Craft Distilling is more than just the current buzz in the food and drinks industry..
I attended a great craft experience – Meet the Distillers at Ris Restaurant in our Nation’s Capital on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 – a chance to meet and identify with 4 of America’s most innovative craft distillers.
Here are the Distillers: Barry Young who, together with his partner C. Prentiss Orr at Boyd & Blair, distills what is arguably the world’s greatest potato vodka in Glenshaw, PA, John Little, co-founder of Smooth Ambler Spirits in rural Greenbrier Valley, WV and Clay Smith, distillery manager at Corsair Distillery in Bowling Green, KY.
The Sponsor for this event was Arrowine & Spirits DC (K Street at 22nd Street). An FYI – they are SERIOUSLY getting into craft spirits..more news on that soon!
I had a chance to taste 9 spirits and various cocktails produced by Dan Searing who is actually the Rep for American Still Life Spirits who promotes the most diverse American portfolio of craft distilled spirits.
Each speaker had time to open up and discuss their respective perspective and products.
Barry Young, Boyd & Blair
Boyd & Blair (Pennsylvania):
I had met Barry Young from Boyd & Blair a few years ago at a crafts spirits tasting in NYC when the whole movement was early, but building steam. His specialty is producing potato distilled vodka using exclusively Pennsylvania potatoes. Pennsylvania farmers were only receiving about 8 cents per pound for their potatoes which didn’t make much sense as an agricultural incentive. Boyd & Blair took this low-priced resource and turned it into a vodka that has won many rewards. We also tried the Vodka 151 Proof but it was in a cocktail made by Dan Searing. Interesting note: Boyd & Blair only throws out the heads and tails of distillation and only uses the “sweet spot” heart of distillation in their products..
John Little, Smooth Ambler
Smooth Ambler (West Virginia):
The next up was John Little of Smooth Ambler – he was quite a character and spoke a mile a minute with his exuberance and excitement! First up we tried the Greenbrier Gin which had a nice citrusy refreshing taste that enlivened my palate! Smooth Ambler is relatively new to the distillation process, so brown spirits have to be purchased. John took us through the process of choosing the right barrels of pre-aged Bourbons and how he chose their specific products (which in a roundabout way came from the US, was orderd and planned to be sold in Australia, but due to market conditions there, remained in U.S. stocks). Being a Rye fan, I really loved their Old Scout Rye (7-year old) and also enjoyed their Old Scout Bourbon (10-year old). John brought up the point or concept about whiskey and aging: does whiskey get better with age? He joked that some people are born “beautiful Adonis”, but most people feel we get better with age! He also brought up that Smooth Ambler doesn’t cold filter their products – fatty acids, which some people might consider gross, actually add interesting flavor and aromatics, and cold-filtering takes this away – Cheers to that!
Clay Smith, Corsair
Clay Smith of Corsair Whiskey was the 3rd Presenter and showcased 4 spirits: Corsair Barrel-Aged Gin, Spiced Rum, Old Punk Whiskey and Corsair Triple Smoke Whiskey. The most unique product was their Triple Smoke: their malted barley is smoked with Cherrywood, Beechwood and Peat giving it some Scotch/peat overtones but also some American wood smoke aromatics. This kind of creativity is what makes American craft spirits so much fun – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
P.S. – Below is some cut and paste from the Arrowine email – if you’re truly interested in learning more, read on!
What are craft spirits and why we love them…
The days where distilled spirits were peddled by a handful of gigantic multi-national corporations have come to an end. In less than a decade the number of craft, or micro-distilleries, has mushroomed from a mere 50 to over 300 operational distilleries across the U.S. Craft spirits are the product of an independently owned distillery with maximum annual sales of 52,500 cases where the product is physically distilled and bottled on site.
Craft distillers focus on quality rather than quantity (often producing less in a year than multi-national brand distilleries bottle in one hour) and strive to educate consumers rather than supply them with cheap alcohol. Unlike the large spirits conglomerates that use continuous distillation to produce large volumes of the same product over and over, craft distillers employ pot stills that they often design themselves and distill in small batches using their senses to make cuts to achieve the desired results.
Most use locally sourced grains and fruits and trace their recipes, especially for whiskey, back to the days long before prohibition when America was a land of small distillers. Much like the craft beer movement that started in the late 1990s, micro-distilleries are making excellent products that pay homage to the authenticity and cultural heritage of their communities.
What we will be tasting…
We will taste a selection of Vodka, Gin and Whiskey (Bourbon & Rye), first in their pure spirit form, and then in a cocktail application that will showcase the wide range of flavors that these spirits can be expressed in.
