Once again, the Indie (Independent) Spirit Expo Chicago, was thriving with new and well-established Spirit beverage brands, from throughout the USA and a few from other nations. In attendance was a very hearty and “spirited” crowd of about 1000 spirit beverage aficionados, fans, retailers, bar owners, and press mavens, such as me. All told the Chicago Hilton & Towers, early October, was a buzz with spirit brand pitching, nosing, swilling, and gulping of distilled spirits, as well as serious explorations of brands with which to do business. Of course, there were those who “Just Wanna Have Fun”!!!

On exhibit were a wide array of brands you know, like Chicago originals Koval + Few, as well as Wisconsin’s J. Henry. The fun is always in exploring many great new brands, which you do not know but will want to; once the brand-building teams have had the success of gaining shelf space at your local bars, restaurants + retailers.

The biggest category represented was, of course, Whiskey. The current #2 fastest growing category Rum most certainly had the second biggest presence. The current fastest-growing spirit beverage category in the USA, Tequila, had a surprisingly light presence.

This journalist, Globo Drew, did not have the capacity nor desire to sample every one of the over 200 products available, at the Indie Spirit Expo Chicago. So the following are briefs on a few noteworthy brands I found + liked for one or more reasons or another.

Whiskey

Coalition Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – is a very limited edition, ultra-premium spirit, finished in distiller-selected barrels, from the finest wine estates in the Bordeaux Region of France. The result is a rich, complex but smooth, great tasting, and enjoyable Whiskey with heritage from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The unusual mash bill of 90%/10% Rye/Malted Rye will please the most demanding high-quality Rye whiskey fans. Sipping Coalition Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is an adventure + experience. I will cover this fine Coalition Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey spirit, in-depth, in an article in Early November. https://www.coalitionwhiskey.com/

Coalition Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey comes in 5 expressions:

  1. Margaux: Violet + Red Fruit: 90.8 Proof
  2. Pauillac: Cassis + Black Pepper: 92.8 Proof
  3. Sauternes: Dried Fruit + Honey: 94.2 Proof
  4. Barrel Proof: 108.8 Proof
  5. Bourbon Cask Strength: 114 Proof (Coming Soon)

Cognac

Montfleurie Cognac Grand Champagne – is a truly special ultra, ultra-premium spirit beverage, with a truly unique distillation profile. Montfleurie Cognac Grand Champagne Is produced for the true High-End Cognac Aficionado or those indulging in a very rare and special occasion celebration.

These are the truly unique brand attributes that make Montfleurie Cognac Grand Champagne so extremely special.

  1. 100% Grande Champagne
  2. 1960 harvest 80%+ of liquid produced by Maison Boinaud, established in 1640
  3. 40.6% ABV
  4. Only two barrels made for L’Orchidiee Edition
  5. Crystal Carafe hand-blown in France for top craftsman
  6. Cap + Collar reminiscent of fine jewelry
  7. Comes in a Spectacular Lacquered Wooden Gift Case
  8. There is much more to tell, which I will do in an article, late. November about the brand and its origins.
  9. https://www.monfleurie.com/en

Rum

Equiano Rum Company – of which I am very familiar and like a great deal Equiano Rum is a very unique blend of 60% rum aged 10 years, in french cognac barrels from Grey’s Distillery of the East African Nation of Mauritius. It is blended with rum aged 8 years in American Oak barrels from and at the most award-winning Foursquare distillery in the Caribbean Island Nation of Barbados.

The London-based Late Gen X + Millennial founders, of the Equiano Rum brand, because of the more liberal, than in the USA, education system of the UK, named their very special spirit after Olaudah Equiano, a very important historical figure for the world. Olaudah Equiano was kidnapped by human traffickers from what is now known as Benin on the east coast of the Motherland continent, at age 10, in the 1700s. Having been trafficked to Barbados, and subsequently, to Boston, Olaudah Equiano became a self-taught “Rum” merchant, and bought his freedom, at age 21. Olauda Equiano, next became a very successful, self-taught Literary figure self-publishing his very successful seminal work “The Interesting Narrative Of The Life of Olaudah Equiano.    

Olaudah Equiano went on the work as a slavery abolitionist in Boston, the UK, and Caribbean. Ultimately Olaudah Equiano successfully petitioned the Queen of England to end the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which is depicted at the end of Steven Spilberg’s + Debbie Allen, the groundbreaking film “Amastad”! I love telling this story.

It is very fitting such a well-crafted and great-tasting spirit as Equiano Rum, bears the name of Olaudah Equiano. https://equianorum.com/  

Vodka

Kastra Elion Vodka – where “Mixology Weets Mythology”! Kastra Elion, which I encountered a couple of months ago, at a tasting event of the distributor, SGWS. Kastra Elion Vodka is a Premium sipping vodka, artisan crafted and distilled in Greece, from Greek olives. How about that? I actually tasted the olive flavor. Olives I like. “Kastra Elion Vodka combines tradition, innovation, and a love for the flavors and heritage of the Mediterranean. https://kastraelion.com/ 

Barr Hill Vodka – of Caledonia Spirits, in Montpellier, VT, produces Barr Hill Vodka, distilled from Vermont Honey in New York. Based on their own description,  Barr Hill brand spirits are distilled in a land we’d all like to visit; with statements like farmland meets forest, aromas mingle with wildflowers in sunlit fields, the land spurs creativity, and serves as a guide on our quest to produce flawless spirits. I can only imagine a Barr Hill Distillery tour and tasting room. Barr Hill also makes whiskey, bourbon + rye. https://caledoniaspirits.com/

Gin

Barr Hill Distillery – also produces Barr Hill Tom Cat Gin, a New York Int’l Spirit Competition Double Gold Award-winning Gin Spirit from based on their own description, is distilled in a land we’d all like to visit, especially in there is a Barr Hill distillery tour and tasting room. https://caledoniaspirits.com/

Rush Creek Gin – is distilled from botanicals + other ingredients and bottled, in Barr Hill’s Harvard, Illinois distillery. There are regularly scheduled tours and a full-service bar tasting room.  Rush Creek also artfully distills really good whiskeys, in 2 expressions and a Vodka. https://rushcreekdistilling.com/ 

Globo Drew’s Advice for Spirit Beverage Entrepreneurs and those who want to be.

For those of you readers, who are considering or evening dreaming of entrepreneurial success, in the spirit beverage industry, I want to warn you of the barriers to entry and growth. Creating, launching, and growing a spirit beverage brand is very capital and expertise-intensive, entree and survival are not for the faint of heart, risk-averse, and weak of hands; by any stretch of the imagination. But for those who can run the gauntlet of Government Regulation + Taxation, Research + Development, Manufacturing and Marketing, Distributor, On + Off-Premise Sales + Relations Maintenance; all of which will be budget dependent the rewards can be tremendous. However, celebrity-owned + driven branding is changing the nature of the Spirit Beverage Game.