I experienced my first proper whisky tasting at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. As I recall, the tasting mat featured six Maccallans, and they were excellent. Two other very important points: F. Paul Pacult of The Spirit Journal fame led the tasting, and it took place at 10 AM. That’s what I call a baptism by fire.
This year’s Tales of the Cocktail is happening right now, and I wish I could be there! Twitter makes it both super fun, and utter misery to miss out, since so many people I follow are lighting up the ‘tubes with their experience.
But my week has not been entirely spirit-free. On Sunday, I had the great pleasure of being a panelist on Mark Gillespie’s excellent WhiskyCast Virtual Tastings podcast. I appeared on the first (beta) edition of the show, and I was honored that Mark was kind enough to have me back.
I’ll leave it to you to listen to the show, but I will say that the panel was full of Texans, and at least one whisky we tried is a lone star product.
Ah, well. No blogging from me during Tales of the Cocktail. A quick look at my favorite “booze blogs” lets me know that I am not the only one who found events on the ground more compelling in real time than going back to the room to write. I also find it a bit difficult to focus (with or without cocktails) on writing while I’m in the midst of a whirlwind trip, hunched over a laptop. tiny screens, squirrelly keyboards, and flaky Internet, y’know?
So today I do my penance, writing for you, and for The Spirit World. I’m also doing penance in that the 26 pounds of stuff I acquired at tales is not here with me. I schlepped it to FedEx on Saturday for shipment home. I put the box on the slow boat, so it will be here Friday. I do have recordings and pictures from Tales, and a few books I bought. I should be able to make something of that.
Oh, among the topics I’m planning to write about are these: differences between tech and cocktail conferences/media, 21st century gin and the passionate people who talk about it, absinthe then and now, and mixer appreciation. I also picked a couple of product announcements that need writing up, and some iPhone apps that will find their way onto App Store Pundit over the next few episodes.
Well, it’s finally here; Tales of the Cocktail week. I’m headed to New Orleans to watch and learn, and cover a tremendous event for professionals and enthusiasts alike. Did I mention sampling spirits and cocktails of all varieties?
I’ll be filing posts for The Spirit World, as well as offering observations and photos right here. So watch this space.
I’m a big ol’ critic of the current frenzy for social media. That is, I’m critical of the “social media can do EVERYTHING, replace ALL mainstream media, CURE CANCER, etc. school of thought. But I am not critical of the tools that make it possible to exchange information, or add deeper meaning to the content of media. Platforms like Twitter, podcasting, uStream, and Facebook, to name just a few, can unleash not only creativity of content-makers, but the imagination and enthusiasm of content consumers.
I’m thinking about this today because I’m working on a plan to cover a conference I’ll be attending this summer. Tales of the Cocktail is an annual event for bartenders, beverage professionals, and cocktail enthusiasts, held in New Orleans.
I say “cover” because, as a long-time journalist (and proud of it) that’s how I view events that I attend. I see my attendance as a way to bring information, context,and energy to people who can’t attend themselves. that mindset is in my DNA. I want to tell people what happened, how it felt to be in the room, and who made what kinds of impacts on or within the audience. Frankly, I’m still working on the interactive part; how, using social media tools, can I let my audience influence my coverage, ask questions, give me feedback?
So much of what passes for social media coverage of events is poorly thought-out or lazy. Pointing a camera at a speaker, or lieblogging a seminar on Twitter feels great in the moment, but how, six months later, can content consumers process hours and hours of video, or Twitter posts which, if archived at all, lack real context outside the instant they occurred? I want the work I do in July to stand on its own in December, and also be consumable by busy people who wouldn’t have time to sit and watch old seminar sessions. I want what I do to inform people who attend the conference the following year, or discuss and write about its topics between events. You know, kind of like those old-fashioned things called news and feature articles used to provide a record that people could rely on for reference.
My idea right now is to combine liveblogging with edited audio podcasts. My version of liveblogging will be more like note-taking than instant news reporting. After all, this isn’t an Apple product announcement, with readers hanging on every word I write. From the liveblog posts, which can stay up for anyone who needs that level of detail, I can construct more orderly “permanent” stories that place what I’ve seen, heard and experienced into some kind of context.
Podcasting, which will always be my medium of choice, gives me the ability to record both the voices of speakers and fellow attendees, and my own. I’m likely to roll a lot of tape, then edit what I collect into manageable audio pieces that can be released one or two per day during the event. If all goes well, I might do shorter, more frequent live-to-tape podcasts consisting of interviews, or cocktail tasting notes. These could be aggregated into their own feed for people who are comfortable consuming a lot of audio in bit-sized chunks.
These are preliminary ideas. I know from attending Tales last year that it offers ample opportunity for learning, and for sensory overload. My challenge is to distill (yeah, that’s what I said) what I see and hear in ways that make it valuable to readers and listeners, both in real-time, and after the fact.
In the past couple of years, I’ve become a spirits and cocktails enthusiast. I’ve toured distilleries in Kentucky, sought out great bars when I travel, and collected bottles of spirits, liqueurs, and assorted drink-making stuff. As some of you know, I’ve been writing for a blog called The Spirit World, and I’ve added a mixology segment to Shelly’s Podcast.
Last week’s Tales of the Cocktail absolutely filled my brain with information and inspiration. And it filled a couple of bags with mini-bottles, recipes, books, and bar tools. It’s going to take me weeks to sort it all out. And since I’m a newbie in the mixology world, I’ve been digging into the schwag bag enthusiastically, not with the jaded perspective I usually bring to technology schwag. Also, min-bottles and recipes are more interesting than t-shirts and keychains. I’m just sayin.
I found many things in the Tales bag I’d never heard of, much less tasted, and I thought it would be fun to go through some of it with you. My plan is to write up some mini-reviews for your reading pleasure, and maybe introduce you to some spirits and recipes you haven’t seen before. I have no affiliation with any product manufacturer, and the reviews will be those of a relative newcomer to the discerning evaluation of booze. But, as they say, I know what I like.
This week, I won’t be so much blogging against social media orthodoxy, or political silliness as I will be blogging for the pure joy of doing it. I’m attending Tales of the Cocktail this week in New Orleans. I’ll be filing dispatches for The Spirit World on all things booze-y, and sending observations here, too.