WhiskyFest Returns to the Windy City
May 15, 2023 –––––– Julia Higgins
Whisky lovers came together on May 12th at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency for the second WhiskyFest event of the year, where superb sips and master classes were delivered over the course of the night.
For a handful of lucky ticket holders, the evening kicked off earlier than usual—10 attendees (each with a guest) were randomly selected as WhiskyFest Backstage Pass winners, enabling them to sample an exceptional dram. The whisky in question, Fuji Masterpiece 2022—a blended Japanese whisky—didn’t disappoint. “This Fuji whisky is one of the top five things I’ve ever tasted,” said Backstage Pass winner Saul Tilmann. “It’s off the charts, just incredible.”
The VIP hour then got underway at 5:30 p.m., and a steady stream of guests filled the ballroom to taste a variety of exclusive pours, like Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 year old, and some newly released limited editions. Also among the VIP hour’s scotch contingent were ultra-aged whiskies from Benromach, which poured its sought-after 40 year old Batch 1 (2022 Release); Glen Moray, which offered its 21 year old single malt; and Dewar’s, which was pouring Double Double 21, 27, and 32 year olds. Of course, American whiskey lovers weren’t to be disappointed—many flocked to Michter’s for a taste of its 10 year old single barrel bourbon and rye, in addition to its ultra-limited 20 year old bourbon, while Heaven Hill shared Larceny Barrel Proof, Heaven Hill bottled in bond, Bernheim Barrel Proof, and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.
Once the ballroom doors opened for all guests, they had their pick of a plethora of other whiskies. Tim Remz, who’s attended every WhiskyFest since 2007, made a beeline to Fuji when he got to the main floor. “Last year I had never heard of the distillery, and when I stumbled upon it, it was just sensational,” he said. “This is my favorite night of the year, and I’m looking forward to trying another new whisky this year.” Aside from its exclusive Backstage Pass dram, Fuji was pouring its core blended and single grain whiskies. From elsewhere around the world, guests had the opportunity to sample Redbreast and Fercullen Irish whiskeys, Morris Australian single malt, and Canada’s Crown Royal, among others.
While plenty of big names permeated the room, there were also a number of craft distilleries present, including Few Spirits from Chicago, Holladay Bourbon from Missouri, Laws Whiskey House from Denver, Westward from Portland, and Yellow Rose from Texas. Master distiller Michael Langan was on hand to talk Texas whiskey with guests. “Most people are gravitating toward bourbons; I like to start them with Outlaw, our flagship bourbon, and then get them onto Harris, which was more recently released in 2021 and is a completely different expression of flavor,” he said.
When the evening’s master classes started, attendees had their pick of three, presented by Holladay Distillery (“Reinventing Our Bourbon History”), Widow Jane (“Deep Cuts and Rare Sips”), and Heaven Hill (“History of Heaven Hill”). Start planning now to attend one or all of the remaining events for the year: San Francisco, October 27th; New York on November 9th; and Las Vegas, December 2nd. Visit whiskyfest.com for details. Tickets will be available for sale soon. Subscribe to WhiskyNotes for the latest updates.