Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Go Whiskey Weekend - Meet and Greet

Saturday was cold and eventually, the snow had to come.  Four of us made the trek to Worcester to have lunch at the Armsby Abbey.  This was my second visit and I wrote about it last year so this year I was looking for a repeat visit.  We were not disappointed as the Abbey was featuring a brunch menu with recipes that contained bourbon in some form or fashion. 

We started off brunch with cocktails and I chose the Barbecue Bloody; hands down the best Bloody Mary I've ever had.  Ingredients included charred hickory infused bourbon, house Bloody Mary mix, smoked sea salt rim garnished with dill pickle, pickled carrot, and housemade bacon...that's right bacon. While I ordered one and moved on the the next cocktail; the Bourbon milk punch, my lunch friends continued with the Bloody Mary's to the tune of 4 or 5 apiece.

Even though I'm on a "diet" (hey, I've lost 12 lbs since January) I decided to splurge, and boy did I go whole to speak.  I ordered up the Pork and Pancakes; Bourbon honey buttermilk pancakes topped with Bourbon sugar glazed bacon lardons, Bourbon-chocolate vanilla ganache, Bourbon whipped cream and a side of Bourbon-vanilla maple syrup.  I think I put on a pound just typing all that out.  Yes, it was decadent, delicious and a diabetics worst nightmare.  I finished off the 4 hour leisurely lunch with a Bruery Sour in the Rye which topped things off very nicely.

After lunch we decided to hit a local cigar lounge around the corner from the restaurant; Cigar Masters Cigar Lounge.  If you could picture a quintessential New England cigar lounge in your head, this would be it.  Old building, tile floors, brick/wood walls, tin ceiling, great bar stocked with a nice range of whiskies and well worn club chairs.  The four of us purchased cigars and whiskey and sat down for a couple hours before heading back to Westborough.   

At 7:00 that evening we made our way over to Julio's for the Meet and Greet.  This is a smaller, more intimate event where you can taste through a sub-set of whiskies that will be presented on Sunday at the Grand Dram.  Each distiller or rep is present giving you and opportunity to chat it up and ask questions.  I had a very nice conversation with Dan FitzHenry from Virginia Distilling Company.  Dan poured me their latest offering, a Virginia Highland Malt Whiskey.  It was young but rather tasty and I liked it overall.  They source there whiskey at present but have installed two pot stills and have plans to fire them up this year and begin distilling.

Hollis Bulleit was there and it was hard not to miss her.  Her headgear (hat?) was garish and cool at the same time.  It was fun chatting with her as she's animated and fun to talk with.

I tried a number of whiskies that were good but didn't inspire.  One that got me scratching my head was Son's of Liberty Uprising.  This is an unaged whiskey made from a stout beer base and has staves placed into the holding tanks to add influence.  Very young so lots of grain on the nose and palate.  The distiller kept talking about dark chocolate notes which were present if you tried hard enough.  I appreciated the fact that they distilled to 130 proof but then bottle it at 80 proof chill filtered.

Two whiskies got my attention that evening; Suntory Hibiki 12 year and Nikka Yoichi 15 year.  The Hibiki is a blend of three whiskies from different distilleries and then aged in Plum liqueur casks.  I enjoyed both so much that I ended up buying both on Sunday.

Craft distilleries had a good presence on Saturday among the big dogs; Son's of Liberty, Hudson Whiskey, Balcones (shout out to Winston and Chip), Angels Envy and High West.  It's an exciting time for whiskey, especially for those that venture out past bourbon and into world whiskies.  I really enjoyed the evening and for those within driving distance to Westborough, I would encourage a visit next year.  $20 for two hours of drinking great whiskey is a steal.


  1. That looks fantastic all around. Especially excited to hear about the attention to Japanese whiskey- I would not be surprised to see it become the next big thing. What did you think of the Yoichi? As one of the 2 Nikka whiskies we can now get, I'd be interested to hear (perhaps a review when you get home?) Will be following your trip jealously. Thanks

    1. Ryan - As I mentioned, there are few whiskies that wow'd me but the Yoichi was one of them. In fact, when I tasted it, I turned around, went upstairs to the whiskey section and pulled a bottle off the shelf ot put aside for shipment back home. I would like to do a review but right now I'm trying to clean house and get rid of some of my low volume bottles before opening anything new. Of course, I've tried that in the past and failed miserably which is evidenced by my 130 open bottles.

      To your point, I think Japanese whiskey is doing some fantastic things. Unfortunately, not much is available here in the U.S......yet. I hope more offerings show up in the near future. I have both the 12 and 18 year old Yamazaki open and enjoy them both.

  2. Gotta put this on my calendar for next year so I book my MA business trip with Whiskey Weekend in mind instead of leaving the day before it starts...

    Interesting you mentioned the Nikka. I'm heading to Japan in a few weeks (bucket list vacation trip!) and was talking with a sushi chef in San Diego last week about Japanese whiskey. He highly recommended Nikka and goes as far to have friends and family bring him bottles when they visit. Your comments make this a must try for me. I'm a fan of Hibiki too.

    1. Steve - I'm jealous....a Japanese distillery trip would be awesome. I have yet to travel to Scotland/Ireland for the same. I'll make it one day. The Nikka 12 year is a very fine whiskey and I highly recommend. You will obviously find other Japanese expressions that don't get exported. You may want to check out Nonjatta under my Drinks Links for some info on in country offerings.

      The Yoichi was a favorite of mine also. Good hunting in Japan and let me know what you find.