Arriving at the penthouse at the Soho Mews building in downtown New York City, I speak briefly with two attractive ladies working the front door and I follow a courtyard to a solitary elevator ride. At the top floor I’m quickly greeted with a classic Woodford Manhattan cocktail, and the first sip smoothly welcomes me into the sparse scene.
I speak with a few foodies, then I walk around the massive, interconnected condo masterfully dressed as an event space. It’s fantastic. In this posh maze, I stumble upon two powder rooms, numerous bar setups, and thanks to the passageway of an ample balcony, a recording room and the coolest pool table I’ve ever seen. Yahtzee.
I’m winning at pool, but it’s time for Woodford’s Master Distiller Chris Morris to speak. About a hundred of us gather back in the main room, where I had first entered, and Chris begins touting Woodford’s newest release. The entire event is based upon the concept of aging. We try various foods, comparing their aged versions to their raw counterparts. We notice how the complexity and robustness of flavors increase over time. Soon, the Woodford comes out. We try both the classic and the new Seasoned Oak Finish versions (neat, thank you), and I love both. The latter has a higher alcohol content, a darker color, and the flavors are astoundingly complex. As for the classic, it’s just a good drink, plain and simple.
Things settle down, and I make my way over to Morris. We have few words, and I compliment his newest product. “I wanted it to be big,” he grins. We snap a picture. He’s a nice guy.
I make my way back to the pool table to knock out a few more games. The felt’s digitally-projected image and water effects are enthralling, but I’m still distracted by numerous young ladies in cocktail dresses. Morris wanders by at one point, but he declines my billiards challenge and I have a chuckle with him and his associates.
A bit later I can hear the Manhattan Cocktail competition beginning. Saying ‘Ciao’ to the I-bankers I was trouncing in pool, I skip back to the main area yet again. The judges for the event, led by Morris, are sitting on a couch. I plop down next to Morris, an old friend at this point. “The trick with a cocktail is that you can’t overpower what the spirit is trying to say,” I quip. From that moment on, he is all smiles. He happily shares his ‘judges-only’ tastings of the finalists’ cocktails with me, and we compare notes. “How do you like New York?,” I probe. “It’s good,” he says, “but I got a call from the distillery right when I got off the plane. They had to cut down an Osage Orange tree on our property.” That peaks my interest. “Oh yeah?,” I say, expecting to hear how the tree is destined for some special project. Most of Woodford’s ingredients are local, and I figure wood is especially prized. “They asked me what they should do with it,” he continues. “ I said, ‘Burn it!’ Osage Orange burns like a firecracker, you know.” We both laugh.
I end up leaving soon thereafter. I forget my camera, with the picture of Morris and I, which means I will have to go back for it the next day. I will take the same courtyard path to the same elevator ride, but when I arrive, it sure won’t be as nice without all that Bourbon floating around. Thanks Woodford.
Read about tonight’s winner Jeromy Edwards being crowned “Master of the Manhattan” and also this winning recipe here.
Written by Matt Capucilli. To learn more about Matt Capucilli, visit www.mattcaps.com
Special thanks to Woodford Reserve’s Chris Morris and Svend Jansen for inviting BourbonBlog.com to New York.