What is Tales?
It’s Friday after work and you’re off to happy hour with friends to blow off steam and kick off your weekend with an Old Fashioned at your local watering hole. Or your daughter graduated from college and the family is going to celebrate with dinner at that fancy new restaurant. Or you’re new to whiskey cocktails so you decide to go online to look for a good book.
Each of these moments are made by possible by someone in hospitality and each year Tales of the Cocktail (“Tales”) continues to Educate, Advance and Support the hospitality industry through professional programs and entertaining experiences in New Orleans, Louisiana (“NOLA”).
Thanks to Whiskey Network, I qualified for a media pass which included access/events in the media lounge and help with my schedule from their PR team (thanks Sydnie and Gia!). Starting Monday, July 25th for the next five days at the Ritz Carlton was a packed schedule of sessions. Sounds like any other conference, right? Well, not exactly because unlike other conferences there are one or two satellite events, Tales has several daily in addition to a multi-track format. While the app lists both along with community interaction and educational content, , I realized that there was only way to have an EXCEL-lent experience… (Warning: geek mode activated.)
Yes, this was my real schedule
“Color coded calendar life hacks” was an active topic in community chat.
A mere article can’t contain it all; shortlisted are most of the whiskey ones I attended with asterisks denoting the sneak peeks we shared in our Barrel Report series.
A Week of Whiskey (and More)
Pre-Conference “Community” Sunday: After a delicious beignets breakfast at the Ruby Slipper Café, I volunteered for the annual Pig and Punch Day of Service at the local KIPP Central City Primary School with other industry peeps followed by cheering with the crowd at the finals for Speed Rack, a high speed all female bartending competition raising money to fight breast cancer (founded in 2011 by Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero).
Craigellachie Prime Cuts*: Our Pharmacy museum tour was led by Crystal Chasse (Women in Whiskey, February 2022); “Scotland meets France meets USA BBQ” = the new Craigellachie Armagnac cask finish alongside Cajun Cochon de Lait (!!) and all the fixings.
Pernod Ricard (Jameson/The Glenlivet/Aberlour/Green Spot/Jefferson’s/Lot 40/Midleton/Method & Madness/Powers/Redbreast/J.P. Wiser…and more) Getting the Band Back Together: Pop-up featuring the return of iconic US bars that had closed due to COVID at Latrobe’s.
American Whiskey House Party at Sazerac House*
William Grant (The Balvenie/Glenfiddich/Monkey Shoulder/Hudson/Clan MacGregor/Gibson’s) Party – The Quantum Terminal: Destination Anywhere hosted both outside and inside the World War II Museum with a bonus “hot air balloon” ride and a Tullamore departure lounge with an “Irish exit”
William Grant Party Glenfiddich Pop Up Bar
Grab & Geaux Uncle Nearest: “Grown Folk Mimosa”
Elijah Craig Old Fashioned Week Lunch & Happy Hour
Silkie Irish Whiskey “Midnight” Launch Party featuring four single malts and a 35% peated malt; a blend of five triple distilled whiskeys aged in sherry, bourbon, oloroso, red wine, virgin oak and imperial stout casks at Peychaud’s
Talisker “One for the Sea” Dinner * at Sidecar Lounge
Bacardi (Angel’s Envy/Teeling/Aberfeldy and more…) Big Easy Party at The Sugar Mill
Monkey Shoulder: Monkey TV Party at Central City BBQ
Grab & Geaux WhistlePig: Maple Old Fashioned garnished with mini waffles
Teeling Phoenix Parlor Tasting at the Royal Sonesta*
Suntory Ao World Whisky [Five Course Pairing] Dinner at The Bower celebrating Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada, and Japan
Diageo Family Reunion at the Contemporary Arts Center
Aberfeldy/Teeling Cigar Social at the Royal Sonesta
Spirit of Adventure with Cutty Sark at the Upper Quarter Bar
Chicken Cock Last Call at Pythian Market
The Dead Rabbit Comes to NOLA with Bushmills Irish Whiskey at Kingfish
Meet the Distillers including Restoration, Glendalough, Widow Jane and Marianne Eaves (Women in Whiskey, February 2021)
Classes and Connections
For industry people, the abundance of education, business, and culture classes combined with global networking and fun events is why people like Tales Foundation Member, Tess Posthumus, calls it the “South by Southwest of the bar & restaurant industry”. As a bartender, bar owner (she owns Flying Dutchmen Cocktails & Dutch Courage in Amsterdam) and freelance hospitality professional, Tess told me she’s excited about her new role helping to shape future events and programming and hopes to expand European participation.
Their Spirited Awards celebrate the contributions of beverage professionals, products, establishments, journalists, and media in the cocktail and spirits community worldwide and on a Women in Whiskey note, I was excited to see Tracie Franklin of Uncle Nearest and Nicola Riske of Macallan inducted to their Dame Hall of Fame® for impacting the intersectionality and accessibility of the global hospitality industry.
Social media industry groups and conference veterans offered useful “newbie” tips which included enjoying a frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose, packing both a rain jacket and a bathing suit every day, and making sure my “buddy system” was in place. (On that note, many thanks to bartenders Todd Roy (Ohio) and Danny Posey (Arkansas) for being part of that.)
In addition to the events above, it was great to attend the business and wellness seminars, especially those hosted by Brown Forman (Old Forester/Woodford Reserve/Jack Daniel’s/Benriach/GlenDronach/Slane) in their Beyond the Bar lounge that offered daily breakfast items, charging stations, much needed hydration and just a spot to take a breather. It was also great to meet Glenmorangie US Ambassador, Dan Crowell at an industry lunch set up by Lush Life Productions, the first bartender advocacy creative agency hosted at Palm & Pine.
Bonus: All You Need is (Whiskey and) Love
The whole experience had a bit of “Alice in Wonderland” feel to me with incredible experiences meeting different characters along the way so I was delighted to learn at my one-on-one with Kaveh Zamanian, founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery that their brand name was partially an homage to Lewis Carroll.
The rest of the credit goes to his wife, Heather, a Louisville native whom he met in Chicago when they were both psychologists. Although he had been to Kentucky many times before, they started visiting her family more and ended up settling and starting a family there. Kaveh’s family had emigrated to America from Iran and while he had bartended in school, coming from an immigrant family, Kaveh ended up following the family tradition of being in the medical field.
He briefly considered the wine industry when living in California but it would be Scotch then bourbon that would draw him in. At the time he started exploring bourbon, it was before the recent “boom” and he had wondered why it didn’t garner as much attention as Scotch.
He became fully committed to creating a bourbon that was both innovative while honoring the legacy of bourbon in American history by experimenting in his carriage house and mentorship from those that had professional history in bourbon. Kaveh’s wife remarked that he was going down the “rabbit hole”, which secured the brand’s name.
Kaveh credits this support and the thought behind building his team such as his Director of Operations, Cameron Talley (formerly of Wild Turkey and Brown Forman). Their current flagship consists of four Kentucky Straight Bourbons (Cavehill, Heigold, Dareringer) and a Kentucky Straight Rye (Boxergrail).
Be on the lookout for an in-depth article on their Distillery and products from our own Col. Brian G. Miller!
“Progress” was the theme of this year’s 20th Anniversary of Tales and their return to an in-person event. Tickets are open to both the public and industry with different levels and we highly recommend that you start planning to join us at next year’s Tales of the Cocktail !