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The Bentwing Brandy Experience at Navy Pier


By: Maria Girlie Pascual


The annual Chicago Air and Water Show was suspended for rain when we pulled up to the parking garage at Navy Pier. Surprisingly, it was almost half-empty due to the stormy Friday of their event held at the newly-opened Offshore Rooftop Bar. Joe Mauricio and I traversed the long, damp corridor of the parking garage while lines of air show spectators were on their way to their cars, apparently having given up hope on the weather clearing for the rest of the airplane exhibitions. We made our way into the soon-to-open Navy Pier Hotel, up the escalator, all the way down the hallway to a strikingly modern and spanking new watering-hole at the top of the pier, the Offshore Bar.

We were accompanied by a friendly hostess to the Hangar 1 Distillery, Bentwing section outside the Rooftop Bar, where modular sofa sets, high-boys and two rolling bars were set up for the launch. The umbrellas were all soaked from the rain and the wet wind whipped astray table settings, billboard paper cut-outs, as everyone prayed for the rain to be held at bay. Thankfully enough, while we looked around for William Bell, the PR firm’s organizer, the storm clouds hovered above the bar like a steel grey blanket trying to cover the distant sky, with no rain and no lightning.

Soon enough, the tall, young and lanky Will was chatting with Joe, as he maneuvered the space to bring us to meet Miss Caley Shoemaker, the young, blonde and pretty Head Distiller of Hangar 1 Distillery, the lady behind their newest offering, the Bentwing Brandy. This latest notable creation rolled out of their Alameda-based company, occupying a historical hangar that once housed some of the Navy’s well known flying machines like the Vought F4U Corsair, aka “The Bentwing Bird”, the inspiration for the name of their brandy. This tidbit of information also tied in with the choice of venue and the timing of the launch, the Navy Pier Chicago Air and Water Show that featured some of these historical planes that day.

The Bentwing Brandy is rich-flavored and smoky, and was made according to Caley, by blending brandy distilled from Northern California grapes, with authentic French brandies made in the Chenin Blanc-style of fermentation. The brandy is then finished in charred oak barrels that previously held single malt whiskies, another layer of flavor that added to its deep lingering taste, complemented by other flavors including honey, toasty nuts and caramelized sugar. It is a whopping 80-proof, definitely not for the faint-of-heart, but paired with cocktail concoctions of lemon juice or orange, the Bentwing brandy became a modern take on my favorite “Old Fashioned” which I had no problem enjoying with appetizers like flat bread served with a tomato and olive tapanade, garlic shrimp and Italian pasta that were served hot at the bar.

It also happened to be Joe Mauricio’s birthday that weekend, and we were joined by Bobby and Christy Leighton, and Baron and Lou Cabalona with Baby Reign for a mini-celebration after our Chicago Philippine Reports TV interview with Caley. We also enjoyed the lively musical duo of Mike and Eddie who performed songs from the Elvis era (Joe’s favorite and played by request), all the way to soulful Ed Sheeran songs. Lou gamely joined them for an impromptu Earth, Wind and Fire acoustic number, while Christy Leighton and I savored the delicious libations made with the Bentwing Brandy, an ingredient I found paired well with all my favorite mixers. Bobby and Baron swapped kid -rearing tips, while Joe mingled with the Hangar 1 attendees.

The cherry on top? After Joe told Caley that I had about six of the Bentwing Brandy sidecars, she promised to ship three to the Via Times for the VT group. Thank you again, Hangar 1 Distillery for inviting us on this informative, and certainly tasty launch event. Sorry, Veronica, for sitting this one out–it was an awesome event, one of the perks that I like when sent to cover an event for our esteemed publisher.

Congratulations to Caley Shoemaker, for being the beautiful mind behind this wonderful drink! Please visit the Hangar 1 Distillery website so you can read more about their company, their products, and the newly-launched, super-smooth Bentwing Brandy.


Joe and Miss Caley Shoemaker, the brains behind Hangar 1 Distillery’s great Bentwing Brandy and Vodka offerings.


Photo Op after our CPRTV Interview with Launch Organizer William Bell and Head Distiller of Hangar 1 Bentwing Brandy Caley Shoemaker.


Joe interviews Will Bell, the event organizer and Hangar 1 Bentwing Brandy’s Head Distiller Miss Caley Shoemaker.


The Cabalona Trio w Lou, Baron and Baby Reign.


Bobby and Cristy Leighton w Joe and Girlie Indulge In Bentwing Brandy cocktails, great food and funky music at
Navy Pier.


Joe Sings for his brunch at the Bentwing Brandy Launch.


Lou Rocks at the Hangar 1 Distillery Bentwing Brandy Navy Pier Event.


Successful Launch For Hangar 1 Distillery ‘s Bentwing Brandy at Navy Pier.


Cristy Leighton grooves w the band along with the other patrons.

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