Man, do I love nights in Chicago. It has been awhile since catching you all up on the whisky adventures that the Windy City has offered. There have been plenty-a-night to choose from, but here is a special one that I experienced a few fortnights ago.
Chicago is a great whisk(e)y city. No, not just in terms of its proximity, since the city is located not “too” far from whiskey powerhouses Kentucky and Tennessee. Rather, Chicago on its own seems to love and celebrate all aspects of whisk(e)y, from the drams themselves to the culture and accessories around it. I know Chicago nights are great but just when I am certain I had an epic night, the big shadow of New York City and Neat presents itself as The Hangover to my Midnight in Paris. For example, Neat was invited to, and enjoyed himself at, a Russell Reserve dinner not too long ago. Meanwhile Peat and I were left to just be happy for our partner in crime, until… I got invited to one of the same in Chicago.
The good folks at Wild Turkey/Russell Reserve must have felt my woes for being unable to attend one of their esteemed events. After many early letters to Santa and wishes sent to everything beyond the stars, Russell Reserve cordially invited W+A to their special dinner in Chicago. From the start, I knew this would be an epic night since the venue selected to host was Fulton Market Kitchen. Located in the West Loop – what I believe is Chicago’s “Cool Foodie District” – Fulton Market Kitchen is one of many places I wanted to check out, and now I had my chance to kill two birds, or two drams, with one stone. Long story short, Russell’s Reserve Speakeasy here I come. Upon arriving at the destination, I felt perhaps I was too early (aka on-time) because there wasn’t much activity outside. After verifying that this was the appropriate time, since the early bird gets the whiskey first, my special lady and I entered the industrial styled, artisan decorated and perfectly dimly lit restaurant. Still tiptoeing through the entrance, we saw a ray of sunshine at the end of the walkway in the bar area which revealed the greatness which would be the rest of the night.
Already there were a few attendees to meet and greet, but of course not before being welcomed with a bourbon cocktail to start things off right. The environment of the restaurant encouraged close engagement with other guests, but, with the addition of some whiskey it was easy to get into conversation. As expected, pleasantries were exchanged with the present guests, and that quickly transitioned into general discussions about life, love, and of course, whiskey. Through the meet and greet stage of the evening I met an array of talented people, such as a wonderful woman who carefully crafts preserves from high quality seasonal fruits. I also met a cool guy who is a craftsman in the art of hat-making; a lovely couple making custom vegan footwear; and I even ran into a former critic of mine representing her product design studio along with her husband. Around this time, in-spite of meeting more very creative craftsmen and craftswomen, there were just the right amount of drinks flowing that I didn’t even connect the dots of the theme of this incredible night. Luckily, the good folks of Russell’s Reserve had that covered too.
Time for the show. All of the guests had arrived and had a few cocktails and appetizers by the time we gathered around to listen to Bruce Russell introduce the Russell Reserve lineup. I can’t vocalize how cool it was to have a member of the Russell family discuss Russell’s whiskey in this intimate setting. As part of the presentation, the process of making each selection from the lineup was discussed and explained. This served as a great cap to introduce the theme of the night: The Makers. Russell’s Reserve had curated an evening dedicated to everything Whisky + Architecture is about. Bringing together creative people in a great environment to discuss their fields all while exposing themselves to the craft and design of whisk(e)y. It’s always great to be among designers and creators having conversations about what they love to do, how they do it, and why they do it. Bruce Russell was no exception, and through his presentation he continuously expressed what making Russell’s Reserve meant to the Russell family. A beautiful presentation for a Whisky + Architecture approved event.
I have been saying a lot about the people and the whiskey, so much so that you might have forgotten that this was a dinner. By now all of the creative minds were liquored up and it was time for the actual main course. A great selection and presentation of the dinner was all icing on the cake at this point. As we all sat together as makers, it was encouraging to be in the midst of all these talented people located in the same area at the same time. Needless to say the food was very good, but more importantly, the moment was even better. It was hard to call it a night as everyone was still immersed in discussion and entertainment but all good things must come to an end. I left the event beyond grateful to be included as a Russell’s Reserve “maker” and was appreciative to have met so many people who embody Whisky + Architecture. Thank you Russell’s Reserve for making this happen.