Back in mid-September, opportunity knocked via an invitation from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America (SMWSA) for two Boozedancers to attend one of their Fall Whisky Extravaganza events. Unfortunately, unlike the past 6 or 7 years, there would be no Philadelphia Whisky Extravaganza. At first I was majorly bummed, but then I had an idea…
Instead of letting these media passes go to waste, I immediately contacted the West Coast Office (WCO) and asked if he’d be interested in attending and covering the Los Angeles Whisky Extravaganza for our little corner of the blogosphere. His response:
“I’m in! So are you gonna fly out and join me?”
As is usually the case for a 47 year old, married, father of two, my “Hell yes!” was contingent upon spousal approval and finding reasonably priced airfare that didn’t involve making 15 stops in various airports across the country before landing in LA. Luckily, the wife greenlit the trip and I was able to book direct, roundtrip flights between EWR and LAX (this was to be a very brief visit to the West Coast Office, i.e. flying out on the Thursday and flying back on the Saturday, so spending most of it waiting for flights would have been a deal breaker). While the thought of spending 6 hours on an airplane isn’t exactly thrilling, as soon as I boarded my 1PM flight to LA, I spotted the following music playlist while browsing the Virgin America in-flight entertainment options:
Now that’s what I call an omen of good things to come!
Let’s fast forward to the actual event…
As I told you at the beginning of this post, having attended six or seven SMWSA in Philly and one in Manhattan, I am no stranger to The Extravaganza, and had a pretty good idea of what to expect in LA, i.e. a classy venue, good food, and a wide assortment of whiskies. The LA Whisky Extravaganza, which started at 7PM and ended at 9:30PM, was held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, a Downtown LA institution that was founded in 1880. Once again, the SMWSA picked a great room to hold the event. While the space wasn’t as wide open as the rooms at The Union League or Roosevelt Hotel, the atmosphere was perfect for a night of eating, drinking, and socializing. And there was plenty of that going on thanks to the WCO!
Our first stop of the night was the SIA table where our friend Whisky Guy Rob would be pouring. While I have been going back and forth with Rob on various Social Media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) over the past few years, this is the first time that we’ve met face to face. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, meeting all of these super duper, like-minded people is what really keeps me going with the blog. Since we had plans to spend more time with Rob later in the evening, and also on Friday night, we gave Rob some space so that he could properly work the crowd, and took a walk around the room to see if there was anything new or interesting to try.
We made a brief stop at The Classic Casks table to see what they’d be pouring, since at past events they’ve always had some interesting whiskies on hand. I know for a fact that I tried an outstanding Bunnahabhain and Glenlossie, but the rest is just a delightful blur of Amberlita colored deliciousness! We then stopped by the SMWSA table for a brief perusal of their offerings and were greeted by the always gracious and entertaining Ricky Crawford. After a brief taste of one of their single barrel, cask strength whiskies, we continued working our way around the room. This is where we paused for a bit of nourishment.
In addition to the usual carving stations and pasta dishes, there was a small table in the corner labeled “Kosher”. This immediately caught the attention of the WCO (he tries his best to be a good Jew. Hanging out with me isn’t helping his cause), so we grabbed a plate and loaded up on some sustenance. A piece of Salmon, a bit of salad, a hand carved Roast Beef sandwich, and a healthy portion of pasta were a delicious base for the evening’s whisky consumption. Did I mention that we went to Seven Grand for cocktails and more whisky with Rob and a few other people after The Extravaganza was over? No? I’ll get to that in Part II of my 45 Hours in LA. For now, let’s continue with the event recap…
Once our bellies were somewhat full (we left room for second helpings, dessert, whisky, and post drinking snacks!), we went back to working our way around the room. Rob mentioned that they were pouring a 23 year old Craigellachie (pronounced Craig-al-eh-key) that was well worth trying on the opposite side of the room, so we headed straight for it! I wish I could share some tasting notes with you, but since my noggin is a bit fuzzy with regards to fine details about everything that we sampled throughout the night, all I can say is that Rob didn’t steer us wrong. That stuff was tasty!
Our next stop was the Anchor Distilling Company’s tables where they were pouring several interesting whiskies from their vast portfolio. I tried two from Nikka (Coffey Grain and Taketsuru), one from Anchor Distilling (Old Potrero 18th Century Whiskey), and one from Kavalan (no clue which one). The Taketsuru was my favorite while the Old Potrero left me disappointed. Luckily, my disappointment lasted for just a millisecond because there was way more on the way that would keep me smiling for the rest of the night.
Joy was found in the offerings from Talisker, Mortlach, Knob Creek Rye, Few Bourbon, Westland, and several other distilleries, but if I had to pick one particular spirit that piqued my curiosity during this event, it had to be that wee taste of Auchentoshan “new make”. WCO was lucky enough to try “new make” at several different distilleries during his tour of Scotland with the Jewish Whisky Company back in early Fall, but for me, this would be my first experience with the stuff. It was so light, yet packed with flavor, and my first thought was that it reminded me of a really good gin thanks to all of the herbal notes that came through in the nose and palate. Auchentoshan’s “new make” left both of us asking the same question: Why don’t distilleries bottle and sell this stuff??? Inquiring minds want to know!
While 2.5 hours at a whisky tasting might seem like a long time, when you factor in the time spent talking to people and just wandering around to see what you’d want to try next, the time goes by really quickly. WCO ran into several people that he’s met at events like WhiskyLive and the LA Scotch Club’s Peatin Meetin, so in addition to all of the eating and drinking, there was a healthy dose of banter thrown into the mix which always adds to the enjoyment factor at events like this.
Once 9PM rolled around, we headed back to the SIA table to meet up with Rob since he planned to join us at Seven Grand for some post event drinks. When we got to that part of the venue, we noticed that dessert was being served, and we also noticed that we almost missed the opportunity to have some lamb lollipops, i.e. grilled lamb chops. Since Rob still had a bit of cleaning up to do, we decided to partake of those last minute snacks.
By the time we finished our second round of eating, Rob was finished working, so we quickly made a break for the exit and walked around the corner to meet several other people at Seven Grand. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the place, Seven Grand is a whisky-centric bar in Downtown LA that is located on West 7th Street, between Olive Street and Grand Avenue…
This is where we end Part I of my 45 Hour Drink-A-Palooza in LA. Stay tuned for Part II!
Here are my final thoughts about the LA Whisky Extravaganza…
Overall, the LA Whisky Extravaganza was well worth my time and effort. The actual venue was on par with The Union League and the Roosevelt Hotel, but when you factor in the wider variety of whiskies on hand and the quality of the food being served, I think the LA Extravaganza was marginally better than the Philly and NYC events. Should opportunity once again come knocking on my door, you can rest assured that I’ll answer!