WhiskyFest Chicago 2017

After 20 years, Whisky Advocate’s annual WhiskyFest is still going strong.

On April 21st, whisk(e)y lovers from all over the country descended upon the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago to partake in a bit of education, a good deal of tasty food, and whole lot of imbibing some of the best whiskies in the world.

There was plenty of anticipation in the air. The line to get into the early VIP portion of the event was well over a hundred people deep. And when we got to the doors, we were witness to grown men cutting in front of others presumably to be first in line to sample their favorite spirit.

Once the doors opened, it was a mad rush. More prepared folks than myself had already mapped out locations of the whiskies they wanted to taste. I walked up to the nearest booth with no one rushing to it, partly because I felt bad no one was rushing to them, and partly because I didn’t feel like waiting in line anywhere else. It was a delicious solera-aged brandy (is brandy even a whisky?).

Throughout the night, my brother Chris and I sampled several amazing whiskies from a sizable list of incredible spirits, appreciated some fine marketing displays, and best of all, talked with some very enjoyable folks… rarely posts “best of” or favorite lists, but there were some standouts this year and it was time to change up our coverage of WhiskyFest. (Note that we stayed away from listing our favorite spirits…)

Favorite Bottle: Glenmorangie Signet. This bottle is absolutely magnificent.

Favorite presentation: Whistlepig (who also included a sample of their maple syrup…yum!).

Whistlepig Farmstock

Most gracious introduction: Beam Suntory’s Atsushi “Charlie” Takeuchi. Hailing from Japan, Charlie offered his card in traditional Japanese style and could not have been more gracious.

Most interesting labeling: Bruichladdich Classic Laddie. It felt very web 3.0 and was refreshing.

Favorite job title: Master Taster, held by Elizabeth O’Neill of Brown Forman. Elizabeth was also very gracious and we enjoyed speaking with her. I see a interview in her future.

Favorite handout: tie between the Blade and Bow pin and Whistlepig’s maple syrup.

Tiny giveaways were all the rage this year

Most pleasantly surprising spirits:

Glenfiddich 14yr, which is finished in bourbon barrels

and Stranahan’s Diamond Peak…this was an absolute delight.

And finally, Favorite booth: Lux Row. You could tell they really put some thought and money into their booth. It did not go unnoticed.

Thank you to Joan McGinley and the WhiskyFest team for another great event. Very much look forward to next year’s.