So of the free things at Tales, that are officially sanctioned, the primary events are those of tasting rooms; having spent quite a bit of time in quite a few tasting rooms, I thought I’d point out some of the more interesting ones this year, and what they were doing well.
So beyond he piles of tasting cups inscribed with either Tales insignia or a brand logo, he preponderance of liquor bottles throughout each tasting room provides a sort of familiarity between each room despite the differences in label or type of liquor. There is just something comforting about finding yourself in a room with tables set up, little plastic cups, and drinks being poured in the smallest, yet quite satisfactory, volume. The diversity in products, as well as the frenzy and hordes of imbibers at tasting rooms, makes them both a pleasant and unpleasant space to be in, depending on whether or not you know anyone, or can find yourself a little bit of something to sip and about which to ponder.
In terms of physical swag, Lillet had the right idea with the atmosphere of the room, and the fact it was raining outside, made it even better with the decor and paper umbrellas done in the art nouveau style. The room had some well executed touches, a lack of people inside (which was a shame because of the fantastic punches), and an interesting product to showcase (the new Lillet Rose). And to top it off, they had an aged Lillet which was fantastic, giving the imbibers an opportunity to taste something which is not sold at all, and see, just like with Ferrand, a history behind the product, and a history behind the name, which once again reifies a sense of authority, dignity and sophistication in the overall ethos of the product.
The strangest, yet probably most fascinating tasting rooms were the one doing molecular mixology, but also the Whiskey and Tea Libation room by Diageo, which showcased the use of whiskey, including Scotch, in what amounts to, at the very base of it all, as punches. While quite of a few of the punches, according to the creator of the drinks were lacking because of missing ingredients such as fresh grapefruit juice, the Lagavulin 16 year with Sherry and Lapsung Souchong tea was fantastic. The molecular mixology room, which was done by Koerner, had some interesting stuff going on, but it wasn’t executed well, since so many people flooded to the half of the room with samples, and just stood there fighting to see what was going on and acquire a taste. In the case of some of the tasting products, the complex requirement sot deconstruct a cocktail through machinery held up the line and slowed down the flow of samples, but the wait was pretty much worth it. On the other hand, tasting rooms such as the Farmer’s tasting room, with its’ wide spread and diverse product line up, went over really well in execution.
Perhaps though, my favorite tasting room has got to be the one created by the people at Preiss Imports, now Anchor Distilling. Their product range, like Haus Alpenz is quite extensive, but unlike Haus Alpenz, they did a tasting showcasing their products in cocktails created by bartenders from Boston, entitled the Boston Cocktail Experience. The drinks were exceptional in all cases, and really did represent the wide diversity that their portfolio can encompass. Between classics such as Luxardo, and Springbank Campbeltown single malts, their product range is extensive and high quality. They offered samples of the booze to take with, as well as some keychains and swag, but mostly the true shining stars of the tasting room were the cocktails in the corners, of which there were a large number, eight in total, to choose from. And truly, the room was all about tasting, and offering information should you want it, letting the products speak for themselves rather than having someone speak for them.
The drinks showcased included the Causeway by Ben Sandrof, which was a fantastic rum curacao and maraschino drink with a simple, yet strong flavor profile that was pleasing and smoother; Jackson’s Flip Royal, which combined classic spice notes with tea, salt, and a delightful texture and body; Misty’s Space Age Pop, which had a lot of stuff going on in a very good way (one woman which I overheard had remarked that this was drink was a liquid orgasm); and John Gersen’s Pink Shimmy, an anisette based drink which was done frappe style, and overall a lovely change of pace from so many drinks a Tales). The other four drinks, La Dolce Vita by Cleve, El Camino by Trina Strum, Bitter Bee by Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, and Joy Richard’s Modern Herbal were fantastic as well, and overall worked to showcase the talents of some of Boston’s finest bartenders. Recipes of each drink will be put on the site, after I finalize getting the exact copies from the individual authors, and not just Jackson’s copy of the recipes, as well as permission to republish the recipes and any thoughts that the bartenders may have on the drinks.
Plenty of other tasting rooms were done extremely well, save for the few that started to refuse guests because they were poorly organized, but c’est la vie. But overall, the tasting rooms were a highlight of the overall event, since of course, they are free (provided you had a wristband), and because of the wide diversity of individuals whom one could meet, as well as the wide diversity of products being showcased in a large manner. Next year I hope o see the tasting rooms a bit more loose and free-form, and a bit more organization and better layout for a lot of the smaller spaces, so that the drinks were not being offered at one section of the room, where everyone would crowd and fight to get a sample. Also, there needs to be better resource allocation, since some rooms were given way too many plastic tasting cups, while others had not enough; being aware of the sheer amount of stations is an important fact that contributes directly to sampling efficacy.