Booze Banter

A Breathless Review of the 2015 LA Whisky Extravanganza



The Millennium Biltmore Hotel is an imposing structure in Downtown Los Angeles that makes one think of swank charity balls for the latest disease du jour, catering for a thousand well-dressed business types, and a room service menu with $12.00 bagels for those who need $12.00 bagels after a long day of Six Sigma seminars, team-building meetings, tapas & craft beer dinners, and bar-hopping nights that require $12.00 bagels after slumping onto those cushy 1000 thread count bed linens in front of the 42″ Sony LCD HDTV with picture-in-picture and free HBO to drift off to the dulcet sounds of CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s voice on the late night repeat coverage of a mine disaster in Chile/girl fallen into a well in Broken Arrow, OK/a Home Depot’s empty shelves in Buffalo, NY awaiting the deadliest winter storm in the history of all deadliest winter storms as the country moves perilously towards DEFCON 1, when in fact it would have been a far nicer evening by just staying in the cozy confines of the hotel for one freaking night for a change, calling the kids after homework is done and before baths begin, and then making your way downstairs to the nattily-run 2015 SMWS Whisky Extravaganza held in a enormous gigantic massive big ballroom past the Biltmore’s ornate decor of the Spanish-Italian Renaissance when men were men, and syphilis, melancholia, and witchcraft ran rampant, to a room far below the DTLA street level of buses, Ubers, and Angelenos who still walk to places after work not realizing walking is so twentieth century and one day we’ll all be scooting around in flying saucers from point A to point B, and parking structures will be relics of the past since you can park a flying saucer anywhere you damn well please, Officer, which would make getting to SMWS this night a breeze, and if there is anything better than a breeze of whisky aroma wafting up the expansive staircase from who knows where, then we’ve not smelled it nor care too, since it’s really all about smell and being enveloped by it and having your senses explode from the sights, sounds, and clouds of hundreds of bottles of whisky being generously poured into the long-stemmed glasses courtesy of SMWS plus the price of your ticket which can be triple digits after the dollar sign and before the period in this boom period of the spirits industry where the answer to “how much can we charge” is only “we’re not there yet”, yet – not “yet yet”, this is a different “yet” to keep this ramble going right into a maze of buffet food of all types to pack the tummies full and warm before the brown spirits are consumed, and consumed they were, as entrance into the vast cavernous Bunyanesque big room was perimetered – my new favorite word that I made up, copyrighted and licensed to gift catalogs Uncommon Goods and Signals – with distillery booths staffed by marketing wonks, non-wonks, wonkity wonks, booth babes and brand ambassadors who haven’t a half-ounce of real diplomatic power aside from possibly the use of the corporate key to the Xerox machine to make copies of treaties, though I believe I signed a trade agreement deal for “Perimetered Single Malt” with Beam Suntory but it might have been Bream Funtory as it was late in the evening and my eyeglasses were atop my head and my ears were left next to the grilled veggies many hours earlier when I pondered the lucky folks in the Kosher section who had their own tables and food, and left me wondering if I should pull the Jew Card out, yes, I have a laminated Jew Card signed by Jackie Mason, to gain admittance, but it seemed so anti-mitzvot just so I could sit a spell with my mishpucha and try the lemon herb salmon with saffron rice when the goyishe Caesar salad and roasted chicken breasts were just fine since we weren’t there for vittles as much as whisky and when I say “we”, I mean non-royally, Lawyer Jeff and I who partnered on this adventure to stroll along the banks of the River Whisky, dipping our toesies into the waters of life not tried before in many cases and, of course, people-watching along the way since this is LA, and calling out those with toilet paper stuck to their shoes, visible panty lines, and limping from the sheer weight of their goodie bags chocked full of magazines, stickers, pens, water bottles, and leftover roasted chicken breasts which were excellent the next morning scrambled with my eggs as I struggled with the LA Times crossword puzzle using my new nifty SMWS ballpoint pen and wished right then and there that the night before I had taken far better tasting notes than the scribbles of “yummy”, “smooth”, and “”, nonetheless we ventured on to booth after booth like hopping between sandy atolls polka-dotting the sun-drenched South Pacific with poor Counselor Jeff wide-eyed starboard side of our dinghy astounded by the sensory overload of favors, finishes, aromas, and heavenly smelling dump buckets in the Sea of Tranquilaganza that surrounded us seemingly for miles, or at least as far as the back wall near the service elevator where the pipe-puffing hipsters hung out to look dispassionate and cool, as we spun into the malted current guided by a the illumination of very pretty 16th century-ish chandeliers on a clockwise course from Westland Peated to Lagavulin Distillers Edition to Ladyburn 41, Bruichladdich Octomore 6.1, BenRiach Septendicium, Redbreast 21, SIA , SMWS 93.64, SMWS 29.166, Classic Cask Mortlach 11, Classic Cask Bowmore 11, Laphroaig Select to the treacherous whirlpool at Ardbeg Corryvreckan and various landing posts along the way requiring only an empty glass and a few beads and faux pelts to trade with the locals who looked dandy in their suits, plunging necklines, and high heels, the ladies looked stylish as well, but who was leering looking when there were drams to be had, shpiels to be listened to, and business cards to be exchanged because you never know when you’ll need Jason W. Hendrick, Inc.’s industrial design and architectural skills for that 75 story fast food MegaMecca (with Shake Shack the anchor tenant) in Abu Dhabi that you’ve invested in because the original guy has bugged out to pursue his dream of building the Baranduin River Distillery in Middle Earth trying to cash in on the “craft” grog biz that the halflings have been killing it in big-time from Anaheim to Azusa to Cucamonga to Mordor since the new permitting laws took effect in the Second Age of Man which we warmly felt a part of when we gathered with the honorable and somewhat scary tribes of the LA Scotch Club and Southern California Whisky Club as they pillaged the tents and booths in their holy quest for behind-the-table Scotch, selfies with Scotch, and selfies with Scots with Scotch of which there were many pouring their brogues as well as their drams under this big top of spirits that the kids at Extravaganza Central put on so well, far better than Darla and Spanky who needed hand-painted signs and a barn, like those are easy to find in Los Angeles very well, not like that well with the little girl who was finally and thankfully rescued out of it by none other than Anderson Cooper his bad, old self and who…shhhh…we just might have seen lounging in the bar upstairs, chatting it up with the CFO of an unnamed Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm and…shhhh…a certain rom-com actress with a lisp and total recall of every episode of ALF while Mai-Tais and very Himalayan salty pretzels were enjoyed at Base Camp, but nowhere near the level of enjoyment Attorney Jeff and I had gallivanting amongst the whisky hierarchy and illuminati seeking answers to the puzzles before us in Nicholas Cagian ways, like how to get an Uber and/or flying saucer using the Uber Flying Saucer app sans wi-fi in the chaos of the throngs flowing out of the Biltmore which allowed us time to compare the evening to other traveling whisky shows that have turned into little more than, well, just little, as the participants seem to annually decrease linearly, or is it exponentially, not sure yet since I haven’t done the math, but you get the idea since we’re all going mad, and yeah, I said yeah I will Yeah.


Many thanks to Gabby Shayne of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America for the media passes!

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