Taste of the Industry is always a highlight of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention. It’s a chance for marketers to showcase emerging brands in front of key decision makers at the major distribution outfits across the country. It’s impossible to even come close to trying everything in the hall in two hours—it’d be tough to do so if they dedicated an entire day to the event. But among the beverages I did manage to try, there were quite a few standouts. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order.
Calivore Blonde Rum, Spiced Rum and Big Sur Gin from Calwise Spirits are designed to capture the spirit of the California lifestyle. Big Sur Gin, in particular, really holds its own against the best of the award-winning botanical spirits on the market. Definitely keep an eye on this up-and-coming company. Great things lie ahead.
IrishAmerican as its name suggests, offers the best of both worlds: the finest Irish whiskey aged in American oak barrels. It’s available in both 3-year-old and 10-year-old versions.
Copperheads Jalapeño Moonshine
This one requires no explanation. It captures the essence of jalapeños, in all their complex, vegetal, spicy glory. Copperheads Southern Distillery also offers strawberry, vanilla, apple pie, banana, blueberry, cinnamon, lemon and Southern tea-flavored ‘shines, as well as its unflavored original, clocking in at a hefty 120 proof. But the jalapeño was the hands-down favorite.
It’s difficult to distinguish one’s brand in the crowded vodka category, but Durham, N.C.’s Graybeard Distillery has managed to do just that. It’s distilled from rice—not to common in the vodka category—giving the spirit its smooth, distinctive character. Its branding is on point, with a stunning white on black label featuring a pair of crows. Bedlam takes its name from a rugged coastal town in Ireland.
13th Century Whiskey
There truly are great things happening in the Colorado craft spirits scene and 13th Century’s bourbon aged in 30 gallon casks is no exception. It’s smooth, slightly sweet with lots of vanilla and caramel notes—in other words, everything a world-class bourbon should be. And the bottle is pretty damned cool too!