Whiskies of the World is a little smaller in scope and selection than Whiskyfest, both of which come to few cities in America — and we’re lucky to always be one of them. On March 27, WoW, as Whiskies of the World is known, was chaotic and overly packed in a Hotel Nikko ballroom. Bushmills Pipe and Drum band kept it festive walking through once an hour with rousing bagpipes, while classes, like the Craft Panel Discussion (led by craft distilling masters, including our own Fritz Maytag of Anchor Steam), were an educational high point.
For your imbibing pleasure, I’m highlighting just three of the non-whisk(e)y treasures at this year’s WoW:
Bend Distillery: Already a favorite and properly stocked in my home bar, Oregon’s Bend Distillery makes award-winning vodka and gin — but do what you must to get your hands on these unique, wonderful vodkas they’ve created: Cofia is a lush blend of roasted hazelnuts and fresh-brewed coffee. Only lightly sweet, it’s aromatic, robust, dark. Mazama-infused Pepper Vodka is named after a volcano that erupted to become Crater Lake. A blend of six different sweet and hot peppers, blissfully hot (as in spicy) it also tastes of fresh pepper skins. Recommended in cocktails or with mango juice on the site (and even for cooking), I actually love a splash of it on its own.
Death’s Door Spirits: I’m quite taken with Death’s Door Spirits, a small-batch distiller out of Wisconsin (Washington Island, to be specific, near Madison). Their latest packaging is elegant, turn-of-the-century classic, and their spirits are made sustainably and from local grain. Reflecting the terroir and ingredients of Washington Island, their awesome white whiskey is one of the best in the genre. But in the non-whiskey category, its gin, is amazing – a recent favorite. Plenty of juniper and botanical notes dominate in this clean, beautiful gin.
Corsair – This is a small artisan distiller out of Kentucky, I’m at first titillated by the hip packaging. While Corsair’s Wry Moon rye may not be the stand-out for me, I find the Pumpkin Spice Moonshine a playful white whiskey with the spirit of a pumpkin ale. RED Absinthe particularly intrigued with a pinkish-red hue from hibiscus and floral fennel notes on the tongue.
Where can you get it? Bend has a Web site list. Death’s Door is on its way to California but is already served in savvy, local bars like Nopa and The Alembic. Corsair is tougher to locate as its only available in four states at the moment.