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VOL. 37 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 06, 2013

Fans get another shot at Whiskey Festival

By Tim Ghianni

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Schedule of Events

Sept. 11-14 at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Wednesday, Sept .11

Theme: “Iron Cocktail” (similar to “Iron Chef”)

Cost: $65 per person

Description: Nashville’s best bartenders will work with Four Roses bourbons and a “secret” ingredient to make the best cocktail possible. Four “celebrity” judges will determine the winner of each of the four rounds. Attendees will be able to taste some Four Roses offerings and a complementary cocktail at the Four Roses bar. The first 50 people to purchase tickets will get to help Midtown Wine & Spirits choose its next Four Roses Single Barrel selection.

Thursday, Sept. 12

Theme: “Antique Collection”

Cost: $225 per person. (SOLD OUT).

Description: This event features the most sought after whiskeys in the U.S. A special seminar will be conducted by Chris Fletcher of Buffalo Trace Distillery. 

Friday, Sept. 13

Theme: “Women and Whiskey”

Cost: $75 per person

Description: A panel of four women, including Stephanie Ridgeway, (brand manager and ambassador for Highland Park Scotch), Allison Patel (owner of Brenne Whiskey and whiskey blogger at thewhiskywoman.wordpress.com/ and misswhisky.com/), Hollis Bulleit (trained and certified master of Whiskey, trailblazer in the brown spirits industry first woman from a bourbon family to represent the brand on a national and global level, and creator of an innovative teaching method on how to conceptualize the Kentucky bourbon portfolio). Rounding out the panel will be Troy Ball, owner and distiller of Troy & Sons whiskey out of Asheville. These women will be discussing the challenges they’ve dealt with in an industry that is largely male-dominated. There will be a Q&A session.

Saturday, Sept. 14

Theme: “Grand Tasting”

Cost: $85 general admission/$135 VIP (1st Hour - limited available product)

Description: Approximately 70 distillers pouring product and offering educational seminars. (Including a premium scotch seminar featuring the whisky of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg, a special mixology seminar hosted by Tim Laird chief cocktail and entertainment officer of Brown Forman, and a special blending seminar with Kyle Henderson head processor and bottling manager at Angel’s Envy). There will also be a cigar bar, an outdoor pavilion, and a full spread of snacks available throughout the evening. Patrons with VIP tickets will be granted early admission to the Grand Tasting Event.

Information: nashvillewhiskeyfestival.com

Scotch whiskey and country music will provide the right flavors to help turn the Nashville Whiskey Festival into a national event.

That’s the hope of Paul Patel, whose Midtown Wine & Spirits is presenting the second annual fest Sept. 11-14 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville.

In addition to the change in locales – last year’s inaugural event drew 350 brown whiskey fans to the War Memorial Auditorium, according to Patel – a focus on Scotch whiskey will help infuse a spirited turnout to the event.

“We were looking for a bigger venue, and we were looking for something that was representative of Nashville internationally,” Patel says. “We wanted to grow into more of a Southeast event, be an event that is going to be around for years and eventually become a national event.”

That urge for growth was a primary reason for the move to the Mecca of country music fans, many of whom likely enjoy a taste of brown whiskey themselves.

The new location, with a capacity of 700 fans in a less-than-cramped Hall of Fame Conservatory and in the adjoining courtyards, puts the festival right next to the Music City Center, within obvious easy reach of conventioneers in Nashville, something Patel and his cohorts hope will aid in the growth.

“It’s a step toward being a national event,” says Patel, 46, who has lived in Nashville for 30 years, the last 14 as proprietor at Midtown. “We already are booked there (at the Hall of Fame) for the same time period for next year.

“We are going to make sure it’s going to be successful,” he adds, pointing out that the event sends 10 percent of ticket sales to Nashville Clean Water Project, a volunteer organization whose members clean up waterways, islands and other adjoining terrain.

“Clean water is important to whiskey,” he says. Clean Water Project volunteers will help at the event.

When Patel planned the first event last year, it was with an eye toward the state’s passion for brown whiskeys, including many major and artisan distillers from Lynchburg, Tullahoma and right here in Nashville.

“The fact that Tennessee consumes more brown goods per capita than anywhere else, it seems right to do an event like this,” he says, citing information provided by suppliers. Those same suppliers tell him the state is No. 3 nationally in overall brown whiskey consumption. “The popularity of bourbons has exploded (as have) whiskeys and artisanal producers.”

While Tennessee is famous for sipping whiskey, legal moonshine products and custom whiskeys are also a part of the local spirits scene.

But one of the most popular of brown whiskeys was not a part of the first event a year ago, and Patel and friends are not letting that happen again.

“Scotch is a very big part of whiskey and brown goods as it is,” he says. “We were going to do scotch last year, but we didn’t have enough time to include everybody. So at last year’s festival, we’d already decided we were going to include Scotch this year.”

Various scotches will be among the approximately 300 items produced by 70-75 distilleries that will be candidates for tasting during this year’s festival.

In addition to the seminars and tastings, there will be a film, “Straight Up: Tennessee Whiskey,’’ which Patel describes as a documentary about the state’s spirits history, playing in the Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater. Country music performances will be ongoing inside and outside the venue.

Beginning it all is an event right out of reality TV. Sort of. Wednesday night’s “Iron Cocktail” pits eight local whiskey-mixing experts in an “Iron Chef”-style competition.

“The events that we’ve got and the number of whiskeys and bourbons and the caliber of whiskey brand ambassadors and distilleries and master distillers coming …. Well, only New York and Chicago and San Francisco have been having events this big,” says Patel. “It’s a step toward being a national event.”

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