65th ANNUAL WSWA
(WINE & SPIRTS WHOLESALERS OF AMERICA)
This years’ convention was held at the Bally & Paris Resort & Casino Hotels in Las Vegas from April 6-9.
As is always the case, where to begin the tasting journey? One thing is for certain:
The Spirits Industry is vibrant with new product introductions. And, as we tasted so many products, we ended each day with The Cure ! Watch for these remarkable brands at retailers soon!
Agave & Related Spirits
Factor 40 Tequila As elegant as the gentleman who presented this new brand is the Blanco and Reposado they produce. What’s in a name? 40 degrees of heat bathe these agave fields, producing a Tequila with an aroma that sets the soul on fire. Factor 40 Reposado carries woodsy flavors, fruity aromas and hints of spices such as cinnamon. Factor 5.5Light, delicate, with real fruit flavor and low proof (11% ABV).
Senor Frog’s Energy, enthusiasm, passion. That’s what Senor Frog’s Tequila is about. From Grupo Anderson’s, the leading Restaurant Group in Mexico and owner of the internationally recognized Carlos’n Charlie’s & Senor Frog’s (Mexico, the Caribbean & the USA) comes their first brand extension of spirits. And, spirited they are. Produced in Tequila, these 100% agaves are available as Blanco and Reposado.
Clase Azul In a class by themselves. Produced in Jalisco, Clase Azul Reposado won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition & from the Beverage Tasting Institute as well as a 92 point rating from Patterson’s Beverage Journal. Clase Azul includes a Platino, Reposado and Ultra Anejo. Each of Clase Azul’s offerings are presented in striking hand-crafted & hand-painted carafes. A ‘must taste’ is the Clase Azul Platino!
Clase Azul’s Ultra Anejo, of which only 100 bottles will be produced (expected Retail price is +$1,800 per bottle), is a work of art and signed by the artists & Master Distiller.
La Pinta Pomegrante Infused Tequila A fusion of the finest tequila and the juices of an exotic variety (purported to have health-giving and aphrodisiac qualities) of the pomegranate fruit. One word: Delicious!
Orgullo Nuestro Tequila (Our Pride)For those who are true tequila connoisseurs, this company produces Tequilas from Los Altos (the highlands) including a Blanco, Reposado & Anejo
Sierra Milenario Reserva (Website in German!) Unique to this producer is their Triple selection process. 1. Premium Agaves. Special grand cru fields are defined for Sierra Milenario. The agave fields are chosen for their extremely high content of mineral compounds. 2. Only the very best ‘baby agaves’ are reserved for cultivation. 3. These agaves, which have grown under perfect conditions have a very high sugar content and are transported for immediate processing while still fresh. Sierra Milenario offers a Blanco and an Extra Anejo.
Finos de Agave Campo Azul Jesús Maria is a small town in “Los Altos de Jalisco” (the Jalisco Highlands). Of all Jalisco highlands, Jesús Maria was the first place where Agave was harvested for the first time in 1865 by Don Pantaleon Orozco, an agriculturist. In 1996 a group of entrepreneurs, with a combined forty years of experience in the region, invested in this field and founded the Productos Finos de Agave Distillery. The 100% de agave Campo Azul Select Series is certified organic and available as Blanco & Reposado
Tequila Huizache The Huizache bush is typical of the Mexican semiarid regions. The bush sprouts small yellow flowers of a delicate perfume and is found in the area where the agave plants grow. Huizaches exude all the virtues of the Mexican landscape—its delicateness & wild character, sweetness & strength, the magnificence and subtleness of its nature. Tequila Huizache encompasses all of these attributes and more. Offered in both Silver & Reposado.
Scorpion Caballeros Inc., importers of multiple-award-winning Scorpion Mezcal, poured their numbered limited edition Gran Reservas--Scorpion Mezcal Anejo 5 Year and Scorpion
Mezcal Anejo 7 Year—both presented in French glass decanter style bottles. This was the rarest of treats as usually these special editions are not tasted. If you’re as big a fan as we are, stock up, as these special editions will not be available again.
However, their Blanco, Reposado, Anejo 1 YO and 3 YO are quite popular for sipping and at bars. We’ve witnessed bar crowds, on many occasions, gather ‘round the ‘almost empty’ bottle of this mezcal, with one guest hoping to be THE ONE who will get to consume the ‘bug’ inside the bottle. It’s quite the rage at Cinco de Mayo celebrations!
Manana Tequila The Blanco is great for sipping to experience what expert distillation does to create alcohols of smooth, high quality. The Reposado is aged 8 months in single barrels, and the Añejo for 3 years to absorb rich oak characteristics and a smoothness to be enjoyed straight. The bottles have a metal lazy guy that swings back & forth on a hammock between two palm trees.
LOFT Organic Fresh Fruit and Botanical Liqueurs. Made in the style of Italian Limoncello, these liqueurs are sooooooooooooo smooth, carry no artificial flavors, colors, additives or preservatives (how DO they do that?) and organic! We tasted their Lavender, Lemongrass and Spicy Ginger. All were striking and singular, particularly the Spicy Ginger! They’re listed here as each are sweetened with Agave Nectar.
