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Cd'A Resort Whiskey Barrel Weekend - An In-Depth Look at Exceptional Spirits

by Erin Peterson

If you’re just now realizing that you missed the Whiskey Barrel Weekend event at the Resort, this article is going to make you sad. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not sorry for helping you make your plans for next year’s event. When the team at the Coeur d’Alene Resort plans a party, they do it in style, and this event was a showpiece of their signature over-the-top hospitality. Whiskey Barrel Weekend at the Coeur d’ Alene Resort was the Inland Northwest’s largest whiskey event, and there wasn’t a single moment of the celebration that was not filled with laughter, elegant appetizers, and luxurious sips of the world’s best whiskeys. As a newbie to sophisticated and whiskey tasting, I gleefully spent the weekend learning so much about this treasured American spirit, and having a great time while I diligently worked to understand its subtle, lovely variations.

Over this two-day celebration, our team tasted more than 50 whiskeys and dozens of delicious appetizers that were uniquely paired to give the richest culinary experience possible for the hundreds of attendees in the largely sold-out event. After venturing to Kentucky in May for a private distillery tour and creating a custom blend of the spirit for the Resort’s beverage services, everyone has been waiting patiently for the release party of this specialty liquor.

Surprising facts you may not know about whiskey:

1. Whiskey is spelled two ways! Whiskey and whisky, and neither are wrong.

2. That difference goes even further. Every place where this spirit is produced is totally different in style and taste.

3. The Irish (my people!) spell it with an extra ‘e’, which is why you’ll always see me spell it that way.

4. The Scots take out that extra ‘e’, and give you straight whisky.

5. Scotch whiskey goes by “scotch”, but it is really whiskey.

6. Bourbon will be American, and also whiskey.

Confused yet? So were we, at first. But, that’s where the learning piece came in. If whiskey were a song, the varied tasting experience was hitting every note imaginable. Smoke, caramel, oak, apricot, rose petal, anise, coffee…. the complexity was truly endless. It is here that one of the main differences occurs. generally, Scottish and American whiskeys are distilled twice and Irish whiskey is distilled three times (there are exceptions to the rule, in all cases). Distilling three times produces a lighter and smoother spirit. The size and shape of the stills used in the distillation process are different. In Ireland and much of America, pot stills are frequently used. These are short, fat, large stills with a round base that produce softer and more rounded spirits. In Scotland, distilleries use a wide variety of shapes and sizes of still and this gives a wider diversity of characters and flavors.

For the consumer, this means that tasting a wide variety of whiskeys to find just the profile and character you’re looking for is really important. At the Whiskey Tasting Event on the first night, we were able to meet and chat with whiskey sommeliers, learn about how smoking a whiskey cocktail can elevate its flavor, and taste over 50 unique whiskeys including Basil Hayden, Jim Beam, Lagavulin, Dry Fly, Heritage, Four Roses, Auchentoshen and more. It wasn’t just sipping, though, we were provided with perfectly paired appetizers throughout the evening in unlimited supply. We had house-smoked baby back pork ribs, cheeses, charcuterie, smoked trout and salmon bagels, roasted chicken thighs with sweet and sour onions, tart apple canapés with blue cheese, snacks galore and finished off with dark chocolate desserts.

Pictured: Colby Rosauer, Victoria Rudenko, Anna Senchenko and Erin Peterson

On day two, the more intensive learning began. Maker’s Mark sent their best team members to teach us all about the nuances present in whiskey, as well as custom-dip glasses with their trademark wax blend. We learned that each person in the factory has their own unique style, and you can identify it just by looking at the drips on each hand-dipped bottle. The attention to detail that the Maker’s Mark team puts into every bottle of their signature blends is astounding, and our first stop was to the liquor store on our way home to pick up their “46”, a smooth, rich product with an emphasis on caramel notes and light smoke. It is going to be permanently stocked in our liquor cabinet, along with the Resort’s signature blend, which was designed specifically to suit a variety of mixed drinks. Justin Schorzman, a master mixologist, shared his signature cocktail recipes and discussed the process of how he crafts each unique drink in his list. Balancing every flavor to have the appropriate amount of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and a dash of umami is what he does best, and we loved getting to take his recipes home to impress our friends with.

The day ended in a spectacular fashion, as we would expect with the Resort team. The final dinner was a feast for the senses. Attendees were shocked by the quality of the foods offered - beef tenderloin on a sizzling Himalayan salt block, thick, creamy polenta with juicy shrimp, lobster rolls and oyster po’ boys, alder smoked salmon, salads galore and a selection of desserts for every taste. As the band played, samples of premium whiskeys were also offered, and the night was capped off with a cigar lounge outside by roaring fire pits under the stars. We already want to go back.

Are you feeling a little bummed after missing this event? Never fear - the Coeur d’Alene Resort’s award-winning Food and Wine Festival is back this year and is set to be better than ever. To give you an idea of what you can expect, the memories I have from the last two years of attending are filled with laughter, learning and unforgettable moments with friends old and new. From the opportunities to try a huge variety of gourmet foods to the absolutely stunning accommodations, no detail was overlooked. This year, it is going to be from February 7-9th, and is filled with so many amazing activities that it may be hard for you to pick which ones you want to attend!

Pro tips:

1. If you're coming to these events, don't forget to make your room reservations early (I’d recommend now to get the best selection of rooms - last year we waited too long and couldn’t get the view we wanted).

2. You don’t want to limit your fun and relaxation to just the event while you stay at the hotel. We spent the evening dining at Beverly's and then relaxing by the fire, and then the morning enjoying room service on our deck wrapped up in blankets, and the afternoon in the hotel's pool and hot tub.

3. Book a spa appointment around the class schedule when it becomes available. It was an indulgent way to relish in every single moment we had at the lake, and took us into a nearly transcendent state.

Are you planning on going to the Food and Wine Festival this year? Say hello when you see us. We wouldn't miss it!

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