There are worse ways to spend an evening than on a boat stocked with enough whiskey to drown yourself.
The Whiskies of the World event on the San Francisco Belle offered up literally hundreds of liquors to sample — too many brands and styles to list here, or to try to consume in the four hours the event took place. But in addition to Scotches, bourbons and blends, there was a good number of ryes and white dogs (just don’t call un-aged whiskies that in front of some of the distillers). But, with master classes and live jazz, the event was more than a whiskey tasting. It was a celebration of all things that have to do with the beverage, from cigars to bootleggers to bagpipes, barrel-aged beer and beef.
On the top deck, representatives from Sip, Smoke, Savor compared whiskies and cigar pairings. And the special surprise guest at their presentation, Master Blender Richard Paterson, received hoots from the rowdy boys in the back when he promised the return of Dalmore’s Cigar Malt, a Scotch specifically intended for smoke pairing.
On the third deck, High West Distillery, from Park City, Utah offered their Double Rye, a spicy 92-proof mixture of two whiskies: a sixteen-year-old, fifty-five percent rye and a two-year-old, ninety-five percent rye. They also brought their Silver Whiskey, a sweet and creamy, sip-able white whiskey made from eighty-five percent oats.
“We distill it to about eighty-four percent ethanol, where a vodka is distilled to about ninety-five percent ethanol,” said owner David Perkins. “And in that ten or eleven per cent, there’s a lot of flavor.”
Bulleit gave out samples of their new rye whiskey, a sweet concoction that tastes almost precisely like a Manhattan. I chased it with sips of Brewdog Breweries Smokehead Paradox, a peaty porter with hints of berry that’s been aged in used Scotch barrels.
On the second deck, Bruce Joseph of Anchor Brewing and Distilling gave out tastes of their Old Protrero Straight Rye Whiskey — barrel aged to a smooth caramel flavor — and their Eighteenth Century Style Whiskey — a 120-proof rye of considerable warmth and subtle toastiness.
And although he did not pour Anchor’s Old Protrero Hotaling’s, Joseph did entertain with that old tale of Hotaling’s Whiskey, the notorious warehouse that survived the 1906 quake and elicited the infamous piece of doggerel:
“If as they say god smote the town, for being over frisky
How come he burnt the churches down and spilled Hotaling’s Whiskey”
On the first deck a buffet provided pasta, cheeses and cuts of beef, as well as water and coffee for those looking to soak up the alcohol in their stomachs and go back for more.
And, as the boat remained docked during the event, it was an occasion with a pier without peer.