Karlsson’s Gold The first vodka to claim terroir, Karlsson’s Gold ultra premium Vodka is the world’s first Virgin New Potato vodka, made from the ‘The Golden Potatoes’ of Cape Bjare in Sweden. Borje Karlsson—the former master blender of Absolut Vodka--together with the farmers of Cape Bjare discovered the unique properties of this potato for making an outstanding vodka. And it is.
Tru Organic Vodka The first certified organic vodka made from American wheat, TRU is made by Los Angeles-based Modern Spirits, the acclaimed artisan vodka maker. TRU is free of chemicals, fully recyclable (and they plant a tree for every bottle sold). Try their Straight, Lemon (ripe and citrusy) and Vanilla (as if the Bourbon vanilla bean is in the bottle!)
Primo Vodka This is the first luxury vodka in the world made from individual varieties of wine grapes (Malbec, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon). We first tasted Primo at WSWA last year and were impressed. So, it seems, were the folk at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, awarding Primo with a Double Gold!
Hungarian-born master distiller Emil de Balthazar lived in the USA for 20 years prior to moving to Argentina. He apprenticed as a distiller in Hungary and studied distillation techniques in the USA. Today, he crafts his distinctive vodkas by hand in small batches in an 18-plate copper pot still. He strives to protect the integrity of an individual grape variety. “We achieve the points of clarity to be vodka, but at the same time, we want to keep a ‘message' of the grapes, so we only distill three times.”
Pinnacle Vodka Produced at the Distillerie de la Tour, Pinnacle is handcrafted in small batches and quadruple distilled with spring water from the Champagne region of France. This French vodka has 16 flavors (all 70 proof). Their Espresso martini gave a certain ‘boost’ during the convention mid-day on Tuesday!
Quintessential Gin Q Gin, the ‘World’s Smoothest Gin’ is distilled 5 times to create a pure and flawless spirit. The essence of lotus leaves and lavender have been added to the traditional profile of juniper and other botanicals, giving this gin a distinctive and smooth taste matched by no other super-premium gin.
Whitley Neill We found their slogan ‘Inspired by Africa – Made in England’ intriguing. What makes this gin so stylishly different from other London Dry gins? There are two elements not normally found in other gins, the wild citrus fruit of the Baobob tree and the Cape Gooseberries. Stunning! Especially when enhanced by the real fruit. Incidentally, 5% of the profits from Whitley Neill Gin are donated to TREE AID (www.treeaid.org.uk) to fund the planting of 100,000 trees, including the Baobob, which will sustain local communities by providing building materials, food & medicine. And let’s not forget to mention their Double Gold Medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition!
DH Krahn Touting itself as the new gineration, DH Krahn uses only Italian Juniper Berries, and, in smaller amounts than other gins, for a ‘shade’ of their taste, offering a lighter and cleaner taste. David Hughes, President, gave us a pour of one of the most oddly delicious cocktails we had at WSWA, the JB Combine. 2oz DH Krahn, ¾ oz. Fresh Lemon Juice, ¾ oz. Simple Syrup and 2-3 Fresh Basil Leaves. This cocktail alone should jumpstart the new ‘gin’eration!
Farinez Rum Alberto Farinez (of the Rum) entertained our Judges at the International Rum Festival Tasting Competition in 2006 & 2007 with Macuro Rum, one of the most outstanding (always a Gold Medal Winner) rums this side of Venezuela. Now he is introducing Ron Anejo Super Premium (RASP) Pachano No. 23 of Farinez. His elegant brochure states ‘oak notes, with sweet and fruity memoirs, vanilla, leather, tobacco, butterscotch and roasted hints’. We cannot agree more. This rum is certainly the connoisseurs’ choice.
Olo Brazilian Rum Olo Premium Brazilian Rum is smooth and complex. Olo Silver has a sweet flavor that comes from pressing fresh sugarcane within a day of harvesting. Olo Spiced (the first spiced cachaca we are aware of) is a blend of the essence of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and black pepper that’s surprisingly refined and complex.
Cabana Cachaca We first met Matti Anttila, President of Cabana Cachaca, about a year ago and, since launching Cabana—with that delicate hint of citrus on the nose--we’re glad to see that it’s availability now includes in New York, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee (and ‘across the pond’ in the UK!)
Combier Liqueur d’Orange La Distillerie Combier,original creator of the world’s first triple sec in 1834, is now available in the US. This artisanal crafted orange liqueur is made from 100% fresh, hand-selected orange peels from the West Indies, sugar beets from the fields of Normandy and the family’s secret ingredients from the Loire Valley. Combier uses a triple-distillation process, hence the word ‘triple-sec’, whereby the ingredients are three times distilled in the very same century-old copper stills first used by the Combier family itself. Approximately $39.99 per 750.
Monte Sierpe Founded in 1776, Monte Sierpe, the Spirit of Peru, is painstakingly filtered for authentic taste and smoothness. Pisco, South American grape brandy, can be “fiery and unpleasantly industrial. But, when made well, it’s a spirit of impressive complexity” as noted by David Wondrich, who named Monte Sierpe among the Best Spirits of 2006 adding, “It’s a spirit of impressive complexity, with notes of carob & cinnamon and earth to offset the sweetness of the grapes.” And, for those of you who have not tasted the Pisco Sour, do so!
The Polished Palate April 2008