After three years off, Whisky Live USA is back! This global whiskey appreciation festival was held at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee. It was sponsored by Cork Dorks and Bevridge and featured more than 100 whiskeys and eight Master Classes over two days.
In talking with festival-goers, I discovered that people had come from as far away as North Carolina, Alabama, and, of course, Kentucky to visit this festival. There were also people who were in town for other conventions who decided to take a break from their professional obligations to head down to the whiskey show.
There was also an interesting mix of brands present at Whisky Live Nashville. Single malts were out in full force, in particular. There were Scotches ranging from Benromach, The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Arran. There were also Irish single malts such as Writer’s Tears and Glendalough. And, finally, the American Single Malts were out in full force, with offerings from Westland, Virginia Distillery Company, Santa Fe Spirits, and Boulder Spirits.
It can be difficult to get folks with a Bourbon-tuned palate into single malt whiskey, but it seemed as though most of the festival-goers were open to the experience. In fact, several of the people I spoke with named single malts when asked what the best thing they had tried all day was.
For the Bourbon-only crowd, there were plenty of choices. Heaven Hill, Michter’s, and Barrell Craft Spirits were responsible for the lion’s share, with each offering five or more Bourbons from their lineups. Michter’s even brought a bottle or two of their recent 20-year release, delighting festival-goers who would not have otherwise had an opportunity to try it.
It’s interesting to note that there were only two brands there with Tennessee whiskeys: George Dickel and Nelson’s Green Brier. There are currently 26 distilleries in the Tennessee Distillers’ Guild and more than 60 in total, though not all make Tennessee Whiskey — Tennessee is also known for Moonshine. For next year’s Whisky Live Nashville, I hope to see more Tennessee brands show up and show off.
I had a lovely chat with David Coors, who was there for the festival. David is responsible for convincing his father that Coors should also make a whiskey, and years after that initial conversation Five Trail American Whiskey has finally hit the market. This first batch is a blend of several different whiskeys and the local culture: a Colorado single-malt whiskey, three bourbons from Kentucky and Indiana, the same Rocky Mountain water used in Coors, and their own beer malt.
Balcones showcased a collaboration with the band ZZ Top called Tres Hombres, which shares the name with the band’s first top ten album in 1973. The band was involved in the blending of the whiskey, which features Balcones’ signature blue corn as well as rye and malted barley.
O.H. Ingram debuted their new wheated mash bill at the festival, while Barrell Craft Spirits brought a festival-exclusive bottling for guests to enjoy.
Justins’ House of Bourbon’s Justin Thompson and Caroline Paulus did a class about Bourbon through the decades, which included tastes from a 1957 JW Dant, pre-fire Heaven Hill, and a Beam decanter, one of the eight Master Classes offered over the two days of the festival.
As with most whiskey festivals I saw several people I knew, and it felt good to get back into the swing of things. I am looking forward to watching Whisky Live Nashville grow.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl
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