This was the first year that they invited consumer press (I write for both consumer and trade) to attend, so it was a pleasure to bump into Wayne Curtis who also shared his thoughts on the show.
(perhaps the clutziest brand name in the industry, but I like this Irish whisky)
Last year was the first year they had a spirits tasting competition at the show, which I hope signals a shift in attention from 'brands that look the most marketable' to 'brands that taste good.' This wasn't an all-out-thousand-bottle tasting competition like the SF World Spirits comp but a smaller one for brands at the show. Here are this years' winners:
Best Cognac in Show
Bache-Gabrielsen Classic VSOP 8 Years France
Best White Spirit In Show
Chairman's Reserve Rum St. Lucia
Best Single Malt Scotch in Show
Best Brown Spirit in Show
Highland Park Single Malt Scotch, 18 years, Orkney, Scotland
Best Herbal/Botanical Liqueur in Show
Best Liqueur in Show
Pagès Parfait Amour France
Best American Whiskey in Show
Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey 25 Year Old USA
Best Agave Distillite in Show
Scorpion Mezcal Anejo 1 year, Oaxaca, Mexico
Best Crème Liqueur in Show
Tres Leches Creme Liqueur USA
This year they added a cocktail competition, judged by a group of bartenders and hosted by Tony Abou-Ganim. This was not a bartending competition, but one to showcase products. The brands submitted the recipes, rather than bartenders, so judges said that the entries ranged from simplistic and terrible cocktails like the ones you most often find on brand websites to delicious drinks created by consultant mixologists for the brands.
The winner of this contest was the delicious Brazillionaire cocktail, created by Tobin Ellis for Leblon cachaca.
THE LEBLON BRAZILLIONAIRE
2 speared Marasca Cherries
1.5 oz Leblon Cachaca
3/4 oz Cherry Heering (a Danish cherry liqueur)
1 oz Passion Fruit Puree (The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley)
1 1/2 oz Fresh Lime Sour (3:2 ratio of Lime to simple syrup)
8-10 fresh cilantro leaves
2 drops Sriracha Sauce
Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
The top three cocktail recipes can be found at this link (PDF file).
Furthermore, WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf said in his keynote speech that he hopes the convention will continue to change. He said in a few years he'd like to see it become something more like the Consumer Electronics Show, where all the brands announce their new products for the year at once. From a journalist standpoint, that would be wonderful.