Anthony Bourdain & The Balvenie Rare Craft Experience

A La Carte Events & Catering was delighted to assist in organizing the Houston stop of The Balvenie Rare Craft Collection Tour, which was curated by Anthony Bourdain. This two-day guided tasting event included samples, tastings, and demos. The event saw 1,800 total attendees.

In addition to whisky sipping, Balvenie’s skilled artisans provided an interactive experience for attendees.

The conversation revolved around the crafts that have been practiced for centuries by the artisans and how each of these skills plays a role in making a barrel of whisky.

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The Houston, Texas Balvenie Rare Craft Experience was hosted at Silver Street Studios, a large industrial venue with 20,000 square feet of air-conditioned open warehouse space.

The team from Momentum Worldwide put in a lot of effort to convert Silver Street into an ideal location for Balvenie’s event.

They incorporated modern tubing and geometric cutouts to create a comfortable and warm atmosphere that was perfectly aligned with the Balvenie Rare Craft brand. The team worked tirelessly all night to bring this vision to life.

The Event Tour

Each guest received a personal Rare Craft branded nosing glass on the tour’s first leg. A La Carte’s bartenders then treated them to The Balvenie’s 12-Year DoubleWood Whisky.

While enjoying the smooth and mellow single malt scotch, attendees mixed and mingled before being whisked away by the Balvenie ambassadors for their tasting tour.

Next, each group of guests moved into specific workspaces, set up with classroom-style seating and branded notepads. The guests had a face-to-face Q&A session with five different hand-picked artisans, each of whom covered a different subject:

  • metal-working,
  • printmaking/letterpress,
  • sculpture,
  • cooping,
  • and watchmaking.

In particular, listening to a 3rd generation Scottish cooper talk about his work really drove home the handcrafted nature of Balvenie’s fine whisky-making.    

Welcome to The Tasting Rooms

Once the artisans’ sections were completed, is was off to the Tasting Rooms. Here, guests participated in an interactive sampling of each of the single malts in the Rare Craft Collection. At the engaging presentation, the attendees were educated on the origins and production of every type of whisky and the ideal ways to savor them.

Many attendees were surprised at how a drop or two of distilled water could completely change the smell and taste of the Scotch.

In addition to an amazing (and free!) evening, the guests that attended the second night of tours got an extra special surprise.

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In addition to an amazing (and free!) evening, the guests that attended the second night of tours got an extra special surprise. Not only did Anthony Bourdain personally greet each group at their final Q&A session, but he also graciously stayed for photos.

The Balvenie’s Rare Craft Whisky Lounge

At last, guests made their way to the Whisky Lounge, set up in the back of Silver Street. The refined masculine lounge space was replete with cozy leather club seating.

The team at A La Carte Events & Catering impressed guests with scrumptious bites that were designed to pair with Balvenie’s whiskies. The following were featured on the menu for each evening:

  • Beef Tenderloin Canapés with House Made Boursin, Caramelized Onions, and Red Pepper Aioli,
  • Pancetta Crisps with Whipped Goat Cheese, Fresh Thyme, Thinly Sliced Pear, and Dark Texas Honey,
  • Leek and Gruyère Paninis,
  • Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread,
  • and Truffled Mac and Cheese Spoons.

The guests had built up quite an appetite on the tour. A La Carte’s kitchen staff and servers were kept very busy, as the hors d’oeuvres quickly vanished from the serving platters they were passing around.

The Best Part of the Experience

Amidst the behind-the-scenes hustle and bustle of getting hot, fresh hors d’oeuvres out to the Lounge guests, an amazing opportunity presented itself.

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Just as I was helping our kitchen staff arrange a new platter of leek and Gruyère paninis, I noticed Anthony Bourdain and his “entourage” (it was really just his assistant and a couple of Balvenie reps; he was definitely not in the diva category), preparing to leave after his last Q&A session.

As is the goal at all of A La Carte’s events, we want to ensure that our host, not just their guests, is cared for. Hosts especially may find themselves so busy that they don’t get a chance to eat.  

Considering this, I proposed to Mr. Bourdain and his companions the idea of indulging in some discreet bites inside the kitchen. He had been busy talking the entire evening and hadn’t eaten since lunch.

They followed me over to our prep area. Cool as a cucumber (food pun intended), I gave a rundown of the menu, and they dug in. Very soon, satisfied and full-mouthed grins followed.

Anthony chose the Leek and Gruyère Panini. After a couple of bites and a moment to savor, he replied, “Good,” (*short contemplative pause*) “…very good!” A thumbs-up followed.

He chatted with a couple of our staff members as he finished his last few bites and then went on his way, but not before snagging another full-size panini for the road. 

This particular moment was the cherry on top of an amazingly successful couple of days, and definitely a career highlight for the A La Carte team.

* Momentum Worldwide is an international experiential marketing company whose clients include not only William Grant & Sons (Balvenie’s parent company) but also “category-leading brands to create category-leading work for American Express, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, SAP, Verizon and Walmart.”

A La Carte Events & Catering is proud to have worked with them on multiple Houston brand activations.