There is a lot of booze in Sin City. I would guess we consume more alcohol per capita than any place on the planet. Sure, we are helped out by those 41 million or so 'guests' that show up on our doorstep expecting an evening from The Hangover. It is those of us that are looking for hard-to-find experiences in Sin City, however, that make the actual selection of alcohol in Las Vegas completely astounding.
Xania Woodman has been writing, editing, and musing about nightlife and bar life for quite some time. Recently she began Now Drink This LIVE!, a series of events where hand-selected industry experts immerse attendees in all bottled things great and wonderful.
The real secret about great product is that every great product has a great story. Great products are generally driven by passion. Passion in turn, generates all of the twists and turns on the road to greatness. That makes a story great- and understanding the context of a particular bottle makes it even more enjoyable when you drink it.
But what about that ballerina?
Fizz at Caesar's Palace is an elegant and somewhat opulent Champagne bar featuring (what I would assume is) a small portion of Elton John's husband's photography collection. David LaChapelle's stuff is everywhere. Which makes sense, considering that LaChapelle was involved in The Red Piano at Caesars. The bar is gorgeous. Think of a private quiet nook right off of the gaming floor with expensive but hip art and you have a perfect place for an evening of whisky education.
The featured speaker of the evening was Joe McCluskey, brand ambassador for Brenne Whisky. A brand ambassador's job is to increase brand awareness. It helps if you have good brands and a personality. Joe is lucky and has both. He also has a penchant for comfortable shoes and well-placed interjections of curse words. "Forgive my French," he says, before launching into some excellent Old English. Vegas Artisanal Spirits Specialist Tony DeMaria greeted everyone with a drink developed for the evening (The Caterpillar's Cardigan) and we began.
Scotch is a mystery only if you wish to master it. Fundamentally Scotch comes down to barley and a barrel, however. It is what happens to that barrel and in that barrel that defines the scotch. One of the hot areas of scotch (lowercase) is World Whisky. This is generally an attempt to make a Scotch-style product in an area other than Scotland.
A World Whisky, Brenne Whisky is made in Cognac, France. Like most good things French, terroir must be mentioned. Terroir is (simplistically) how a local environment affects a wine's flavor. Brenne is fascinating because it is more than likely the only whisky with a bonafide terroir- everything involving the production is found within 30 miles or so of the facility.
Brenne is a fairly new brand- we were treated to the first 10 year expression. Distilled in a copper alembic still, then aged in virgin Limousin Oak barrels and finished in wet cognac casks (what else?), the product is bottled per barrel. Since there is no blending of the whisky the flavor of every bottling of Brenne will vary. Aging is about 7 years.
How does it taste? This is where it gets very interesting. The flavor of the batch we tried was almost sweet with a cherry and fruit scent. Think of a good manhattan with just a hint of vermouth and an orange. This is due to the use of wet barrels for the final steps of aging. Your palate is being hit with a good dose of French Cognac.
There are a lot of Scotches and Scotch-styled liquors out there. This is a completely unique product. A good addition to your bar with a great story.
And about that story?
Allison Patel is a ballerina who, upon retirement, pursued wine, whisky, and cheese. On her travels she found a 3rd generation cognac producer who was making a unique scotch using barley from his farm. The rest, as they say, is Brenne.
A World Whisky, Brenne bottles are about $60. One of the coolest things about Now Drink This is that you get to learn from experts while you try liquors. At a fraction of what it would cost to own the bottles. Try before you leap. Insecure about your knowledge base? The events are geared to the level of the participants. You will learn. You will also enjoy. You may even be in front of the group learning how to make one of the evening's cocktails. And you could win a door prize.
The next Now Drink This Live! Event is at Fizz in Caesars Palace, Wednesday November 30, 2016 from 6-8 PM. It will feature Atlantico Rum founder Brandon Lieb and Ryan McGinnis with the topic "The Rum Resurgence." Tickets are $40 and are available here.
The Caterpillar's Cardigan
- 2 oz. Brenne
- Sugar Cube
- Dash of Bittermens Boston BIttahs or Similar
- Absinthe Rinse
- Lemon Zest
Add absinthe to glass and swirl. Add sugar, zest and a dash of bitters to a mixing glass. Crush the cube. Add whisky and ice to mixing glass. Stir until cold and diluted; 20 seconds or so. Dump absinthe and strain into glass. Add lemon garnish.
Based on the variation in Brenne from bottling to bottling I would suggest going easy on the sugar and using it to taste. This could become a 'too sweet' cocktail rather easily and the sweetness would overwhelm the liquor.