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Monday, November 23, 2009

Indy Spirits Expo - SF

Last Thursday I got to meet up with Courtney Cochran (of Hip Tastes fame) and head over to Mighty in San Francisco to taste some of the latest and greatest spirits that are out there at the Indy Spirits Expo.  The event had some great tastes and a few that I'd rather not taste and lots of mediocre stuff that I won't even mention. There were some great gins but absinthe was the star of the night.

The Good
One of the first spirits I ever reviewed, Orange V Vodka, was there and I was reminded of why I gave it a great review.  Great orange taste without being syrupy or overpowering.  Still a go to flavored vodka even though so many other ones have come out since then.

Heavy Water vodka had ACTUAL HOT SWEDISH GIRLS at their booth!  The Swedish vodka was a nice change from a lot of the other vodkas that have been launching lately.  It has all of The Smooth you're looking for in vodka but actually has a finish that pushes a little flavor your way.  The slight fennel taste makes it perfect for your vodka martini. 

North Shore Distillery came out to San Francisco from Chicago with a whole bunch of perfection.  Everything that they were offering was absolutely perfect.  They had two gins including Distiller's Gin No. 6 and No. 11.  No. 6 is what I call a "crossover gin" meaning that people that don't think they like gin can try this one and have a great chance at liking it.  It's light, fruity, and perfect for mixing.  Distiller's Gin No. 11 was for gin-lovers only and packs a huge wallop of Juniper.  It's called No. 11 because the Juniper "goes to 11." 

North Shore also brought out their absinthe which is the first one of note for the night.  Their Sirène absinthe made me think of sitting with a friend on a late night and enjoying a glass of green fairy.  It was smooth, full of flavor, and made my mouth water.  Easily one of the best of the night.

Craft Distillers (of Hangar One and St. George's fame) was pouring a wide variety of spirits but the real standout was the Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieure.  Far and away my favorite spirit of the night it was absolutely delicious and made me realize why people go absolutely insane drinking this stuff so much.  Not from the Wormwood but from the sheer amount of alcohol that goes down without any realization of how strong it is.  Perfect flavors and what I consider to be the world's most perfect absinthe.  There, I said it.

Square One's Botanical was gin without the gin in it.  Plenty of the spices and flowers that you get in gin but without any of the Juniper.  A great spirit for mixing without worrying about anything being overpowered.  Square One spends times on their spirits and does them right. 

Lastly, is the Ransom Old Tom Gin.  This amazing gin that is made in the old style is then aged in oak barrels where it gets its gorgeous colors.  One site I read says that it carries hints of lavender (which I got) and mango custard.  Mango custard?  Who the hell writes this stuff and how the hell am I supposed to relate to that?  However, Ransom's complexities don't cease to amaze and it was one of the few spirits I went back and asked for another tasting of.  Absolutely amazing.  I'm not sure how I missed this one as it launched but I'm sad I did.

Of course, Veev, 44 North, and Bols Genever were great but you already expected that one.

The Bad
There were only a few things that I thought "I never want to drink this again, ever, with anyone."  One of them was Vieux Carre which made me want to learn the French phrase for "This tastes like it has been drunk before."  It comes in an ultra-cool sherry bottle which I'm glad to take off your hands if you've had the misfortune of buying this stuff.  If you want to purchase this stuff despite my advice then let's make a deal:  You give me $50 and I will come over to your house and kick you in the crotch (male or female) and we'll call it a day.

Not quite as bad was the J. Witty Chamomile liqueur.  If you like a bit of tea with vodka in it then you can skip a step here.  The honey flavors in it completes the tastes and it was fun to have a sample but not really worth having a whole bottle of.  Maybe cocktail gods greater than I can come up with something for it.  I've had amazing drinks with the Tarragon and Saffron vodkas made for me by the distiller, unfortunately J. Witty didn't seem to bring their A-Game.

Choya Umeshu liqueur is the last one I'd warn you off from.   It was, well, nice.  It's made from the Japanese Ume fruit and even has a few sitting in the bottle.  It tastes sweet and syrupy by itself and maybe cut with a light vodka it would be decent by itself.  I didn't get that it was very mixable and when I tasted an actual plum from the bottle I felt like causing someone pain.  Like taking your mother out to a nice steak dinner then not calling her the next day.  That kind of pain. 

Conclusion
I tried pretty much everything that they had there but these were the standouts one or the other.  I wanted to give some notes on stuff that you may not have tried to either go get it or avoid it.  Leave questions or disagreements in comments.

4 Comments:

Jacob Grier said...

I've been making a sort of flip with J. Witty the past few weeks that's been a hit with customers:

1.5 oz Germain-Robin brandy
1 oz lemon
.75 oz J. Witty Chamomile
1 egg (yolk and white)
dash Regan's orange bitters
topped with freshly grated nutmeg

Not sure that makes me a cocktail god, but it's pretty nice.

Glad you liked the Ransom Old Tom, it's a fantastic product.

Rick Dobbs said...

Jacob:

The uncanny thing is that I expected you to comment on this one with a solution there. Weird, huh? Creepy even.

Thanks and I'm going to try that one. I'd love to go back on my complaint there.

..Sonja.. said...

Hi Rick, thanks very much for the kind words about our products!

Cheers,
Sonja Kassebaum
North Shore Distillery

Mark said...

Heavy Water vodka is a very well made vodka with a good backbone of taste to it- unlike many on the market today. While a touch pricey in the premium category it is actually cheap for the ultra premium segment.