Sample and learn: Whiskey classes Feb. 3, 10, 17 at Irish American Heritage Center

Whiskey, obviously.

It’s been 47 years since February made Don McLean quiver, which makes me feel really “vintage,” as one radio station describes the ancient music it plays.

I was thinking about getting a Chevy, but a new Silverado runs $35,000 and the river by my house has no levee. Though I know people moving to Nashville, I’m hardly a good old boy.

I also have no plan on dying or even dyeing anything anytime soon – not even the Chicago River in March.

So, short of stuffing my face with pie, the best I can do to fight this wintry mood may involve whining over red wine or wryly drinking whiskey or whisky, depending on what best fest buddy Tom has handy.

Lucky for me, over at the Irish American Heritage Center, Marty Duffy once again will be offering three whiskey classes where I, and you, can learn a little about liquor to help us through the shortest month of the year. 

“The theme is the same as always, the history and production of Irish whiskey and how they are both so closely intertwined with the history of Ireland itself,” Duffy said. 

Marty Duffy and fans

Each class will feature whiskey from the various categories within Irish whiskey: single grain, single malt, single pot still, Irish blend and a final whiskey that combines them all, Duffy said. The actual brands may vary for each of the three classes offered, but will include Jameson, Bushmills, Barr an Uisce, Hyde, Connemara, Tyrconnell, Greenore 8yr, Redbreast, Yellow Spot and others.

Each class also will offer a presentation and sampling from an Irish whiskey representative, Duffy said.

On Feb. 3, Michael Egan from Beam Suntory will be talking about and sampling Tyrconnell, 2 Gingers, Kilbeggan and Connemara. A week later, on Feb. 10, Lorna Rumley from the new Glendalough Distillery will be presenting Irish whiskey and gin from that County Wicklow maker. Then, on Feb. 17, Stephen Randles will present the various marques from Hyde Irish whiskey of County Cork.

Among his skills, Duffy co-produces the annual Chicago Independent Spirits Expo, emcees at the annual Chicago Scottish Festival and Highland Games and has known me for more than a third of a century. Knowing me has led others to drink, but in Duffy’s case he knows his drink and has made an interesting living that’s involved learning and teaching about liquor.

As such, I asked Duffy about what was best that best fest buddy Tom has in his liquor cabinet, which looms large in his living room.

Of the big bottle of Tullamore Dew, Duffy said, “Good stuff and the second best-selling Irish whiskey in the world.”

The Jameson Caskmate that Tom once had after hearing about it from Duffy, seems to have disappeared – into our bellies.

“That’s long gone,” Tom said.

“It’s the best thing Jameson’s ever done,” Duffy said.

Tom’s liquor cabinet

I gave Tom an old bottle of Michael Collins, and Duffy said that it could become a collector’s item, though there was talk of starting up the brand again. Can a collector’s item be open and sampled? Hmm.

There’s also a  bottle of 12-year-old  Redbreast, which was bought because Tom and I were offered some on an adventure in St. Louis and found it delicious.-

“That’s great stuff, though the 21-year is just outstanding,” Duffy said.

A 750 ml bottle of the 21 is  $300 at Binny’s, so maybe for Tom’s birthday and Christmas present. I’ll start a GoFundMe page.

On a dare, Tom bought something generic and smoky he found on sale at Sam’s Club.

“There’s lots of generic stuff out there, but not generic smoky stuff. It’s most likely generic Connemara,” Duffy said.

See. I told you he was a smart guy!

Anyway, if any of this has whet your appetite for whiskey, the Saturday class dates are Feb. 3, Feb. 10 and Feb. 17 in Room 109 at the Irish American Heritage Center, Room 4626 N. Knox Ave, Chicago. Sessions begin promptly at 5 p.m.

The cost is $40 per person per date, and each attendee at the 21-and-over classes must have a valid federal or state photo I.D. Seating is very limited, and tickets have to be purchased in advance online at