What started a half decade ago as a celebration of the nation’s burgeoning craft-spirit craze has branched out internationally, as Golden Nugget Atlantic City’s fifth annual Whiskey Revival festival has several overseas brands new to its sampling lineup, along with other unique artisan spirits.
The event takes place 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, in The Grand Ballroom. The John McNutt Band will provide live entertainment to accompany the seminars.
Among the seminars is a talk by Joe Riggs on what it was like growing up as the grandson of a Kentucky bootlegger. Tim Smith, co-star of the former Discovery Channel docudrama “Moonshiners,” will talk about television and its effects on the craft-spirit industry, and his Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine will be among six new domestic distilleries added to this year’s product lineup. Others include Revivalist Spirits and Bluebird Distilling — two craft distilleries located in the Philadelphia area — as well as Sagamore Distilling, Slaughter House American Whiskey and Breaker Bourbon.
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“Last year we introduced a couple of international companies to the event, and they were such a hit we added a few more,” says Scott Tarwater, corporate director of wine and special events for Landry’s Inc., Golden Nugget’s parent company. “Balvenie, Laphroiag and Auchentoshan are all high-end scotches that are joining us this year, and Glenfiddich is the No. 1 selling single-malt scotch whiskey in the world that will be joining our show.”
Poki is a Japanese whiskey that is also new to the international lineup. Domestic producers returning include Michter’s, St. George’s Spirits, Wyoming Whiskey, Corner Creek Bourbon, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, Jack Daniel’s, Bulleit, George Dickel, Four Roses, Hudson, Catskill and Virginia distilleries.
“We also will have a wider range of craft spirits on hand this year,” says Tarwater, “including Farmer’s Botanical that makes organic gin and artisan white spirits such as organic cucumber, tomato and lemon vodkas.”
Spirits from the American frontier
John Boccino is vice president of eastern sales for Wyoming Whiskey, a distillery with roots dating to late-19th century ranchers in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.
On Saturday, Wyoming Whiskey, a third-year veteran of Whiskey Revival, will bring back two of its staples, along with a limited-edition bourbon called Double Cask that show goers may have trouble finding once they leave Golden Nugget.
“Our latest release, Double Cask, is a very limited item,” Boccino says, “and in fact New Jersey only received 60 cases of it for the entire state. It’s a 5-year-old bourbon with a sherry finish, meaning it spends an additional two weeks (after aging in oak barrels five years) in a sherry cask. It’s an outstanding product with a little bit of sweetness to it. People have told me it does not taste anywhere near 100 proof (or 50 percent alcohol) — it’s that smooth.”
Wyoming Whiskey will also return its flagship small-batch bourbon, which has hints of caramel, vanilla creme and cinnamon, and a product called Outryder that is a blended American whiskey with a higher rye content than straight bourbon.
Outryder and Double Cask would each retail for about $54 a fifth on shelves, says Boccino, which would be considered a middle-tier whiskey in terms of price. More consumers have been willing to shell out the cash for higher-priced spirits in recent years, says Boccino, as the artisan craft-spirit movement gains momentum.
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“(The craft-spirit craze) all started with Irish whiskey, which is still on an upward trend and has been for about the past 10 years now,” Boccino says. “It keeps growing and growing, and we’re seeing a lot more craft distilleries coming out in the United States now, too.
“And from the trade magazines I’ve been reading, people have not been shying away from the higher-priced craft spirits,” he adds. “They’re spending more money on craft whiskies at a higher price point. Five or six years ago, a $70 to $100 bottle of whiskey would stay on the shelves for a long time, but lately people don’t seem to be blinking an eye to get their hands on a really well-made spirit. They’re gobbling them up.
“Through events like (Whiskey Revival), people are becoming better educated about the difference between a well-made aged whiskey and those that are mass-produced quickly, and what a good, older whiskey has to offer.”