Distill America 2017!
What did you do this past weekend? Many of you were celebrating Distill America with us. Wow, did we have fun!
The festivities started Thursday night over at The Malt House during their $18 Whiskey Sampling, put on by the Madison Malt Society. They poured six unique American whiskeys. Our five-year-old cask strength Patton Road Reserve was one of two Wisconsin made whiskeys featured, the other from our friends at Driftless Glen up in Baraboo.
Friday night, Joe was in Fitchburg for a J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin Straight Bourbon tasting event at Barriques. If you’ve not yet visited Barriques, they have several locations around Madison and describe themselves as Wine for the Masses, Coffee for the People. They have a fantastic coffee bar with snacks, and even sell wine and spirits by the glass. Of course, you can purchase any of those by the bottle, including our unique Bourbons.
Saturday was the big event: Distill America!
Distill America was created by a small group of enthusiasts in Madison. They used to travel to Chicago for whiskey events, but it became too expensive to make it there year after year. Aside from the cost to travel to events, there was also the hurdle of pricey entry fees, both for the distillers and the public.
They were struck with an idea: They could create an event that someone could easily go to year after year, no matter if they were an exhibitor or just someone who loved distilled spirits. They wanted bartenders, retailers and other interested people to learn about spirits out there and available to enjoy.
Rather than reinventing the typical whiskey event, the founders wanted to create something unique. Our friends at Star Liquor got involved. The group then decided they wanted this to be a big, real event, featuring American-made products. That meant no Scotch, no Irish whiskey, and no Canadian whisky would be poured. Moreover, instead of limiting the event to whiskey, it was going to feature any American-made distilled spirit. That decision opened the door for rum, brandy, gin, vodka and other brown or clear spirits. Distill America was born!
To get things going, a lot of volunteer work went into the process, with nobody taking a salary. The purpose of the event was not to make money but to educate. The Madison Malt’s Society desire is for Distill America to continue to grow but also to be sustainable for the future and not lose what makes it special.
Something many people don’t realize is all proceeds from Distill America go to the non-profit Wisconsin Distillers Guild, which promotes Wisconsin made spirits, agriculture, tourism, small batch distillation and the safe enjoyment of alcoholic beverages. Distill America is also in the process of developing scholarships for people to take coursework and learn about the distilling industry.
We had a great location in the main ballroom right at the entrance. We’ve been lucky that in the past few years we’ve been up at the front to make it easy for you to find us.
This year we introduced Bellefontaine Reserve, our extra-aged Wisconsin Straight Bourbon finished in ex-VSOP Cognac barrels. This product speaks to the Wisconsin, brandy loving palate with a softer, fruitier profile. Everyone seemed wowed by the finish. Everyone wanted to know when it will be available in stores. We should have full details very soon and will, of course, let you know as soon as possible. We also poured both the Patton Road Reserve as well as our flagship Small Batch Bourbon.
We were also honored to be a part of the educational seminars that were a new addition to Distill America this year. Joe, along with Doug Kragel, the National Whiskey Ambassador for Diageo and David Allardice, the Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador, put on the very first Distill America seminar, Comparing the Grains. This seminar focused on the differences in wheated, high-rye, and malted whiskeys, how the mash bill matters, and then on how the whiskey interacts with the wood, as well as a discussion on finishing styles. This seminar was very well received and so much fun.
On Sunday, we had a Post Distill America Hangover Brunch at The Heritage Tavern. The fare was their normal brunch menu plus a few very special Bourbon-infused selections: The Dane Derby, made with our Wisconsin Straight Bourbon, freshly squeezed pomelo, honey syrup and sparkling wine, a Salted Caramel Coffee, made with our Wisconsin Straight Bourbon, house-made salted caramel syrup, cream and Barrique’s Heritage Blend coffee, and a Belgian Waffle, made with whiskey-soaked peaches, butter spiked with our Wisconsin Straight Bourbon, barrel-aged maple syrup, and pecans. There was also a Crawfish Eggs Benedict, made with wilted spinach, “old-fashioned” ham, ‘nduja hollandaise, poached eggs and rosti potato. This was such a great way to wrap up an incredible event and we ordered one of everything and maybe even a couple more of the delicous cocktails. The presentation on all the dishes was lovely, the Salted Caramel Coffee was really a treat, came out with the bourbon and cream in a glass mug, topped with a swirl of spun salted caramel sugar and the coffee was poured over it melting the sugar into syrup and blending into the warm and creamy, bourboney coffee drink. Here is Joe enjoying a Dane Derby.
It is amazing what a difference just one year can make! We are honored and thrilled to have released our first bourbon, Small Batch 92 proof in 2015, our single barrel, cask strength Patton Road Reserve in 2016 and our extra-aged, finished in cognac barrel Bellefontaine Reserve this year. We love this event and working with all the fun, talented folks who make it happen.
We are also grateful to each of you who stopped by our booth and for all of your support. It really means the world to us when you choose to #RewardYourself with our Bourbons. We hope Distill America helped you discover new ways to #DrinkBetterNotMore.
Thank you all very much. Cheers!