The Balvenie Returns To Houston With A New “Raw Craft” Tasting and Screening—Updated

Updated, 10/17/17: A reader has informed us that all event times are now completely booked. 

On Tuesday, October 17, The Balvenie Scotch whiskey brand is hosting a tasting and screening at the Majestic Metro theater and event venue at 911 Preston. It’s free to the public but attendees must register online for a ticket. There are three presentations: 6 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

For those who attended The Balvenie’s “Rare Craft” events in 2015, which featured spokesperson Anthony Bourdain showcasing top craftspeople in five different professions, this new event will definitely seem like a continuation of the theme. While Bourdain will not be there in person on Tuesday event, he’ll be present in a different way. The event includes a screening of an episode from The Balvenie’s video series “Raw Craft With Anthony Bourdain.”

Along with the screening, attendees will get to sample The Balvenie’s 12-, 14-, and 21-year-old whiskys. According to The Balvenie brand ambassador, Jonathan Wingo, “Our master classes are normally associated with appreciation. This event falls more in the ‘enjoyment’ phase.” In other words, all attendees will have a long opportunity to contemplate what they are tasting during the showing. Wingo will be on-hand during the screenings, as well as fellow brand ambassador David Laird.

Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Wingo
Anthony Bourdain with The Balvenie brand ambassador Jonathan Wingo at the 2015 “Rare Craft” event in Houston. Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

The “Raw Craft” episode being shown features Max Hazan of Hazan Motorworks in downtown Los Angeles. He’s a “craft motorcycle builder” who makes custom parts by hand and builds the bikes from scratch. A former motocross competitor, he turned to motorcycle design when an accident left him unable to continue riding.

Why tie a whisky brand to craftspeople? The Balvenie sees an affinity with those who still make things completely by hand. A press release says the distillery, “still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings, employs a team of coopers to tend its casks, a coppersmith to maintain its stills, and has in its service the most experienced Malt Master, David Stewart, MBE, in Scotch whisky history.”

Wingo says, “I think when we started the idea to play with Anthony was to have craftspeople who were interesting to highlight. This idea, for the third season, was to find folks who are working in fields that have a wider reach and have more appeal to folks who may not know about Anthony or Balvenie. Maybe they are interested in tattooing or motorcycles. Max goes hand-in-hand with what we want to showcase. He builds bikes by hand and also constructs all the parts. If he wants something a certain way, he doesn’t order it. He makes it.”

David Stewart of The Balvenie
The Balvenie’s master distiller, David Stewart. Photo courtesy of The Balvenie

Those who can’t make it to the screening and whisky tasting can still view the “Raw Craft” episodes online. New episodes will be released approximately every two weeks through November 2.

It won’t be available for tasting at the event, but another interesting project from The Balvenie is a new whisky release named Peat Week. One common misconception by those who are still learning about Scotch is that all of those whiskys are peated. In fact, The Balvenie’s usually are not.

Peat Week is a big departure and experiment for the company. The name refers to the one week each year over the past 15 that The Balvenie has dried and smoked malted barley over highland peat. Made in 2002, this first Peat Week release is a 15-year-old whiskey made with barley dried over Highland peat. The peat most commonly associated with strong, smoky whiskeys is from the Islay region. Whisky fans who appreciate a lighter, smoky flavor might better appreciate The Balvenie’s take on it. The tasting notes from the website reads, “Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey.”

For those who don’t appreciate getting hit in the palate with heavy phenol (the chemical reminiscent of “Band Aids” in heavily peated whiskys), Peat Week sounds like it’s worth seeking out at Houston’s finer bars and liquor stores.

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