Libations

Drinking with Dinosaurs

David McCowan

November 24 2014 - 9:00 AM

As previewed earlier this month, Chicago’s newest spirits event, the Lively Water Whiskey Festival, recently hit The Field Museum for an evening of drinks, drams and dinosaurs. The stunning backdrop of Stanley Field Hall gave attendees some interesting company — a pair of fighting African elephants and Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex chief among them — while samples from distillers around the world flowed and new favorites were discovered.

The event was a little rough around the edges (a surprising ratio of attendees to distillers meant there were long lines at almost every table and some bottles ran dry early), but everyone I spoke with was smiling and cheering through it. (And, if we’re honest, a few extra minutes break between sips never hurt anyone.) Even as a first-time event, Lively Water showed it can serve as a more-accessible alternative to the increasingly expensive and expanding WhiskeyFest.

Chicago Foodies was on the scene. Here were our top tastes of the evening.

Aberlour Single Malt Scotch

Aberlour Single Malt Scotches
Fans of Macallan’s sweet sherry Scotches or Balvenie’s Doublewood will find a lot to love in fellow Speyside single malt Aberlour — and for a smaller price. The accessible classic 12-year ($50) represents the whole range well showing off a balance of nice fruity sweetness tinged with a touch of spice, while the 16-year ($80) and 18-year ($110) skew a bit drier and more complex. The star of the lineup though is the A’bunadh ($80), a sherried-whisky lover’s dream. Like a dessert in a glass, this one is decadent and rich, heavy and creamy, with a long, long finish

James Oliver RyeJames Oliver Rye
Barreled, aged and bottled by Indio Spirits Distillery in Portland, James Oliver Rye ($30) is a 100% rye that’s distilled in Indiana. Compared to other young American spirits (there’s no age statement, but I’m told it’s only got a few years in the barrel), it’s smoother, but the robust spiciness of the rye keeps it interesting. This one’s good neat, but still affordable enough to mix cocktails with… a happy combination.

Tobermory Single Malt Scotch
Sometimes you don’t need a whole lineup to make an impression, when one whiskey can be enough. Tobermory 10-year ($50) is a single malt from the Island of Mull that shows a touch of smoke, a touch of salt and a touch of sweet. A study in subtle, rounded restraint, this one is complex for its young age without being bombastic.

Kentucky Peach Cocktail from Untitled
And finally, Lively Water is unique among Chicago spirits events in including several cocktail sessions. Bartenders on a raised stage demonstrated different cocktails and gave out recipes while servers floated through the crowd pouring samples. The mini-classes made a nice break from straight spirits and one of the nicest drinks was the Kentucky Peach. A sweet sipper crafted by Michael Karberg of Untitled, this drink mixed Knob Creek bourbon, peach liqueur, amaro and grenadine.

Michael has been kind enough to share his recipe with us. Check it out here!

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All photos courtesy of Red Frog Events and The Lively Water Whiskey Festival.

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