Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Water of Life Event: a fund raising effort that produced magic

Matthew Lurin hosts The Water Of Life event.

May 6th saw the birth of a new kind of whisky event: one with a both a moral purpose and a different format that lends itself to deeper tasting.  Matthew Lurin is a well-known whisky enthusiast and doctor in New York.  His stepfather struggles with a rare form of cancer called "Gastro Intestinal Stromal Tumors" (GIST).  Matt conceived of a whisky tasting event as a fund raiser for The Life Raft Group which supports research on GIST and supports patients.  It's a good cause and, as a fund raiser, the cost of admission is tax deductible.  The whisky community is generous, and many people donated excellent whiskies and other prizes for a raffle at the culmination of the event.  A critical mass of the North-East's whisky community attended and the selection of spirits being poured was superb.  But there was something more to it.

Lurin chose a great venue for the event: the Battery Gardens restaurant in Battery Park at the foot of Manhattan.  The views were excellent and the sunset was glorious.  A terrace allowed the holders of VIP tickets to enjoy cigars with some special whisky selections.  (Matt Morrissey provided Villager Elite cigars.  And special drams were provided by Raj Sabharwal of Purple Valley Imports and also by Compass Box.

Jennifer Wren shares news she is now
a brand ambassador for Glenfiddich
But what ended up being the most significant thing about the evening, for me, was that the format was conducive to close focused whisky dramming sessions with high quality experiences.  The structure of sitting down in a small group of people at a table with the whisky brand ambassador and having what feels like a one on one personal dram session feels more intimate and conveys more information, which simultaneously feeling more relaxed and convivial.  It's more like having a drink with a friend, which is very much what this event was all about.  The structure of the evening has you cruising in a tight formation with a group of fellow drinkers through a series of tables.  The people at this show included a fabulous group of whisky people who are Malt Impostor, and Jennifer Wren, the whisky event instigator known as Whersky .  Jennifer, by the way, had just learned that she had landed the job of repping Glenfiddich for the NorthWest - living her dream and moving to the spirits world professionally.  She was bursting with happiness about it and between her beauty, grace, amazing palate and love of the whisky, was an exhilarating drinking partner.  Later, there was ample opportunity to break from the group for dinner and terrace time.  The cigars were terrific and the company was fantastic.  There was a very special energy, with people really engaged and upbeat.
friends of mine and I was very fortunate to do the show with a great group of human beings, particularly Malt Maniac Peter Silver, The

It sounds like such a simple and small thing, sitting down with the brand ambassador rather than just standing at the table, but it turned out to be much more than that.  In the normal whisky show format people mob the tables and the people pouring are racing to fill the extended glencairns and rushing to give a basic orientation spiel over and over.  With the the "speed dating" format of The Water of Life Event there are no mobs and you have a solid piece of time in a small tight group at each table so you can relax and get the full attention of the rep and the people you're with.  It's civilized and more relaxed.  It fosters real conversations and more careful tasting.  It actually made an unexpectedly huge difference.  I'm going to post a bunch of pictures so you can get the feeling.
Robin Robinson poured Compass Box, but more than that, he shared his love and enthusiasm for the spirit.
The Malt Impostor and Jennifer Wren

The Malt Impostor posted a review of this event here:

Steph Ridgeway pops up a surprise - a taste of Odin.
Can you tell that Steph Ridgeway loves what she does?
Raj Sabharwal of Purple Valley on the VIP balcony with Glenglassaugh 43.
Craig Bridger was pouring the good stuff from Macallan

Sallie Dorsett  

Susannah Skiver Barton noses Glenglassaugh 43

David Bailey of Compass Box and Timothy Malia

Matt Lurin, our host, on the VIP balcony

David Laird of Balvenie did a chocolate whisky pairing

There were so many highlights.  One of them was definitely David Laird's brilliant presentation of Balvenie 12 Doublewood, Caribbean Cask 14, and Single Barrel 15 paired with excellent chocolate from Green and Black.  As a special encore, he also poured 21 Portwood.  It was an amazing treat and the pairings were brilliant.

There was fantastic food and terrific dessert.  At the end of the event there was the raffle drawing.  The tickets were expensive - but the event was for charity after all - and the percentage of winners was unusually high given the large number of donated prizes that the charity format inspired.

Full disclosure: Josh Feldman totally scored this awesome
Mark Gillespie original photo print in the raffle.
The Brandy Library was there - warm and wonderful.

Josh Hatton was representing Impex

Peter Silver and I enjoying An Cnoc - photo courtesy of Ellie of
Matthew Lurin was clear that this was the First Annual Water of Life Event.  He intends this to happen again and again and wants it to grow.  Given how amazing it was, I hope he succeeds.  The mix of attributes - the tax deductible nature of the costs and donated raffle prizes, the excellent and relaxed format, the wonderful group of whisky enthusiasts, the superb venue, and the top flight food, cigars, views, and environment makes this an absolutely premier event.  I recommend it highly.  Watch for it next year.  It's not to be missed.  Bravo, Matthew Lurin.  What a wonderful way to foster community, love of whisky, and also to give something back to help those with GIST and help find a cure.

Keep track of The Water of Life Event on their web site:
...and their Facebook group:


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