I find whiskey to be much more than just a beverage. There is an entire culture surrounding whiskey and it has become more of a movement in recent years. The experience of drinking your favorite whiskey, either by yourself or sharing with others is many times just as much a part of whiskey as the drink itself. We’re taking whiskey to a different level with tasting events, festivals and a large uptick in craft distilleries similar to the craft beer boom we saw several years ago. More and more people are trying whiskey these days and younger people are ordering whiskey at bars instead of vodka cocktails. Is this a whiskey Renaissance, or simply a fad?
We can see that in Kentucky, bourbon is becoming more of an all-encompassing “experience” with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It has become a full blown tourist attraction with tastings and tours and activities for the entire family. Stoli, owners of Kentucky Owl, are literally building a theme park to to bring in more visitors and are catering more towards a family-friendly experience. Large festivals like Bourbon and Beyond are picking up steam and have grown over the last couple years into major events, featuring artists such as Lenny Kravitz and John Mayer.
On a smaller scale, you can find a whiskey Facebook group for almost any major city that has events and a large amount of followers. The Atlanta Bourbon and Whisky Society is working on a collaboration with local ice cream manufacturer High Road to make a small batch of Old Weller Antique bourbon ice cream. How cool is that?
On an even more local scale, people like me have started forming whiskey tasting groups for friends and family. I had 8 people at my first event in January and I’m looking at 10-14 (looks like I’ll need to buy some more Glencairn glasses) for my tasting at the end of the month. We talk about what we’re drinking, a bit of history behind the type of whiskey and then dive into tasting. Everyone seems to have a good time and are starting to invite friends. I’m really looking forward to this next one which will comprise of all rye whiskey. We’ll be sampling Whistlepig 10, Michter’s Rye, Woodford Reserve Rye and High West Double Rye. There’s something on our menu that’s new to everyone attending, so it will be a blast getting to share that new experience with friends.
I guess at the root of it, I’m just trying to say that whiskey is more about the experience than just the drink by itself. Yes, the spirit is obviously the center of attention, but the culture surrounding it is equally important. Whether it’s sipping by yourself by the fire in the cold of winter, or sharing it around the dinner table during your next tasting, I hope that you can find some of the joy that it brings to me and others like me.