Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whiskey tasting with Women of Whiskey Chicago

Posted By on 09.26.12 at 04:00 PM

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I have mixed feelings about women's events centered around alcohol. On the one hand, tasting events are inevitably male-dominated otherwise; at beer tastings, I sometimes wonder if I've defied the laws of physics by actually becoming invisible or if the brewery representatives are just more interested in serving the guys on either side of me. So I can see the logic behind creating events where women will make up more than 5 percent of the attendees—but there's also this tendency to make anything aimed at women overly cutesy. I'm always afraid of ending up at a girls'-night-out-type thing where the drinks are pink and everyone speaks in exclamation points.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the "bourbon appreciation event for women" at the Bedford last week. Hosted by Women of Whiskey Chicago, a new local chapter of the national Bourbon Women Association (a name that seems slightly grammatically suspect), it included tastes of Bulleit bourbon and rye, Knob Creek, Booker's, and George Dickel No. 12 and Barrel Select. There was a presentation on the various whiskeys but I got held up at work and missed the first hour of the event, so I had to taste them on my own—which wasn't so bad, really. And there wasn't a pink drink or exclamation point to be seen.

They were all very good; Bulleit and Knob Creek are a couple of my go-tos already for reasonably priced whiskeys. I hadn't tried Booker's before (it retails around $60, about twice as much as the others), and was surprised at how strong and sweet it is. Turns out it's cask strength and bottled at around 125 proof—which means that it's actually less intense than I would have expected. I wouldn't have thought that a bourbon that high in alcohol would be anything you'd want to sip straight, but it is. My favorite among them, though, was the George Dickel Barrel Select, aged ten to 12 years and very smooth.

It was a good crowd, too, professionals with a genuine interest in whiskey. Two of the women at my table ran a company that organizes cooking parties; another is starting a distillery in Carbondale that's so new it still doesn't have a name. Hillary Lake, who started Women of Whiskey Chicago about six months ago, said that her ex-husband used to drink whiskey, but she never thought she liked it. After they divorced, she discovered that she actually did, and started learning more about it. She says she wanted to create a nonthreatening environment for women to taste and learn about bourbons, scotches, and other whiskeys; so far most of the Women of Whiskey events have been tastings but she's also planning trips to local distilleries and possibly to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

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