The great and glamorous Ava Gardner once said, ”I wish to live to 150 years old, but the day I die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other.” Well, the cigarette isn’t great but you should get behind the glass of whiskey. As such, you should also get behind having whiskey play a key part in your wedding, whether at the reception, cocktail hour, or as part of your bachelor or bachelorette parties.
Whiskey is a hot commodity, and more women are drinking it than ever before. According to Future Laboratory research, women now make up 37% of whiskey customers in the U.S. as well as comprising a third of all whiskey drinkers in England, and groups like Women & Whiskies and Women Who Whiskey hold tastings and events all over the country.
This is no longer the drink of old men smoking cigars in big leather chairs in a wood adorned bar. Oh no, whiskey is the go-to for many a woman in the world—hello, Mila Kunis AKA Global Partner for Jim Beam. "There’s an emptiness in the market for females promoting brown spirits,” Kunis told Forbes recently. “I see women promoting wine and ultra-feminine drinks, and I think whiskey is not any less feminine. I wanted to open that door and say it’s OK for women to order a whiskey and be just as empowered as if she ordered a Cosmo.”
And that is just one of the many reasons you should consider featuring a whiskey bar or flight at your wedding. Allison Parc, founder of Brenne Whiskey (the only organic French Single Malt Whisky in production today), believes a whiskey bar is a must at any wedding and argues that a whiskey tasting could be a great activity for a bachelorette or bachelor party.
“I fell in love with whisky and the category before I even found out about the details," Parc says. "When I had a glass of whiskey, the whole narrative around it was just so wonderful. Wine was just bottles at dinner, tequila was always shots, and then dancing and vodka was in a Cosmopolitan because it was very Sex & the City and was just a different era. But when you have a glass of whiskey, your conversation expands. The noise of life falls away and you get more centered and into the moment because it is a slower drink. And if you have a good whiskey, it beckons you to think about it for a moment. I find people have really cool conversations around whiskey so I think it is very appropriate for a wedding where you want people to be really present in your moment of love.” She also notes that with more and more women working in the whiskey industry, the spirit's profile is becoming even more female-friendly.
Mahesh Patel, the Founder of Universal Whisky Experience, echoes the sentiment that whiskey will bring a whole new element to the conversation. “Whisky has been described as the "Water of Life" and is the only spirit that I know that has a great social bonding, so why not serve it at a wedding,” he said. You could even make whiskey a theme of the wedding with having guests do a tasting at the Groom's or Bridal party to educated and then serve all the drinks they learned about at the reception and rehearsal dinner.
Note: if you noticed the different spellings, here's the skinny—the Scots spell it "whisky" while the Irish spell it "whiskey," because of differing translations of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. Whiskey with the extra "e" also refers to American whiskies.
What to Serve
As for what kinds of whiskey you choose to serve at a wedding event, Patel recommends Highland Single Malt scotches, Irish whiskey, and bourbon, as each have mass appeal. Brands to pick from include Midleton, Dalmore, Syndicate 58/6, Woodford Reserve, Glenmorangie, Russell's Reserve, Royal Salute, Balvenie, and The Glenlivet. The price point is usually around $70 to $150 a bottle.
Scott Bush, Founder of Foundry Distilling Co. suggests including some high-end whiskey cocktails (this is a wedding after all!). Old Fashioneds, Manhattans, and Boulevardiers are always a go-to. He said also to consider possibly a more spirit-forward and more fruit-forward concoction to provide a nice range for your guests. “I would keep it simple and do a couple of cocktails, neat and on-the-rocks," says Bush. "Do a good scotch, a good bourbon, and a good rye. You can’t go wrong with Oban for a scotch, I like Angel’s Envy for a bourbon option and, of course, Templeton as your rye whiskey."
Choosing a whiskey from a certain region is another way to incorporate the bride and groom’s story into the wedding either by picking where one of them is from or where they met or where the proposal took place, says Parc. For more ideas for your whiskey bar, check these ones out.
How to Serve It
Now for the actual wedding: a whiskey bar is a great way to go. Georgie Bell, the Global Malts Ambassador for DEWAR’S, a scotch whisky emporium (spelled without an “e” because they are a Scotch), believes this bar is essential for a great wedding. “Champagne and wine are expected, and guests can get tired of it," she says. "Scotch is perfect for a toast and truly marks a special occasion. When I get married, Scotch will definitely be a part of the evening." She suggests Dewar’s 12 with St Germain (the elderflower liqueur), and soda because it is simple, clean, and downright delicious.
You may want to reserve a detailed whiskey tasting for a more intimate group like the rehearsal dinner or the bachelor or bachelorette parties. Bush says flights need to be explained and can get pretty detailed. “You certainly do not want whiskey novices getting into brown spirits on your special day," he says. "Focus on the people and the event and enjoy life."
If you’re looking for a really classy tasting for the bachelorette, the legendary King Cole Bar at the St. Regis in New York City has a top of the line flight called the Dalmore Experience. The flight includes the 18 Year, King Alexander III, 25 Year, and 35 Year giving the taster the true apex of whisky. Each blend is nosed and assessed by the brand's master distiller of 50 years, Richard Paterson, and later matched with wood profiles resulting in an extensive flavor portrait (just keep in mind, this tasting is on the expensive side at $700).
Bell says for a whisky flight, she would go for three or four contrasting whiskies and then, for fun, add some chocolate to the mix—the perfect combination for a bachelorette! She suggests Dewar’s 12 plus milk chocolate, Dewar’s 18 plus dark chocolate and berries, Aberfeldy 12 plus salted caramel, and Craigellachie 17 plus dark chocolate with ginger.
Where to Have It
If you want your wedding to have an entire whiskey theme, definitely consider holding it in a distillery. “There are so many amazing distilleries being built around the country and they are so cool and unique," Brent Elliott, Master Distiller for Four Roses Bourbon says. "A distillery combines the art of spirits production with the beauty and ruggedness of a manufacturing facility, and, finally, the amazing sensory experience of smelling mash, fermentation, and aging whiskey."
Barrels actually make for a wonderful piece of wedding decor. There are about 2,000 distilleries in the U.S. and, though Kentucky is best known for its offerings, plenty of other states have great options. Keep in mind, though, that most distilleries prefer you to use their alcohol, so be sure to do a tasting before. Our whiskey experts also recommended these rooms for tastings:
The Standard Pour in Dallas, Texas
The Green Russell on Larimer in Denver, Colorado
Sweetwater in Boyton Beach, Florida