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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