I’m not sure at what point I became a whiskey girl. In high school, I drank whatever we could get from our parents’ liquor cabinets. In college, I graduated to cheap cocktails (think cranberry vodkas) and then all of a sudden, I stepped it up a couple notches, ordering anything whiskey – whiskey and Coke, whiskey and ginger, whenever I can pick my spirit, it’s always going to be: whiskey.
Through all those stages, I’ve never wavered from my status as a bacon girl. Lucky for us bacon and bourbon lovers, the two pair quite well together, and this past Saturday, the Astor Center hosted the 2014 Bacon and Bourbon Expo, an event highlighting two perfect treats to savor during Saturday’s snowy afternoon.
To alleviate the crowds, this year’s event was divided into two sessions, with an optional VIP session preceding two full hours of whiskey tastings. The earlier panel, featuring NYC Distillers, was moderated by Char No. 4’s Allan Roth, and included panelists Brad Estabrook (Breuckelen Distilling Co.), Colin Spoelman (Kings County Distillery), Allen Katz (New York Distilling Co), and Daric Schlesselman (Van Brunt Stillhouse). I’ve been to my share of wine tastings, but never a whiskey one, and I was eager to know more about my favorite spirit.
Each panelist introduced himself and told us a little bit how they got into the New York distilling industry, which at this point, is extremely small – most of started off in “boring office jobs,” leaving to pursue a passion, or in some instances, to try something new. We were led through six tasting glasses of whiskey, with light education on each whiskey’s notes and production.
My favorite? Breuckelen Distilling Co.’s 77 Whiskey: Local Rye & Corn, and I was also into really into New York Distilling Co.’s Aging Rye Whiskey, a combination of rye, corn, and malted barley, which had been aged for 2 years, 8 months – this was the first time it had been tasted outside of the distillery, and there are plans to release the whiskey to the public in October.
That wasn’t all the whiskey to be had – after the panel, there were approximately 40 different types of whiskey ready and waiting to be tasted, along with a number of whiskey cocktails and snacks. 14 tables boasted multiple types of whiskey, with brands such as Wild Turkey, OYO, Michter’s, Evan Williams, and much more, including those that participated in the NYC Distiller panel. I’ll be honest, after a while, tasting all that whiskey gets me a little, let’s just say, confused – but I do remember Jefferson’s Reserve Very Old Bourbon to really stick out in my mind.
For an event boasting bacon and bourbon, it was definitely heavy on the bourbon – not so much on the bacon. There was a meat-y presence, just not as much as I was expecting – however, what was provided was definitely delicious. Fatty ‘Cue provided plates of whole pig with slaw and fish palm sauce, and Neuske’s applewood smoked pepper-coated bacon buttermilk biscuits were passed around, as were flights of four strips bacon apiece. Additionally, Mast Brothers was on hand, providing chocolate for whiskey pairings.
[1. Neuske’s Wild Cherry Wood Bacon, 2. Tender Belly’s Dry Cured Maple Bacon, 3. Broadbent’s Pepper Bacon, 4. Tender Belly’s Habanero Bacon (my favorite!)]
After having gone to so many meat-and-booze related events lately, my standards for a good event are climbing higher – and for the price of a ticket, I’d say if you’re a big drinker and can hold your own, it’s totally worth it. The whiskey list was beautifully curated, offering a good variety of whiskey at different price points, with most representatives being extremely informative and showing their passion for their product (especially since some of the distillers themselves were present). Again, I’d love to see a more extensive food menu, but the drink portion more than made up for it. For whiskey connoisseurs, or those just diving into whiskey knowledge, this is the NYC event to look forward to next year – just make sure to pace yourself, or else you’ll be walking in zig-zags back home through the snow like I did.