The Sydney Craft Spirits Fair – Part One

During the week Andre was on reddit and noticed a post from a guy who had an extra ticket to Sydney’s Craft Spirits Fair. He’s American and new to Sydney as well so I decided to take him up on the offer of a free ticket! (Don’t worry, I took lots of safety precautions and he turned out to be super friendly and awesome.)

The morning of November 7th, Shane walked me to the train station. Can you believe this car on our street?

There are tons of cool birds that live between us and the hospitals! Here are like 8.

Jacaranda trees by The Children’s Hospital:

Shane and I took a train station selfie and then I went to meet Chris at Museum station downtown.

Chris and I went for lunch at a pub nearby and then headed to the fair. We actually had quite a bit to talk about – he’s 26 as well and originally came to Australia on exchange and then ended up loving the country and coming back after graduation. He currently works as a Project Manager for a large Australian company.

The event was held at a liquor store called The Oak Barrel in Sydney. They have a fairly normal liquor store in the front of their space and then a huge back room where the event was held. Chris told me that they usually do craft beer and wine events as well.

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As we walked in, I realized that the event was very different than what I had been expecting.

Here you can see the long hallway out to the front of the store and street.

As we walked in, we were given a tasting glass, a pen, and a list of what they had available for tasting (and how much each bottle was being sold for at their members price).

Chris and I decided to start with lighter spirits such as gin and vodka first and then move our way to the darker rums, moonshines and brandy.

The spirits represented were from a wide variety of places in Australia and around the world. Each booth had either a representative of the distillery or the actual distiller there. It was really great to talk to each person and hear what made their product unique.

With our game plan in place, we set off to try Ink Dry Gin ($77) from the Husk Distillers in New South Wales (our state).

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This gin was a cool purple colour, dry, and tasted super floral. You can see that they had their primary flavour influences in little glass jars – Juniper (obviously), Coriander, Lemon Myrtle, Pepper Berry from Tasmania, and Orange. Ultimately not my favourite but to be fair, we were trying these liquors straight and it was the first sip of the day which is bound to be a bit of a shock.

Don’t worry, not all of the liquors stayed so well in my brain.

Next up was another New South Wales Distillery: Ironbark Distillery.

They were featuring:

  • Ironbark Moonshine ($80)
  • Ironbark Barrel Aged Moonshine ($85)
  • Ironbark 313 Dry Gin ($71)
  • Ironbark Wattleseed Gin ($84)
  • Ironbark Chai Spirit ($68)
  • Ironbark Crystallus Vodka ($74)

Now, obviously we couldn’t try every single alcohol offered so I will admit that I regret not trying their Chai Spirits. We did try their gin, vodkas and moonshine. The moonshine was absolutely the stand out spirit from Ironbark. Especially the Barrel Aged Moonshine. This distiller told us that Moonshine is basically whiskey without the prolonged aging process in barrels.

After Ironbark came Fire Drum Vodka from Tasmania ($83). I was really excited to see a female distiller! One of the things that impressed me most about this event were the presenters at each booth. This distiller was able to tell us everything that went into her vodka, why it was different than other vodkas and what her process was.

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Next up was a French distillery – Warenghem Distillery. This booth was one of the best decorated and they were the only ones actively collecting names and emails for future contact. In exchange, they offered an entry in a draw for a free bottle. The distiller clearly had his sales hat on! He’s the man in the promotional photo below.

  • Fine Glycine ($78)
  • Fine Etoile ($106)
  • Elixer D’Orange ($78)
  • Elixer D’Armorique ($82)

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They had an orange flavoured spirit and two apple flavoured that we tried. The orange one was the best we tried from this table.

Next up came Diplomatico Rum from Venezuela and Monkey 47 from Germany:

  • Diplomatico Blanco ($59)
  • Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva ($93)
  • Monkey 47 Dry Gin ($80)
  • Monkey 47 Slow Gin ($85)

This representative was by far one of the best experts at this event. He took the time to show us how to properly use Monkey 47 Gin to make an amazing Gin and Tonics and he also taught us other cocktails that we could make for warm summer days. It was actually really nice to drink a mixed cocktail as a break from all the straight hard liquor.

He also gave me a bunch of postcards (which you can see on the right haha). Finally, I have to say that the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is absolutely spectacular. I went back at the end and begged him for a second taste of it. The bottle is the short black bottle on the far right of the bottles. It is one of the liquors that has really stuck in my memory from the 7th. I plan to buy a bottle when I have the money for it.

Next up was Catcher & Co. (New South Wales).

