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Scotch, bourbon, rye, oh my! You'll be an expert after this week-long crash course

  • A plethora of whiskeys--328 to be precise--awaits in the Library at Untitled in River North.
A plethora of whiskeys--328 to be precise--awaits in the Library at Untitled… (Kaitlyn McQuaid / For RedEye )
April 17, 2013|By Kate Bernot, @redeyeeatdrink | For RedEye

If concerns about your bank account--or liver--prevented you from snapping up $175 Whisky Fest tickets before they sold out, you're not out of luck. While the April 26 bonanza, which features more than 250 whiskeys, is a popular event, it's not the only way to expand your whiskey knowledge this month. Local bars and restaurants pour enough of the amber liquid to provide an excellent crash course, and many visiting distillers will conduct special events around the fest.

Whether you're a whiskey novice or as seasoned a scotch drinker as Ron Burgundy, next week provides a full lineup of tastings and dinners to expand your palate. Grab your calendar and a designated driver and start planning your whiskey education.

kbernot@tribune.com | @redeyeeatdrink

Monday, April 22

Koval Rye Tasting at Delilah's

2771 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-472-2771

Koval can boast that it is the first craft distillery in Chicago to open since Prohibition, and Delilah's can brag that it is one of the top whiskey bars in the city. Put them together and you have a low-key night of rye whiskey tastings with the chance to delve into Delilah's full list, too. Koval will pour samples of its unaged Rye Chicago whiskey, Lion's Pride rye aged in toasted oak barrels and Lion's Pride dark rye aged in heavily charred oak barrels. Representatives can guide drinkers through their flavors and answers questions about the distillery. Free to attend. 7-9 p.m.

Tuesday, April 23

Burger, Bourbon and Beer Night at Owen & Engine

2700 N. Western Ave. 773-235-2930

Thankfully, this Tuesday night special is a recurring one. For a totally reasonable $15, the English pub in Avondale hooks you up with its 9-ounce, house-ground Slagel Farms beef burger, served with caramelized onions on a potato bun (toppings like an egg or bacon cost extra). Take in the cozy U.K.-inspired decor while you sip your bourbon (this week it's likely to be Banker's Club) and wash it down with a to-be-announced beer. Should you thirst for more knowledge (literally), order up one of the dozens of scotches, Irish whiskeys, ryes and bourbons on Owen & Engine's menu. Begins at 5 p.m.

Wednesday, April 24

A Night of Whiskey & Cigars at Fountainhead

1970 W. Montrose Ave. 773-697-8204

Known for its craft beer menu, this Ravenswood bar turns its attention to bourbon as Southern distillers Corsair, MB Roland and the makers of Redemption rye join for a toast to whiskey and tobacco. New chef Cleetus Friedman (formerly of City Provisions Delicatessen) will prepare a three-course dinner in the bar's Barrel Room along with pours of six whiskeys from the visiting distillers. Meanwhile, Fountainhead's rooftop hosts a party featuring, yes, more whiskey, rum and cigars for purchase from Up Down Cigar. If the weather still is chilly, expect the rooftop's heaters to be cranking. Tickets for the dinner are $45 and include whiskey and the rooftop party; tickets for the rooftop party only are $10; both require reservations. 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 25

A Night With New Holland Spirits at Weegee's Lounge

3659 W. Armitage Ave. 773-384-0707

You might be familiar with New Holland's beer, but did you know the Michigan brewery also distills spirits? Meet Rich Blair, the head of sales for New Holland Distillery, and sample the beer-barrel-aged bourbon, a reverse take on the bourbon-barrel-aged beers that you may have sipped this winter. The cocktail whizzes at Weegee's also will mix up some New Holland drinks. No cover. Begins at 10 p.m.

Friday, April 26

Journeyman Distillery dinner at 2 Sparrows

553 W. Diversey Parkway 773-234-2320

Like bacon? Like bourbon? Of course you do. Journeyman Distillery, an artisan producer of whiskey, gin, rum and vodka from Three Oaks, Mich., teams up with 2 Sparrows' chefs for a four-course dinner in which each dish features bacon and a bourbon cocktail pairing--think French toast with whiskey maple syrup and bacon crumbles paired with a Midwest Maple Flip, or fried chicken with bacon-braised collard greens washed down with a blackberry-bourbon lemonade. Journeyman has a special Chicago connection, too: Its first barrels of rye were distilled and aged at Ravenswood's Koval Distillery. The dinner costs $60, inclusive of pairings, and requires reservations. 7 p.m.

Saturday, April 27

The back bar at Billy Sunday

3143 W. Logan Boulevard 773-661-2485

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