On Saturday afternoon I attended Women & Whiskies, a "consumer class" (read: geared toward non-professional booze slingers) that was part of Portland Cocktail Week (which rages on through Thursday, with some other parties that the general public is welcome to). Tickets were $30, and included whiskey tastings (obvi), a nice canvas tote printed with the W&W logo, a totally decent t-shirt that bears the same message, a gorgeous moleskin notebook, Imaginary Authors scent samples, post-tasting Biwa snacks (squash croquettes and wonton soup), and two small but very well designed tomes. These I eyed with initial suspicion. One was called a "gift guide," so I immediately wondered if they were going to try to sell us bottles. But no, it's actually just a handy, informative guide to selecting and serving whiskey, including a couple cocktail recipes and a "flavor wheel" info-graph. The other is a "tasting journal," but is actually an even more dense book of whiskey learning, with some blank spots for tasting notes in the back.
Clearly somebody had dropped some serious dough on this program, and that entity is Campari, who launched W&W in reaction to the realization that whiskey brands weren't having "a conversation" with a female customer base. A relatively new venture, W&W events are starting to pop up around the country. If you see one, and you like, or are curious about whiskey, it's completely worth the outlay. It's got unabashed marketing motives (no coincidence that all the whiskeys we tasted are Campari labels), but it's done really tastefully and there's no direct sales angle at all.
Plus, the amount of information involved is staggering. The tastings are led by Lucia Gonzales, and I think I absorbed maybe 30% of the vast store of information she dropped on us over an hour and a half. Each seemingly minute question led her down a fascinating new path—it was, needless to say, quite impressive. For this edition they partnered with Imaginary Authors' Josh Meyers, who paired each whiskey with single note fragrances he sent around the tables to huff on for comparison, which was actually really helpful in pulling apart the flavors. It was a nice, local (and indie) touch. So way to go, I guess, corporate booze Goliath! Stay classy.