Whiskies of the World San Francisco (WOWSF)
This was my second year attending WOWSF so I had a fair idea of what to expect (You can read about my 2015 visit here). The event was held on a Saturday afternoon and the BART (San Francisco’s version of a train system…) was not functioning between 2 key stops. This caused long delays but I was in high spirits (sorry for the pun).
Unlike Whiskies of the World – San Pedro Square Market there was only 1 session that went from 6pm to 9pm, but if you were lucky you could get a VIP ticket that let you in at 5pm with access to some exclusive whiskies. The difference in price is $140 vs $160, so it’s well worth it if you can get your hands on a ticket (they sell out quickly). I was fortunate enough to get a VIP ticket this year and the difference between a 3 hour tasting session and a 4 hour tasting session is quite substantial, especially since the first hour is not crowded.
WOWSF was once again held on the San Francisco Belle; a paddlewheeler that in a previous life served as a floating casino in Missouri. The Belle remains docked for the entire event but it’s still a nice feeling to be drinking whisky on such a classic boat…. once you get used to the waves.
I didn’t get to see the size of the queue this year because I was busy helping run a nosing event as part of WOWSF that started at 4pm (more on that in another article), but I can imagine it was long.
WOWSF is spread over 3 floors on the boat (the bottom floor is dining) and has over 300 whiskies available, so it feels like a much bigger event than WOWSPSM. All of the whiskies available at WOWSPSM were available at WOWSF (from what I saw), but there were of course many additional options. If you’re not afraid of crowds, I suggest attending Whiskies of the World – San Francisco.
Another big benefit of WOWSF is the view. Being able to walk around the deck of a nice open-air boat is very enjoyable.
Some standouts for me from WOWSF (some of these were also available at WOWSPSM):
Glencadam (10 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 21 Year Old)
I already included Glencadam in my SPSM article, but it was so good that I went back. Twice.
Aberlour (12 Year Old, 12 Year Non-Chill Filtered, 16 Year Old, 18 Year Old and A’bunadh)
Another distillery that I absolutely love. For me these are some of the best whiskies Speyside has to offer and this batch (wish I took down the batch number) of A’bunadh was great. Rich sherry but very complex.
Lagavulin (12 Year Old, 16 Year Old and Distillers Edition)
My regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Lagavulin (if you don’t believe me read my review of the 16 year old), so I would never say no to stopping by. I had my fingers crossed that I could try the 200th anniversary 8 Year Old, but unfortunately not. Nevertheless I still got to compare the 12 Year Old, 16 Year Old and Distillers Edition side by side. That’s always a fun experience for me.
Arran (10 Year Old, 12 Year Old Cask Strength, 14 Year Old, Sauternes Finish, Amarone Finish, Port Finish, Machrie Moor and The Bothy)
I’m a big fan of Arran. I have a soft spot for the 12 Year old cask strength and the Amarone Finish… but I was on a mission to try The Bothy. It was better than I expected…
Woodford Reserve (Rye, Double Oaked and Distillers Select)
As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m trying to get more familiar with US whiskies. I’d already had the Woodford Reserve Rye and I quite enjoyed it, so I wanted to sample their Bourbons. Both were very enjoyable. I’ll be on the lookout for a bottle.
Redbreast (12 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 21 Year Old)
Irish whisky has never been my go-to but Redbreast did impressive across the board. The 21 Year Old was sensational.
Compass Box (Great King Street Artist’s Blend, Great King Street Glasgow Blend, Hedonism, Peat Monster and Spice Tree)
Like every whisky blogger in the world, I really respect Compass Box. I also really like their whisky, so for me it’s an obvious stop when you see the Compass Box logo at these events. I even struggle to pick my favourite.
Balvenie (12 Year Old, 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask and 17 Year Old Doublewood)
I am a huge fan of Balvenie. I am quite familiar with the selection offered, but I’ll never say no to the Doublewood. The Caribbean Cask is also a very interesting whisky. You can read my previous review here.
Corbin Cash (Blended Whisky, Merced Rye Whisky, Barrel Reserve Sweet Potato Liqeur)
I have to say, I’ve never tried sweet potato whisky before. It is very interesting. I’m not completely sold on it yet, but I plan to get a hold of some more before I pass judgement. Definitely worth a try at the minimum.
Corsair (Barrel Aged Gin, Hopped Whiskey, OatRage Whisky, Quinoa Whisky, Ryemageddon Whisky, Triple Smoke Whisky and Wildfire Whisky)
These guys are exactly what US whisky should be. Creative, experimental and completely unique. Whether you love or hate the, they’re definitely unique.
Alexander Murray & Co (53 Year Old Highland, 40 Year Old Speyside, Caol Ila 8 Year Old, Dailuaine 16 Year Old, Polly’s Cask and many others)
I mentioned these guys in my WOWSPSM article, but I had to mention them again here. Alexander Murray were my standout exhibitor of the show. Every whisky in their range that I tried was great. I really want to get my hands on some of their whiskies for a more detailed review.
There were many other standouts but there are too many to list.
I always enjoy attending whisky events, but there’s something about Whiskies of the World – San Francisco that I particularly enjoy. Maybe it’s the atmosphere on the boat… whatever the reason is, I plan to attend WOWSF each year while I live in the SF Bay Area. There is no reason not to.
I attend these types of whisky events to try new expressions and old favourites, but I also enjoy mingling with both industry people and other attendees. Both of this years Whiskies of the World events ended up being a little bit surreal for me from this perspective. I kept meeting people who had either read one my articles, heard of the Game of Drams or seen the logo on Twitter or Facebook.
I was wearing a black polo with the Game of Drams logo, so I kept getting stopped by people who recognised it and wanted to chat. They asked about the website, blogging in general and of course whisky. I really enjoy speaking to people about whisky so it was a nice feeling. So to all of those people who I had the chance to speak with; it was nice meeting you. Hopefully we’ll speak again at another event… and to those who attended but we didn’t get the chance to speak, next time come by and say hello.