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Whiskey Obsession returns

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Last year's Whiskey Obsession. (Photo Provided/Cliff Roles)

Last year's Whiskey Obsession. (Photo Provided/Cliff Roles)

Sarasota has been home to wine festivals for decades, and beer fests have become commonplace over the past few years, but big events that focus on more potent libations are rare. That’s why last year’s inaugural Whiskey Obsession Festival was such a revelation.

Dozens of whiskey producers poured their liquid wares while hundreds of fans tossed back samples and attended classes or panels during the fest’s first outing last March. This weekend, Whiskey Obsession returns, with a year of experience and an expanded lineup of guests and spirits.

“It is bigger. We increased the number of exhibitor tables from 31-44,” explained Turner Moore, Whiskey Obsession founder and organiser. “Part of that is because of new brands, but also because of more professional distillers and ambassadors. Last year we had 16, now it’s 30.”

Along with the increase in distillers and whiskey ambassadors comes an increase in the number of spirits that will poured at the fest – over 220 in all. Many of those will be from areas familiar to whiskey fans – Scotland, Ireland, Kentucky – but Moore is most excited by those from outside traditional whiskey hubs.

“We have nine countries represented,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know about Japanese whiskey, but they’ve been distilling since the ‘20s. Whiskey in Tasmania is remarkable – there are eight distilleries, just like on Islay (one of the major whiskey-producing regions of Scotland).”

Moore has also sought out a number of American craft distillers, from Utah, Texas and West Virginia, among others. “People love the idea that it’s not just Scotch,” he said.

And unlike most national whiskey festivals, guests can buy many of the products being poured right at Whiskey Obsession, thanks to the fest’s relationship with Michael’s Wine Cellar, which will have a booth by the door. Splurge on a VIP ticket for $195 and you’ll even get a $50 voucher you can use to buy whiskey, among other perqs.

While many who went to the first Whiskey Obsession were unaware of the classes that went on during the fest (which are included in the ticket price of $95), the five classes slated for this year are filling up rapidly.

For Moore – who is a financial advisor by day – the second year of the fest is another opportunity to share his personal obsession with a wider group of new whiskey fans and hardcore afficionados.

“I just love these festivals,” said Moore. “I have a passion for introducing people to the spirits.”

WHISKEY OBSESSION
whiskeyobsessionfestival.com

GRAND TASTING
7:30 p.m. Friday
Michael’s On East
1212 East Ave., Sarasota
n$95 for general admission. Limited to 500 guests and includes one branded Glencairn glass; unlimited tasting of over 200 spirits; seating as available at small group seminar classes (first come first served); wine, soft drinks, buffet and hors d’oeuvres.
n$195 for VIP. Limited to 150 guests and includes one branded Glencairn glass; early entrance at 6:30 p.m.; VIP hour pours of ultra-premium, fine, expensive, and rare spirits plus greater opportunity to interact with distillery ambassadors and industry professionals; unlimited tasting of over 200 spirits; priority seating at small group seminar classes (first come first served); wine, soft drinks, buffet and hors d’oeuvres; and one $50 retail voucher for purchases and special orders placed during the Whiskey Obsession Festival grand tasting.
n$45 for companion tickets, which include wine, soft drinks, buffet and hors d’oeuvres only

CLASSES AND SEMINARS
Classes are included in the ticket price, but reservations must be made in advance.
The Glenmorangie Academy
8 p.m.
Join Global Brand Ambassador, David Blackmore for a tasting of some of Glenmorangie’s iconic and innovative single malts, including Glenmorangie Original, Glenmorangie Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, Nectar D'Or, Glenmorangie Signet. Limited to 30 guests.
Suntory: The Art of Japanese Whisky
8 p.m.
Learn "The Art of Japanese Whisky" with tastings of Hakushu American white oak, Yamazaki Mizunara japanese oak, Hakushu Spanish oak Sherry Cask, and Hakushu 12 year. With Gardner Dunn, Suntory Whisky Brand Ambassador. Limited to 30 guests.
Whisky and Cigar Pairing
8 p.m.
David Laird, Balvenie Brand Ambassador and Joe Chiusano, Founder of C&C Cigars will guide guests through the art of pairing fine cigars with fine whisky.
The Four Roses Bourbon Story: 2 X 5 = Unlimited Possibilities
9 p.m.
Explore the history of Four Roses’ smooth and mellow Bourbon, its two mash bills, five yeasts and what possibilities lie in all the combinations. Limited to 30 guests. With Al Young, Four Roses Brand Ambassador.
Smooth Ambler Spirits – Current and Emerging Whiskeys
9 p.m.
Distiller and “Sales Guy” Johnny Foster will taste through a selection of Smooth Ambler merchant bottled whiskey, including Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon and Rye, as well as a few WV-Distilled, big barrel whiskeys set to be released sometime in the near future. Limited to 30 guests.

OFFICIAL AFTER PARTY
11 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday
Made Restaurant
1990 Main St., Sarasota
953-2900, maderestaurant.com

 

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Brian Ries

Brian Ries is the editor of ticketsarasota.com.
Last modified: April 4, 2014
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