This past Wednesday was the Indie Spirits Expo. No, it is not some hipster ghost-worshipping party, as my mom was worried about. It was an opportunity to taste some of the best craft hard liquors in the world. There were some that haven’t even been released for sale in U.S. stores, so this is a pretty big deal. Not to mention we got half-priced tickets through pulsd.
Here’s the sitch though –does anybody still say that? I must be stuck in the 2000’s– there was too much liquor for me to try without getting wasted, and if I tried to write about it all, you all would be reading an incoherent novel right now. So, after much deliberation, here is my top ten types of booze that I tried at the Indie Spirits Fest. In reverse order, for suspense, ya know.
10. Scorpion Mezcal – Anejo 7 year
This liquor is mainly in this list for brag-factor. It’s a pretty nice Mezcal, but what makes it special is the actual scorpion in the bottle. When I first asked for a taste, I didn’t know there was really one in the bottle; I thought it was just a name thing. Nope. When the guy poured me a sip, he proudly swished the little guy around in the bottle. I don’t think the scorpion affects the taste, but bring it to a party. It’s certainly a conversation piece.
9. Mezcales De Leyenda – Durango
Yes, another one. I promise this whole thing won’t be about Mezcal. This was hands down, the best Mezcal I have ever tried in my life. Usually Mezcal is way too smoky for my taste, but this was a wonderful blend of fruity while still retaining the classic smoky flavor. It’s description says it pairs nicely with olives and hard cheeses– I say that it would pair nicely with any savory kind of food. Besides making great booze, Mezcales De Leyenda is an extremely environmentally and socially conscious company. Their hard liquor is certified Fair Trade, and Kim-approved.
8. Catskill Provisions – New York Honey Whiskey
New York Honey Whiskey is exactly what it sounds like– whiskey with honey infused. It tastes similar to Barr Hill’s Tom Cat Gin, which you can read about here. The differences are 1) it’s a whiskey 2) the honey is infused, not distilled. This means it’s much sweeter, and perfect for an old fashioned, sans simple syrup. The honey is raw, and made on-location in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. The lady at the booth assured me they take really good care of their bees– yay!
7. Rhum Vieux Agricole – Black Sheriff
Ever wondered what the difference is between rum and rhum? It’s kind of like the distinction between champagne and other types of sparkling wine. Rhum is made on the French island region of Martinique, between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. It is made with the whole sugar cane plant, not just sugar from sugar cane, like regular rum. The result is a fruity, floral flavor. When I told the (French) man at the booth this was my favorite of his rhums, he told me it is a favorite of those with American palates. I’m guessing was a very polite way of telling me I have unrefined taste, but he had a nice accent, so I didn’t mind.
6. Redemption – Rye Whiskey
Maybe it was the Don Draper-level selling ability and enthusiasm of the guy at the booth, or maybe it was the fact that this was one of the last liquors I tried (tipsy, much?) but there was some indescribable quality to this whiskey that I really enjoyed. It’s a little bit fresher than most whiskeys, and would really brighten up an otherwise overly-boozy Manhattan.
Shout out to my native Pacific Northwest for producing such a liquor! The PNW is known mostly for wine, but Aria Portland Dry Gin might change that. It’s won at least eleven gold medals, and it tastes like it too. Even though it’s distilled with ten(!) different botanicals, it still remains fresh, and the juniper shines through. I’d like to try this gin with tonic and no lime. It doesn’t really need any other flavors, because it’s phenomenal on it’s own.
4. Gortinore – Natterjack Whiskey
A real Irish Whiskey, that I actually don’t have much to say about. It has a rich flavor, but it goes down smooth and easy. Perfect for drinking straight. Simple and wonderful as that.
3. Mery-Melrose – Organic VSOP Cognac
Organic is something people don’t usually think about when picking out hard liquor. I don’t even think I realized that booze could be organic before this? Anyway, this organic Cognac may be the most interesting brandy I’ve tried. It has an extremely long finish with pleasing wood tones and hints of vanilla. There are many notes of other flavors, but they exist in such a complimentary manner, it’s like a symphony. It may sound pretentious, but there’s no other way to describe it. Plus, the label is adorable– it’s got snails and leaves and butterflies to represent all the life in the vineyard where the grapes are grown!
2. Bluecoat – American Dry Gin
I’m cheating a little on this one, because I’ve tried it before outside of the Indie Spirits Expo. When Alex and I were in Philadelphia a month or two ago, we got to see the distillery where this particular gin is made. This savory gin is perfect for an olive martini, or straight drinking, if you’re like me. Even after trying this gin a second time, it still is high up on my list. If you ever have the chance, Bluecoat also makes an absinthe that is rich and flavorful, but not overpowering, as absinthe can be.
1.de Borgen – Old-Style Genever
On top of this list is Old-Style Genever from de Borgen, a Dutch distiller. This booze is not available in U.S. stores yet, and I honestly can’t wait till it is. This Genever is so amazing that I need a bottle, or ten, for my liquor cabinet. Genever is the granddaddy of gin, but don’t expect the two to be comparable. They are in completely different categories in terms of flavor. Of course, it tastes of junipers, but not in a London dry way. You’ll just have to try it when distributors start carrying it.