What Spirits May Come: Tasting the Future at the WSWA Convention

 Photo courtest of EG

Photo courtesy of Enlightened Grain’s Inspiration Vodka

The bottle packaging is slick. The taste mixable, but also sippable—perfect for bottle service. The yachting theme is on point, though the privileged founders look young to be rolling out a line of vodka, tequila and rum. They really could hit it big, but only if they can attract the attention of distributors, which, looking at the thick stack of business cards in their hands, is going swimmingly. But it’s still a big “If,” and that’s the trick of it really at the annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention and exposition (WSWA.org).

The organization touches down each year in either Las Vegas or Orlando offering a chance to experience incredible new or new-to-America products that are about to (or are hoping to) hit the market, as well as reacquaint with venerable brands.

I said I was going to stay away from wine this year and focus entirely on spirits, but this was a near impossibility thanks to the trend in mixing wine with spirits and even tea. Saludas Sangria in a not-too-offensive can caught my eye for its poolside possibilities. For the same reasons, Maven Cocktails stood out, though these vodka/wine mixes are in glass. Owl’s Brew is a tea concentrate for making wine cocktails. And Red Courtesy Beer is steeped a la minute with botanicals just before service.

But my Hot, New, Now Media Award vote went to Enlightened Grain’s Inspiration Vodka (EGV.com), infused with lavender and rosemary. “I love the dichotomy of savory and floral,” Cosmopolitan property mixologist Mariena Mercer says. “The unique botanical build and creamy mouthfeel are ideal for cocktails.” Inspiration took Double Gold and Best in Show for flavored vodkas, and you can find it in several of Mercer’s drinks at the Cosmopolitan.

“I loved the concept and branding of the Colectivo Regional spirits of Mexico line,” Alcademics.com publisher Camper English says of what caught his eye. “They have tequila, raicilla, mezcal, bacanora, sotol and charanda all under the same label.”

I enjoyed watching Cognac un-stuffy itself thanks to ABK6, a modern, yet serious line by single-estate producer Domaines Francis Abécassis. When I visited them a few years ago, not a drop was making it to Nevada—not so, now that Total Wine & More has its hands on it. And ABK6’s honey Cognac liqueur is a dream!

Also debuting a product at WSWA was Philadelphia Distilling owner Andrew Auwerda, who brought along his new Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gin, a beautiful crossover moment for gin into the oh-so-hot brown spirit category.

As for that slick trio of yacht-inspired spirits that you may or may not see on VIP tables someday, if Allaire spirits’ pitch isn’t in fact all air, then you can say you read it here first!


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