Whiskey, art, and art that holds whiskey at Lillstreet Art Center

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Last Friday evening I stopped by Lillstreet Art Gallery for the opening of its new show, "Neat: The Art of the Whiskey Vessel." It's hard to imagine an event that more perfectly fits my interests: like anyone with good taste, I love whiskey, and I've been doing pottery for years (and, full disclosure, used to be a teaching assistant for classes at Lillstreet). In a ceramics class I took in college, the professor brought in several sake cups of different shapes and materials—mostly ceramic, but there were one or two wooden ones—and had us taste the same sake from the various cups. Drinking from the different cups really did make the sake taste noticeably different.

I don't know whether same would hold true for whiskey, which is much stronger in flavor (though the shape of vessel can certainly affect the smell, which is a big part of taste)—but given the number of people at the reception, trying it from different cups it wouldn't have been very practical anyway. Though there was whiskey to be had: Koval Distillery, which is located just up the street, was there offering samples. My favorite was the 47th Ward, a single-barrel overproof whiskey I've had before. Made from rye, wheat, oat, and malted barley, it smells a lot like honey and, at 94 proof, has a strong alcohol burn, but a little water smooths it out and makes it open up beautifully.

After we'd had our fill of art we headed over to the Fountainhead. It turned out that brand ambassador Kyle McHugh was giving out samples of the new Bulleit 10, which I've been reading about for a while (I also recently received a sample in the mail). Aged in the barrel for ten years rather than Bulleit's usual six, the bourbon is oaky, with strong vanilla notes, and spicy, both from the rye and the slightly higher proof. I liked it, but I'm not sure it's worth the price increase over regular Bulleit; there are better bourbons out there for $45 a bottle.

Below are photos of some of my favorite pieces from the exhibit. (I also love the bottles in the photo above, by Ben Bates, but I somehow neglected to take a close-up of them. Photos of all the pieces in the show are available on Lillstreet's website.)

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Bourbon bottles and a whiskey cup by Doug Jeppesen, one of my favorite potters and the curator of the show. Note that they're displayed on a Koval whiskey barrel.


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Liquor set by Josh DeWeese


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Bottles by Dan Murphy


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Hot toddy pitcher and whiskey cups by Kenyon Hansen


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Flask and whiskey bucket sets by Lorna Meaden


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Whiskey flask by Matt Long (if I had an extra $350 sitting around, I probably would have bought this).


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W.H.I.S.K.E.Y. flasks by Josh Stover

Through 3/1, Lillstreet Art Center, 4401 N. Ravenswood, 773-769-4226

Julia Thiel writes about booze every Wednesday.

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