On Friday night I attended the first Whisky Live USA to ever be held in Chicago. I’m so glad this location was chosen for a number of reasons. There’s an inside joke among Louisville whiskey geeks that Chicago is basically North Louisville. What does that mean? There is a heavy enough concentration of whiskey geeks there that we regularly see them in Louisville and there are plenty of groups dedicated to whiskey as well as a multitude of professional bartenders who really know their whiskey.
Rabbit Hole Distilling Co hosted the cocktail table where I met Bryson Ryan. Ryan has an extensive background in the cocktail community, including a stint as a brand ambassador for Angel’s Envy. His current position is something I found fascinating – he is the bar manager for a really fancy fitness club in Chicago that has a rooftop pool. His cocktail focus there is using ingredients that don’t undo the healthful lifestyle patrons are trying to achieve at the health club. Brilliant. Ryan was unbelievably knowledgeable and passionate about both bourbon and cocktails.
I also met the crew from Delilah’s, a legendary whiskey bar in Chicago. Sadly because I was in the city for less than 18 hours I wasn’t able to make it to the bar, despite the fact they had a party bus shuttling people. But I can tell you that this is a legendary whiskey bar, and you can’t support a legendary whiskey bar in a town without a critical mass of whiskey lovers.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar proprietor Matthew Landan is also from Chicago, and he had a table at the event where he was pouring with his mother. It was fabulous to meet the woman who birthed a legend.
The Chicago chapter of Bourbon Women, which was the first franchise outside of Kentucky, also had a table. It has been wonderful to see all the events they have been doing as bourbon ambassadors in the city.
The many distilleries and brands represented went above and beyond to ensure patrons had a great time. Mint Julep Tours was there to tell folks about their many wonderful tour options, and The Whisky Chicks were there evangelizing the bourbon lost. Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and the entire Brown-Forman family of whiskies were out in force, and there were many smaller producers rounding out the whiskey offerings.
Chicago is a great place to be a whiskey lover, and the addition of Whisky Live has made it even better. I’m looking forward to getting back to explore some of the other great whiskey spots.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl