The second annual Bourbon Fest, running through March 10, kicks off today. Here are all the events not to miss during the multi-day, iconic, brown liquid celebration.
Pre-Game Plan: Although things don’t really get rolling until Thursday, there is a Jim Beam-sponsored “Bartenders Battle” at The District (7l1 Tchoupitoulas St.) on Wednesday, March 7, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bourbon Pairing Dinners: The bourbon dinners on Thursday, March 8 provide a great option for anyone to enjoy a specific distillery with a relaxed evening of bourbon and food pairings at some of New Orleans’ top restaurants. There are eight happening that night (although one is sold out), and the price per person ranges from $100-150.
Take the Maker’s Mark dinner at the Palace Cafe as an example of what to expect: Hors d’oeuvres and three courses, each paired with various Maker’s vintages, like braised rabbit with pommes dauphinoise, pickled mustard seeds, rabbit-mustard jus paired with Maker’s Cask Strength.
The Toups South and Buffalo Trace dinner features three courses plus dessert and a welcome cocktail. The whole smoked duck with spice-roasted vegetables paired with Buffalo Trace Ancient Age 80 sounds great, but what’s really intriguing is the “Surprise Baller Pour” that accompanies the dessert course -- bourbon ice cream with cinnamon bread pudding.
Bulleit and “Whisky Chick” Linda Ruffenach team up for a four-course dinner at M Bistro at the Ritz Carlton; Cavan hosts Heaven Hill’s master distiller and whisky professor/ambassador; Brent Elliot, Master Distiller at Four Roses will be at Kenton’s; Cochon is serving up a family style dinner at the CAC with Jim Beam, while Wild Turkey heads to the Link Group’s Calcasieu Ballroom.
The Big Event: There’s a two-day long educational seminar series on Friday and Saturday held at Le Meridian featuring tastings and talks by Master Distillers at Silverback, Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, and Wild Turkey, as well as industry experts like Lew Bryson, Susan Reigler, Peggy Noe Stevens, Michael Veach, Fred Minnick, and Maggie Kimber. Check out the schedule here.
The Bourbon Grand Tasting event runs on both Friday and Saturday nights at the Contemporary Arts Center starting at 7:30 p.m. The Grand Tasting will be set up speakeasy style with more than 50 distillers present showcasing the best of their portfolios. Eat local food, shop for bourbon-related products, and listen to live jazz. The big guys are all represented, of course, but there are some smaller craft distilleries that are worth checking out. Tickets are $109 and can be found here.