In Other Words

Letters and pictures along my way.

Whiskey, Cigars and Jazz: A Promotional Stunt

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This is a general “culture” piece.  A bit of a diversion, but worth reporting and reading.

Liquor’s winter appeal is quantifiable: It quickens and spreads blood into your arms and legs, creating full-body heat on a cold night.  The Carnegie Club knows this all too well, and picked November 8th to showcase Bushmills whiskey with their signature cigars and a Roaring Twenties backdrop.

For manager Scott Asbury’s two years at the club, he and the managers of Davidoff of Geneva have planned free seasonal events that promote their respective organizations.  The space is a bar after all, so the most successful stunts have been liquor tastings; there is also a consistent historical side, notably in “Sounds of Sinatra” Saturdays— but 8 PM last Thursday marked a rare, Gatsby-esque soiree: Drew Nugent & The Midnight Society filled the club with old American jazz as ankle-dressed, pearl-necked ladies carried whiskey platters and cigar boxes.  Some attendees wore fedoras and bowties while chomping their Davidoffs, and the only modern giveaway was a football show being televised behind the bar.  “We have four of these events each year,” said Asbury, in a suit of his own with a lighter in hand.  “We’re one of the few cigar bars left in NYC who still does them.”

This tasting and concert may have been free of charge, but it may bring the club and Bushmills more business in days to come: Every table was reserved, most of the seats and couches were taken and every inch was packed with the whiskey and cigar enthusiasts.  A few minutes of silence came around 10 PM, as three raffle contestants were awarded cigars and ashtrays.  Everyone who entered the context signed up with an email address, and now receive messages from Bushmills and Davidoffs.

The event was a promotional success for everyone involved, including Drew Nugent himself: The dark-haired Philadelphian has been playing this style of jazz for ten years, and considered the Fall Smoker “a welcome home.”  It can be argued, however, that the Bushmills samples were the stars of the night.

“We’re one of the oldest distilleries in Ireland,” explained Bushmills representative Julie Dancona over the chatter.  “One thing that makes us special is that we make all of our whiskey under one roof.”  The companies’ labors paid off at the Smoker, with very few attendees without glasses in their hands.  The club and Bushmills arranged to specifically showcase Original, 60% single malt and known for a chocolaty flavor; Black Bush with a dizzying 80 % and hints of sherry; Bushmills 10-year-old single malt, as first distilled in 1608 and recent first-place New York Times winner in a blind whiskeys tasting; and the 16-year-old single malt, with a sweet taste for soft palates.  Sample glasses were only a quarter full, allowing an introduction and leaving tasters wanting more.

“We wanted to get people excited about what they were tasting,” says Asbury, “so we chose to feature some of the rarer and more expensive liquors.“   Despite that rarity, the tasting was far from elitist: The Carnegie club’s motivation for free events like these is to be as inclusive as possible.  Thursday had no demographic other than those looking for a smoke or drink, and attendees ranged from early twenties to mid-sixties.  The final product was a large audience, much to the hosts’ pleasure.

The event was ideal timing for Bushmills, with its drinks appearing on more and more restaurant menus.  There are many blends to pick from, but The Carnegie Club’s Fall Smoker picked just the right ones for their event: Spike Mcclure, Master of Whiskey and Bushmills aficionado, recommends Bushmills Original in Irish Coffee for the coming winter months.

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