  • Catcher & Co. Monaro Moonshine ($50)
  • Catcher & Co. Aged Moonshine ($55)
  • Catcher & Co. Vodka ($50)
  • Catcher & Co. Gin ($55)

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As we transferred to the next room, Chris got us bottles of water and we took a selfie!

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Next… we tried – get this – QUINOA Vodka. Both Chris and I shared a look – like is this for real? Are the hippies going to put Quinoa in everything?? But man were we wrong. This was by far and away the best, smoothest vodka I have ever had.

Now. I know what some of you may be thinking – I was drunk and at this point any alcohol would taste good. Well – here are three of the awards that this Vodka has won:

2014 Double Gold Medal from the Asian Spirits Masters
2013 Platinum Medal from the Beverage Testing Institute
2011 Silver Medal from the SF World Spirits Competition

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The booth was incredibly busy so I couldn’t get a good picture but they are based in the Cognac region of France and use organic, ethically sourced ingredients to produce their spirits.

At their table, they had:

  • FAIR Gin ($60)
  • FAIR Quinoa Vodka ($65)
  • FAIR Rum ($69)
  • FAIR Goji Liqueur ($29)
  • FAIR Cafe Liqueur ($29)

Next up came Four Pillars from Victoria (the state that Melbourne is in).

  • Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin ($68)
  • Four Pillars Navy Strength ($96)

Haha Navy Strength! I liked the tables that let you smell the ingredients that they used in the distilling process.

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After that came the Tequila/Mezcal table … things went down quickly. Haha. All of them were from Mexico (obviously)

Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I didn’t try all of them!

The colourful bottles towards the back are Del Maguey Mezcal and the bottles at the front are Fortaleza Tequila. They look fancy with the agave on top eh?

Mezcal and Tequila are both made from agave but tequila uses only one type of agave (versus the variety which is used in mezcal) and they are both made with a different process. The distiller from Mexico at this table took a long time to tell us all about how the agave is put into these huge pits below the earth where they cook and smoke (which in turn gives the Mezcal a really cool smokey flavour). Afterwards to crush the agave they use a donkey on a track which walks around in a big circle to pull a manual crusher. All of these tequilas and mezals at the fair were artisanal so they use old processes specific to each farm which make a huge difference in flavour – even between varietals from the same parent company.

They had:

  • Del Maguey Chichicapa ($110)
  • Del Maguey Minero ($110) – this one was a favourite – super smokey
  • Del Maguey San Luis Del Rio ($110)
  • Del Maguey Santo Domingo ($110)
  • Del Maguey Crema ($84) – this one was really nice and sweet
  • Fortaleza Tequila Blanco ($127)
  • Fortaleza Tequila Reposado ($145)

This post has hit 1,400 words so I better cap it lest people stop reading!

Miss you all!

Love you all!

Carmel

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Cooking and Studying

After Amy’s visit Kendra proved herself to be a real MVP again and sent me word documents with all of the old family recipes!

I decided to make Grandma’s Chicken Tetrazzini recipe. So yum.

I was very proud of my prep work:

The next day I went on an adventure to the mall to give Shane some space.

They were all ready for Santa… which again, feels a little weird in 30 degree weather.

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Shane and I shop at a cheaper grocery store when we can called “Aldi”. They have awesome cereals haha. Road Runner Choco Balls?

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While at the mall I got a hair cut! Two people blowdried my hair! And it was $45 no tax and no tip!

I forgot to take a photo of it till it was wet and misting though…

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Also! Even though it was early November, I still got super excited about the one house in our neighbourhood who actually decorated for Halloween!

Shane wasn’t feeling well earlier this week so while I was at the mall I picked up some feel better gifts for Shane.

A hot water bottle for his tummy, an eye mask (because our room gets SO bright) and the best mug I have ever seen in the history of ever.

Shane tried to blow up the hot water bottle but it was a horrible, horrible idea haha.

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We also found a new use for our closet doors:

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Shane’s study schedule is:

7-8 Gym
8-8:30 Breakfast
8:30-12:30 Study
12:30-1:15 Lunch and Free Time
1:15-5:30 Study
5:30-6:15 Dinner
6:15-9:30 Study
9:30-10:30 Free Time
10:30 Get Ready For Bed

Most days he studied till 11 or 12 though. So much book learnin.

Miss you all tons!

xoxo

Carmel

AMY VISITED!!!!!!

Living in Australia has been a lot of fun and being with Shane has been really nice (long distance can be really straining) but, to be totally honest, it has been a bit of a lonely experience. I’ve made some decisions which have made it more difficult to make friends (not working/being really careful with money). Don’t get me wrong, Shane’s friends are the BEST and Brendon and Andre are a ton of fun but everyone is so busy with studying (as they should be!) so it has been a little bit quieter than my life back home.

