Slightly Late 2011 WhiskyFest San Francisco Wrap-up

Looking back at last year’s re-cap of WhiskyFest, it seems I laid out some goals for this year’s WhiskyFest…let’s see how I did:

1.  Actually spend a few minutes making a serious game plan as to what to taste instead of talking about making a game plan and then running around like an idiot.

I did actually have a serious game plan and a doable list of the whiskies I definitely wanted to taste. What’s more, I actually stuck to it for the most part. As for the idiot thing, I don’t know, I probably still did a fair amount of that.

2.  Eat more.

I did, before and during. That seemed to help in many regards, especially with the whole waking up the next morning thing.

3.  As nice as everyone is, Don’t talk to anyone for the first hour – hour & a half. Taste whisky and concentrate on sticking to the aforementioned plan.

I failed this one. You chatty Kathies, you…

4.  Don’t drink cask strength whiskies after 1:00 AM, you’re not as young and hardy as you like to think you are, you lightweight jack-ass.

To be honest, I still hurt from last years ‘Fest, so this one was easy. Common sense prevailed; in bed by midnight, up changing a diaper with a smile at 6:00am.

Yes, WhiskyFest San Francisco has rolled through town again, leaving in its wake the flotsam and jetsam (a broken Glencairn glass here, a passed out neophyte there) of the largest scale whisky show around. Once again, my wallet made the choice of whether or not to buy the VIP ticket for me, but judging from what I heard, there wasn’t quite enough tempting stuff there to make it worth it, so I’m glad I opted for the general admission pass. Let’s get straight to the highlights, shall we?

  • Meeting the good folks from Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Distillery. It’s always nice to see the ol’ hometown represented well, and it was a lot of fun to find out they had my dad as a high school teacher…small world, indeed.
  • Chatting with the Dave & Dave show from K&L Wines, let’s just say they were able to give me a very good idea as to just how good their Faultline Spirits releases are going to be; check out their single barrel, cask strength Cognac and their exclusive, 18 year old Bladnoch Chieftain’s barrel.
  • Catching up with friends old and new, among the many…Amy from Buffalo Trace, Jason from Guid Scotch Drink, Chris from WhiskyWall, Tim from The Ardbeg Project, DG from…well, everywhere, and Stephen from Malt Imposter (who I was surprised to find is nearly 7′ tall, with huge hands, rough and calloused from breaking up wooden palates at the back of the ballroom) Sometimes, the best thing about WhiskyFest is that everyone comes out for it.
  • Samaroli’s 1989 Highland Park 22 Year Old. Since it was the first time this Italian independent bottler had visited the states, there was quite a crowd at this booth all night. Their Highland Park offering was damn good.
  • That beautiful Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare Banff 35 Year Old. It was great to see an interesting selection from Duncan Tyalor, this one was the best of a really good bunch.
  • The BenRiach 15 Year Old 1995 Pedro Ximenez Single Cask was an excellent cask-strength combination of earthy peat and rich sherry. This one would’ve been the dram of the night for me had it not been for…
  • The 1975 Single Cask Ardbeg Dr. Bill Lumsden so graciously poured at his Ardbeg A-Z Seminar. Dr. Bill was his usual highly entertaining self, it’s always a treat to listen to someone of his knowledge and experience, let alone do so while sipping five of his whiskies. This 1975 was incredible; a wonderfully rich and cozy nose; jammy, slightly waxy, a bit of lemon curd mixing with the toffee’d peat, and delicate green wood smoke. The palate was oily citrus-tinged chocolate and diesel-y peat, sweet and savory in equal measure with a quite drying finish tinged with peat, smoke and a bit of roasted fennel. Truly stunning stuff.

As always, a big congrats and tip of the hat towards John Hansell and the WhiskyFest crew for putting on this great event. It seems like there were even more whiskies being offered than ever, and while it also seemed a bit more crowded and harder to get a pour this year, WhiskyFest is still the big one. If you’re looking for the widest selection of whiskies under one hotel ballroom roof with great seminars lead by the leading ambassadors in the industry, WhiskyFest is not to be missed. An additional note of congrats to Mr. Hansell and the newly revamped Whisky Advocate Magazine, the new issue is bigger and better looking than ever.


6 thoughts on “Slightly Late 2011 WhiskyFest San Francisco Wrap-up

    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, the big shows are a lot of fun. I’m heading to the SMWS Extravaganza here in SF in just a few weeks. So many whiskies, so little functioning liver left…

      I’ll look forward to your thoughts on NY’s WF!

      1. Hahaha, I hear you! I’m still not sure of the perfect strategy but I like your “no cask strength after midnight” rule – I’ll have to start following that.

        I wish we had the SMWS events here. Oddly, they skip over NY so I have to live vicariously through you and the other bloggers. 🙂


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