Glass of whiskey in Sarasota florida
If you don't obsess over whiskey, you will after this festival [Photo: Lauren Jackson]

A Guide to Sarasota's Seventh Annual Whiskey Obsession Festival

Whether you're new to Sarasota or new to whiskey, this annual celebration of the spirit has something for everyone 21 and up.

We’re gearing up for this year’s seventh annual Whiskey Obsession Festival in Sarasota. This event has grown in numbers and popularity with each passing year – the 2018 head count topped over 3,500 guests. This year is expected to be even bigger and better with four days of teaching, dining, and, of course, drinking. This year’s roster includes a robust offering of events ranging from tastings to pairings and educational seminars. In the words of the presenter, Spirit Guide, Inc., “take your friends and take a cab!”

Beginning Wednesday, April 10, the Whiskey Obsession Festival kicks off at the Sarasota Yacht Club at 6:30 pm. The inaugural event features a four course sit down dinner, complete with whiskey pairings from Balcones Distilling. Guests will taste deconstructed components of the brand’s Texas Single Malt and learn all about this iconic spirit.

Moving into the second day of the festival, guests are privy to educational tastings and dinners with industry experts. There are three featured dinners including a scotch pairing and a dinner specifically featuring whiskies from Bengaluru, India. In addition to an offering of whiskey dinners, guests can attend the interactive tasting panel at the Hyatt to learn about award-winning whiskies from those who know it best. The evening culminates at Social Eatery and Bar for a Whistle Pig Rye Showcase complete with specialty cocktails, whiskey samples and a commemorative custom Tervis Tumbler. (For those in the know, Whistle Pig is an easy favorite, and this late night event is sure to be a smash hit!)

The big action is reserved for Friday, April 12, with the Grand Tasting and Masterclasses at the Hyatt. Hundreds of whiskies and cocktails will be available for guests to sample and discuss with company ambassadors. The night will include hors d’oeuvres and dinner to help you soak up the evening’s festivities and continue to learn about the world’s best whiskies. At the Grand Tasting, guests will have an opportunity to delve deeper at a masterclasses offered by Four Roses, Amrut and Glengoyne. With three levels of ticket offerings including VIP, general admission, and companion, there is sure to be the right fit for you.

After sleeping off the previous day’s party, guests are invited to a full slate of activities on the final day of the festival: Saturday, April 13. Starting with the Women of Whiskey Brunch at the Sarasota Yacht Club, guests can brush shoulders with the industry’s most well-respected women and learn about the whiskies they represent. After brunch, guests are invited to head over to Smokin’ Joes for a multi-faceted pairing of cigars and whiskey.

The festival wraps up at JDub’s Brewing Company beginning at 6:00pm. In the true spirit of an evening at JDub’s, there will be plenty of food trucks and beer, but don’t worry there will still be plenty of whiskies to sample as the event draws to a close.

If a weekend full of whiskey sounds like your ideal way to relax, head over to the Whiskey Obsession Festival website for access to tickets for the varying events. Always remember to drink responsibly!