NEW ORLEANS (press release) – The annual New Orleans Bourbon Festival returns for its fifth year of celebrating American-made whiskies and pairing them with the best of The Crescent City’s culinary scene and is kicking the festivities off with the Bourbon Brawl bartender competition, followed by a VIP Welcome Reception, an educational seminar series, and concluding with two grand tastings. The festival will take place Wednesday, March 22, through Saturday, March 25, at select locales across the city.
The four-day festival is open to brown spirit enthusiasts, experts, and everyone in between, featuring a bevy of exclusive opportunities to taste, enjoy, and learn about exceptional American-made whiskies from across the country, complimented by some of the best of the city’s restaurants and eateries. Attendees will be able to mingle with likeminded imbibers and master distillers, all while backlit by the vibrant charm and culture of New Orleans.
“Last year we returned from hiatus bigger and better than ever,” said New Orleans Bourbon Festival Co-Founder and Executive Director Tracy Napolitano. “We’re keeping the momentum going and continue expand the festival for our fifth anniversary.”
The festival kicks off with the Bourbon Brawl, a bartender competition with a lineup of the region’s best mixologists, on Wednesday, March 22 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. The annual competition, sponsored by Jim Beam, is hosted by Bobby Gleason, Beam Suntory’s Master Mixologist. Bartenders will be shaking up amazing concoctions in a “Chopped” style competition and competing for various prizes, including a grand prize trip to Kentucky. Bartenders looking to compete in the competition can sign up by emailing information and a signature cocktail recipe to email@example.com.The final day to sign up is March 20. This is a free event and is open to the public.
On Thursday, March 23, from 10 p.m. to midnight, New Orleans Bourbon Festival VIP ticket holders are invited to the New Orleans Riverside Hilton (located on Poydras Street), this year’s festival headquarters, for a 1960’s “Mad Men”-style VIP Welcome Reception sponsored by Old Forrester. This Mid-Century styled cocktail party boasts live music, period cocktails and more.
The two-day seminar series will take place from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on both Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25, also hosted from the New Orleans Riverside Hilton. The seminar series boasts master classes with the country’s foremost whiskey experts as well as seasoned industry vets and includes two full days of cocktail classes, guided tastings, bourbon history, master distiller talks, discussion panels, food pairing workshops, and more. Highlights include the Women in Whiskey panel; a discussion with Michael Veach, the country’s leading bourbon historian and member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame; and a whiskey and cigar pairing class with Maggie Kimberl, acclaimed spirits writer and Content Editor of American Whiskey Magazine.
Tickets for the two-day seminar series are $159 (+fees) or $89 (+fees) for single day tickets and are available for purchase here.
The festival will culminate in two grand tastings on Friday and Saturday night from 7 – 8 p.m. for VIPs only and 8 – 11 p.m. general admission at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, located in the historic Warehouse Arts District. Attendees will enjoy pours from some of the country’s finest distilleries, including selections from presenting sponsors Four Roses and Beam Suntory, barrel proof sponsors Still Austin Whiskey Co. and Brown-Forman, single barrel sponsors Sagamore Spirit Rye, Heaven Hill Distillery, O.H. Ingram River Aged, and The Mountain Valley, and small batch sponsors including Penelope Bourbon, PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans, and Bourbon and Biscuits, among others.
The walkaround grand tastings will also feature food from well-known New Orleans restaurants including haute creole cuisine from Saint John, hot dogs courtesy of Lucky Dogs, and bites from Toulouse Gourmet Catering, among others. There will also be live music courtesy of Matt Lemmler’s New Orleans Jazz Revival Band, and an outdoor bourbon lounge sponsored by Diageo, plus bourbon-inspired goods and merchandise, wine and beer that have been aged and/or finished in bourbon barrels for patrons who want a non-bourbon experience, and more.
Tickets for each grand tasting are $129 (+fees) and can be purchased here. There is a designated driver (food only) ticket as well for $79 (+fees). Bourbon lovers and aficionados can go all in on a VIP ticket, which includes Friday and Saturday’s seminars, plus early entry to both grand tastings and the Thursday VIP party for $379 (+fees), or spring for the Ultimate VIP Judge ticket for $559 (+fees), which also includes a seat on the judge panel for the Bourbon Drinker Awards. Please note that quantities of the Ultimate VIP Judge ticket are extremely limited;
Proceeds of the festival will be donated Raising Spirits Alliance (formerly known as Kids Can NOLA), the permanent charitable beneficiary of the New Orleans Bourbon Festival. Raising Spirits Alliance is a not-for-profit organization created to benefit the education and general welfare of at-risk young adults in the Gulf South Region.
To purchase tickets and to find more information about this year’s New Orleans Bourbon Festival, along with a complete schedule of events, go to neworleansbourbonfestival.com.