Mary, Trey Zoeller and Delilah drink whiskey and talk sharks. 

Back in October, Total Wine decided to throw a little shindig at the Red Rock Resort and Spa, and we were invited. Press passes? Yes, please. This gave us a chance to dust off the old fanny pack and battle it out against introversion. Part whiskey sampling, part fundraiser for the Keep Memory Alive Foundation, we knew right when we walked into the venue that this wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill tasting. This was going to be a night of whiskey speed dating—quick sips, hellos and on to the next. With our commemorative plastic cups in hand, we got to work getting to know as many whiskies as possible.  

We were first greeted by Sam Bracamontes who was excited to show off a chunk of the Diageo scotch portfolio he was sampling out that evening: Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition, Buchanan’s 18, Mortlach Rare Old and Lagavulin Distillers Edition: only some of the best scotch we’ve ever tasted, no big deal. We took some to go, said our good-byes, and were on to our next introduction: Sia Scotch. Founded by the first American woman to ever create a blended scotch whisky company, Carin Luna-Ostaseski knows her whisky. She also apparently knows us, so we had a chat and a dram and let’s just say this whisky deserves the praise that it has been getting (a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition). If you see this lightly peated, primarily Speyside/highland mix on the shelf, try it. 


Sam Bracamontes proudly displays his epic whisky hoard.

After quite a few scotches, we decided we were ready to carefully navigate around the pool to where our fellow bourbon kin were gathering: Jefferson’s, Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Larceny and Garrison Brothers all in a row.

There we stood. Lurking on the outskirts, waiting for our chance to make conversation so we could talk to Trey. Delilah started commenting on how Trey wrestled sharks and that he’s basically the Dos Equis man, but with whiskey. She said a lot of other weird things too, but it worked and we were able to make our way over to hang out with a whiskey icon. Trey is a really neat guy by the way. He’s always experimenting with different barrels and flavor profiles. Loves wine. Adventuring. Possibly a Die Hard fan, but we can’t be certain. We sampled at least five of the whiskies from the current collection including Pritchard Farm (way better than the Chateau Pichon), Ocean Aged and the Old Rum Cask Finish. He is definitely on to something with his creations. Time got away from us, and we soon realized we pretty much hung out with Trey for about a quarter of the evening (oops). 

To round out the night, we stopped by Wild Turkey to say hello to Eddie Russell (the cool bourbon drinking grandfather we both never had), had some Decades and ventured over to Garrison Brothers (mostly intrigued because of their $100+ price point). We met Charlie the co-owner and he insisted that we all take selfies and try their three signature sips: Cowboy, Single Barrel and the Flagship. This Texas whiskey instantly tugged at our bourbon strings and we definitely think that the juice is a great buy. The story of how they adapted to making bourbon in Texas and how Elmer T. Lee had a strong influence on the brand’s beginning made us fall in love with Garrison Brothers.

Overall, there were seriously just so many to try we didn’t even put a dent in the whiskey talent pool. If these whiskies were real dates though, we would have attempted to get all of their numbers. We’re hoping that Total Wine decides to put on more events like Whiskey at the Rock that allow people to experience a higher caliber of whiskey and story-telling. We’d take drinking whiskey with Trey Zoeller and Eddie Russell over those other tasting events with mass crowds and strange pan flute music any day.