Did They Do It Again? A Look at the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival!
by Colonel Steve Akley
It’s become an annual tradition following the New Orleans Bourbon Festival for me to give a hard time to Tracy Napolitano about what a great event he and the team put on with the New Orleans Bourbon Festival, while point out they have really screwed themselves for the next year. After all, they always promise to up-the-ante for the year before and each year it has felt like they are at the top of the summit.
Well, they’ve managed to do it yet again. The 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival was the best yet… by far.
So how is this possible? In 2018, they put together the greatest show in the world of bourbon so how could they possible exceed those lofty standards?
I would guess there are a few factors at work here:
Hard Work - The team behind the event, led by Tracy doing this full-time works tirelessly all year long to make sure the event is always bigger, better and bolder than the year before. This year featured a better venue, more amenities for attendees (plenty of food options, branded Glencairns, cool educational sessions, etc.) and more bourbon celebrities.
Dream Big - Making a meeting like this better than the year before means you can’t fall in the path of doing this because you have always done them. Instead, you need to listen to feedback, assess issues and build a better event from what you learned from the previous event. They are certainly doing that at the New Orleans Bourbon Festival.
Industry Support - When you do the first two things right like the team does in NOLA, the third component comes fairly easily. It’s like if you build it… CORRECTLY… they come. The industry literally came in droves. Not sure who turned out the bourbon lights in Kentucky this past weekend, but anyone who is anybody in the bourbon business was at this event.
Once again everything worked to perfect with the New Orleans Bourbon Festival.. The education sessions were more educational, the Grand Tastings were more… um, Grander (yeah, I know… just work with me here), and the bourbon celebrities were plentiful. I spent an amazing amount of time chatting with the likes of St. Louis’ own Jackie Zykan, Fred Noe, Freddie Noe, Jason Brauner, Marianne Eaves, Eddie Russell, Brent Elliot, Conor O’Driscoll, Bernie Lubbers, Peggy Noe Stevens, Samara Rivers, Armond Davis, Mike Veach, Trey Zoeller, Andrea Wilson, Christine Riggleman, Joyce Nethery, Royce Neeley, Caleb Kilburn, Linda Ruffenach, Andrew Wiehebrink, Denny Potter, Lew Bryson, Carla Carlton, Maggie Kimberl, Matt Jamie, Evan Haskill… I mean it goes on and on. Everyone is so willing to talk to you. It’s literally amazing.
My feedback to make it better next year:
(Yes, I know that area was blank.)
So, okay, to Tracy, Barbara, David, and the rest of the team behind this event…. where do you go from here? I mean I’ve got nothing. Just deliver and experience as good as this year and I’m happy.
Then again, I’m guessing they won’t stand for it. They will somehow, some way, figure out something to make it even better in next year. 2019 may have been the summit, but I’m guessing they make the summer yet a little higher again next year.
For now, my sincerest congratulations go out to the team that made the 2019 event the best festival in bourbon!