Well, I’ve dragged this out long enough. As I said earlier, my priority at WhiskyFest was to hit the Bruichladdich booth and then I went to Highland Park (I did a vertical tasting of 12, 18 then 30; I wanted to taste the new 40, but it wasn’t on offer) and stopped to see my friends at the Beltramo’s booth. After that, I stopped at Ardbeg and tried the only expression I don’t own, the Airigh Nam Beist (Gaelic for “shelter of the beast”). So…I started on Islay and worked my way out. I was sad to note, when I did get “off the island,” that The Dalmore wasn’t present in their assigned booth. They are one of my favorite Highland distillers.
The standout product of the whole night, for me, was the “Sam Houston” small-batch bourbon from McLain and Kyne. This was buttery, spicy, and sweet. Excellent mouth feel and just overall a superb bourbon. Highly recommended! I also tasted, and really liked, the newly released Eagle Rare 17 bourbon from Buffalo Trace. Not only is it a fantastic bourbon, it’s a great price (well, prices are going up all over, so this might not be as true anymore as it was a year ago when I got a bottle of the Eagle Rare 10 for $29). BTW, if you’ve ever wondered about the origin of the name “Buffalo Trace,” there is an excellent wikipedia article about it.
Throughout the night (we were there for about 2.5 hours) we stopped at the following vendors: Zacapa Rum, Glenfarclas (I love the 105 degrees proof…smoothest whisky at 60% ABV you’ll ever try!), Compass Box (the new Peat Monster is much more well-balanced than its name would suggest; one downside: It’s sold in an impractically large 1.75 litre bottle that will definitely stand out on your whisky shelf!), Bowmore, The Glenrothes, Isle of Jura, Knappogue Castle, McLain and Kyne (where I tasted the Sam Houston), Canadian Club (they didn’t have the 30-year anniversary expression yet :-( ), Bunnahabhain, Bushmills, Ardmore, Laphroaig, BenRiach, and The Macallan.
The event was definitely better than last year (not that last year’s was bad…): Better hotel, better food, better selection of vendors, and better attended. I have to assume they’ll be back in 2009 for the third annual WhiskyFest San Francisco. I can’t wait!