A few weeks ago Alabama held a distiller’s convention for Alabama’s budding bar scene. A few years ago craft cocktails and quality spirits wouldn’t really be easy to find, if you could find them at all here. However a mix of talented bartenders, and adventurous bar owners created a market that finally drove our state liquor board into diversifying and modernizing it’s selection. We were happy to attend as press and part of Birmingham’s USBG chapter. We had a lot of samples that day, some we liked and some we didn’t. Some we just really didn’t have an opinion on. We are not a review site by nature, I’m just not the type to be a vicious critic. Below are some of our favorites, focusing on new products particularly to our market. Also we features some regional distilleries other parts of the country may not have tasted.
This was probably our favorite and most surprising find at the show. On the top of having a very personable distiller eager to tell us about his product he even let us taste abit of the unaged whiskey. That was an experience. There were two products available for tasting. The Southern Corn whiskey I expected to be overly sweet and unbalanced. I actually found a very balanced, deep, bourbon style whiskey instead. Following trends and demands a Southern Rye whiskey also appeared, filled with pleasing spice and a very rich nose. This was particularly heavenly. Expect to see these small batch southern whiskeys on our site more. Both products were very complex and robust, and we offer hearty thanks to their very friendly distiller.
To most cities Camus is not new, but it only recently hit shelves in Birmingham stores. I find it worth mentioning because I never really cared much for Cognac. I’d had a lot and they were fine but I never really saw why someone would sip cognac as their beverage of choice. Their VS label was very nice, something we added to our shelves. What really took our breath away was the Ile de Re label. The fruity, light woodiness of this spirit was really wonderful. It had very light salty notes and you could really taste some of the wine notes. This is a cognac worth sipping. Plus It’s from an island! Tiki cognac anyone?
We discovered this at the same table as Camus. This oddly banana yellow gin isn’t available in the States yet as far as we were told. Apparently the color comes from a post distillation infusion. It had a nice juniper character but it struck as as abit sweeter than other gins. It was a very interesting product with unique botanicals which we’ll keep our eye out for more of.
Gosling’s Old Rum
By far not new, but it’s the first time I tasted it. It was a deep, rich rum that reminded me of an oakier gold style rum. It wasn’t sweet like black seal can be, but it had a character we’d love to mix with. We inquired about getting some Gosling’s 151 but sadly it isn’t sold in the state. We did receive yet another reason to visit Florida however in that it is apparently sold there.
We’re never going to be the world’s biggest vodka fans. However vodka is America’s most popular spirit and something everyone needs in their bar. We enjoy this southern brand from Mississippi because we know their flavored offerings are natural despite the use of some coloring in the new varieties offered. We also like their focus on supporting live music. The new pecan flavor was meaty and smokey, just like a fresh roasted pecan. Don’t expect this to taste anything like the pie. The other new offering was Pumpkin Spice. Sure to be a seller due to the time of year and it’s mellow yet pervasive notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, and allspice. Cathead continues to impress me and make me enjoy vodkas. Heresy. Expect to see more on the new flavors from us. Cathead also produces our favorite gin which you can find details on here and here.
Johnny Walker Platinum
Double black recently hit the shelves of Birmingham much to our delight, but we were surprised to see this bottle as we almost passed by their booth. The whiskey had a very present smokiness but not so much to be overpowering. It finished with ample notes of oak and subtle orchard fruit. While we enjoyed Platinum we were saddened to hear Gold and Green were leaving the American market. Johnny Walker Gold and Green have been favorites of ours as afternoon sippers ever since my college days. I still recall my cat nuzzling my bottle of Green every time it was opened. We’re looking forward to Platinum, but we hope to see Green and Gold return as well.
Ilegal is new to absolutely no one in the cocktail scene. Unless perhaps your in Birmingham. We’d enjoyed this spirit before in our Atlanta travels but feel the need to mention it now that a local distributor is selling it in our market. The Joven is peppery, herbal, and full of green fresh wood smoke. It’s a smoke that’s refreshing in a way and enjoyable to sip. The Reposado had more of the dark roasted almost peat like smoke we had expected. We detected some notes of burnt sugar and American oak as well. What we didn’t care for was the price tag, we fully believe that quality spirits cost money. However sixty to eighty dollars is quite a hit to the coffers. However we’re getting used to paying the price for quality agave spirits, and we believe Ilegal to be quality.
If you’ve tried any of these spirits let us know what you think in the comments. As a citizen of Birmingham I’m happy to see our spirit selection growing. September will be focused a bit less on our usual cocktail creating content this month. We’ll use this month to bring you interviews, product impressions, and a couple of cocktails. We’ll use our extra time to prepare for the annual Halloween blowout here in the Dark Isles. Until next time…
“You get hammered America” -JFL