From the authors that brought you household favorites such as “A Love Letter to Laphroaig” and best seller “The First Family of Bourbon” comes the tale of one man’s night of discovery, turmoil, anguish and triumph, all for the love of whisky.
W+A is proud to present a new volume of stories: “A Night in Chicago”.
Since moving to Chicago around the time where the shadows of winter were beginning to dissolve and disintegrate, I have made it a mission to involve myself in the gatherings of as much as I could in the world of whisky. One of the initial ways of attempting to add to my known geography of the whisky world was to sign up for casual weekly tastings/highlights at various whisky retailing locations, such as Printer’s Row Wine Shop. Located in the South Loop, I discovered this spirit’s shop while I was exploring the landscape of the great city of Chicago. Another way was to stalk Binny’s website to see what whiskies would be featured for tastings and when.
Alas, alerts and notifications of tastings that traditionally would light the flames of Hades under my ass to get up and go, didn’t anymore. Why? They weren’t whisky. Don’t get me wrong, I love beer like the next gluttonous patron, but when one is looking for a dram of whisky, no compromise, even if offered by Vito Andolini Corleone could suffice. Then one magical Thursday in October, it happened: A whisky tasting!
Brenne Whisky, which I’ve never had, was going to be at Binny’s, so I was too. This was a no brainer. This was set in stone. I’ve only seen pictures of it from the fortunate and heard about it from the wise, so the date of this tasting this was marked with a giant Brenne Blue ‘X’ on my calendar. On the day of, and as time for the event was creeping like a determined Elmer Fudd, I started to wrap up things I was designing (wink wink), entertaining and bullshitting with. I checked my “end of day emails” – do those still exist since emails are texts in suits nowadays? – and to my great surprise it happened again… another tasting!
One is magical, but two on the same day!? I don’t know if Webster ever identified a word for this type of scenario. This was great. Too good to be! Well, clearly, you know what happens next. The dreaded constraints of time! Curses! The two events ran into each other as lovers reunited after wartime would and I would need the speed of The Flash to run to both.
Did I have things to do? – Yes. Did I discard those things even as the shadows of winter began to reassemble through the downtown Chicago streets? – Yes. Did I bundle up and rush out to meet the time frame of the tastings as if Hades himself sent Cerberus on a special mission to fetch me? – Of course. I mean it was Kilchoman Machir Bay and The Arran 10, AND Brenne WHISKY! What do you expect? And so my night began earlier and more hectically than I would’ve imagined.
Getting to Printer’s Row was as convenient as the L that I took to get there. This locale was closer than heading to Binny’s at Lincoln Park where Brenne would be featured (more on that later) first. So, being the smart guy that I am – I mean I drink whisky – I made Printer’s Row my first stop. I made it JUST in time. I can’t emphasize “JUST” anymore, well actually I can – I made it JUST in time. Here I was able to taste the aforementioned Kilchoman Machir Bay and The Arran 10 and a surprise offering, The Arran 16. 3 more than I thought I would get my whisky paws on this morning (thanks Cerberus for the urgency!), but more importantly I got to meet Joshua Hatton. Joshua (as I should have guessed) would lead his people of whisky (me) to… more lands of whisky. Joshua, would be holding… wait for it… ANOTHER TASTING later that night at Delilah’s, aka another place on the map I have to get to quickly, where 6 more whiskies would be featured. Did I have things to do? – Yes. Did I discard those things just as the darkness of night had now thrown away the shine of the day? – Of course. But oh shit! Brenne!
I sort of lost track of time with the conversation I had with Joshua, but I planned ahead in my mind and gave myself room for error… I think. I rushed back to the L and played the waiting game with the next train headed North. I waited. I waited. I finished knitting a shawl that could be used in the upcoming months of Chicago weather and, finally, my train arrived. Time was ticking and now I somehow still had 2 tastings to get to. As I power walked as soccer moms of yesteryear once did, I arrived at Binny’s in Lincoln Park with say, 30 mins to spare. Thank you. But remember how I mentioned “more on that later”, and “too good to be…”? Well, here it is: As the sliding doors of Binny’s opened for what was once my main course for the night, those same doors might as well have crushed me before I passed through its threshold. “Hi, I am looking for the Brenne tasting” I asked a worker, and which seemed to be with the voice of Bill Lumbergh. His response? “Yeah…, that was publicized incorrectly. It’s not at this Binny’s but at the Binny’s on Mars” – Okay, he really said “…at the Lakeview Binny’s”
Faced with the “is this worth it?” question after realizing I had about 20mins to walk back to the station then go to another destination, walk from that station, and make it to another Binny’s, I had some quick decisions to make. You may be asking why I did not take an Uber? Well, I love taking the train throughout any city I’m in – and before you try it, don’t poke holes at my story and perseverance for the sake of my love for whisky! Just roll with it. Anyway, a decision made. It was worth it. Cerberus, I need you to make me run like The Flash again! Or maybe I need Pegasus. *Sigh*, Guess I have to go to another tasting.
Only waiting long enough to knit a small beanie to go along with the shawl, the train pierced through the Chicago night and landed me at my stop from where I teleported to Binny’s. That’s the only way I can make sense of me getting there in the time I did in order to meet Brenne’s captivating founder and one woman army that is Alison Patel. A great introduction to what Brenne Whisky is, led to tasting the Estate Cask and then the newly bottled 10 year. Absolutely lovely. Was it worth it. – Yes, and I enjoy making new connections in this whisky world of ours. Oh, Shit! I have to get to Delilah’s. Did I have things to do? – Yes. Did I discard those things as if time would halt for my whisky travels and I could pick them up without making life more difficult? – Of course. Did I bundle up again and rush out to meet Josh – What do you think?
To quote a fellow author I know, “before I continue, let me start by saying that [these were] free event[s].” – Peat. Better late than never right? Anyways, this journey was not as hectic as the others, but when one has been to the ends of the earth and back, just to do it again, it was tiring. Alas, Delilah’s where I walked in to see Josh now wearing his “Founder of Single Cask Nation” hat after donning his “Impex Beverages Executive” cap earlier – Yea, safe to say that he lives and breathes whisky. “To the persistent goes the spoils” (edited for storytelling purposes) and here Josh introduced me to 3 great bottlings from his Single Cask Nation and 3 great bottles from something I was previously unaware of: The Whisky Jewbilee.
An all-out bonanza of whisky that (of course he created) was having its inaugural event in a couple of weeks. The bottles were special commemorative editions and each represented a year of the ‘Jewbilee’ in its home location of New York. The bottles each contain graphics that tell the fictional story of a man and woman who met at the Jewbilee and follows them throughout their relationship. Each bottling for each Jewbilee event is the next chapter of the story. Cool stuff. But more importantly, GREAT whisky! One of my favorites of the 6 was this year’s New York edition of the Jewbilee Bottling which featured four different casks from Seattle’s Westland Distillery – at Cask Strength.
My night was a success, then as if Joshua knew how much I traveled for the love of whisky, he personally invited me to the Inaugral Chicago Whisky Jewbilee Event. With that honor, this was obviously a great night in Chicago.