Beam Global is doing a pretty cool marketing campaign, pitting whisk(e)y from three countries against each other in a debate between brand ambassadors as they battle for whisky supremacy. Attendance is free, and along with an entertaining evening put on by the debaters, participants get to try whisk(e)y samples from the three distilleries involved. This stop on the debate tour was in Scottsdale, AZ at the Hotel Valley Ho (yes, they worked a joke about the hotel name into the debate). The three Distilleries were Knob Creek, Canadian Club and Laphroaig, with brand ambasadors Bernie Lubbers (a Beam “whiskey professor”), Dan Tullio, and Simon Brooking respectively. The moderator was Steve Cole (also a Jim Beam whiskey professor?).
Now, don’t take my calling out of this event as a marketing campaign as a passive-agressive knock on Beam Global or the people involved. I’m just calling it what it is, but I think it’s a great idea, and I love these types of marketing events. Bring ‘em on spirits companies! I’ll go to them, write about them, and buy your whiskey.
How did I find out about this event? I got an email invite because I am a Knob Creek Stillhouse member.
For a good overview of the Chicago version of this event, check out this post over at WhiskyParty.net.
Prior to the debate, they sent everybody up to the roof of the hotel where they were serving cocktails made from the three whiskies that we would be tasting. I can’t remember what the make-up of the cocktails was. I just heard “Canadian Club with blah, blah, blah; Knob Creek with Blah, Blah, Blah.” Finally, there was Laphroaig 10 year with water and ice. I ordered that one, but without ice. And I had him skip the water, too. Ahh…now that’s a good cocktail.
The format of the debate involved first having each ambassador introduce the type of whisk(e)y they were representing (bourbon, canadian whiskey, and Islay scotch whisky). Then Steve Cole asked each ambassador a question and had them explain why their whisky was the best. After fielding questions from the audience, the panel made their final arguments and then the attendees voted by raising miniature American, Canadian and Scottish flags that were provided with each place setting.
We had a pretty strong Scottish contingent making a lot of noise at this event, but I think bourbon won out. There were actually a pretty decent number of votes for Canadian whiskey as well. As the event is all in good fun, though, it was declared a draw.
Wide-mouth plastic cups don’t serve as the best vessels for critical analysis, but here are a few notes on the samples supplied:
Canadian Club Classic 12 Year
Ridiculously sweet, with vanilla, toffee and cinnamon. Weak palate and short finish. No alcohol burn…not even any warmth to speak of. VERY easy to drink…the non-whiskey drinker’s whiskey?
Knob Creek Bourbon (9 year)
Sweet smelling, but not as sweet as the CC. A much stronger nose than the CC, too. Nice spicy notes on the tongue (from the Rye?), and pleasing warmth going down. Maybe slightly rough, but not bad. The finish is longer than the CC for sure, but no lingering smoke like the Laphroaig. Enjoyable and totally worth the $25 it goes for locally.
Laphroaig Quarter Cask (No Age Statement)
Classic Islay with some iodine and lots of smoke on the finish. Sweeter and more oaky than the standard Laphroaig 10. Nice long finish. This is a fantastic whisky, even in a plastic cup. Still, at an event like this, it’s not as “accessible” as the Knob Creek. I think the people that voted for this one were familiar with the Islay profile coming in.
Cheers to Sascha and Julie, a couple of SMWS members from Australia who happened to be in town for the SAP conference. Sascha and I were on each other’s Twitter follow list due to a shared interest in whisky, and the three of us ended up attending the whisky debate together and hanging out talking afterwards at the bar. A couple of the nicest people you’d want to meet – how cool is this online social networking thing?
Video from the event
This isn’t very high quality video, but I thought I’d share some clips from the event. I took these with my Point and Shoot, and quickly realized that I wasn’t going to have enough memory to record the whole thing. I decided to focus mainly on the scotch-related portions of the debate, given the name of my blog. Too bad, though, as I failed to record a really funny bit from Bernie Lubbers.
Here’s Simon Brooking providing an introduction to Islay Scotch Whisky, and an amusing story about kilts:
Next up was Bernie Lubbers introducing American Bourbon:
It was during Dan Tullio’s Canadian Whiskey introduction (note the Canadian Club hockey jersey) that I realized my limited memory situation on the camera, so I cut him off in the middle…seemed like the American thing to do:
Not to fear, though…here’s a link to another Great Whisk(e)y Debate event with more from Dan, as he explains how Canadian Club can help improve the American economy:
Moving along with the debate, Steve Cole asks Simon Brooking – “Is Laphroaig the whisky of change, or the whisky of experience?”
And now Simon Brooking walks the audience through a tasting of Laphroaig QC, and shares a funny “toast” story:
Fielding questions from the audience, Bernie Lubbers discusses the impact of oak and charring on bourbon maturation:
Simon Brooking follows up on the use of bourbon barrels for maturing scotch whisky:
Finally, here’s the closing toast, after the three debate participants ganged up on moderator Steve Cole and threw him in the pool: