We’re on the brink of the holiday season with Thanksgiving only 2 weeks away. The holidays rank high among the many good reasons to break out the fine spirits. And so, of course, now is a grand time to stock up on your preferred whisk(e)y – Scotch, bourbon, et al. – to enjoy in front of the fire or the candles or the television, or whatever strikes your mood that day.
Some of our favorites include Japanese Hibiki Harmony, beautifully blended, light and layered with flavors from Beam Suntory ($80), Tullamore D.E.W., a delightful and smooth Irish whisky ($44), and Glenfiddich’s array of excellent Scotch whiskies which include, among many others, the Experimental Series with Project XX (twenty), India Pale Ale Cask, finished in ale barrels and great paired with ale – talk about a classy boilermaker! ($70), and its most recent star known as Glenfiddich Winter Storm, 21-year-old Scotch finished in ice wine casks – the heightened candied sweets and oak flavors of Glenfiddich complemented by mouth-watering tropical fruit notes and underlying wine notes ($240).
And see below an opportunity next week to pair some well-known Kentucky whiskey brands with some delicious meats. And then check out a few other fun holiday events coming up.
Texas de Brazil Churrascaria gets into the spirit with delicious Kentucky Bourbon Dinners offered at their Chicago place at 210 E. Illinois, on Wednesday, November 15 – and at their Schaumburg location on Tuesday, November 14. The special four-bourbon, three-course dining events pair Jim Beam and other whiskey brands with the restaurant’s unique menu, begin at 6:30pm Cost $95 per person, inclusive.
Guests at the Kentucky Bourbon Dinners will be welcomed with a Maker’s Mark Mango Mint Julep before being invited to experience the salad area which includes over 50 freshly-prepared salads, soups and side dishes to be paired with the Basil Hayden served neat. The main course includes rodizio-style service of freshly-grilled cuts of meats carved tableside from skewers by costumed gauchos and paired with Knob Creek served neat. And for a truly sweet conclusion to the evening, the Jim Beam Vanilla will be paired with a slice of pecan pie a la mode. Tickets available here.
Saturday, November 18, 9 to 11am, bring the kids for Breakfast with Santa at both Texas de Brazil locations. The events benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC®-CNI). In Chicago, the fundraiser coincides with the annual BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in its location just steps from the famed boulevard. On the same morning, suburban supporters can dine at the Texas de Brazil at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Special Santa breakfast menu, children’s entertainment and gifts, and a surprise visit from Santa. Tickets $35 for adults, $20 for children 3-12 years of age, and $3 for those under 3. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets for either location: www.RonaldHouseChicago.org/breakfastwithsanta.
TrEat Me Fest, offers new ways to eat and pamper yourself. Sunday, December 3 (two sessions 11 to 1pm or 1 to 3pm) produced by Social Power Hour is back for a one-day festival at Concord Fifty+Five. Prepare to relax and treat yourself with samples from companies that offer treats, eats, drinks and pampering services. The current vendors included for the ultimate TrEat Yourself are as follows: (more to be announced closer to the event date): Knife & Tine,Bai Drinks, Spiritual Center, Getaround, Your Father’s Toffee, barkTHINS, Essa Dora. $25 ticket gets you samples and two cocktails. Purchase tickets at Eventbrite.
Dovetail Brewery’s Second Annual Holiday Market, Saturday, December 16, 12 to 7pm. Check out craft artisans selling a variety of goods in Dovetail’s upstairs barrelhouse loft (1800 W. Belle Plaine at N. Ravenswood; 773-683-1414). Artisanal goods range from wood and leather to brown soap to original artwork. Shop until you drop, and then take a seat downstairs in the taproom and recharge with any of Dovetail’s highly praised beers including their Holiday Bock. The Holiday Bock is stronger than your typical lager, with a robust malt character, a darker hue and a slight candied-fruit sweetness. Enjoy snacks from the bar and from favorite Chicago food truck Bruges Brothers. In addition, Sausage König will be selling sausage baskets and currywurst.
Japan is known, among many other things, for its delicate paintings and its impressively ritualistic tea ceremony. But seldom in the U.S. for its whiskies.
Recently a long-time Japanese whisky maker merged with a famous U.S. group called Beam to form a new entity called Beam Suntory. The original Japanese company had been studying and implementing Scottish distilling techniques since 1923. But now they have a strong “in” to American tastes. After extensive experimenting, Beam Suntary has brought to market a whisky totally in tune with the Japanese style but informed with the experience of the Beam family (makers of Jim Beam, etc.) and the know-how of Scottish experts. It’s known as Hibiki Suntory Japanese Harmony Whisky, and it’s all about beautiful blending.
Recently at a lovely modern venue in West Loop known as Morgan’s on Fulton, the Beam Suntory company showcased this latest innovative liquor. Packaged in a beautiful cut-glass decanter with 24 cuts to match what the Japanese know as 24 seasons, this light, delicate, oaky (it’s aged in 5 different types of casks) but harmoniously blended whisky is likely to bring a smile to the face of Scotch lovers and bourbon lovers as well as whiskey lovers. It’s delicate without being the least bit fragile (aromas of rose, lychee, rosemary and sandalwood, and notes of sweet candied orange peel and white chocolate on the palate). And it worked beautifully in several mixed cocktails served at the event. And then, Japanese attention to detail was apparent in the way the whisky was presented unmixed—with a hand-carved ball of pristinely clear ice in each glass. This method preserves the flavor and aroma by preventing too much melting to dilute the liquor–and it looks really cool. They make the ice in large square cubes, and the bartender hand-chips it into a ball.
It’s a beautiful sight, the glistening super-clear ice in the pale honey-amber-colored whisky. But they set it off even more by presenting a multimedia, interactive visual display known as the Hibiki® Japanese Harmony™ Bar. This fully immersive, interactive experience is the first of its kind in the world. It takes guests on a journey through the richness of the Japanese seasons, the moving pictures of paintings (all by famous Japanese artist Shinsuke Kawahara) activated by each of eight participants picking up his or her glass and swirling it. Fluttering butterflies in spring and leaves in fall, snowflakes in winter and flowers and sunshine in summer. Each season was accompanied by appropriate Japanese-tinged musical interludes. The lights in the room were turned down so the visual presentation took center stage.
Leave it to the Japanese to create this exquisite way to enjoy a drink. Get some of this beautiful whisky for yourself (retail ~$65) or as a gift for a really good friend.