Chicago Magazine Barrel Night

The night began just outside of Kansas City. An 112 proof cask strength rye tickled my palate. Its spicy elements of toffee and vanilla carried me to the Northwest corner of the United States. Westland Distillery’s portfolio of single malts awaited a taste. Their interpretation of a sherry cask finish stood notably on my palate. The fine citrusy, yet, dessert-like feel navigated my senses to if I was waiting in line at bakery on a Sunday morning.

Bulleit Distilling Co.’s whiskey booth at Chicago Magazine’s Barrel Night

Bulleit Distilling Co.’s whiskey booth at Chicago Magazine’s Barrel Night

Eighteen more distilleries remained unexamined. I continued on, through the Blank Canvas Gallery at Lacuna Lofts sampling craft ryes, Bourbons and even a Boxed Water or two. Multiple rows of distilleries hoisting their bottles and swag over black tablecloths decorated the beautiful space. Guests swarmed from table to table, pairing luxury with frantically frustrated tastebuds.

Overindulgence of whiskey is an American tradition older than the old frontier. But traversing through Barrel Night felt like Bobo Fett falling down the Pit of Sarlacc. Yet, instead of enduring torture by 1,000 years of slow digestion–with slimy tentacles pulling at my appendages–my palate was bombarded from all sides of the world. The Bourbon I enjoyed from Indiana was instantly overwhelmed by a sip of Scotch; followed by a couple more ryes, and I hadn’t even seen the barley shook by the winds of Ireland. Palate fatigue settled in, and I needed a change of pace to defeat to the belly of the beast. 

I approached the end of the second row of tables, and in bold, bright cinema lights, Bulleit, stared me dead in the face; an exit strategy from the abyss of neat pours. I excitedly approached the Frontier Whiskey’s booth, awaiting to sip the Old Fashioned sitting beneath the lights. The simple additions of ice, a few dashes of orange bitters, simple syrup and an orange peel reinvigorated my night. The refreshing elements of a classic cocktail refocused my tastebuds, and calmed the raw heat settling inside of my mouth. 

Faith in American whiskey and America’s edition to the whiskey industry guided me through the pit of intemperance. The story of this country is freedom and once upon a time, English writer Frances Trollope recognized this country’s gorging of whiskey, but appreciated our celebration of liberty. She wrote in the 19th century, the Americans “will live and die without hearing or uttering the dreadful words, ‘God save the king.’” *

The unspoken resolution of centuries ago lived graciously through the gallery as American craft spirits shared the space with industry leaders, friends from across the Atlantic, and the guests making their way through the world of whiskeys.