2nd Annual Whiskey Festival — Drink It In

whiskey crowdYou know that song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?” I couldn’t help but think perhaps it was penned for the wrong potion after attending the 2nd Annual Whiskey Festival, held April 16 at Audi South Orlando. Well over 100 whiskeys, scotch, and other potent potables were on “tap” for sipping enjoyment.

Serious whiskey drinkers snatched up the “Pappy Experience” tickets early on. These select few (only 25 tickets were sold) enjoyed a private tasting of the entire “Pappy Van Winkle” family (10 year, 12 year, 13 year rye, 15 year, 20 year and 23 year). For those NOT in the know (which before this event included me…), Pappy Van Winkle is a legendary brand. Even an empty bottle on Ebay goes for close to $200. (Say… Want the lineup? Click here with your eight THOUSAND to buy the collection.)

The Limited Release Experience offered five rare pours including 1. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon; 2. Jim Beam Distillers Masterpiece; 3. Michter’s 10 year Limited Release; 4. High West Yippee Ki-Yay (Debut release in Florida at 2016 Orlando Whiskey Festival); 5. Whistle Pig 15 year (Debut release in Florida at 2016 Orlando Whiskey Festival).


Glengoyne’s 10 year and 21 year have distinct colors based on age.

During the special release time, I enjoyed the rare treat of some exceptional pours including Glengoyne‘s 25 year. (Yes. I was drawn to the most expensive ones in their line. Shocker.) I learned that the Highlands distillery uses unpeated malt for this single malt scotch whisky, which is then aged in Sherry casks for 25 years. Smooth doesn’t even begin to describe the taste. The color (which is completely natural from the barrels, deepens the longer it matures.

WhistlePig brought their award-winning collection and I tried the 10 year, 100-proof, straight rye. At first the vanilla, honey and caramel notes lured me in, but the slightly smokey finish (that the more experienced palates found irresistible) was not my “cup of tea.” No wonder Whiskey Advocate called it a “very distinctive, and probably a polarizing whiskey.”

Speaking of “cup of tea,” I’m reminded of the saying “I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey, than everyone’s cup of tea.”

While not “the” most expensive, but certainly hard to order in local establishments, Hibiki Suntory Whisky was one of my favorite pours. Meaning “resonance” in Japanese, Hibiki was a pleasant surprise even though it’s not from Scotland or Ireland… or even Kentucky. By the way, there’s no “e” in whisky, when spelled in the European way, in case anyone’s proofing as they read. Hibiki was created with food pairings in mind, which is why it is so effortless to sip.

whiskey serverI was not expecting to run into rum at the event, but there it was in all its amber beauty. Grander Rum, a Panamanian creation, is aged at least 8 years in ex-bourbon barrels from Kentucky. A fine sipping rum, Grander contains no additives and is perfectly suited for drinking “straight up” (though I’d be the last person to advise you against using quality in your rum-based cocktails.

Foods at the Orlando Whiskey Festival included a heavenly fried catfish taco from The Coop/4Rivers. Why this crispy, tasty little handheld bundle of deliciousness is not on the menu is beyond me (catering offering only, for now). Suffice it to say I’ll be chatting up John Rivers next chance I get and asking if he’ll add it. (Maybe I should bring a bottle of one of these fine whiskeys as a way to… influence him….) “THE” Whiskey, the Gourmet Burger Joint and bar on Sand Lake Road, served Asian Beef Tartare (seen below on the same night, different location, and benefiting another great cause!). I had two. Shhhh.

#CBBWildWest We’ve heard @WhiskeyOrlando has the best burger in town. How about their Asian Beef Tartare?

A photo posted by Central Florida Top 5 (@centralfltop5) on

Provisions and Buzz Co. served a moist and tender pork roast with a chutney-type apples while, outside Audi South Orlando, Hard Rock Orlando shared mini burgers and their outstanding mac and cheese (which won in both the Restaurant and People’s Choice categories at Give Kids The World’s OTown MacDown in 2014!).

There was also a cigar lounge with cigars from Swisher Sweets, craft beers including The Hourglass Brewery based in Longwood, rum tastings, live music, and more.

Suffice it to say there were still at least 85 bottles of… everything… on the wall when I left at a measly 8:30pm (and closing was at 10). Lightweights like me had to throw in the towel early. Next year I’m hoping to be more prepared. So I guess I have a few months to train.

Special thanks to Provisions Buzz & Co. for inviting Central Florida Top 5 to enjoy this tasty evening! Thanks, too, for your generosity to our community. All net proceeds from The Orlando Whiskey Festival benefited The Lovely Project Foundation.

The Lovely Project is a non profit organization, headquartered in Orlando, FL that exists to empower girls and women by infusing them with the knowledge of their value, voice and valor. You can visit them at TheLovelyProject.org or clicking the logo below.

The Lovely Project is a Non-Profit Organization, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, that exists to empower girls by providing them with tools, education and peer-mentorship for living a purposeful, productive life.