Earlier this year The Balvenie, the world’s most handcrafted scotch whisky company, collaborated with chef, author, and TV personality Anthony Bourdain to bring attention to some of the country’s best craftsmen and women. The collaboration included and series of short films hosted by Bourdain, entitled Raw Craft( which you can watch online here), as well as the Balvenie Rare Craft Collection multi-city tour, exhibiting some of the country’s best makers. One of the stops on this tour was our very own city, Houston.
The event took place last Wednesday through Thursday, and attendees had the opportunity to “meet the makers” and watch live demonstrations and presentations from a metalsmith Elizabeth Brim, Sculptor Sebastian Martorana, Watchmaker Roland Murphy, and Cooper Ian McDonald. These craftsmen, and women might I add, are ordinary people against the mainstream way of doing things. Taking the traditional routes in creation, they are able to fabricate authentic work. Their workmanship, patience and good eye for great work sets them apart from other creators.
If you missed it, The Balvenie experience took place at Silver Street Studios, the week of November 2nd. Starting on November 3rd and concluding on November 5th. I was fortunate to be among the group invited to the press preview with Anthony Bourdain.
The evening began, with a short conversation with Balvenie USA Ambassador David Laird over an “old fashioned” cocktail. The cocktail was made with the Balvenie Doublewood whisky, and orange bitters. This 12 year old whisky is aged in traditional casks and finished in European Sherry casks. Laird and I spoke a little about marketing and trade, luckily for Balvenie Houston has already adopted this brand as its own and you many see them at your local bar.
As I moved on in the night, I stopped to admire and learn from the works of Elizabeth Brim, a metal smith who creates beautifully feminine works out of metal. As I went around appreciating the works of these artists, I enjoyed a few hors d’oeuvres with my cocktail. Next thing I knew, I turned around and saw Anthony Bourdain(he’s taller than I imagined) conversing with the crowd. I off course made my way down and captured a few images, and also managed to get a pictures taken with the man himself.
After spending some time there, and conversing with some fellow food writers, I made my way to watch Ian McDonald demonstrate the proper way of coopering. You may watch a quick video showing the process here). McDonald explained how keeping the authentic taste involves consistency, every step plays a very important job. Any small mistake can indeed influence the taste of the whisky.
Right before making my way to the press conference, I made a stop to see Sebastian Martorana’s live stone carving session. Then, everyone was invited to a Q&A with Anthony Bourdain, hosted by Ambassador Jonathan Wingo. The Q&A began with Wingo presenting us with TUN 1509, a combination of older whiskies. Bourdain shared about his travels around the world, the importance of craftsmanship, and how unique and rare these craftspeople are.
I knew I wanted to ask Bourdain a question, I raised my hand to ask a question. As time neared I could feel my heart beat faster, and faster, and faster. I continued to repeat my question in my head, then it was my turn.
“This might come off a little personal,” I said. As I looked up, I saw a smile on Bourdain and the Jonathan Wingo’s faces. So the inner me smiled “YES! I made them laugh, score!” Then I proceeded to ask, “out of all of your experiences, in work, life, around the world what’s been your favorite?”
Southeast Asia has been one of his favorite experiences, he said. Being able to travel and experience cultures, with so much freedom.