This week saw the largest ever delegation of US distillers to London descend on Somerset House for a trade-only showcase of American spirits.
Over 20 distillers presented a diverse selection of products to a busy room full of members of the trade, with exhibitors including everyone from the big producers like Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey, to small start-up distilleries. Some were already available in the UK, while others were seeking representation over here.
Whiskey, unsurprisingly, made up the majority of the bottles at the event, but there was an interesting array of other products too, including gins, vermouths and more. One such diverse distiller was Green Hat from Washington DC, with a range of gins on show, including its brand new Old Tom, deriving its touch of sweetness from its time resting in Pedro Ximénez barrels.
Alongside a pair of vermouths was Green Hat’s Summer Cup, with a base of the distillery’s Navy Strength Gin, with the addition of a number of botanicals, as well as some of its own white vermouth.
On the whiskey front, one highlight was the James E Pepper range, with its 100 Proof Rye the distillery’s best seller, making use of over 90% rye in the mash bill. That same whisky at barrel proof – 114.6, or 57.3% ABV – stood out in the range, chewy and substantial, with sweet nuttiness and spice on the palate. The distillery’s straight rye whiskey finished in Pedro Ximénez casks took these flavours to new depths, with plenty dried fruit, coffee and chocolate notes.
Arizona’s first licensed craft distillery, Arizona Distilling Company showcased, among other products, Arizona’s first grain-to-bottle whiskey, its Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey. The wheat lent this some sweet, confectionary-like notes, with toffee, fig and maple syrup notes.
While some of these might take a while to find a home on our shores, you won’t have to wait too long for one pair of new arrivals, as the bottles are already on the water headed our way. Minor Case Straight Rye Whiskey comes from MC Beam descendant Stephen Beam. It’s finished in former cream sherry barrels, which is evident upfront on the palate with some sweet, fruity notes, but leading to a clean, dry finish. Alongside this was Yellowstone Select, a resurrection of this classic whiskey that was once number one in the US.
As part of the recreation, Beam was able to cultivate DNA from the yeast used by his great-grandfather to make this new whiskey. These two will be available in the UK from Woolf/Sung (020 7836 8800).
Washington DC bartender JP Fetherston, from the award-winning Columbia Room, was in attendance, giving a cocktail demonstration on the day.
The showcase, as well as an accompanying media event, was led by the Distilled Spirits Council, together with the US Department of Agriculture. The council represents US producers, marketers and exporters of distilled spirits.