Have you ever been to a promo event for a liquor company? They usually pan out like this: check in. Fight for your position at the crowded bar. Wait. Note that bartender is disgruntled because you’re seen as a freeloader who probably wont tip. Double fist to get your money’s worth before time is out . Bounce. It’s all very frat house. Or something.
A tasting, however is a different kind of animal. It’s a cross between booze and lecture and if done right, can be pretty entertaining and informative.
Gentlemen Jack hosts quite a few events around NYC. From the list of venues in the invite, Penny Farthing was the one I had never been to. This place has a great laid back vibe—all candles and wood and stone. It is a décor that screams: Whiskey Sold Here! (this makes sense, just go with it). The basement where the tasting was held up seemed appropriately like the inside of a whiskey barrel.
Set up with a station of generous portions of four varieties of Jack (Single Barrel, Gentlemen, Honey and the most popular No. 7) we were given a history of the liquor and a few anecdotes about the founder. The company began with a farmer/pastor who decided to make whiskey from surplus corn. But a liquor pushing pastor was not an ideal combination so he was eventually shamed ,er, talked into selling his distillery to 13 yr old Jasper Daniels. Jasper took over the business and turned it into the #1 selling whiskey in the country. He perfected the Tennessee method and gave us the gift known today as Jack Daniels.
I think I had a paper route at 13…
Carlos was our host. Lively, charismatic and knowledgeable, he guided us how to taste, smell, and appreciate the whiskey. This was no mere liquor shilling– the lecture was engaging, the approach friendly and informative. He suggested notes instead of dictated them. From the spiciness of the Single Barrel (which can be purchased for a mere $10,000) to the light and sweet Honey Jack. Technically not a whiskey, it is made with local honey distilled to a liqueur and added to classic JD No. 7. (Still don’t see it for hints of banana and smoke Carlos. Sorry.)
The crowd was diverse and actively listening. That was nice to see. When they shouted out suggested mixers for the whiskey someone said Bacardi Limon and my audible damnnnn made things awkward when I should have just said a silent prayer for her liver. Don’t judge me for judging ok?
The most basic questions were welcomed and no one was made to feel like a chump for asking them. There was no rushing and throwing back of drinks before time ran out. The atmosphere was almost like a few(dozen) friends hanging out to talk about some whiskey. It just worked. I left the event with souvenirs, pleasant conversation, and a new appreciation for a popular beverage.