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Blue‘s James Hills reports from San Diego, California at the San Diego Spirits Festival 2013:

San Diego Spirits Festival 2013 was a lot of fun – something everyone in the region should consider attending next year or even later today on Sunday, August 25, 2013.

The festival featured a wide variety of distillers and the entertainment was good, including a singer/guitar player, a sort of hip hop dance group, and then the burlesque show which was timed PERFECTLY because it happened at the end when everyone was feeling “spirited.”

Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe showcasing his Tatuado Vodka and Ron Jeremy was there promoting his Ron de Jeremy Rum.

The attendee base clearly was consumer focused with people mostly interested in sampling a variety of new spirits from an open bar / party atmosphere concept.

Most vendors were serving up cocktails but also had shot glasses for samples of the spirit neat as well. We even saw a few of our favorites from the Brown-Forman collection including Early Times, Old Forester and Woodford.

Burlesque Show

Here are a few trends we noticed:

1. Spirits with bubbles – Two spirits at the show were offering alternatives to champagne, TeQava made from Tequila and another that was made from Gin (different manufacturers)

2. Tequila! – Tequila continues to get more sophisticated and reach a broader audience with both additional craft varietals for the purists as well as ones designed for “new audiences”.

Dulce Dorado Tequila

TeQava but then also Dulce Dorado and Dirty Tequila serve the later markets with honey (Dulce Dorado) and cinnamon + pineapple (Dirty Tequila).

Of note also was El Cartel Tequila which frankly was not that great tasting, but will likely do very well since it contains flakes of 24 carat gold in the bottle (think Goldshlager).

Finally, it was not all about “marketing flash” – one of the craft distillers, Fortaleza, instead decided to focus on “education” as a way to promote their spirit. Unfortunately this was somewhat difficult to do in an environment which was one step away from a party with an open bar.

Regardless though, they offer a delicious product that serves a role in the continually evolving tequila market … but catering to purists that want an “artisanal” spirit that has heritage, culture, and a tradition.

Rhubarb Tea art in the age3. Experimental Spirits – I am a sucker for Rhubarb, so when I walked by the Hudson booth I had to stop and check it out. Art in the Age has a whole line of spirits based on spices and plants discovered by Lewis and Clark including Rhubarb Tea, Sage, Snap, and Root.

On the other side of the isle was Aga * Vie – a blend of Tequila and Cognac that is then re-distilled after being blended, and its sister product from the same manufacturer Agwa – distilled from Coca leaves and mixed with other botanicals.

Frankly, while I would buy a bottle of the Rhubarb spirit because I just like Rhubarb, none of these were something I would drink on a regular basis. However it is always fun to try new things and broaden my perceptions of what the spirit world can produce!


Fire Easter Whiskey4. Scotch Creme Soda – Towards the back of the hall I discovered two guys and a keg … wait, what was a keg doing at a Spirits Festival? Apparently a big trend right now in San Diego (adjust as appropriate if this is a national trend) is craft bitters going into cocktails. So I met these two guys from Rx Bitters Company who created a Scotch Cocktail they called the Scotch Creme Soda and they had it in a keg. Was AWESOME … I’ll be getting the full recipe to share but wanted to give them a shoutout since they have some cool bitters – Sarsaparilla, Cherry Apple, and Aromatic #7.

San Diego Spirits Festival

San Diego Spirits Festival 2013


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