Think Westworld meets James Bond.
That’s the vibe of The Whiskey Classic, a new event that lets guests savor sips of craft beverages while exploring a surprise-filled Old West movie set south of Santa Fe.
The immersive event, from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, will bring the Western town at Bonanza Creek Ranch to life with tasting bars inside some of the set’s 24 buildings, such as the saloon (naturally), bank or hotel.
But that, said Micaela Brown — founder of Albuquerque-based Inspire People Media, the event marketing and production agency behind The Whiskey Classic — is just the start.
“Behind every single door, there’s something happening,” said Brown, who first conceived the idea for a whiskey-meets-West event for the site three years ago. “We’re recreating in real life what people can only see on TV.”
There will be gunfighters, saloon girls, musicians, cigars, lounge areas — and more surprises, Brown said. Guests can balance their beverages with food, including vegetable skewers, meatballs and sliders with homemade buttermilk biscuits — from a chuck wagon, of course.
Brown is an experienced hand at throwing supersized soirees, with signature events under her belt including the Santa Fe Foodie Classic, Diner en Blanc Albuquerque, The Running of the Chihuahuas and Christmas at Hogwarts, which in 2014 transformed an Albuquerque ballroom into the Great Hall from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — 1,000 floating candles included. She’s also the founder of Blush & Whimsy, a cosmetics startup starring a delicate, color-changing lipstick.
For The Whiskey Classic, Brown wanted to combine exclusive access to an Old West movie set — Bonanza Creek Ranch’s credits include 3:10 to Yuma, Into The West, All The Pretty Horses and The Lazarus Man — with a sophisticated twist.
“James Bond in Santa Fe, what would that look like?” she said. “You’ve got to bring that touch of class because Santa Fe knows that production value.”
Guests will be able to sample a variety of liquors as well as beer and wine, but whiskey — and New Mexico distilleries — are the highlights. Santa Fe Spirits, Glencoe Distillery, Silver City’s Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, Albuquerque’s Left Turn Distilling, Broken Trail Spirits + Brew and Hollow Spirits will all be serving tastes of their products.
There are 12 active distilleries in New Mexico and about 20 licenses, said Colin Keegan, president of the New Mexico Distillers Guild and owner of Santa Fe Spirits, which at 8 years old is New Mexico’s oldest operating distillery. He said he’s seeing a resurgence in whiskey’s popularity, particularly among the younger set.
“Whiskey is becoming cool and hip, partly because of the craft movement,” Keegan said. “The millennials are driving that partly because they’re seeking artisanal producers like us. They’re not interested in Jack Daniel’s. They want something growing in their own backyard.”
That’s good news for craft distillers like Santa Fe Spirits; its three single-malt whiskeys scored 90, 89 and 87 on a 100-point scale in October’s Whisky Advocate.
Spirits had an eighth straight year of U.S. market gains in 2017, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, with 36.6 percent of the total beverage alcohol market. In 2017, more than 23 million 9-liter cases of American whiskey and 4.2 million cases of Irish whiskey were sold in the U.S., the council reported.
Keegan also credited the surge to more women exploring whiskey and the exploding popularity of whiskey cocktails.
The Whiskey Classic is reaping the rewards of that interest.
With the event timed to coincide with the second weekend of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (shuttle service is available from Santa Fe and Albuquerque), Brown expects to sell about 1,000 tickets, and she said guests are coming from Canada, Mexico, New York and a host of other places. The event has drawn interest from United Kingdom and Japanese officials, and plans already are in the works for an expanded event next year, she said.
“Whiskey is something you savor and learn about,” Brown said. “It offers a classic goodness, and people are tapping into that.”
IF YOU GO
What: The Whiskey Classic
Where: Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, 15 Bonanza Creek Lane, south of Santa Fe
When: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13
Cost: Tickets are $120 and include an all-access pass to samples and tastings, commemorative whiskey tasting glass, main stage events, hot mixology and live music. Designated driver tickets are $35.
Shuttle: A shuttle bus will run from the Fashion Outlets of Santa Fe on Cerrillos Road to the event. Tickets are $25. Shuttles also are available from Albuquerque.
More information and tickets: Visit whiskeyclassic.us