I've come to a realization lately that I am one of the (un?)lucky people of the world who is an alcohol equal opportunist. You name it, I like it...well, with the exception of Stoli Razz (hi, junior year. WOOF.). That said, I hold a special place in my heart for champagne, and, less typical for a girl, for whiskey.
Maybe it goes back to my younger years, when my dad would make Manhattans after work and let me eat the bourbon-soaked cherries after he finished. Maybe it's the complexity and depth of a truly good whiskey. Maybe I'm just a masochist and enjoy the burn. But whether it's in a craft cocktail or on the rocks, I've really come to enjoy whiskey in most of its forms.
Like I mentioned, I think I got it from my Papa Bear, so when his birthday rolled around last October and I found myself looking for the perfect gift, something whiskey-related came to mind. I almost bought him fancy whiskey stones, until I found out that he was already receiving a set from yiddle brudder Jonny. Then I started Googling whiskey classes in the Twin Cities, and found out that one of the Midwest's largest whiskey tastings, Whiskey On Ice, was held in the Twin Cities every April. Before I knew it, I had purchased two passes, printed them off in a cute whiskey-themed card courtesy of PaperSource, and was good to go.
Fast forward to Sunday of last weekend. I was four days into the most brutal virus I've ever had as an adult...basically, if I wasn't puking I was asleep. And Whiskey on Ice was looming.
What's a girl to do? Follow the patented Papa Bear Method For Getting Over Illness: Flush that sh*t out of your system by going about your normal routine, daily Manhattan and all. Thank god for Jodester and her convenient purse pack of Tums! Long story short, I rallied like a true champion, and 5pm saw Daddy and me rolling into the Minneapolis Depot.
You guys. SO worth it.
We showed up and got checked in before heading into the Depot's events space, which was lined all the way up and down and in the middle with booths of tasting - over 60 all said and done. There were also several different food tables and water stations, a silent auction, a cigar bar and cocktail lounge, and a VIP seating area. Padre and I started in the middle, where the local whiskeys seemed to be concentrated.
Well, for the most part. Our first taste was a searing 120-proof Aberlour A'Bunadh that left both of us with eyes watering (and left no doubt in my mind that this was going to kill the last of my flu bug). We worked our way down the line, trying a variety of whiskeys from Wisconsin and Minnesota with mixed results.
What I did appreciate about the local distillers was their pride in their product, and just how many of them were relatively new to the game. I feel like local breweries were a huge thing about five years ago, and now they're totally established. Now it's shifting to being all about the distillery, and I'm so intrigued to see where the scene goes in the next several years.
Having tasted plenty of local blends, we shifted our attention to the big leagues...
I fell in love with Balvenie pretty fast...we tasted the 12-year Doublewood, and then the rep offered us the "VIP" 25-year aged single-barrel tasting. HOLY omg, it was incomparable. Other notables from the day: Woodford Reserve's double-oaked, Macallan 18 and Rare Cask, and Teeling - which is apparently right around the corner from the Guinness factory in Dublin. Mom and Dad will have to make a stop in May! (The Teeling rep made us mini Manhattans and won my heart forever.)
Speaking of Irish whiskeys, we found and fell for Green Spot on the recommendation of an attendee who was a self professed Irish snob. It was just the right amount of smoky for me with very little of the hardcore, peaty flavor that I don't love. Highly recommend.
We also really loved our stop at my dad's home planet, the Crown Royal table...he bonded with the rep in no time over their mutual detestation of Crown Maple, and we liked the Reserve we tasted. It's no XR, but it'd do for a weekday, essentially. (I KID I KID.) Not going to lie - the biggest takeaway from the day for me was that I prefer bourbon to anything else on offer, and tend to like less peaty, mildly smoky flavors. Just like Papa Bear.
Other favorite part of the day: checking out all the packaging, duh! Emily has totally rubbed off on our entire family...when we were in wine country over Christmas, we spent so much time checking out labels and branding, and Dad and I did the same thing all day on Sunday. A few of my favorites above from a Chicago brand we really liked...so many cool and different approaches!
By the time we left, I had a fantastic buzz going, and a newfound appreciation for the sheer variety and complexity of the world of whiskey. We cemented a few old favorites and found some new ones to check out...all in all, a win of a day and a great time with my Papa Bear!