About Barry Young and Boyd & Blair…
Barry Young and partner C. Prentiss Orr didn’t set out to make the world’s best vodka. They set out to make a really great vodka distilled only from local produce. They started with the best Pennsylvania potatoes and a hand hammered copper pot still and added passion for perfecting a recipe that includes only the ‘hearts’ of the spirit, not the extraneous stuff you’ll find in mass-produced, continuous-still vodka. They named their vodka after two family patriarchs, James Boyd Rafferty and Dr. William Blair.
The vodka is triple distilled by batch in the 1,200 liter pot still without the use of any automated controls, and the heads, hearts and tails are cut by taste alone. The result is an exceptionally smooth tasting potato vodka with a slight natural sweetness and viscosity that is unmatched by any other vodka. Every bottle is filled, corked and dipped in wax by hand, and personally signed by Still Master Barry Young.
About John Little and Smooth Ambler Spirits…
In 2009, John Little and TAG Galyean founded Smooth Ambler to produce fine artisan spirits by combining patient Appalachian know-how with the finest of American ingredients. Located in the rural Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia, Smooth Ambler uses state-of-the-art distillery equipment in conjunction with natural resources of the region: high-valley mountain air, natural waters, ideal temperature variations and friendly folks. These elements combined with a hands-on, grain-to-glass distilling, cutting and filtering process create a truly remarkable drink best enjoyed one slow sip at a time. It is a fact that Smooth Ambler Spirits are now produced at the highest and purest level possible anywhere in the world.
About Clay Smith and Corsair…
Friends Darek Bell, a dedicated home-brewer, and Andrew Webber, a self-described underground urban moonshiner, founded Corsair in 2007 and today, no other craft distillery in the U.S. better epitomizes the creative element of the craft spirit movement. From Quinoa Whiskey, Spiced Rum, Vanilla Bean Vodka, to Gin, Absinth, Pumpkin Spice Moonshine, the celebrated Triple Smoke Whiskey and over a dozen of seasonal and experimental spirits, the guys at Corsair don’t shy away from anything. And over 40 medals at international spirit competitions are a testament to the consistently high quality of Corsair’s innovative spirits, and it has been named 2013 Craft Distillery of the Year by Whisky Magazine.
Corsair operates out of two distilleries, one in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the other in Nashville, Tennessee. Our guest presenter Clay Smith is master distiller and distillery manager at the Bowling Green facility, where he oversees the production of Corsair’s various whiskeys and gins as well as the extensive renovation of the distillery’s new space.
About the tasting location…
Restaurant RIS is located in Washington DC, at 2275 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037, right around the corner from Arrowine & Spirits, our new shop in DC. Restaurant RIS is open late each night. We expect the event to conclude by 9pm and should you wish to stay at Ris and have a late dinner, they would be happy to serve you. For more about this excellent restaurant, please see their website.
We will begin at 7:30 p.m. So that the evening is enjoyable to all, we are limiting the number of people attending. Please RSVP by phone 703-525-0990 or e-mail by Friday, September 6th.
Arlington, VA and our new DC location
Last week I was lucky enough to attend two different events that were part of the 14th Annual International Food and Wine Festival. I had two more events that I could have attended, but my liver asked me to take a break.
On Tuesday, I volunteered with Washington Wine Academy to pour at the Regional Food and Wine Celebration. After our check-in and briefing, I immediately ran to the Etude table. I poured the 2009 Estate Chardonnay Carneros and 2009 Pinot Noir. I love the Pinot Noir. The nose was quite Earthy as if it were a baby Burgundy. It was so smooth with a lingering finish. Many people refused to try the Chardonnay, but I think that’s more people’s own hangs ups on Chardonnay. It was very balanced with vanilla, toast and some citrus mid-palate.
Around 9:00pm, most of the volunteers, distributors who poured, staff and some attendees wandered down to the VIP after party. That’s where I decided to open a Stag’s Leap Chardonnay…or two among other bottles. I was so excited to finally try it. Another great Chardonnay with a creamy mouth feel and green apple flavors throughout.
I ended up taking the last train home and arriving about 1:00am.
The next day at work was somewhat rough. I almost didn’t make it to my second event – Sommelier Showdown. I won tickets by answering a trivia question on Facebook. Yes, it can be that easy.
I was lucky enough to bring a friend and ran into another friend at the event who writes her own blog. This event like the night before took place in the lovely atrium area of the Ronald Reagan Trade Building. After checking out some of the wines being poured and food, we decided to start with scotch. SCOTCH! There was a representative pouring Glenmorangie 12 year, 12 year Sauternes, 12 year Sherry Cask and 12 year Port Cask. I only tried the Sauternes and Sherry as I thought I would finish with the Port cask. I was surprised at how I preferred the Sherry Cask. The spice and sweetness was much more balanced and smooth throughout.
