Friday, October 21, 2011 (Los Angeles) Whiskey or whisky is an anglicization of a Goidelic name (Irish: uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic: uisge beatha) literally meaning "water of life". Talk with any connoisseur of the spirit and they would wholeheartedly agree. Such was the case on Friday, October 21st when whiskey aficionados from across California and other regional areas assembled at the prestigious Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on Avenues of the Stars for Whisky Live’s third annual tasting event presented by Max Entertainment Group.
The event brought together a vast array of some of the finest and most world-renowned Bourbons and Scotches that make up the class of spirits known as whiskey under one roof. Complimented by a host of brand ambassadors, producers and distributors, participants were encouraged to sample brews from around the world.
Those in attendance were treated to a fine buffet dinner and live musical entertainment. With tumbler in hand, attendees sauntered through the venue sampling the very best in whiskeys from around the world. The event gives enthusiasts the opportunity to peruse a veritable collection of fine liquors and gain a distinctive appreciation for a few brews some that you may not have tried own. It was put to me best by a father and son team touring the event, “This gives us an opportunity of getting to know the Scotch before making the investment only to find out later that it did not meet our expectations. When you’re sampling Whiskey you want to take your time to savor the flavor and aroma.”
My trepidation was apparent as I looked over the venue. “I’m not whiskey drinker! What was I thinking when I accepted this assignment?”, I thought to myself. Over the course of the evening I learned that whiskey is a brew that, while alway potent, covers a vast array of tastes and finishes. These are largely based on the region in which the brew is made, the “age” and the distillation process. Single malt, double malt and blended have distinct differences to the palate. I also realized that from brew master to whiskey connoisseur, these people have a passion for the drink that far exceeded anything I was prepared for. For one and all whiskey is an art form that goes back hundreds of years.
Lark Distillery was my first stop on the tasting room floor. Their Cask Strength (116 proof) gave new meaning to the term ‘Tasmanian Devil’ for me. This Scotch was quite potent, but add a drop of water as I was encouraged to do by the brand ambassador and the drink becomes very smooth. Newly introduced to the Los Angeles area, this Tasmanian brew has been awarded the 2009 World Whiskies Award and I can understand why.
As I milled through the crowd. a site that caught my eye was the High West Silver Whiskey. It was clear! I had never seen clear whiskey before. Was this for real? Yes, is was - I mean IS! It really is whiskey. It is “aged” in oak barrels, (which is a requirement to be labeled a whiskey), but only for hours not years as is usually the case. In talking with the brand ambassador, I learned that whiskey does not age in the bottle, only in the barrel. The ‘color‘ of whiskey is taken from the barrel itself, so the limited time for aging does not allow for the infusion of the rich carmel color we are used to seeing. Their Western Rye and Western Oat gave the impression that while tasty when sampled straight, this was a very good liquor to use in any mixed cocktail, like a Manhattan or Mint Julep.