By Kurt Maitland
After the fireworks of the 4th of July have faded this year, there will be something new to celebrate in New York, the first ever Harlem Whiskey Festival will taking place on the 7th and 8th of July. This event will feature many of the brands we’ve come to know and love such as The Balvenie, Four Roses, Redbreast, etc., and the list is still growing.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ron at this year’s Water of Life fundraiser and he graciously took the time from his busy schedule to tell me more about the Festival.
KM: Tell me a bit about yourself and your relation to whiskey.
RW: I launched my Company Exclusive Access Group, LLC which is a boutique concierge service for professional athletes in 2007. We provide a wide range of services that includes brand building relationships with luxury brands. As a byproduct, I’ve established relationships with several whiskey brands.
KM: How did you get into whiskey?
RW: My introduction to fine whiskey and cigars came via my relationship with Michael Jordan in Toronto, Canada several years ago. At the time I didn’t have an affinity or appreciation for either. We shared a bottle of The Macallan 18 & a Cuban Cohiba and the rest is history.
KM: What inspired you to create this event?
RW: I was inspired to create the HWF first and foremost because of my appreciation for whiskey combined with my love for Harlem. Also there is a void in the marketplace, specifically within the multicultural demographic including women. Whiskey should be accessible to everyone.
KM: Why do you feel it is important to have a “Harlem Whiskey Festival”?
RW: Harlem is a melting pot of culture. And Uptown is cool. In fact, it’s so cool, hip & happening that I rarely venture downtown anymore. Harlem has been at the forefront of many of the cultural aspects we continue to enjoy today.
KM: What are your favorite whiskeys?
RW: My favorite whiskey is single malt scotch. The type depends on my mood, time of day and most importantly the type of cigar I’m pairing it with. Obviously The Macallan is one of my favorites, along with Balvenie, Oban, Glenlivet, and a host of others.
KM: What do you see this event becoming over time?
RW: We envision that the HWF will generate buzz, excitement & brand awareness for small craft distillers & craftsmen. The HWF concept will expand to additional markets, including The Caribbean over the next 3-5 years. And ultimately lead to Harlem’s first whiskey distillery. We [are] going to make whiskey fun, cool and sexy.