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Arts and Entertainment Monday, Apr. 8, 2019 1 year ago

Whiskey Obsession Festival 2019 set to put visitors in high spirits

The seventh annual event offers sips of world-class whiskey with a chaser of education.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

When it comes America’s whiskey festivals, our area’s Whiskey Obsession is definitely top shelf. This year’s 7th annual celebration will serve up a tasty selection of more than 260 labels from April 10-13 at venues across Sarasota. The masterminds behind these drafts range from established global superstars to scrappy emerging craft distillers, and many will speak their minds at the festival. Guests who thirst for knowledge can drink deep from six master classes taught by distillers, owners and brand ambassadors.

Turner Moore is the festival’s founder. He finds whiskey intoxicating and not for the obvious reasons. He loves the thing itself, of course. But his deepest love is for the people behind the whiskey.

“Most of the small Scotch distillers are family firms who’ve been around for decades,” he says. “I love hearing their stories — and I especially love the respect and support they show for each other. The whiskey industry is truly unique in that way. When Barton’s Distillery lost half of its 1792 Bourbon barrels in a recent warehouse collapse, the other distillers didn’t laugh at their misfortune; they helped. Could you imagine the CEOs of Apple, Google and Microsoft acting that way?”

Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel master distiller, and Whiskey Obsession Festival President Turner C. Moore

He adds that there’s always a lot to learn. “Whiskey is an ancient art form, but it’s constantly reinventing itself,” he says. “Distillers are always experimenting and pushing the envelope. There have been so many amazing developments, even since last year’s festival. If you want to taste their latest creations, you’ve come to the right place.”

How does Turner respond when people ask if Jim Beam will be available?

“My answer is always, ‘No! But you can try something rare, wonderful and new. You can get Jim Beam all year ’round. But you might never experience these brands again. Don’t miss the chance to try something new.’”

Here’s a sample of what’s new this year. (For a complete schedule, visit the Whiskey Obsession website.)


If You Go

Whiskey Obsession Kickoff Dinner

Anthony Puccio, Sarasota Yacht Club’s executive chef, will serve up a sumptuous four-course dinner. Winston Edwards (of Balcones National Distillery) will supply food for thought in a meticulous analysis of Balcones’ Texas Single Malt Whiskey. (Includes Texas-sized tastes of three wood-finished, single-malt whiskies.)

When: 6:30 p.m. April 10

Where: Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd.

Tickets: $125

Info: Call 400-9889


World Whiskey Dinner

Ashok Chokalingam (of Amrut Distillery) will lead a spirited discussion at this intimate three-course dinner showcasing four, award-winning whiskies from Bengaluru, India. (Includes meal, whiskies, and commemorative Tervis Tumbler. Limit 20 guests.)

When: 5 p.m. April 11

Where: The Hyatt Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts

Tickets: $125

Info: Call 400-9889


Whiskey Experts Panel and Interactive Tasting

Whiskey is created by a small tribe of distillers who happen to live around the planet. This event offers light bites and sips of nine of the world’s finest labels—accompanied by intimate conversation with nine of the world’s leading whiskey experts. Co-moderated by Turner Moore, Samara Rivers (of Black Bourbon Society) and Dave Sweet (of Whiskey and Barrel Nite).

When: 7 p.m. April 11

Where: The Hyatt Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts

Tickets: $75

Info: Call 400-9889.

Whiskey Obsession Festival 2016's Panel of Whiskey Experts make a group toast. Courtesy photo

Late Night WhistlePig Rye Showcase

Whet your whistle and indulge in samples of cocktails and WhistlePig Rye, all accompanied by light bites and the tunes of an edgy DJ. (Early guests might walk away with a commemorative Tervis Tumbler.)

When: 10 p.m. April 11

Where: The Social Eatery and Bar, 1219 First St.

Tickets: $25

Info: Call 400-9889.


Dalmore Single Malt Scotch Masterclass

Benjamin Boice (of Whyte and Mackay) will lead a master class over a masterful lunch paired with Dalmore Distillery’s acclaimed single malt Scotch. (Includes meal, single malt Scotch whiskies, and commemorative Tervis Tumbler.)

When: Noon on April 12

Where: The Bijou Cafe, 1287 First St.

Tickets: $40

Info: Call 400-9889.


Grand Tasting and Master Classes

Imagine booth after booth of whiskey lover’s bliss. These tastes of liquid gold were created by everyone from old-school whiskey masters to upstart newcomers. Stroll and sip responsibly, then check out the three master classes taught by industry gurus. No dress code, no pressure, nothing but fun.

When: 7 p.m. April 12

Where: The Hyatt Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts

Tickets: $45-$195

Info: Call 400-9889.

Whiskey Obsession Festival Grand Tasting 2016 — Courtesy photo

Women of Whiskey Brunch

Raise a glass to three leading women of whiskey. Jenny Bartels (of Breckenridge Port Cask & High Proof Bourbon), Ingrid Rodriguez (of WhistlePig) and Sherrie Moore (of Uncle Nearest) will share how they’re transforming their industry with innovative thinking. Peggy Noe Stevens (of Bourbon Women) and Samara Rivers (of Black Bourbon Society) will moderate the casual confab. Jennifer Wells (the founder of the Sarasota Whiskey Society) is the emcee. Includes whiskies from participating distilleries paired with more of Puccio’s tasty creations.

When: 11:30 a.m. April 13

Where: Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd.

Tickets: $45

Info: Call 400-9889.


Sips, Suds, and Smokes

Whiskey and cigars—two great tastes that go great together. Bob Howell, Maury Jayson, and Mike Woods of the eponymous radio show think so. They’ll lead this casual celebration exploring creative pairings of beer, bourbon and cigars. 

When: 4 p.m. April 13

Where: Smokin’ Joes, 1448 Main St.

Tickets: $25

Info: Call 400-9889.


Whiskey Rocks Closing Night Party

The closing time soirée includes live music by Ship of Fools, whiskey samples, and cocktails. (And JDub’s craft beer, obviously.)

When: 6 p.m. April 13

Where: JDub’s Brewing Co. & Tap Room, 1215 Mango Ave.

Tickets: Free

Info: Call 400-9889.

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