Two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to vacate my New York City apartment and travel down south to New Orleans for the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention. To give you a perspective on how incredibly huge this conference is, most people call it the “Fashion Week of The Spirits Industry” or “Sundance for Bartenders”. It is the one time of the year that spirit brand ambassadors, bar entrepreneurs’, and cocktail connoisseurs all gather in the French Quarter to see what’s hot in the liquor industry. Being an enthusiast of whiskey and let’s face it, all things liquor related, I escaped the concrete jungle and arrived in NOLA at 9:30AM – just in time for my first tasting room!
Entering the Hotel Monteleone in the early morning felt like a Vegas casino on a Saturday night. There were people scattered everywhere; some fabulously decked out and others donning their favorite shorts and properly branded t-shirts. As I made my way into the first tasting room, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of brands. A self described whiskey geek, I was instantly drawn to a crowded table that had tulip glasses lined across the entire length. I soon learned that the brand was called Monkey Shoulder, which is a blend of three of Speyside’s finest malts matured in Bourbon casks. On the table was a selection of homemade jams, everything from strawberry to marmalade, which were shaken with the Monkey Shoulder and garnished with a dash of egg white to create an original taste of choice. While sipping my Monkey and marmalade I learned this fun story behind the name:
“At one time, Monkey Shoulder referred to a temporary injury suffered by the malt men when turning the barley by hand. Whilst our malt men are among the few who still turn the barley manually, working conditions are now such that fortunately the injury has been consigned to the past. Today, the name Monkey Shoulder lives on as an affectionate tribute to the malt-men of yore in recognition of the times they suffered for their art.” (monkeyshoulder.com)
You may ask what can get better then tasting some fine spirits first thing in the morning, but for this whiskey dame it did later that evening. I ventured outside my air conditioned hotel room to the William Grant & Sons Swinging 40’s Shore Leave Ball hosted at the National WWII Museum. To say this party was incredible is an understatement. The party covered a total of three floors and continued to spill out on to the street and patio in front of the museum, where party mavens crowded around a vintage Roadster for a picture and a treat of The Balvenie. Inside the party each spirit was featured in a 1940’s theme creating a spectacular moment unique to the brand. I made my way up three flights of stairs in 4 inch heels to hang out with the inspiring woman whiskey ambassador Heather Greene in the Glenfiddich Stag Lounge. (To give Heather a short blurb here would not do her justice so stay tuned for more on her!) On my way up I stopped at the Manhattan Bar and grabbed my favorite, a Rob Roy, filled with the delicious Glenfiddich 15 year old.
After a long rest and a couple of whiskey free nights I am ready for a dram of scotch with two rocks. Cheers!