For the 2nd year in a row, G-LO and I had the pleasure of attending the American Whiskey Convention which was once again held at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phightin’ Phils. For the unencumbered, planning to attend said event would involve the following:
- An email announcing the event lands in your inbox.
- Buy a ticket and circle the date on the calendar (in pen!).
- Go to the event.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy for those with a plethora of free time on their hands! Regrettably, G-LO and I are a bit more challenged (read into that what you will) as we have that unavoidable thing called LIFE to deal with, which seems to get in the way at every turn. Enabling ourselves (cause lord knows no one else will!) to attend such events goes something like this:
- A series of back-and-forth “Do you think we can go?” emails.
- Coordinating our schedules with G-LO’s aspiring Thespian, my aspiring Sluggers, Our Benevolents (we bombard them with “Please, can we go?” emails and texts in the months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes leading up to these events. And yet we wonder why they call us children!), and that ever ominous thing called work.
- A last minute Hail Mary pass where we say to Our Benevolents, “Too bad, it’s this Friday, and we’re going!” (FYI, this approach never goes well, but we’re talking drinking events here, so we view actual attendance as prophylactic therapy for the aftermath that we’ll be subjected to when we get home).
Since I’m the one writing about this event, the stars obviously aligned (sort of), allowing me to attend this year’s American Whiskey Convention, but before I could get there, I hit a speed bump or two along the way. Here’s how it all went down…
Unlike last year, when I had to manage the logistics of involving appearances by Pappy, Sonny (my older brother whose name is not Sonny, but has a temperament that is very much like the fictional mafioso), and one of my nephews, I was going solo this time around. This provided me with an opportunity to drive to the event where I would meet up with G-LO who Ubered there directly from work. My chauffeuring responsibilities allowed for me to maintain some decorum (i.e. not getting hammered!) as I would be driving later. Lately, I have found that as a consequence of driving, I am more interested in the story behind the manufacture of the whiskey than I am in just knocking them back. This has led to a more selective process in sampling as I am fully aware that I can only have a few, so I try to seek out the truly special pours. What I like to call the real “gets” of the event.
With watches properly synchronized (or should I say with smartphones properly synchronized because I don’t wear an actual watch?) and G-LO already in town thanks to the aforementioned albatross (aka work), we made plans to meet up for the VIP portion of the event which ran from 5:30 to 6:30PM. Naturally, that pesky thing called LIFE got in the way and my Urchins required my chauffeuring services (along with some parental guidance) while My Benevolent caught the later train home from work. Once everyone was at their proper destination, I headed into town and arrived at the event just as the VIP portion was ending. Sadly, I missed an opportunity to attend a Wild Turkey tasting with legendary distiller Jimmy Russell as well as the chance to attend a Woodford Reserve tasting. So for me, American Whisky Convention 2017 started with two big losses which I suppose is fitting given that Citizens Bank Park is home to far too many losses for my beloved Phightin’ Phils. There I go! Digressing again. Anyway…
This year’s event, which was once again held in the ballpark’s Hall of Fame Club was well attended, but even with the sizable crowd on hand, there was more than enough room to move around. As we mentioned in our review of last year’s event, the only drawback to this venue is its horseshoe design, i.e. rather than one huge space filled with vendors that you can spot from anywhere in the room, which is the typical configuration for events like this, when you step out of the elevator, you are immediately required to make a choice: go right (1st base) or go left (3rd base). The two sides of the Hall of Fame Club are nearly divorced from one another, and if you spend too much time on one side, you run the risk of short changing the other side, which is exactly what happened last year. Thankfully, due to the lack of family members in tow (traveling light is always the way to go!) and G-LO’s initial “scouting report” (see what I did there?) from the VIP portion of the night, navigating this year’s event was much easier than last year, though with my aforementioned chauffeuring duties, I was legally bound to behave myself which of course meant that I had to pass up on more than a few pours.
With over 50 distillers (and what must have been at least 200 different spirits to choose from) in attendance at this year’s event, there was no shortage of finely crafted samples to be had. In addition to the wide variety of spirits, we were provided with the more than standard ball park fare. Cheesesteak egg rolls. Pigs in a blanket. Sausage and pepper sandwiches. Pretzel bites. While all of that stuff was great, and served as a fine base for the fine spirits, I have to say that there’s just something oh so special about looking out over the vibrant green ball field at night while feasting on a delicious hot dog smothered in sauerkraut and spicy mustard. The only way to improve this dining experience would be to have an actual baseball game going on during the event.
In addition to all of the fine food and drink, this year’s event afforded us the opportunity to speak with a few prominent whisky authors and other whisky industry luminaries. Spending a few minutes chatting with Lew Bryson and Fred Minnick was one of the highlights of our night (I can still hear Lew’s positively infectious laugh!). At another table, we spent some time harassing Mark Gillespie and had the chance to meet the ladies behind WhiskyCast, i.e. his wife and one of his daughters (it’s always a pleasure to meet with our neighbors, and the offer of a drinking session at The Barthenon still stands). And while I missed the chance to attend the Jimmy Russell Wild Turkey tasting, as luck would have it, I did get to meet him while he was signing bottles in the Wild Turkey suite.
Thanks to a plethora of great whisky, delicious food with a view of one of MLB’s finest ballparks, and all of the pros on hand to discuss all that we were imbibing, the American Whiskey Convention is yet another event that’s earned a permanent spot on our annual “to-do” list. Below are a few of our favorites pours of the night:
- Stoll & Wolfe – they had an unlabeled bottle of new make off to the side.
- Wigle Whiskey – Afterglow Ginger Whiskey and their Old Sap, a whiskey that uses a mash bill modeled after the Belgian Tripel mash bill of Latrobe, Pennsylvania’s Four Seasons Brewery.
- Breuckelen Distilling – their Glorious Gin: Oaked was super delicious and one of the best non-whisky spirits being poured during the event.
- Thistle Finch – small batch, Black Coffee Flavored Whiskey.
- Red Brick Distillery – a fantastic, if young, single malt whiskey and a spirit made from birch beer.
- New Liberty Distilling – Pennsylvania Dutch Malt and the Brothership Irish American Whiskey, a collaboration that uses 55% Irish whiskey from the Connacht Whiskey Company and 45% of their own American whiskey.
- Filibuster Distillery – Boondoggler Whiskey.
Many thanks to Laura Fields and the Delaware Valley Fields Foundation for providing us with media passes to this outstanding event!