It’s that time of the year to re-cap the best of 2011.
What’s hot? What’s not? I honestly don’t have a clue, but here’s what I do know about what happened this year.
The craft spirit industry is on fire with over 200 small distilleries producing vodka, gin, whiskey, and liqueurs all over the country. (I have yet to hear of one making American tequila – if there can even be such a thing???). Here in Oregon, Portland alone has thirteen distilleries and then there are other small batch distilleries sprinkled throughout the state such as Superfly, Oregon Spirit Distilleries, and Stein Distillery. The practice of opening a distillery has become so commonplace that there is now a website ran by the state of Oregon giving you a step-by-step guide as to how to do it! link here
What are people around the country excited about this year in the craft market – surprisingly a lot of people are talking about whiskey! I have felt that all of the new whiskeys I’ve tried need five or six more years in the barrel – but word on the street is that some of these distilleries are turning out a respectable product.
In the Northwest people are excited about
Sweet and thick, made with locally harvested marionberries, local botanicals, and hazelnuts this will make you laugh in Chambord’s face when it comes to making a jaw-dropping kir royal this New Year’s eve.
In the West, people are raving about
Dancing Pines Chai Liqueur which won double gold medal winner from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year. The liqueur is distilled in a hand-crafted copper pot still with their own blend of chai tea made from whole leaf black tea and five secret spices. Jacob T. who told me about this delicious sounding liqueur said, “I’ve never really tasted anything like it before: balanced, complex bouquet, sweet ….but not too sweet, perfect in a hot drink or over ice cream! They really did a nice job!”
My favorite new spirit I tried this year was Roundhouse’s new barrel-aged gin. They took their award-winning gin and decided to barrel age it for six months and it is delicious. It tastes like a fragrant well-balanced gin met a honey=kissed bourbon and fell in love so you could fall in love with it.
In the Midwest, there’s hype about Templeton Rye.
Jeff H. who told me off this whiskey said, “It’s out of Iowa and they allegedly were one of Capone’s major producers during prohibition. It’s delicious!” Templeton claims that they have been producing whiskey for eighty-five years. Their claim to fame is that during prohibition they secretly produced in very small quantities for a few select customers.
In the Northeast people are pysched about what Tuthillton Distillery is creating out of New York and about a very small distillery called Ryan & Wood which is in the small town of Gloucester, Massachusetts right on the Atlantic Coast.
Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey is crafted from New-York grown corn and aged in small American Oak barrels. As for their rye, Hudson was the first distillery to make rye whiskey in the state of New York in 80 years. It is crafted one small batch at a time.
Sarah S. who told me about this spirit said, “Baby Bourbon or Manhattan Rye … oh So freaking amazing! why? because when I sip on them, the subtle flavors pop in just the right way…I’m not a whiskey drinker either…”
Ryan & Wood Rye :::::
Frederic Y. told me about Ryan & Wood Rye, “Tastes like a fuller flavored Sazerac 6. And unlike many small distilleries’ whiskeys, it was well worth the price.”
Ryan & Wood might have one of the most beautiful stills I have ever seen – it looks like a musical instrument. It is 600 liter alembic copper pot still which was crafted in Germany. See a photo of it here.
What’s hot in The South? (Well more than the weather.)
Southern Corn Whiskey :::::
Clare H. told me about this Southern Belle, “I love it with just a cube or two of ice to allow a sweet spicy flavor with just a little bit of heat.” Getting your hand on a bottle might be a problem as the distiller Thirteenth Colony Distillers did a tiny run of only 400 bottles last year.
As for the the cocktail world, I was able to ask Alan Dietrich, national sales manager for Crater Lake Vodka, a bit about trends he’s seen this year.
What spirit surprised you?
::::: There has been a huge jump in interest in gin this year. It’s really noticeable in the number of inquiries we have received to create private label gins.
What trends have you seen in the bar scene?
::::: I have noticed an increase in the number of bartenders trying to create new drinks. The mixology trend appears to be growing.
What trends did you notice in mixology?
::::: I have also noticed that the established mixologists are tending toward simpler concoctions. They seem to be acknowledging that the average drinker is not very sophisticated yet. It might just be the holidays but I have seen a number of new champagne drinks showing up on menus and in the trade press. I have also seen a growing interest in Prohibition era cocktails – maybe due to the Ken Burns series?
What will 2012 hold? Keep me posted.
thank you Public Domain for the 2011 photo