[All Images by Robert Witkowski]

Penelope Bourbon Kicks Off New Orleans Bourbon Fest 2024

10:00 March 21, 2024
By: Robert Witkowski

Blended Bourbon Tasting

Penelope Bourbon kicked off the 2024 New Orleans Bourbon Festival by hosting a speakeasy-style soirée, appropriately over Bourbon Street. The event was an intimate interactive whiskey blending lesson for 30 whiskey lovers loyal to the upstart Bourbon company.

Wednesday evening's affair was found through a seemingly random door on Iberville Street near the bustling Bourbon Street, up a stairwell without signage—and of course entry given with the secret code "BLEND." After walking through a narrow hallway, guests entered into an elegant venue with two long tables, a full bar with Penelope-based craft cocktails, and an array of bites with music wafting in from the active street below.

Each table presented festival-goers with three tubes, each filled with whiskey mash bills: Rye, Wheat, and Corn. Guests broke into small groups to create what they considered a perfect blend to be tasted by the whiskey company's executive team.

"When creating whiskey, find what you love, find what you hate, find what you tolerate," said Penelope's National Brand Ambassador Wendy Peveich when explaining the blending process to confused first-timers. "Mix it together until you find a blend you enjoy."

With the corn, wheat, and rye, mash bills, some noticed it did not taste quite right, like something was missing. "Don't forget the barrel," Peveich reminded the contestants. For that, cognac was available to compensate for the taste added by charred bourbon barrels that would allow the concoction to age several years normally.

The room was abuzz with amateur master distillers conferring among each other for the best blend ratios. Those in attendance had come in from around the country to participate, and in good spirits—literally.

"We're going home with first prize here," declared Brian Grandison from Dalles, TX. But his team's blend consisting of 23 ml corn and 7 ml wheat (but no rye), with 2 drops of water did not prevail. Instead, the industry judges selected another blend from the opposing table.

Based in New Jersey, founder Mike Paladini and his wife, Kerry created the company to commemorate the birth of their daughter Penelope "creating a spirit that embodied the daily joy of celebrating life's pleasures—big and small." In true Jersey-boys fashion, Paladini partnered with childhood friend Danny Polise to discover and produce Penelope's Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which debuted in 2018. The company is now distributed in most of the United States, as well as three other countries.

Good-natured rivalries and trash talking extended onto the balcony after the competition, with the party patrons soaking in the Bourbon Street activity. The Rue Bourbon Parlours & Balconies speakeasy was a quintessential New Orleans setting for the first day of this annual four-day Bourbon fest.

The New Orleans Bourbon Festival continues through Sunday, March 24 with daily events, dinners, and tasting parties Friday and Saturday evenings.

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