Second Whiskey Rebellion Extends across Western Pa

By Karlovits, Bob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 24, 2012 | Go to article overview

Second Whiskey Rebellion Extends across Western Pa


Karlovits, Bob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The Second Whiskey Rebellion is being waged in stores, bars and distilleries all over Western Pennsylvania.

It is a revolt in which bourbons are winning new followers with drinks that are quietly subtle or boldly stark. Moonshines have matured into white whiskeys and are the heart of classy cocktails. The rebels in these battles are winning converts.

Unlike the first rebellion in 1794, there are no signs of federal troops marching in to quell proceedings.

It is a rebellion that will be celebrated at the Pittsburgh Whiskey & Soft Spirits Festival on Friday in the Rivers Casino, for what general manager Dale Markham believes will be the biggest in its six years.

The festival will feature 78 tables with more than 300 types of whiskeys coming from distilleries from Scotland to Kentucky, vodkas from Poland to Shaler, and cordials from all over the world.

It also will feature the likes of Elvis, Frank and Dean, strolling around the Casino adding a Vegas feeling for the night.

"We were serious at the start," Markham says about the beginning of the festival when the goal was to portray the new-felt class of the amber potion. "Now we're looking to have some fun with it."

The timing is right to have some fun with the whiskey-festival concept.

Distilled spirits are gaining such popularity, they have robbed a 5-percent to 6-percent market share from the seemingly untouchable beer, says David Ozgo, chief economist for the Washington, D.C.- based Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

Matt Schwenk, director of product selection for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, says whiskeys have become more and more popular with those ages 21 to 29, and with women, who now drink it 28 percent of the time.

The growing popularity fuels activity at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District, as it rolls into the end of its first year of operation, It has been marketing two white whiskeys, aging half for the creation of the brown variety, and now is selling a whiskey- based gin.

In a related sense, Boyd & Blair is in its fourth year of distilling vodka in Shaler and has seen business growing 54 percent in 2011, after a 36 percent jump in 2011, co-owner Barry Young says.

Whiskeys have become so popular that even a burger bar has jumped aboard. Zachary Winghart, co-owner of Winghart's Burger & Whiskey Bar, Downtown and in the South Side, sees a great learning curve happening with customers who are discovering the variety of whiskey.

"A lot of people know Jameson, and then they discover Red Breast," he says, referring to two brands of Irish whiskeys.

Winghart sees that swing in the examination of how to drink whiskeys. He says it is "really American to drink whiskey neat," that is, without any taste of water or ice. But in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, he say, a drop of water to explode the aroma and taste is considered a must. …

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