This year’s Indy Spirits Expo, which took place 11/17, was much improved since last year’s inaugural festivity, though crammed into the cool, brick-walled nightclub space of The Mighty. This event offers one of the better opportunities I’ve seen to sample everything from cachaca and pisco, to absinthe and eaux de vie, all in one room, among the best small batch spirits happening in the US and a few places beyond.
Many favorites you’ve heard me write about were there, like the great St. George, Charbay, Craft Distillers, and more recent greats like Old World Spirits and Don Pilar. Outside of Northern California’s riches, there were my Midwest faves like North Shore Distillery and Death’s Door, plus Oregon delight, Bend Distillery. Amidst a can’t-go-wrong line-up, here are just a handful of highlights:
– St. George did it again with a couple special behind-the-table pours, my number one being a brilliant eau de vie infused with fresh Dungeness crabs. I saw photos of a still filled with crabs, smelled the briney-sea whiff that emanated from the pour, relishing the crabby goodness that screamed Bloody Mary. No complaints about the other pour from the masters of liquid experimentation, an eau de vie infused with seaweed.
– Charbay brought some special hand-marked bottles filled with straight-from-the-keg whiskeys, including the ravishing 12yr whiskey I’ve told you about before in my Guardian column: their incomparable Release II whiskey, just aged another 6 years.
– Old World Spirits poured their latest releases of the gorgeous Indian Blood Peach and Poire Williams (Pear) eau de vie, plus their luxurious Walnut Liqueur. Take a thoroughly different gin route and try their Blade gin aged (“rusty”) in a special, only-through-K&L Wines bottling. Technically you might not be able to call it gin, but the same herbs that go into the regular Blade are aged like a whiskey for 13 months. The gin’s juniper and citrus expand with spice and oak for a truly unique expression (only 250 bottles made with a retail price of $59.99 – contact K&L before they’re all gone).
– A surprising new addition to the rum scene comes from Colorado, of all places: Montanya Rum. It is sweeping up Gold and Silver medal awards the last two years since inception in esteemed places like San Francisco World Spirits Competition. I prefer the light rum Platino to the Oro dark rum, as the former is crisp and clean, nuanced with almond, oak, coffee and vanilla.
– A newcomer, Novo Fogo, ups the cachaça game bringing a 100% organic, gluten-free cachaça to the table. The aged Gold version is reminiscent of a bourbon or a rum, but I prefer the clean Silver, as I get more of those sugarcane cachaça properties, with hints of sea salt, citrus, and sweet peppers.
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