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The long version...

This weekend was/is the American Distilling Institute's Brandy Conference (apparently each year the ADI conference has a different spirit theme). It was hosted at St. George Spirits in Alameda. Most of the weekend was taken up by presentations and demos for conference attendees. Sunday afternoon, though, was "Meet the Makers," an open (well, $40) tasting event.

On the down-side... it only ran from 2:00 - 5:00, and there was no program book or listing of all the presenters.

On the up-side... there were a lot of presenters. Who was there?

Westford Hill Distillers had some beautiful eau-de-vie. Their framboise is very fresh tasting, with a really bright raspberry nose and a very delicate flavor.

Organic Nation was one of many certified organic producers. Their gin was medium-body, very aromatic. They also had Q Tonic Water.

Koval Distillery out of Chicago is also certified organic and certified kosher. We skipped the vodka and the grain spirits. Their rose hip liqueur is interesting and tasty. The ginger liqueur is absolutely divine, sweet and hot like a really good strong ginger beer.

Warwick Valley (New York) does some nice eau-de-vie, but their black currant liqueur is one of the best I've ever had.

Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee is interesting. They produce Rehorst vodka and gin. I rather like the gin. The lemon-honey vodka is good, but it's not one of the best I've had. They also produce a bierschnaps from Lakefront Brewery's Pumpkin Ale.

North Shore Distillery from Lake Bluff, IL was one of the outstanding presenters. They do a pair of gins that are superb, an interesting aquavit and a very subtle absinthe.

Templeton Rye from Templeton, IA had only one product, and they can't produce enough of it, but it's a very nice rye whiskey.

Rogue (as in "Dead Guy Ale") has gone into spirits. Their whiskey is very scotch-like and classic; a bit more on the malt side and it could pass for an Islay malt. They do a pair of gins that are pretty tasty too.

Peak Spirits does some interesting eau-de-vie (the peach smells gorgeous). Their CapRock Organic Gin is rough but very good.

Ballast Point Spirits in San Diego also did a really nice gin.

Bendistillery Cascade Mountain Gin was worth noting. Their Cofia Hazelnut Espresso Vodka was outstanding, though; it actually tastes like coffee.

House Spirits had their Krogstad Aquavit (with a nice star anise start and a great caraway finish), Aviation Gin (dutch style, light and strongly Juniper) and Marteau Absinthe (complex with a strong bitter character).

New Holland Brewing had a few products, but the only one we tried was their Zeppelin Bend Whiskey. If you liked the early St. George single malt with it's strong floral character, this is a good one for you.

...and from there we move to Bay Area distilleries.

St. George was there, of course. We didn't really taste their stuff, because we know it well.

Tempus Fugit Spirits is only kind of a Bay Area distiller. They commission and import absinthe distilled in France. They're the "Mansinthe" and "Vieux Pontarlier" folks. Their stuff is very good, but I'm not a real big fan, it's not really to my taste. They had a bottle of pre-ban Absinthe Deschanet, though, that we were allowed a sample from. Oy gevalt. It was amazing, with a sweet nuttiness not common in "fresh" absinthes.

Osocalis had a very nice alambic brandy, but I've got to say it was overshadowed by their Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard traditional port. Yowza, it wasn't particularly sweet and had a nice fruity acidity.

Stillwater Spirits was a real surprise. We weren't tasting much vodka, but they do a really interesting barley vodka that's not distilled up enough to knock out all the grain flavor.

Shadow Organic Vodka was there. It's interesting, with a bit more flavor than I expect from a vodka. That was one of the standard items of the day; "straight" vodka that had more flavor than absolutely traditional.

Loft Liqueurs had some really fabu 'cellos. Limoncello style liqueurs in various flavors, all of them superb. The ginger didn't have the bite of the Koval, but was still quite good.

Square One had some interesting flavored vodkas; their "botanical" was interesting, but the cucumber vodka was amazing.

There were also a few food vendors.

Marcel et Henri from South San Francisco had three different patés.

Rustic Bakery from Larkspur had all sorts of little cocktail cookies and breads. The really amazing highlight was their panforte biscotti.

There was a catering chef who, unfortunately, didn't have a lot of product. He had chicken liver and brandy spread on toasts, and a great smoked fish thingy on toast.

Most definitely worth $40. If the conference comes back to the Bay Area, and they have another "Meet the Makers" event, you must go.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 6th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
I'm thinkin' Thai food with that Ginger stuff. Sounds very yummy, and I know we would have had a good time.
Wish we could have gone when we got the email, but it was an opportunity to make money. Unfortunately we have to consider priorities. Rent is one of them.
Apr. 6th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Sounds wonderful!
Apr. 6th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Sounds like an amazing day. And thanks for the list, it'll make shopping easier/more dangerous.
Apr. 7th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)
I wish I'd known about this! (instead we went to a party and I threw out my back picking up something that turned out to be too heavy for me. bah!)

I infuse vodka with cucumbers (either by soaking for a week, or else pop the whole mixture into a vac-seal cannister and then it's ready overnight). it's great with freshly juiced lime juice over rocks. one of my favorite summer drinks!
Apr. 8th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the great account! Sounds definitely worth the price of admission. We have fond memories of visiting Carneros Alembic, a charming site that was permitted only sniffing, not tasting.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )