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VOL. 36 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 14, 2012

‘Brown goods’ celebrated at first Whiskey Festival

By Tim Ghianni

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Paul Patel

Nashville Whiskey Festival founder Paul Patel says you only have to look at the color of the liquid in cocktail glasses around town to know why his event will be successful.

“We’re in Tennessee, and we as a demographic are one of the largest in consuming brown goods per capita in the nation,” says the owner of Midtown Wine & Spirits.

For those not fluent in liquor-speak, “brown goods” means bourbon and whiskey, whether from Lynchburg, Bardstown or 44th Avenue North in Nashville’s “Nations” neighborhood, location of Collier and McKeel, which is crafting a Tennessee sipping whiskey.

“We are the ones that came up with the idea, created it and started it,” says Patel of the three-day festival, which includes:

  • A $200-per-person VIP tasting event and symposium, 6-8 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Tennessee State Museum (located in the basement of TPAC)
  • Women and Whiskey, 6-8 p.m. Sept. 21, also in the state museum. That event is $40
  • The Main Event, a series of symposiums and tastings Sept. 22, 1-6 p.m., at the War Memorial Auditorium. ($75 general admission, $125 VIP).

Patel decided, along with his store manager Mark Vergili, to launch this fest because “we needed something like this in Tennessee. New York has one, Chicago has one. We’ve got whiskeys from all over the U.S. coming.

“We have a lot of master distillers coming to the event,” he says of the event staged by Matt Leff’s local Rhizome Productions.

In addition to being a showcase of brown liquors and the occasional white lightning, this also is the first official fundraiser for the Nashville Clean Water Project.

“You can’t have great whiskey without clean water,” says Mark Thien of that grassroots initiative that will receive a portion of the proceeds. “Wouldn’t you rather have your whiskey clean than dirty?”

Thien’s group will have 50 volunteers assisting at the festival.

He said the water project, whose goals include raising awareness and restoring area waterways, benefits by being able to come in contact with hundreds of festival-goers and spreading its clean-water gospel.

To Patel, it’s only logical that Tennessee – home of Jack and George – would have such a gathering.

“Kentucky has a bourbon festival, the week before we are having ours. But theirs is just bourbons. We have bourbons, Tennessee whiskey” and more.

Even if people can’t make the first two evening events, he promises the “Main Event” Saturday at War Memorial will be worthwhile.

“That event entails 38 distillers with over 128 different whiskeys,” Patel says, noting that it also will include five craft beer breweries that use bourbon casks to store their product.

Each ticket holder will be given a Riedel whiskey glass to personalize the sampling, which will come complete with history and libation lessons.

“Basically each distiller has a rep there for education sake,” he says. “We don’t want to have whiskey to drink and no one there to tell them why their product is different, how it started.”

More information is available at nashvillewhiskeyfestival.com.

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