I should have recognized the February 23 performance by the bagpipers of Scotland’s 3rd Battalion of the Black Watch as a harbinger of what was to follow: a week of eye-catching kilts, interesting accents and nonstop luxury whiskey tasting. The third annual Universal Whisky Experience started off February 27 on a high note—about 3,500 feet in the air to be exact. Twenty guests, including our hosts Nina and Mahesh Patel, boarded four Maverick helicopters and flew out to the Grand Canyon, alighting where Quartermaster Canyon meets the Colorado River on the Hualapai reservation. Here, William Grant & Sons global brand ambassador Ian Millar poured us 30-, 42- and 50-year-old Glenfiddich. The whiskies’ ages, though advanced, were dwarfed by that of the colorful strata towering above us. Although I preferred the 30-year, the 50-year, much like the whole day, was utterly sublime.
Dinner wisely followed so much drinking, er, tasting, a Glenfiddich pairing affair at Society in Encore, where I nibbled at the food, but devoured the conversation. Seated next to Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard “The Nose” Paterson—who once threw Scotch around my office, his signature method, to make a point—I was the envy of many a connoisseur. Also in the party were whiskey society presidents, major collectors, Scotch ambassadors and the Glenfiddich team. I savored every moment of it.
I was one of few women attending the Nth, March 1’s Grand Tasting, who wasn’t a long suffering “whiskey widow,” and that suited me just fine. Next week I’ll share this year’s highlights, the rarities and even a delicious “mistake” that I plan to track down!
The next day, we merged ancient Scotch traditions with the calling card of a new generation—crowdsourcing. If master brand ambassador David Blackmore was asking the attendees of the Glenmorangie Cask Masters class to merely guess the brand’s next release from three samples, the exercise could just be called a contest. Instead, our votes, registered and tallied at Glenmorangie.com, will inform Glenmorangie’s Dr. Bill Lumsden which whisky Glenmoriangie drinkers want next. Reverse engineering success, perhaps? For the record I voted for sample C.