whisky lovers were treated to Pappy Van Winkle, the 2018 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare, Four Roses 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch, Macallan Edition No. 4, and Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival.

Those looking for something completely new found many whiskies not yet available in U.S. stores: Old Pulteney 15 year old, 18 year old, and Huddart, the Soleo Collection from The Glenrothes, Highland Park Valknut, the new Port Charlotte lineup from Bruichladdich Distillery, and The Story of the Spaniard, a new addition to the Compass Box portfolio.

First-time attendee Joe McCormick of Michigan traveled to San Francisco WhiskyFest to join his son in celebration of his 27th birthday, and taste dozens of whiskies they’d only heard about. “This event is very social and best when shared with people you really care about,” he says. “Having said that, we met some of the nicest, friendliest people who were very experienced and more than willing to share great stories and tips about the whiskies of the world.” McCormick says he was impressed with the camaraderie, the food, the display, and of course the whiskies. “In one night, I was able to taste and enjoy so many great whiskies that I had only heard about and never had experienced.”

Whiskies from around the world, including Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Japan, and of course, the United States, were offered at WhiskyFest. (Photo by Peter Wagner)

Among the many distillers and industry experts in attendance was Allison Parc, founder of Brenne single malt, pouring tastes of her French whisky. “WhiskyFest San Francisco was a valuable experience for me to connect in person with those who are new to Brenne, or have tried it in the past and come back to share their stories of how the whisky has been integrated into their lives,” says Parc. “[I also got to] engage with those who follow our brand regularly on social media yet may not have had a personal connection until that night. I love WhiskyFest because it’s all about great whiskies and wonderful people.”

Local distillers showed up in force demonstrating how California’s prowess extends beyond winemaking: Graton Distilling Co. offered its specially blended Redwood Empire American whiskey, while Charbay Distillery highlighted a host of its whiskeys distilled from beer, and Hotaling & Co. showcased its Old Potrero and J.H. Cutter whiskeys. Sonoma Distilling Company poured its ryes and bourbons, including Black Truffle rye. “People researched the whiskey we were pouring and sought it out by name—like Black Truffle rye,” says founder and head distiller Adam Spiegel. “In a sea of big whiskey, WhiskyFest allows a local producer to be present, and because we were commingled, we were able to be tasted side-by-side with everyone else.”

WhiskyFest attendees enjoyed Knob Creek straight from the barrel. (Photo by Peter Wagner)

The evening’s free seminars gave attendees sips of once-in-a-lifetime whiskies that are not available for purchase, such as a rare 1970s Oban 12 year old, the component whiskeys used in the blend for Little Book Chapter Two “Noe Simple Task,” and a prototype “molecular spirit” from Endless West, which also poured Glyph 85, made using cutting-edge laboratory techniques.

WhiskyFest New York is coming up next, taking place on December 4th at the Marriott Marquis. WhiskyFest’s 2019 event schedule has been set: WhiskyFest Chicago will take place on March 29th, 2019, with WhiskyFest Washington, D.C. following up on April 10th. In the fall, WhiskyFest San Francisco is set for October 4th, and WhiskyFest New York returns on December 3rd. Tickets for all the 2019 events are on sale now!

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