The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2011

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CONFERENCES Breaking New Ground THE AMERICAN DISTILLING INSTITUTE’S CONFERENCE HEADS NORTH TO PORTLAND story and photos by Andrew Faulkner P ortland, Oregon became the epicenter of the alcohol world for a week last month, when 450 craft distillers descended on the Benson Hotel for the American Distilling Institute’s conference. The annual event, which until now had alternated between Louisville and the San Francisco Bay Area, traveled north this year in recognition of Oregon’s legacy as an innovator in beer and wine production and Portland’s status as the only city in the country to boast a distillers’ row. Nobody knows exactly how many dis- tillers, distiller wannabes and vendors came. “We stopped counting at 460,” said ADI president Bill Owens, “and we think it went over 500 people.” From the 68 people who attended ADI’s first conference, held at California’s St. George Spirits (makers of Hangar One vodka) in 2003, to 310 last year and around 500 this year, the growth in the craft spirits industry has been phenomenal. Keynote speaker Steve McCarthy, founder of Clear Creek Spirits, also noted the growth. “When I grew up, everybody made something. Now, we make precious little,” said McCarthy. “I think we are returning to a country that actually makes things.” Clear Creek’s spirits also merited four gold medals in the ADI judging. Portland’s spirit week began with a two-day judging of 129 craft American spirits. In the following days there were distillery tours, tastings, benefit dinners, seminars on running a distillery and hands-on distilling workshops. Dry Fly Distilling, of Spokane, WA, received the Bubblecap Award, ADI’s Distillery of the Year. Owens said, “They are the first distillery I know of to within three years be running two shifts, grossing $1.2 million and be distributed in 32 states . . . and their products are all world-class.” Owens credits Dry Fly, the first legal distillery in their state since Prohibition, for paving the way for others. “I think there are 12 distill- eries open in Washington,” said Owens, “another 32 in the process and another 36 have taken out the paperwork. That is more than 70 people coming into the fold. They are good role models.” In addition to awarding the Distillery of the Year, ADI conducted a judging of craft American whiskies and brandies. A total of 129 spirits were entered from 54 distilleries. In a two-day blind tasting, two panels of four judges each awarded 64 medals. Judges included Alexandre Gabriel, of Cognac Ferrand; David Pickerell, Master Distiller Emeritus of Maker’s Mark; Flavien Desoblin, of the Brandy Library, David Scheurich, 118 / the tasting panel / may 201 1 Bavarian Holstein Partners shipped and assembled a complete pot still with column in the lobby of the Benson Hotel, Portland, OR, for the American Distilling Institute’s annual conference. Kent Fleischman (left) and Don Poffenroth, of Dry Fly Distilling, receive the Bubblecap Award from the American Distilling Institute for the Distillery of the Year. Dry Fly was recognized not only for making excellent products but for being pioneers in the industry and working to change state laws to benefit all craft distillers.

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