SO… when one of my FAVOURITE ex-impact colleagues told me that she was coming to Parra on business, it was extremely exciting!!! She has been really lovely to me – she has answered all of my questions about how much haircuts should cost, when one should tip (or as is the case here, NOT tip) – she also took time to call me on the phone when I got here and chat for a while.

I can’t describe how much I took all my friends back home for granted. Being able to just call a sister or a friend and head out for dinner is a luxury that I didn’t fully appreciate.

For weeks beforehand I planned and fussed about where to go for dinner. Shane, Andre and a few other dent students recommended the Bavarian Bier Cafe in Parramatta. It made a whole lot of sense for Amy and I to go to a good craft beer restaurant given that it was one of our favourite after work activities in Vancouver (we were just missing Michael!).

The restaurant location is really quite impressive, it’s actually an old church which has been refurbished into a restaurant.

They have huge vaulted ceilings and the light fixtures remind me of the lighting I saw in medieval buildings in Europe. Huge circular chandeliers that would have housed candles originally and then been lowered by chains from over a beam to be lit. You can also see some of the stained glass that they had in this photo.

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Here is a better photo of the stained glass:

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This is a photo of the bar taken in the opposite direction from where we were sitting. The booths reminded me of church pews with higher chair backs. It was a really neat place.

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Amy and I obviously both started off with beers while we caught up. We chatted all about her wedding plans and what life was like in Australia for me.

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Excellent beer. This is the Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell Bier.

I would try to describe it but their website does a pretty good job at that already:

Tasting Note

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell is noted for its agreeable level of carbonation and its natural cloudiness.  A cloudy, top-fermented ale brewed from 2/3 wheat malt and 1/3 barley malt, hops,Franziskaner’s own strain of yeast and pure spring water, according to a time-honored Bavarian recipe.

The aroma and palate is reminiscent of banana, passionfruit and vanilla, married with a distinct clove-like character, typical of this style. Zesty carbonation up front with a  grainy wheat texture finishes light and satisfying.

Amy and I both opted to order Schnitzel for dinner – as you have to at a German restaurant!

Here’s mine – Swiss Schnitzel. It had ham and cheese over it with some sauerkraut on the side.

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My one (major) complaint about the restaurant is that when we ordered, the waiter said “oh your dishes come with potatoes, how would you like them done?” “great, they also have a sauce with it – here are the types you can order – would you like one?”

I said yes because I thought it came with the dish but it was really $4 extra! Now this was already a $31 dish so I was pretty surprised and felt a little ripped off that they would present the option as if it were included and then have a fairly sizeable charge for it. It was also a very small amount of sauce.

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So anyways, if anyone decides to dine here, be careful to clarify what actually comes with the meal and what is being offered as an up-sell. My mistake for being a silly tourist – upon closer review, it seems that they have at least one trip advisor complaint about this already.

Overall, the company was spectacular (11/10), the beer was awesome (8/10) but the food experience was disappointing (6.5/10). Next time, I want to try this Italian place:

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After dinner, Amy and I went for a walk through Parra up towards the mall. It had been raining earlier but luckily the weather held nice for us.

This church is in the square where Jamie Oliver’s Trattoria is. If you remember my day one post. Jacaranda tree!! So pretty!! (I’m obsessed)

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We ended up at Westfield where the movie theatre and Max Brenner’s is. (They say it like Max Bren-ah). We (foolishly) ordered sundaes and sat down to chat more.

Selfies!

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Look at these things! We ordered one EACH! My god. After eating huge dinners! They weren’t expensive so we were kind of expecting like maybe a third of what came?

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Needless to say, even after chatting and eating for an extended period of time, neither of us made it through our sundaes.

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After all of that, Amy and I needed to really walk so we took a longer walking route back to her hotel.

On the way we came across a cool looking tree:

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And took another selfie!

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I had really missed Amy since she moved back to Australia and it was super awesome to catch up. Hopefully her work sends her to Parra lots more!!

Shane came and met me at the bus stop to walk home and we ran into Betty’s twin!

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There were also a MILLION snails out! (Gross)

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Shane wanted to hear all about my evening with Amy (he had to stay home and study) so we chatted for a while:

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He learned about the dangers of getting fingers too close to teeth:

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And then ultimately he told me he couldn’t goof off anymore and went to keep studying.

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Exam time is serious business.

Overall, it was an amazing evening with a great friend. Hopefully Amy will make another blog world visit – Shane and I will have to travel her way next time!

Miss you all, Love you all!

(It’s been a fair bit of time since this really happened so really missing Amy again now! Come back Amy!)

xoxo

Carmel