What: Philadelphia Whiskey Week
Where: Fiume, 45th and Locust sts.
When: Dec. 3-12
“Whiskey’s something you can really spend your life pursuing,” says Fiume operator Kevin James Holland with Captain Ahab-like seriousness while sipping a glass of Rittenhouse’s 25 Year Straight Rye Whiskey. The studio-bedroom sized 45th Street haunt, with its seven barstools and six tables, is the site of Philadelphia’s first Whiskey Week.
During Beer Week 2010, a whiskey-loving customer mentioned that Philadelphia should have a week devoted to mash, and Holland promised one before the New Year. Not one to abandon his word, the 45 new ryes, bourbons and corn whiskeys he’s acquired since that conversation are the fuel for the event, which will run exclusively at Fiume from Dec. 3-12.
Some rarities Holland is enthusiastic about sharing are Michter’s 10 and 25 Year Ryes, Elmer T. Lee Bourbon, Rittenhouse’s 80 and 100 Rye, Old Potrero’s 18th Century Rye, and the Tuthilltown Hudson Four Grain. Available at full or half pours, and with daily specials, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to flights designed to explore subtleties in mash bills, and regional- and distillery-themed flights, the American Whiskey Retrospective will chart the evolution from 18th Century whiskey through the corn whiskey popular during prohibition to the present. It’s this aspect, namely how the country’s socio-cultural history speaks through whiskey’s development, which Holland hopes to facilitate a conversation around.
“We had wars, we fucked, we made babies, and we made visual art, jazz, blues and country music,” he says. “More distinct, however, is our whiskey making, and whiskey’s the lens I look at many things through.”
Information about distilleries and pertinent historical events—like the Whiskey Rebellion—will supplement the connoisseurship Holland aims to foster. But while challenging familiar brands and exploring the history are important, Holland insists Whiskey Week happen in a context of affordability and access provided by a bar like Fiume.
“I don’t want people to not drink the good stuff because they’re daunted or can’t afford it. My customers are intimidated by hoity-toity bars and fancy whiskey drinking, so I’m making American whiskey connoisseurship approachable, historically engaging and affordable,” Holland declares while pouring another round.
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