America's First Irish Whiskey Festival Comes to New York This Fall
From the team behind Dead Rabbit, each three-hour session will offer over 25 different Irish whiskey brands to try.
With whiskey, plenty of connoisseurs gravitate towards Scotch while others might have a taste for bourbon. But Irish whiskey? Like Jameson? Well, yes, but far from entirely. Despite Ireland’s long history with whiskey, Irish whiskey sales in the U.S. have only recently taken off, leaping to over $1 billion in 2018, up from just $74 million in 2003, according to the Irish Times. That growth has coincided with a greater appreciation of all Irish whiskey has to offer (for instance, Glendalough Double Barrel has become a favorite at my house), and now, America is even getting what’s billed as the country’s first Irish whiskey festival in New York City—courtesy of the team behind The Dead Rabbit, nonetheless.
On Saturday, November 2, the New York Irish Whiskey Festival will be held at the Pier A Harbor House in Lower Manhattan, located only about half a mile from the famed Irish bar (and World’s Best Bar winner) The Dead Rabbit. The event is being billed as “a first-of-its-kind experience to explore the dynamic category and Irish culture in a lively, contemporary atmosphere,” featuring over 25 brands “aimed to herald [Irish whiskey] and highlight its versatility from whiskey drams to award-winning craft cocktails.” Beyond plenty of tipples, guest will also be able to enjoy live music (obviously for an Irish event!), food, seminars, and exclusive blends and reserves, and will walk with a commemorative whiskey glass.
“We have not come across any other festival in the U.S. that focuses exclusively on Irish whiskey but it was just a matter of time,” Jack McGarry, who co-owns The Dead Rabbit and co-organized this festival with Sean Muldoon, told me via email. “We've noticed an uptick in-terms of Irish whiskey's presence at other festivals and whisk(e)y shows but we feel Irish whiskey, due to its heritage and versatility as a category, deserves its own festival highlighting all the different styles.”
The Dead Rabbit has been dedicated to Irish whiskey since its beginnings, assembling the largest Irish whiskey collection in the Americas and showcasing how Irish whiskey works in mixed drinks like their signature Irish Coffee. “Irish whiskey is actually much more dynamic than many people think,” McGarry continued when asked about Irish whiskey’s tendency to be viewed as a boring also-ran. “American whiskeys have very rigid technical files that they have to adhere to so the variance isn't as pronounced as Irish. Scotch has three distinct styles of whisky in-terms of its Single Grains, Blends, and Single Malts which they are known the world over for. However, in Ireland, we have all those styles plus Single Pot Still which is incredibly unique and delicious. Our malts are as good as anything, if not better, than the Scotch Single's, and the diverseness within each style is huge… So if someone is saying it's boring, I'd challenge them to come to the festival, and I'd be absolutely amazed if they left feeling that way.”
The event will be held in two sessions—one from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and one from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.—and with two tiers of tickets: general admission for $75 and VIP for $125 (plus processing fees). The VIP ticket also includes “entry to the Dead Rabbit Pop Up where they will receive up to three specialty cocktails created by their award-winning team as well as oysters from the Pier A Oyster House.” Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite.