An upcoming whiskey festival will honor the memory of a man who’s sudden passing in 2015 shocked Houston’s restaurant community.
Set to take place October 1, Whiskies of the World will honor the memory of former Cullen’s Upscale American Grille general manager Ryan Roberts in two ways. First, members of the hospitality industry are eligible for the the Ryan Roberts Spirits Savant Award, which "will honor an individual . . . whose exemplary knowledge and passionate commitment to the responsible enjoyment of distilled spirits warrants the praise of his or her peers." The winner will receive a plaque for his or her business and a crystal whiskey decanter courtesy of Beam Suntory. Roberts's own passion for whiskey helped make Cullen's one of the city's top destinations for enjoying the spirit until it unexpectedly closed in April.
In addition, Houston artist Tra’ Slaughter will create a 24” X 36” painting titled Whisky Neat during the event. All proceeds from a silent auction of the painting will benefit an educational fund for Roberts’s children, Madyson and Reese.
“(The awards and painting are) an opportunity to pay (Roberts) some respect and help out his kids by contributing to an educational fund,” event producer Douglas Smith tells CultureMap. “It’s also a way to create an award to help exemplify and give credit to this industry. It’s very important to know how to present the spirits and be a mixologist. It helps elevate this profession, which is pretty important to people as our tastes become more refined.”
Smith explains that education is his primary goal for Whiskeys of the World. Now in its second year in Houston, the event offers enthusiasts the chance to taste more than 200 varieties of bourbon, Scotch, and other whiskies from dozens of distilleries around the world, meet industry leaders like The Balvenie brand ambassador Jonathan Wingo, and sample food from Houston restaurants like Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.
“The purpose of Whiskeys of the World is a promotional platform. A way for brands to push their products to people who will enjoy it,” Smith says. “You have the trade there. Part of the reason we put the start at 3 pm is that you can get so much more trade there, bartenders who can come and make relationships with the brands and learn more about the how to better integrate (whiskey) into their bar programs.”
Tickets start at $140 for general admission. For only $20 more, VIP attendees receive early admission and access to special pours.