There were a few tables I was in love with at the Sommelier Showdown. The Achaval Ferrer table was pouring the Quimera 2010 and Finca Bella Vista 2010. Their wines are consistently highly rated. The 2010 Finca Bella Vista is a top ten wine of 2012 according to Wine Spectator and received a 95 point rating. It’s everything that I want out of a red wine – powerful, intense with silky tannins.
Leah Cheston, Wine Director, Ris, won the Sommelier Showdown! It was definitely a challenge. We were able to taste the wines after the competition was over.
Again, second day in a row, I go to the after party event. It was an amazing time, however, I forced myself to get home by 11:30pm.
Friday and Saturday simply fell apart. I had tickets to attend the Last Sipper and International Tasting, but could not muster the energy. I even ended up canceling my Restaurant Week Reservations.
Even though I needed a good part of the weekend to sleep, last week was a great time with wine, food and friends.
I have really great news for DC Fundraisers and Foodies in our Nation’s Capital – DC has reached Foodie Destination! OK, so maybe there are still quite a few events with poor food and bad drinks, but after recently attending the Capital Food Fight, the Washingtonian Brunch & Bloody’s event and Wednesday, October 24th’s Chef’s For Equality event, I noticed many of the same restaurants and chefs showcasing different sides of their culinary ability. The bad news is I didn’t get a list of dishes from last night’s event – I was spending too much time tasting, drinking and a bit of hobnobbing – but let’s just say there wasn’t a bad dish! What made this event extra Foodie was that there was also a Cocktail focus and some of the top Mixologists in our region like Todd Thrasher and Adam Bernbach went all out to impress the crowd.
The Evening’s cause was to raise awareness and votes for Same-Sex Marriage Rights in Maryland – since I support same-sex marriage but I’m really focused on Food and Drink Events, here are the details on the politics of the event from the Human Right’s Coalition. Also, Washingtonian had a nice article with some Chef gossip and the details on the political cause. Other Articles include the Washington Blade which mentions MD Gov. O’Malley’s speech at the event, Tim Gunn from Project Runway was a speaker at the event as well, you can read more at MyFoxDC’s Coverage. I’m all for political causes and fundraisers, but I feel it’s my duty to stay focused DC’s culinary experiences.
Chef Alli Sosna, Allison Sosna Group / Microgreens
Below is a list of participating chefs and Mixologists as well – I was able to copy the links to most of the restaurants so it’s also a nifty way to find out more about each establishment. I’ll try to update the dishes if I can get a list of them, but alas, this is mostly a Publicity post right now – I REALLY like to include more food information – Cheers!
Find out more about DC’s top culinary chefs participating in this special event.
Victor Albisu, Taco Bamba – is currently holding Pop-ups at
Capital Food Fight on Monday, October 8th, 2012 was a culinary party for DC’s Foodie Elite! This impressive event had a Sold-Out Turnout of around 1,500 people tasting, imbibing and nibbling on 2 Levels of the Ronald Reagan Building. What makes this event so different from many multi-chef events in DC was the Star Power draw of some big name Chefs and Foodie Stars: Anthony Bourdain, Padma Lakshmi, Carla Hall (DC’s own!), Andrew Zimmern and of course DC’s own infamous Jose Andres put on a show for the crowd around the cooking competition between 4 Battling DC Chefs:
I have to admit – I was so focused on tasting many of the 60 Restaurant’s dishes at the event, that I barely paid attention to the cooking competition – I’m a professional taster, and that’s what I do at these events – Taste! the list of restaurants was quite impressive, here’s the list of about 60 – Capital Food Fight Restaurants .
Ohh, and here are the dishes served:
1789 • House-made ricotta with fresh figs & Wildflower Honey
Adour • Lobster salad with cauliflower & céleri rémoulade, assorted macaroons & al tiramisu
American Tap Room • Bourbon barrel stout braised wild boar with pumpkin butter & pickled vegetables
Argia’s Italian • Duck confit, bean ragout with crostini
Art and Soul • Louisiana crawfish étouffée, preserved lemon, brown jasmine rice & scallions
Bandolero • Red snapper tostada – really woke up my tastebuds and refreshing with a good dose of salt to bring out the fish and other flavors!
Bar Pilar/Café St. Ex • Wagyu brisket chili with farmhouse cheddar cheese & scallions – Wagyu is so wonderfully soft fat on the palate and really made this comfort food dish work.
Belga • Celery waffle with orange duck in cotton candy – I didn’t feel like waiting in line – the cotton candy just got so much attention – food as entertainment I guess!